“Palace” Intrigue

Researchers who study chimpanzees have found they will forgo food, if need be, to maintain a clear view of their leader’s face. Survival depends on knowing how your boss is feeling. Is now a good time to seek a favor? Or is it best to hide and stay out of harm’s way? Human beings are genetically 99% the same as chimpanzees, and we behave similarly. For us, too, palace intrigue provides both entertaining gossip and vital survival tips.

Let’s start with the entertainment. Anybody who watched the final night of the Republican National Convention last Thursday was treated to Melania Trump revealing her true feelings about Ivanka Trump. Melania’s forced smile turned to lip-curling scorn and a glassy-eyed stare the moment Donald Trump’s favorite child passed by the First Couple to join them at the podium. A jealous rivalry for the president’s affection and attention underlies the moment. That the Donald finds his daughter attractive enough to have basically lusted after her on an episode of Howard Stern’s radio show is an open secret.

As to survival, we’re all screwed if the Donald has his way. The second photo shows Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director Stephen Hahn apologizing for hyping the benefits of a Covid-19 plasma therapy the day after Trump bullied Hahn into doing so. Hahn’s forehead wrinkles make his concern transparent. Add in other shenanigans like preferring not to test asymptomatic people (to hide the dimensions of the pandemic), and you’ve got a serious case of Trump trying to have the government protect his re-election interests over our health interests as citizens. Welcome to the jungle.

Data Manipulation

$3.3 Trillion Dollars of Greed, Fear & Inertia

Released today: episode #17 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Paul Offit, the author of Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too FarListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Why Do Unnecessary and Often Counter-Productive Medical Interventions Happen So Often? 

Offit is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A prolific author, he’s also well known for being the public face of the scientific consensus that vaccines have no association with autism.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The degree to which opportunities to make money and avoid law suits drives the behavior of doctors, though inertia and unwillingness to accept advances in knowledge are also common explanations for being at times too active in treating patients.
  • How the marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies can warp treatment plans.
  • The conclusions from countless studies that in at least the 15 common medical interventions covered in this book, many patients are better off with more basic, common sense approaches like eating well, exercise, et cetera.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

2020 State of Disunion Address (in Decoded Photos)

Well, from the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, dispensing with the usual introduction of calling it a “high privilege and distinct honor” to present the president of the United States; to Donald Trump not shaking Pelosi’s hand; to Pelosi ultimately ripping up her copy of Trump’s campaign rally / reality show version of a State of the Union address, what a mess. Hard feelings were everywhere on display:

020620-01 State of Union

Not once did Trump mention his impeachment or Senate trial during his speech. But what are the odds that ahead of the speech a sad and angry Chief Justice John Roberts wasn’t focused on a trial where U.S. Senators (Republicans especially) ignored his instruction to remain attentively in their seats? Note Roberts’ pinched, raised inner eyebrows (sadness and fear), his firmly pressed lips (anger), and his raised chin (sadness, anger and disgust).

020620-02 State of Union

Not on the same page, by a long shot – Pelosi with eyebrows arched in surprise and eyes wide open, along with feigned smile, after being snubbed by Trump after offering a handshake; Vice President Mike Pence and Trump with eyes closed or downcast (sadness), and Trump with a mouth pressed together in anger and hinting at a smirk.

020620-03 State of Union (Eric)

Eric Trump with eyes narrowed in anger, the slightest of (bitter) smiles, an upper lip raised unilaterally in contempt and a mouth pressed tight in anger as he looks over at his brother, Donald Trump, Jr.

020620-04 State of Union (Schiff)

Lead U.S. House of Representatives prosecutor, Adam Schiff, with a slightly jutting lower lip (disgust and sadness), eyebrows lowered, eyelids tight and mouth taut – all signs of anger, as he sits besides his fellow prosecutor, Jerrold Nadler.

020620-05 State of Union (Rush & Melania)(2)

An ecstatic Rush Limbaugh after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in an impromptu “ceremony” featuring First Lady Melania Trump looking uncharacteristically happy while still not being able to evade her usual look of scowling (raised upper lip, narrowed eyes). To Limbaugh’s left, a more mildly happy Second Lady Karen Pence with a worried, vertical crease between her eyebrows.

020620-06 State of Union (Pelosi Rip)

The coup de grâce of a wretched, divisive spectacle: Pelosi with a grimly set, angry mouth as she rips Trump’s speech apart quite literally, piece by piece. This moment comes after Pelosi has exhibited a long series of distorted mouth grimaces while listening to Trump’s speech. Down and out (disgust and sadness) went her lower lip, when she wasn’t smirking or pressing her lips together, ever more tightly, in a range from annoyance to outrage.

Trump’s State of Suffering

Comparisons are always tricky: reach too far afield, and you risk looking preposterous. But despite his surname being German (Trumpf), as I watched Donald Trump deliver his first State of the Union speech, I found my mind drifting further south in Europe, to Italy, and in specific to a pair of Italian leaders: Silvio Berlusconi and Benito Mussolini. Comparing Trump to Berlusconi is inevitable enough, two businessmen turned politicians with sexual misdeeds part of their legacy. But due to Trump’s vainglorious nature and related poses, comparing Trump to the man who boasted of having conquered Ethiopia in an earlier era is inevitable, too.

Nevertheless, forget the repetition of Trump’s chin stuck out in anger and his chin raised in a sign of anger, disgust and sadness. Trump surveying his “troops” from the podium, namely, the Republican members of Congress seated before him, wasn’t the most emotionally memorable part of the speech. That would be all the attendees honored by name among those sitting in the chamber’s balcony. Like Trump, some of them were proud. Like Trump, almost all of them were given to sadness –many profoundly so. I’m thinking now especially of that pair of parents, each of them having lost a daughter killed by MS-13 gang members, as well as the parents of Otto Warmbier, the young man let free by the North Koreans at the point where he was already practically a corpse.

You have to hand it to Trump: he’s as egocentric as anybody who’s ever walked the earth, and yet his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” had more of a memorable “we” to it than anything Hillary Clinton summoned during the 2016 campaign. Tuesday evening in giving his State of the Union speech, Trump invoked the personal stories of fellow Americans far more than the single time Ronald Reagan did so in initiating the practice of naming guests during his 1982 State of the Union speech.

Was Trump being Reaganesque, however, or still Trump? For my money, I’d say still Trump. Both Republican presidents might be known for signaling resolve, but Reagan is also associated with hope, whereas for my money Trump will forever be associated with grievances and, in a word, suffering. Those parents were clearly still grieving as they sat there in the balcony, the women dabbing away tears, the men likewise with faces contorted by sorrow.

Meanwhile, nearby sat Melania Trump, a fellow sufferer given the recent Wall Street Journal revelation that her husband likely paid $130,000 for Stormy Daniels to remain silent during the 2016 campaign. Why the alleged pay-off? Apparently, Daniels “slept” with Trump back in 2006, four months after Melina gave birth to the couple’s only child: their son Barron. There Melania sat mostly close to stone-faced in the chamber’s balcony last evening, as if playing den mother for all of the suffering on display around her.

It’s enough to make you wonder how both Barron and the country alike will turn out over the long run. Just ask his White House staff. When Donald Trump is involved, happiness is a rare bird. An old joke is that the shortest book in the world is Italian War Heroes. The second shortest book might be Donald Trump Happy. Instead, being satisfied with a state of being endlessly dissatisfied is often about as good as it gets with our current president.