Dr. Drew Pinsky’s latest pseudo-diagnosis: Clinton is brain-damaged, but Trump is like a fearless fighter pilot!

Cable TV’s Dr. Drew Pinsky (“Dr. Drew”) appears to be providing a bit of help for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, according to reports by Douglas Perry in The Oregonian and Samantha Allen in The Daily Beast. Dr. Drew–joining the chorus of right-wing rumor mongers who allege that Hillary Clinton is having seizures and suffering from dementia–made a number of artfully insidious comments on radio last week. “What is going on with her health care? It’s bizarre,” he said in an Aug. 16 Los Angeles interview on KABC’s “McIntyre in the Morning.” He stated that he and another reality-TV doc, Robert Huizinga, had “dispassionately” reviewed a medical record that Clinton had released. Based on this record, they were “gravely concerned” about her health and her health care, he said. He cited what the record supposedly revealed regarding her hypothyroidism as well as a problem with transverse sinus thrombosis and the fact that she had worn prism glasses for a short period after her 2012 concussion–a “sign of brain damage,” he claimed. But Allen reports:

The only record that was available for Pinsky and his Biggest Loser colleague to review is a page-and-a-half letter from Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton’s physician at Mount Kisco Medical Group. That letter concludes that the former Secretary of State is “a healthy female with hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, on long-term anticoagulation.”

Indeed, all of Pinsky’s “grave” concerns are already addressed in the record that he claims to have “dispassionately” evaluated. In it, Dr. Bardack notes that the prism glasses were used to treat “double vision” for two months after the concussion, and then discontinued. There is no mention of any other “brain damage.” And the rare blood clot was also addressed three years ago.

“She had follow-up testing in 2013, which revealed complete resolution of the effects of the concussion as well as total dissolution of the thrombosis,” the letter states. “Clinton also tested negative for all clotting disorders.”

Dr. Drew’s comments were cautiously phrased, but they amount to a medical version of dog-whistle code language. Supporters of  Trump and other Hillary haters understand the message and are already spreading it far and wide on the web. The Oregonian noted how Dr. Drew’s insinuations parallel those of Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who is promoting the Hillary-has-seizures allegation concocted by web conspiracists who base their arguments on fake medical reports and absurdly doctored videos.

This is not the first time Dr. Drew has served as a shill for the Right against Clinton. According to Media Matters, he cited on his show last January a baseless report from Breitbart News about alleged Clinton health problems. The report stated that Clinton’s delay in returning from the restroom during a Democratic debate had been the result of a flare-up of a brain injury from the fall she had taken in 2012. Breitbart News is a news and opinion website specializing in dirty-tricks-type rumors (including from Trump associate Roger Stone), conspiracy theories and white nationalist-laced materials. (The executive chairman of Breitbart News, Stephen K. Bannon, would step down on Aug. 17 to become CEO of the Trump presidential campaign.) Dr. Drew had to apologize for his January remarks on camera, stating that he had “violated HLN and CNN’s editorial standards and I was wrong to have mentioned an unsubstantiated report.”

Dr. Drew has adopted a sly double standard in his most recent comments on the presidential candidates. In an Aug. 2 interview with CNN, he was ambiguous about whether Trump had any psychological or neurological problems. Regarding the theory that the unruly Republican candidate has narcissistic personality disorder, Dr. Drew said that narcissism “generally can be a good thing,” clearly ignoring the evidence that Trump has veered beyond the normal narcissism of celebrities into something far more alarming. “If you’re a fighter pilot,” Dr. Drew continued, “we want you to be narcissist, not to have fear in extreme circumstances.” He speculated that Trump might have a bipolar condition but then appeared to laugh it off: “A little hypomania can be great. There are a lot of hypomaniac businessmen that get a ton done.” These remarks were made within a framework of supposed doubts about Trump’s fitness for office, making them all the more insidious.

Who is Dr. Drew, really? He’s a physician who developed a sideline in talk radio even while still in medical school in the 1980s. A show he co-hosted, “Loveline,” went national on radio and TV in the mid-1990s. In 2008, he launched “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” a reality TV show that copied in part from the dubious TV methods of  Dr. Phil McGraw (a clinical psychology Ph.D. who exploits naive and vulnerable persons before a national audience for profit and ratings and, in spite of not being licensed to practice as a psychologist, describes himself on his website as “perhaps the most well-known mental health professional in the world”).

As of 2011, Dr. Drew was hosting “Dr. Drew On Call” on HLN, a CNN affiliate. Here, in 2013-14, he moved into the loathsome Nancy Grace’s line of country, whipping up public hate of Jodi Arias, the defendant in a high-profile murder case, and helping to turn her trial into a media circus. I recall how he and Grace pushed and pushed for the death penalty against Arias, the Mexican-American woman convicted of murdering her white Mormon boyfriend, Travis Alexander (who manipulated and used her, then cast her aside), under circumstances sufficiently ambiguous that the prosecution should never have gone for the death penalty.

Dr. Drew invited women prosecutors, therapists and individuals with impossibly vague areas of expertise (with a notable emphasis on blondes) onto his show on a nightly basis to help him whip up support for executing the black-haired defendant with native American features (and skin slightly darker than that of the Mormon woman Alexander was supposedly planning to marry behind Arias’ back); in the process, Dr. Drew inevitably built up political support for the death penalty in general.

The antics of Dr. Drew in this case raise grave questions about his ethics as a physician, not only in his expression of medical opinions from a distance but also in his willingness to traffic in junk science and quackery. A Jan. 24, 2013 Dr. Drew episode bears the title “Is Jodi Arias Crazy?” (not guilty, but crazy–a medical judgment).  Crime and Court News stated the matter forthrightly in its introduction to the transcript of his March 19, 2013 show: “Dr. Drew and his nightly guest panel have delved into the inner workings of Jodi Arias’s mind…”

In that transcript, Dr. Drew features on his panel one Janine Driver, author of You Can’t Lie to Me, introducing her (like a carnival barker) as the “human lie detector.” Curiously, Driver provides on her web page no academic or professional credentials in psychology or any other science-based field; her “Body Language Institute” claims to use “cutting-edge NLP coaching, body language, and deception detection techniques.” NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) had a certain popularity a quarter of a century ago, but is widely regarded in the psychology profession as containing large elements of pseudo-science; the portions of it that may be based on legitimate mental health concepts (e.g., reframing as also used in cognitive therapy) have nothing to do with lie detection.

HLN adopted a hostile attitude towards the defense’s expert witnesses, thus helping to create an atmosphere of intimidation. Karen Franklin, Ph.D. describes in Psychology Today how domestic violence counselor Alyce D. LaViolette, who testified in 2013 as to Arias being a victim of abuse by Alexander, was stalked and subjected to death threats, and became the target of “internet mobbing” when over 10,000 people signed an online petition calling for a “boycott of [her] lecture contracts” and a book she had co-authored on domestic violence received “a thousand negative hits on Amazon.” Franklin placed much of the blame for such intimidation on HLN and CNN:

[LaViolette’s] analysis runs counter to the dominant narrative in a gendered morality play produced by media conglomerate Turner Broadcasting and distributed through its cable channels, HLN, CNN and In Session. In this good-versus-evil melodrama, Arias is a psychopathic female who killed a morally righteous man in a fit of jealous rage. Period. End of story. Airbrushed out are all the nuances, the shades of grey inevitably present in any such violent tragedy.

The Turner cable channels almost certainly contributed to the 2014 wave of anger against the holdout juror (“Juror 17”) in the second and last attempt by the prosecution to win a decision for death in the penalty phase of Arias’ trial. The juror received numerous death threats and was briefly placed under 24-hour police protection. And she wasn’t the only one. According to the Phoenix New Times:

The contagious contempt of Arias spread to her lawyers, family, and expert witnesses. And, as her lead attorney, Kirk Nurmi became the biggest target.

Across social media, Nurmi was called sleazy, despicable, slime, a snake, and a terrible lawyer. He received death threats and hundreds of nasty e-mails and phone calls.

Another part of the circus was the death-to-Jodi demonstrations near the Phoenix, AZ courthouse. I watched the HLN and CNN coverage of the trial and its ancillary events on many occasions and became convinced that much of what was being manifested was as virulently racist as it was misogynistic–and that the case had become a political football in a state whose Republican governor, Jan Brewer, gained Tea Party celebrity status in 2012 by wagging her finger in the face of our first African-American president as if he were her house slave, and where the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, had become an icon of the far right through his flamboyant mistreatment of minority prisoners and his frequent racist comments directed primarily (like those of Donald Trump two years later) against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. I found it disgustingly ironic that the Hispanic prosecutor of Arias, Juan Martinez, was being idolized by some of the same white Jodi-demonizers who almost certainly were strong supporters of Arpaio as well. (According to The Atlantic, Trump supporter Arpaio and three associates may soon face criminal charges by the Justice Department for violating a federal court order to cease the racial profiling of Latinos.) In this toxic environment, Dr. Drew blithely encouraged a lynch-mob fever (in the psychological sense of the term) in pursuit of higher and higher ratings for his show.

Given the extreme violence of the crime, the fecklessness of Arias and the general lack of sympathy for her, what inevitably emerged was a kind of mass sadism similar to that which is found on a smaller scale among teenagers when a particular peer is perceived as weak and without allies. The gruesome pictures of Alexander’s body allowed members of the public (and Dr. Drew’s panelists) to project their own inner rag, whatever its provenance, onto a symbolic evil woman who conveniently happened to be a minority woman. This surge was not helpful to the cause of justice, and what Dr. Drew and his panels of “experts” did was far nastier than anything on Trump’s The Apprentice. That Arias escaped the injection chamber because of a single juror was no thanks to Dr. Drew and his producers. And I suspect that many people who allowed themselves to be whipped up at the time would concede in retrospect, regardless of their firm belief in Arias’ guilt, that this was TV sensationalism at its worst.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, the public frenzy included an outpouring of social media hate speech, including that found in the comments under links to HLN/Dr. Drew episodes on YouTube. For instance, a viewer from the UK began his comments with “Kill the bitch” and then suggested:

Why not let Travis Alexanders sister sneak up behind her, stab her 29 times,slit her throat from ear to ear,then shoot her in the face.Then scalp the krazy slut,set her on fire with petrol,cut off her feet with a hacksaw but keep her alive with a blood transfusion.Then pour sulphuric acid over her,paste her face with napalm,skewer her eyballs out with a rusty fork and finally let 2 insane rottweilers tear the mental bastard into pieces to finish her off……….NOW THATS WHAT I CALL JUSTICE.

My comments about Dr. Drew were triggered by his dubious medical statements regarding Hillary Clinton, and I can’t help but note that the type of violent misogynist rhetoric that his show helped to elicit against Arias is also being used against Clinton this year. Chants and cries for killing the Democratic presidential candidate have been reported frequently at Trump rallies, while postings urging or hoping that she will be killed have become a staple on Alt-Right media, where they are supplemented by references to the “day of the rope” in The Turner Diaries (see the report by online journalist Cooper Fleishman).

The lurid trial evidence of kinky sex between Arias and Alexander seemed to fascinate Christian Right viewers as much as secular ones, resulting in the predictable response of viewers denying their titillation by fantasizing about killing the “slut” (or, one might say, the “witch”). Dr. Drew fed this tendency night after night. That is the nature of TV sensationalism, but Dr. Drew did something else that can’t be described simply as “show biz.” Presenting himself at all times as a medical doctor, he made statements, and gave open or tacit approval to statements by guests on his show, which no licensed physician should have made or approved without (a) having personally examined Arias (he didn’t) and (b) being board certified in psychiatry (he isn’t).

To provide himself with credibility in the mental health field, Dr. Drew has pointed to his certification in addiction medicine. This may have been useful in giving credibility to Celebrity Rehab and its successor, Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, but his certification came from an “independent” board in addiction medicine that was not and is not a recognized member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which at the time only recognized the subspecialty of addiction psychiatry (added to the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology’s list of subspecialties in 1993). To obtain certification in addiction psychiatry, one needs to be a certified psychiatrist. Dr. Drew’s only ABMS specialist certification is as an internist. According to American Board of Internal Medicine records, he was certified as an internist in 1987 but does not participate in the ABIM’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program (doctors who were certified prior to 1990 are strongly encouraged to participate but are not required to do so).

Dr. Drew claims to be an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, but I could not find his name in any faculty listing at Keck or USC. I did find a Keck press release hailing him as a famous alumnus of the school of medicine and repeating his claim of being an assistant professor. If he once was, but no longer is, playing a teaching role at Keck, he should say so–and stop using a former position as if it were a current one to bolster his credibility as a TV expert on Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Jodi Arias or anyone else.

In March 2016, the ABMS recognized addiction medicine (NOT addiction psychiatry, which was already recognized–see above) as a subspecialty under the purview of the American Board of Preventive Medicine, which has been a member of the ABMS since 1949. To be legitimately recognized as a subspecialist in addiction medicine, Dr. Drew would have to obtain certification in preventive medicine and then in the subspecialty of addiction medicine. His current sole claim to certification in this field is from the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), the status of which as an “independent” certifying entity remains unchanged.

Dr. Drew’s statement on his website as of August 21, 2016 that he is “Board Certified in Addiction Medicine” is as misleading today as it was prior to March 2016. And even if an agreement is made to allow some addiction medicine specialists (whether ABAM members or not) to get certification in an easy manner, it would still be addiction medicine, not addiction psychiatry or any other form of psychiatry–a fact that would continue to call into question Dr. Drew’s snap judgments about defendants in capital murder cases and candidates for President.

Books written or co-written by Dr. Drew contain some useful insights on addiction and on narcissism. But in his role as a TV personality, he has lunged into the realm of the unethical again and again. And he now seems to be using his medical credentials on behalf of Trump, thus ignoring his own prior insights, in The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America (2009), into the problematic types of interaction between celebrities and their audiences/fans that would fuel Trump’s sinister presidential campaign. That Dr. Drew, regardless of what he has said recently about Trump, is perfectly aware of the difference between ordinary narcissism and the extreme behavior manifested by the Republican presidential candidate is revealed in an interview about the The Mirror Effect with USA Today in which he stated, spot-on: “Narcissism in a continuum of traits. There is a point at which it crosses into disorder.” (It should be noted that The Mirror Effect and the research study that proceeded it were co-authored by USC business professor S. Mark Young, but as of Aug. 21, 2016, Young’s name does not appear as a co-author in the description of the book in Dr. Drew’s web bio at drdrew.com.)

Trump appears to feel more comfortable around celebrities than around sober policy wonks. I can imagine him appointing Dr. Drew as U.S. Surgeon General or possibly making him the Secretary of Health and Human Services. In the frenetic world of the Trump Manifesto, it’s Media Manipulators of the World, Unite!

SDUSA and the Democratic Convention

SDUSA marches at the DP Convention in Philly

SDUSA marches at the DP Convention

No SDUSA members attended the Democratic National Convention as delegates, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t present. SDUSA was represented among the thousands who gathered at FDR Park in Philadelphia to mount various rallies and protests. Our Vice Chair Michael Mottern (in the photo, on the left) tells me about the experience.

Rick: It sounds like FDR Park was the rallying point for all the various protest groups. Tell me about that.

Michael: Actually the meet-up location was City Hall. All the visiting groups were coordinated through philly.fyi. The field organizer was Jamhar James and he did a great job. The big march was on Sunday, from City Hall to FDR Park. FDR Park is across the road from Wells Fargo Center where the Democratic Convention was held. It was about a 3 ½ mile parade down Broad Street. The march included many different groups: socialists, environmentalists, black lives matter, legalizing pot, etc. Black Men for Bernie surprisingly had a very large presence. Altogether, I don’t know how many people were there; I’m no good at estimating crowds, but many thousands of people were there. The newspaper would give a better estimate.

Rick: The press liked to focus on some of the outlier groups, like the ones burning the US and Israeli flags. What was the general tone of the rallies?

Michael: I didn’t see any flag burning. It may have been a small group. There were so many people there, it would be easy to miss something. Overall, it was very peaceful. The police were very good. Polite, easy going. Based on what I saw at FDR Park, I would even say many of them were supportive.

Rick: We heard that hotel rooms were costing into the thousands of dollars during the convention. Protesters don’t have that kind of money.

Michael: I stayed at a cheap hotel on the other side of the river in Camden. Not a very safe area. But the hotel was full of protesters and we traveled on a bus to and from the hotel to Philly each day. We didn’t have any trouble and I met a lot of great people. Philly.fyi had bottled water to keep everyone hydrated and they had porta-johns everywhere. Maybe the city gave them the money to take care of the protesters? Philly.fyi did a great job. There were a lot of people that were trying to overnight in the park, but they weren’t allowed. Police had to evict them, but I didn’t hear of any violence or serious incidents. There were lots of food trucks for people to get something to eat, and Food Not Bombs was giving away hummus sandwiches and fresh vegetables. I and everyone else appreciated it.

Rick: How were your interactions with other socialist groups?

Michael: I spoke with some DSA people. They are kind of “cliquey”. They think highly of themselves. One said to me, “You guys are still around?” in a smart ass way. I also spoke with a member of Socialist Alternative. She asked me how we could have a Hillary voter as a member. I said, “We’re a democratic organization. We try to influence how our members vote, we don’t mandate how they vote”. She smirked and walked away. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of democratic centralism on the left.

Notes: Here is the website for philly.fyi.

Michael with the traditional rose of the left

Michael with the traditional red flag and rose of the left

protesters assembling at City Hall

protesters assembling at City Hall

Optimistic marcher

Optimistic marcher

Michael, our endorsed candidate Bernie, and the SDUSA torch

Michael, our endorsed candidate Bernie, and the SDUSA torch

Lots of signage

Lots of signage

More signage

More signage

Bernie supporters in large numbers

Bernie supporters in large numbers

Environmentalists

Global warming was a hot topic

Assembly at FDR

Assemblage at FDR Park

Red rose, red flag, alongside American colors says it all

Red rose, red flag, and American colors

Hillary should cut Melania some slack on the plagiarism issue

It’s probable that portions of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention were lightly rephrased versions of passages from a Michele Obama speech. If this was done by a speech writer, Melania is not really guilty of anything. If it was done by Melania, it suggests that maybe her view of the Obamas is more favorable than that of her husband, i.e., if she drew from the speech so much, she must have really liked it on some level. In either case, Hillary would be advised to cut her some slack by, say, issuing a statement that she doesn’t doubt that the speech expresses the sincerity of Melania’s belief in her husband.

The key point has already been made–that this incident is yet more evidence that the Republicans and the Trump campaign are in disarray. To keep the issue alive serves no useful purpose. I say this not because I have a fondness for models (even a model from a former non-Stalinist Slovenian communist family), but because it’s the smart thing to do–it helps to show that Hillary’s the adult in the race who wants to keep things focussed on what matters.

Sanders’ Revolution

Bernie has been saying that he wants to start a grass roots political revolution. Most of his followers aren’t listening.

Our cult of celebrity culture makes it appear that there is only one election in America— the presidency. Thousands came out to see Bernie at rallies all over the country; like a rock star. And now that he’s lost the Democratic primary, they are disgruntled and angry. Bernie, however, wants to keep the movement going. Having been in politics for most of his life, he knows that a movement is not just one election. He says that we need to harness that energy and put it to work in local and state politics. I am not optimistic that this will happen. Ask most Bernie supporters if they are willing to run for office, or even for a seat on their local Democratic Committee. It’s a 4 year commitment. Most people today cannot imagine agreeing to do something for 4 years, let alone 6 or 8. Most political activity today consists of FB clicking. Bernie will be very disappointed if he thinks he can channel that into a movement.

Regarding voting for Hillary and the concept of least worst candidate. As we live in a democracy, by definition we will always be picking the least worst candidate. There is no perfect candidate, there is only the candidate who best aligns with my policies and is most competent. The term “least worst” is just a sarcastic way of saying “none of the candidates is my ideal candidate”. Welcome to democracy. You will recall that many social democrats and progressives were turned off by Bernie’s position on guns. There is no perfect candidate. If Bernie had won we would be elated, but there would be millions of other voters who feel that they would be forced to pick the least worst between Bernie and Donald in November. That’s the way elections work. I will vote for Hillary, and I won’t hold my nose while doing so. I have listened to Jill Stein and in no way, shape, or form, is she ready to represent America on the world stage as diplomat and be commander of our military. The only political office she has ever held was Town Meeting Seat in the town of Lexington, Mass. Her only qualification for president is that she is not Hillary Clinton. I respect your right to disagree and that’s what elections are for.

And that brings us back to the fact that the presidency is not the only election. Congress makes the laws and appropriates money, and Congress is run by Republicans. They do a piss poor job and we the voters have allowed that to happen. We got to this point by thinking that only the president is important and ignoring Congressional elections. We must break that mentality! The majority of voters in my state are registered as Democrats. In 2008 there was a massive turnout to elect Barack Obama. But was weak turnout for the 2010 Congressional and State elections. As a result the Republicans took control of our state government and gerrymandered the Congressional districts in their favor. Consequently, we now have 13 Republican House Representatives in Congress and 5 Democratic Reps (in a majority Democratic state!). This is how people like Paul Ryan get to be Speaker of the House. All of that because democrats in my state didn’t show up to vote for their state legislator. I know that many social democrats believe the Democratic Party is unfixable and they want to leave. But if they are leaving just because Bernie failed to gain the top spot, they’re making a mistake. Creating a party large enough to elect a president is a huge undertaking. You have to become the majority party in a majority of states. Growing the Green Party to that size will take decades and I don’t believe there is political willpower amongst that masses to make that happen. However, a Sanders’ revolution in the Democratic Party at the local and state level could result in Social Democrats becoming a majority of the party in 5-10 years. And that is an achievable goal.

Posted in Uncategorized by Rick DLoss. 6 Comments

Cornel West endorses the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein for President

This is good news. Prof. West won’t be disrupting the Democratic Party Convention from inside and trying to turn it into a hate fest against Zionism. Probably, he’ll try to become Dr. Nader Redux’s vice presidential candidate. Maybe his cult-leader friend Bob Avakian (aka God) will send the zombies of the so-called Revolutionary Communist Party to join the fun.

I didn’t realize how “out there” Jill Stein is until I saw her being interviewed Friday night about how the Greens are the “revolutionaries” fighting against the “counterrevolutionaries” (Hillary and now presumably Bernie). After she used the word “counterrevolutionaries” she gave a little smile that reminded me of Gilda Radner’s character who’d always follow her odd statements with a “neVERRR mind.”

In the not completely impossible event that Stein draws enough votes from the Foolish wing of the Left to give Trump the White House, one thing will be sure: she’ll never admit any regrets or acknowledge the suffering she will have helped to cause for hundreds of millions of Americans. Just as Nader will never come down off his own pedestal of self-righteousness to accept any responsibility for the eight years of Bush and Cheney.

As for me, I firmly believe there is a time and place for Lesser Evil Politics. If that makes me a “counterrevolutionary,” so what?