Saturday, August 06, 2016

Heads up

Remember when we talked about Jacob Weisberg's 1985 piece on the ultra-sleazy political hit man Roger Stone, who is now the real head of Donald Trump's campaign? In more recent years, there have been other anti-Stone articles, which the man himself seems have taken in good humor. But Stone detested Weisberg's piece.

Why? I don't know. The article completely disappeared. I've gone to university libraries in search of the thing and could not find it.

And now here it is. I haven't read it yet. Join me!

I have read the intro, which describes Stone as a marginal figure and a con man. No. Wrong. Back in 2000, the Dubya team called up Stone when they needed someone to stage the "Brooks Brothers riot" that ultimately gifted the world with the George W. Bush presidency and the Iraq war. That is not marginal.

Stone was the guy who made everyone feel ill when he promoted that horrid conspiracy theory about the Khans. He's bestest buds with Alex Jones, of course.
A quick read indicates Stone hated to be called a bluffer, suggesting he was conning his clients, and not really as effective as he claimed.
Congresswoman Karen Bass has posted a petition calling on psychiatrists and psychologists to urge the Republican Party to get Donald Trump's mental health examined.

It has already had 24000 signatures. The Twitter hashtag is #DiagnoseTrump.

Bass lists the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. Others have argued that Trump also exhibits symptoms of sociopathic personality disorder.

But wait...

...Trump publishes a a medical report on his website. Dated 4 Dec 2015, it is a statement by Harold Bornstein, who claims to have been his personal physician since 1980. Headed "To Whom My Concern" (sic), it states

"Mr Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results. Actually, his blood pressure, 110/65, and laboratory test results were astonishingly excellent. (...) If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." (emphasis added)

A medic may have signed that document, but those words don't sound to me as though they were written by a medic.

1) Results of medical examinations are usually called "positive" if something problematic is found. If a medic writing a report wishes to say that nothing untoward was found and that a person's health is in good shape, they would be more likely to use the word "favourable".

2) "Astonishingly excellent" does not seem like medical language at all.

3) No medic today can reasonably state that anybody would be the "healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency". You would have thought that a medic who has worked for 35 years for a billionaire who boasts about always getting the best of everything would know that.

Here we have a case of irrationally hyperbolic and superlative language being used about Donald Trump, in a document published at his website.

Can anyone guess who might have written it?

Pay close attention to the sentence beginning "Actually, his blood pressure". Using a comma after the word "Actually" in that context is an example of a poor writing style. But exactly such ugly usage has appeared many times in Donald Trump's tweets.

That can be verified by running this search:.

Examples include

"Actually, she has done poorly with such men!" (2 May 2016)
"Actually, I doubt it!" (26 Jan 2016)
"actually, you always knew!" (27 Jun 2015)
"Actually, if I run, I'll win." (28 Jan 2015)
"so boring now that actually, I’m glad I didn’t (...)" (13 Oct 2014)
"Actually, they will take over Iraq and all of their oil." (14 Jun 2014)
"Actually, I don't think so." (16 May 2014)
"Actually, I'm easily #1!" (4 Mar 2014)
"Actually, I like you!" (19 Feb 2014)
"Actually, she has got no talent at all-ZERO!" (13 Jul 2013)
"Actually, I agree with that" (29 Jun 2013)

In all of these cases, it would be better style to dispense with the comma after "actually", and probably to lose the word "actually" altogether. But Trump not only overuses the word "actually"; he also habitually follows it with a comma where a better stylist would not.

Doubtless a more sophisticated stylometric analysis could be conducted which could compare the medical report with texts known to have been written by Trump, in order that the probability could be reliably estimated that he himself wrote the report.

All hands to the pumps.
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