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Is America Psychopathic?


I've just about finished reading <i>The Psychopath Test</i> by <i>Jon Ronson</i>. He's a humor writer with a penchant for interviewing odd people. In the book, he discovers a checklist for determining whether someone is a psychopath. Throughout the book, he notes which checklist items a particular conversation with an interviewee triggers, even when that person is clearly not a psychopath. He gets kind of carried away with it, which is pretty funny. It's kind of easy to start doing it yourself, too. <h>We're Exceptional Dammit!</h> Which brings me to my example, the introduction from <a href="" source="Time Magazine">Hillary Clinton's Speech on Donald Trump and National Security</a>. <bq>I believe in strong alliances; clarity in dealing with our rivals; and a rock-solid commitment to the values that have always made America great. And I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country – that we’re still, in Lincoln’s words, the last, best hope of earth. We are not a country that cowers behind walls. We lead with purpose, and we prevail.</bq> This is supposed to be an inspiring speech, delivered by a woman who will lead America into a new era. But the speech is full of the same vague threats and references to American power as any other high-level official is wont to make. The phrase <iq>clarity in dealing with our rivals</iq> is a not-even-that-well-veiled threat. Our rivals will toe the line or we will stomp them flat. That's clear enough, isn't it? <iq>As an unmuddied lake, Fred. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.</iq><fn> If we're being honest, <iq>the values that have always made America great</iq> are those of empire and rapacious capitalism. To no one's surprise, Hillary pledges to continue in this vein. And why not? Why stop a good thing, right? <iq>America is an exceptional country [...] the last, best hope of earth.</iq> What arrogance. Classic psychopath. So we're almost guaranteed that war will continue, since America won't <iq>cower[...] behind walls</iq> and <i>will</i> <iq>prevail</iq>. This isn't even coded language---this is straight-up belligerent, offering war to any and all comers. Hillary again, <bq>And if America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum – and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void. Then they’ll be the ones making the decisions about your lives and jobs and safety – and trust me, the choices they make will not be to our benefit. That is not an outcome we can live with.</bq> The arrogance continues, with Hillary sadly contemplating a world without America, a world in <iq>a vacuum</iq>, in <iq>chaos</iq>. A world governed by <i>other countries</i> who won't have Americans' best interests at heart, as Hillary and her elite backers do. Not content with only threatening America, Hillary now threatens Americans that if they don't choose her, don't choose a belligerent <iq>strong</iq> American, <iq>other countries[...]'ll be the ones making the decisions [, which will] not be to our benefit.</iq> The last sentence shows her sacrificing herself for the sake of America, to defend them against an existential threat, whether or not they recognize it as such. Even if weaker, more spineless Americans were willing to roll over for Europe, Hillary <iq>can't live with that.</iq> So, don't you dare elect a namby-pamby pussy like Bernie Sanders who'll give everything away to his secret lovers, the European socialists, or Donald Trump, who's too stupid and inept to realize that he'd give everything away to the other strongmen of the world. Instead, elect Hillary because she's the only possible strong hand on the tiller that can guide America to even more greatness. Such unbelievable bullshit, really. No more or less than other high-level politicians, but still so tiring that we're still at this unproductive point. <h>North Korea</h> Citing Hillary from the same speech, <bq>Take the threat posed by North Korea – perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator who wants to develop long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States.</bq> North Korea's rockets over the last couple of years have either exploded on the launch platform or dribbled into the Sea of Japan a couple of kilometers from the launch platform. There is no sign of improvement. But by all means, let's all shit our pants in terror of North Korea. Does anyone else remember Condaleeza Rice's threats during Bush's first term? That Saddam had nuclear missiles that could hit new York in forty minutes? That we had to deal with him harshly and preemptively else we'd be seeing a <iq>mushroom cloud?</iq> How much more psychopathic can we get? We see threats everywhere. Even when these threats never materialize---or we later learn that they never <i>could</i> have materialized---we continue to believe in this alternate reality, in this fiction that keeps America at the center of everything, a beacon of moral hope for the rest of the world. A world that would be lost in a benighted renewal of the dark ages without America to lead it. <a href="">#2: Grandiose sense of self worth</a> and #13: Lack of realistic long-term goals. And here's Hillary, reading from the same playbook as Condaleeza Rice. In fact, picking another of Bush's Axis of Evil countries as the new atomic enemy. Literally the same playbook. And America in 2016 is so chock-full of dupes that we don't even realize that we're being read the exact same bedtime story, warned of the exact same boogeymen, all in order to get us to give up everything we have in the name of a security that the elites can't provide because we had it all along. <h>SDI Redux</h> Want more evidence that we're reliving the past? Hillary next talked about a missile-defense system. <bq>When I was Secretary of State, we worked closely with our allies Japan and South Korea to respond to this threat, including by creating a missile defense system that stands ready to shoot down a North Korean warhead, should its leaders ever be reckless enough to launch one at us. The technology is ours. Key parts of it are located on Japanese ships. All three countries contributed to it. And this month, all three of our militaries will run a joint drill to test it. That’s the power of allies.</bq> Do you remember who else wanted a missile-defense system? Reagan, way back in the 80s. It was technologically and politically unfeasible back then, but the elites in America never gave up their dream of being able to administer their belligerence without fear of reprisal. When American politicians talk about a missile shield, they're not talking about a way of defending against first strikes. The most effective---and cheapest---way to prevent first strikes is to <i>stop being a dick to everyone</i>. Missile defense is designed to prevent the retaliatory strike from wreaking havoc in America <i>after America has already struck first</i>. Of course, America would never really strike first---there would have to be a legitimate threat, like "that other country was looking at us funny" or "our soldiers might have died in a conventional attack". That would easily be enough to justify a nuclear strike. It was the last time. But that's why the American elites want a missile shield---because they want to be assured that when they nuke some other country, that other country can't nuke their penthouses in New York or San Francisco or Washington. If the only threat were that the America heartland would be blown to Kingdom Come, then they would have gleefully used nukes <i>decades ago</i>. As soon as they have their shield---their guarantee of personal safety--- they'll be able to legitimately threaten to---as former presidential candidate Ted Cruz so elegantly put it---<iq>find out if sand can glow in the dark</iq> and America's enemies will know that any retaliatory strike will be shot down by the amazing missile-defense shield. <h>Star Wars is a Fairy Tale</h> This would be horrible enough if true---or possible. The U.S., while claiming the moral high ground, is seeking weapons to be able to blackmail the world into giving it everything it wants. At the same time, it sells this plan as a way to keep the world safe. Classic psychopath. But it's not possible. Israel has had a modicum of success with its missile-defense shield, but Hamas's rockets suck and are poorly aimed in the first place. The U.S.'s "shield" is just a giant military-industrial-complex boondoggle designed to pour more money into the coffers of Hillary's sponsors. It happens all the time. It's a fairy tale of fear to get money from terrified and stupid sheep. The Obama administration is currently haggling over a military-defense spending bill that includes an extra $20 Billion of weapons included by John McCain that the Pentagon hadn't ordered, doesn't want and wouldn't know what to do with. What the hell does this have to do with the real world? This is the stuff of Hollywood summer blockbusters. This is not reality. These are the fictions peddled by those---and their backers---who want to inhale vast quantities of the U.S. federal budget for themselves. <h>Who Doesn't Love the Hell Out of the Troops?</h> Hillary continues: <bq>And it’s the legacy of American troops who fought and died to secure those bonds, because they knew we were safer with friends and partners.</bq> Jesus, does anyone even really <i>listen</i> to what she's saying? This doesn't make any sense. She's just shoving in buzzwords, paeans to the troops, because she couldn't figure out where else to say it. Ask a soldier how awesome it is to work side-by-side with U.S. allies like the Afghan or Iraqi army. While they're probably right to do so---they're being asked to help support an empire in which they at best play a patsy---they do have a tendency to run away from battlefields and give up vast amounts of land to the enemy. <h>On to the new Axis of Evil</h> If you don't believe that North Korea is a credible threat, then Hillary has two more for you, real world-class heavy-hitters who've been hankering after hegemony for years. <bq>Now Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world, because they have nothing to match them. They’d love for us to elect a President who would jeopardize that source of strength. If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin. We cannot let that happen.</bq> That's it? That's the awesome, game-changing speech? A playground dig on Trump because his election would make our enemies happy? Are Moscow and Beijing really our enemies? <bq>That’s why it is no small thing when [Trump] talks about leaving NATO, or says he’ll stay neutral on Israel’s security.</bq> That's true. Those would be awesome, game-changing moves. NATO should be disbanded. It's the most dangerous and war-like organization on the planet, funded and staffed 75% by the United States. It's the tip of the spear of empire. And what's wrong with <iq>staying neutral on Israel's security?</iq> Shouldn't we be impartial there? Especially with the large majority of power and war crimes on the side of Israel, which has literally gotten away with murder because of U.S. support? <h>The Homefront</h> This speech is only a slam dunk for people who don't pay attention, who don't know what's going on and who don't know what the real problems of the world are. Sure, she addressed domestic issues, but that was one paragraph and this speech was hailed as a "foreign policy" speech, which means no-one really cared about those platitudes. Here they are, by the way, <bq>That means investing in our infrastructure, education and innovation – the fundamentals of a strong economy. We need to reduce income inequality, because our country can’t lead effectively when so many are struggling to provide the basics for their families. And we need to break down the barriers that hold Americans back, including barriers of bigotry and discrimination.</bq> If I would bother doing a search, she probably jams this paragraph into every speech, hurrying past it to get to the parts that her donors care about. It's actually chock-full of good stuff, but none of her policies could realistically lead to any of these coming true. She's clearly not going to do any of the stuff on that list. Just like her predecessor---who promised pretty much exactly the same stuff---hasn't done anything about it during his eight years, either. He couldn't even close Guantànamo. He had other things to take care of, like making sure the fat-cats were adequately fed and the little brown people of the world adequately bombed. Hillary, should she be elected, will find---much to her consternation, I'm sure---that, once those two duties are taken care of, there's just no time left over for fixing <iq>infrastructure, education, income inequality [or] break[ing] down barriers of bigotry and discrimination.</iq> No-one in the U.S. has invested in <iq>infrastructure [or] education</iq> for a long time. These are in shambles and need to be rebuilt from the ground up. That's actually much more than what Hillary said: she wants to <iq>invest</iq> in it. This is a carefully chosen word that makes no promise of results. Similarly, she wants to <iq>reduce income inequality</iq>, but that makes no promise of any real change, other than at least somewhat acknowledging that the income inequality is too high. Also, while we're at it, let's end discrimination. That's basically Bernie Sanders's whole agenda, wrapped up in one small, throwaway paragraph. But go ahead and elect Hillary. We can wait another eight years for all of that minor stuff. Just as long as the economy gets financialized and wars get funded. <h>On to Japan!</h> She was in a hurry to get to the foreign-policy craziness, though, so no time to linger. <bq>And it’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote – “If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.” I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.</bq> Hillary is the fear-monger here. There is no reason to believe that Japan will go to war with Korea. Why would they? Especially if the U.S. isn't there to agitate? Granted, there is a grave nuclear threat in the world, but it's because people like Hillary will not back off. It's not because of other countries that tensions are so high. It's because of America. Of course, America would say that tensions are high because other countries won't see reason and do exactly what America says. Hillary is squarely in this camp. <h>Back to Iran!</h> Again, from Hillary's speech, <bq>Take the nuclear agreement with Iran. When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb.</bq> Bullshit. This was always a fiction. Iran was eventually able to use this fervently believed fiction about their nuclear program in order to get more concessions from the U.S. But they never had plans to build nuclear weapons. That was always a lie. Hillary almost certainly knows that. It's a huge lie. No-one who matter cares. <bq>The world must understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action, to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. In particular, Israel’s security is non-negotiable. They’re our closest ally in the region, and we have a moral obligation to defend them.</bq> Here's where more of the psychopathic stuff kicks in. Right after trumpeting about how great her diplomacy was in getting Iran to the table she immediately and literally threatens them with military attack. Maybe she's not-so-secretly pissed that Iran was able to get America to lift the economic sanctions by promising to abort their non-existent nuclear-weapons program. Iran quite clearly won that deal, but was forced to win it. It was like something out of Dr. Strangelove or Catch-22. Hillary continued, <bq>Donald Trump says we shouldn’t have done the deal. We should have walked away. But that would have meant no more global sanctions, and Iran resuming their nuclear program and the world blaming us. So then what? War? Telling the world, good luck, you deal with Iran?</bq> Again, Hillary cites Trump and makes him sound saner than she is. Yes, Hillary, we really should have just let it drop, forgotten about our fictions about the Iran nuclear program. And, yes, Hillary, we should have stopped the crippling and criminal economic sanctions against countries that have done nothing to harm us. The world would have been better for it. Trump is correct in saying that (if he really said that, by the way). But you, Hillary, need to portray America as a hero saving the world from a threat that America itself invented. All so that America can then pat itself on the back and ask the world to throw it a party for kicking so much ass. Classic psychopathic behavior. <h>No Art in His Deal?</h> Hillary continued her tirade against Trump (who is objectively the star of her speech), <bq>He has no sense of what it takes to deal with multiple countries with competing interests and reaching a solution that everyone can get behind. </bq> This is patently untrue. For whatever reason, he keeps getting people to help him build things, then putting his big, fat name on them. Methinks Mr. Trump is more than familiar with dealing with multiple conflicting interests. This is not an endorsement of Trump's negotiating skills because I don't know about them, but what Hillary said is empirically untrue---Trump has dozens, if not hundreds, of times gotten his way in large, multi-party negotiations. It's similar to the supposition that Jewish and Arab leaders would be loath to deal with Trump. Why not? They dealt with a black guy, didn't they? Do you think they like dealing with a woman more? Is that their reputation? Trump has been in real estate for four decades, much of it in New York and New Jersey. You better believe he's already negotiated with roomfuls of Arabs and Jews dozens of times. Again, I'm not promoting Trump, but objectively putting the lie to the supposition that he wouldn't be accepted. Putin says he would prefer Trump, but he'd eat either one of them for breakfast. <h>Tigers and Bears, Oh My!</h> Speaking of Putin, Hillary also lambasted against the next big enemies: China and Russia. Wait a minute, didn't her husband get China most-favored nation status, back in the 90s? And what the hell did Russia do to us, other than to collapse from the Soviet Union, end the cold war and leave the U.S. as sole superpower? <bq>Countries like Russia and China often work against us. Beijing dumps cheap steel in our markets. That hurts American workers. Moscow has taken aggressive military action in Ukraine, right on NATO’s doorstep.</bq> These myths are just too convenient and well-believed for Hillary to let go of them. Beijing dumps steel. Sure they do. They were probably invited in by U.S. corporations only too happy to buy cheap steel from Chinese slaves instead of from filthy, grasping U.S. union labor. Then there's the giant lie about Russia's actions in Ukraine. Russia has taken no military action there, despite the protestations of both Europe and the U.S. Ukraine's problems are entirely due to the putsch that the U.S. funded with $5 billion. It is known.<fn> <h>Hillary believes in Climate Change</h> Anthropomorphic climate-change is real. Trump doesn't believe in it (or so he says). Hillary thinks it makes her a pro-science green leftist to stand in contradiction to Trump on this issue. It does not. Believing in scientific fact is the bare minimum we should expect of our leaders. She also believes in another favorite myth of the American faux-left: that they actually care about climate-change and have actually done something about it. For example, <bq>It’s how our diplomats negotiated the landmark agreement on climate change [...]</bq> Did I miss something? Did we agree to something "landmark" recently? Oh, yes, last year sometime. The world is still patting itself on the back for agreeing to a carbon target that's 2.5--3 times higher than science tells us it should be. Truly a staggering achievement. We have a climate-change agreement and can feel good about having solved that problem---all without changing a single thing about how we operate. That's the kind of solution America likes---superficial and not changing a damned thing. That's the kind of president Hillary would be, too. <h>ISIS causes Domestic Gun Violence</h> I know, it sounds ridiculous, right? But there's nothing a neocon can't blame on external, shadowy forces when her interests and her backers insist on it. She linked the two in back-to-back sentences. <bq>[...] we need a real plan for confronting terrorists. As we saw six months ago in San Bernardino, the threat is real and urgent. Over the past year, I’ve laid out my plans for defeating ISIS.</bq> These are domestic terrorists, living in America.<fn> They are not <i>The Americans</i>-style sleeper agents. They are just unbalanced Americans. Most terrorism in America is home-grown. Still, it's all ISIS's fault for having made such an alluring web site. And why would the web site be so alluring, Hillary? Aren't these people already living in the most exceptional country in the world? What reason could they possibly have for being upset? Maybe the drone wars of Mr. Obama? Or some other horror visited on Muslims by a former Secretary of State? It must be difficult to campaign when you can't rail against the current administration. Not only because you don't want to spoil Obama's support, but also because your agenda is basically "more of the same". So Hillary rails against a potential President Trump, all the while getting us all accustomed to the idea. This is just bad marketing. But I digress. <h>Moar War, Please</h> After blaming the shooting in San Bernardino on ISIS---which is ludicrous---she says that we have to continue to stomp the Middle East even flatter. Because that will stop domestic shootings. I'm not kidding. <bq>We need to take out their strongholds in Iraq and Syria by intensifying the air campaign and stepping up our support for Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground.</bq> Hooray, more and bigger war! You talk tough, Hillary. If you're sick of war, you cannot vote for Hillary. <bq>He’s [Trump's] actually said – and I quote – “maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS.” Oh, okay – let a terrorist group have control of a major country in the Middle East.</bq> She calls Trump weak because he wants to get out of the war in the Middle East. Granted, we started it and fanned the flames to a bonfire, but leaving is better than continuing to fan those flames. We've been at it for almost 15 years and have made it worse and worse, every year. Also, news flash, Hillary: a terrorist group already does have control of major countries in the Middle East, more or less. The U.S. has been there for decades and we're the biggest terrorist in the world. <bq>He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.</bq> This is standard U.S. policy---<iq>not taking anything off the table</iq> is how it's usually characterized. Hillary is dissembling by implication here because, if asked, she would have to admit that she, too, does not take anything off the table. She, like every other candidate before her, will not unequivocally state that nuclear weapons will not be used in a first strike. Russia and China have done so repeatedly, just for comparison. <bq>Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.</bq> Is Hillary suggesting that these are not <iq>distinct possibilities</iq> with her in charge? Because her record says otherwise. She is the war hawks of war hawks. Just a few paragraphs ago, she threatened to escalate the war in the Middle East and said that <iq>Israel's security is non-negotiable</iq>. How is that any different than what she says Trump will do <del>when</del>if he's elected president?<fn> <h>American Values FTW!</h> <bq>Sixth, we need to stay true to our values.</bq> Oh my God, are you seriously listing six points? Could you be any more boring? And <iq>staying true to our values</iq> only weighs in at number six? Fine. Hold on to your hats, folks, Hillary's turning up the jingoism and exceptionalism to 11. <bq>The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.</bq> Ugh. Here's some fairy tales for you, America. Please concentrate on this shiny bauble instead of the shit sandwich your lives have become. Some of what she says is true. The U.S. economy is, by certain measures, still the largest. It is increasingly financialized and hollowed-out and doesn't have a strong future, but it's <i>currently</i> still the biggest. The military is also the largest by far. That is something Americans should really worry about being so proud of. The giant military is a symptom of America's real long-term problem: it's a villain with a violent, mean streak and an inflated and utterly unrealistic sense of its own goodness. There's that psychopath thing again. <h>Hillary Clinton: Psychopath in Chief?</h> American politicians are like preachers promulgating a religion. For example, here's Hillary winding up her speech with America's version of "can I get an Amen?" <bq>There is no challenge we can’t meet, no goal we can’t achieve when we each do our part and come together as one nation. Every lesson from our history teaches us that we are stronger together. We remember that every Memorial Day. [...] our country represents something special, not just to us, to the world. It represents freedom and hope and opportunity.</bq> I don't think that's what the world thinks when they see your plane, Hillary. Only in the bubble of fantasy that it's your job to maintain is America a shining beacon on a hill---the rest of the world has long since decided that America is the most dangerous state on the planet. There are several surveys over the last two decades that clearly point to America as the number-one danger, in the eyes of the world. Hillary ends with a promise to America and a threat to the world. <bq>I’m going to do everything I can to protect our nation, and make sure we don’t lose sight of how strong we really are.</bq> Now <i>that's</i> the America that everyone else sees, although Hillary thinks that this is a positive statement. It's vaguely threatening, in a plausibly deniable way. Just for laughs, let's look at <a href="">the psychopath list</a> again. To assess someone, you rate them 0--2 on each question. If the sum of all answers is over 30, they're a psychopath. Isn't science awesome?<fn> The following aren't really applicable to a nation, so they fall away by default for America. Neither do they apply to Hillary. Item 11 is more her husband's wheelhouse. And they've been married for decades, so Item 17 doesn't apply either. <bq>Item 3: Need for stimulation / proneness to boredom. Item 11: Promiscuous sexual behavior. Item 12: Early behavior problems. Item 17: Many short-term marital relationships. Item 18: Juvenile delinquency. Item 19: Revocation of conditional release.</bq> But the remainder of the list is a great match, for both America and Hillary. <bq>Item 1: Glibness / Superficial. Item 2: Grandiose sense of self worth. Item 4: Pathological lying. Item 5: Conning / manipulative. Item 6: Lack of remorse or guilt. Item 7: Shallow affect. Item 8: Callous / lack of empathy. Item 9: Parasitic lifestyle. Item 10: Poor behavior controls. Item 13: Lack of realistic long-term goals. Item 14: Impulsive. Item 15: Irresponsibility. Item 16: Failure to accept responsibility for own actions. Item 20: Criminal versatility.</bq> Still, that only gets America and Hillary to 28 out of 40 on the test, so I guess they're not psychopaths after all---they just both have most of the really terrible character traits of psychopaths. If we don't want to change anything about America, then Hillary really is the best match. Hooray. I feel much better now. <h>The Church of Politics</h> That's all from just one speech, a speech that was greeted with relief, delight and admiration by media and officials alike, across the political spectrum. Americans don't listen to the words in these speeches. They don't hear what their leaders are actually saying. America's allies and enemies do. Think of how most people go to their house of worship. They nod their way through the sermon, not really listening to the words, basking only in the familiar cadences. When I'm forced to go to a service, I leave with a million questions, because what they're saying is often quite disturbing. The regulars just don't hear it anymore. I've taken time out to dissect a speech of Hillary's and not one of Trump's because the media is lauding this speech as groundbreaking. I wanted to see for myself. Trump's speeches don't need analysis because his supporters don't care what's in them, he probably doesn't even care that much and the media isn't paying attention either. But Hillary is supposed to be the strong-minded alternative. She is not. This speech is a mishmash of jingoism and lies with an unhealthy obsession with Donald Trump---reading the speech, it felt like he'd already been president for months and she was campaigning to replace him. <hr> <ft>To cite Alex from <i>A Clockwork Orange</i>, another psychopath.</ft> <ft>That's a subtle shout-out to the <i>Game of Thrones</i> fans.</ft> <ft>Just last night, a night club in Florida was shot up in spectacular fashion, with the gunman killing 50 and wounding 53. ISIS again? Or just good, old American violence?</ft> <ft>You see how confusing it is to read Hillary's press releases? They make me feel like Trump is already the president and she's trying to unseat him.</ft> <ft>While science totally is awesome, I don't at all think that the psychopath test is very scientific. There's a lot of subjectivity in it. While reading through Ronson's book, one often got the impression that anyone smarter than the questioner was automatically rated closer to a psychopath. I shudder to think of who's been committed for life because of this test, just because the tester thought the testee was too arrogant.</ft>