Seeing the Round Corners

December 19, 2016

   Today’s column presents a column from this writer’s archives of 2011 which seems appropriate with all the rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential election, and the questions of fitness, trustworthiness, fake news stories, disclosures from hacked e-mails and their impact. Little has been written about the dearth of issues Presidential candidates should have been addressing, with many totally ignored and lost in the name calling and insulting.

   What has come to light as the Electoral College Vote approaches is just how far certain Americans are also willing to go, to the point of ignoring the rules and the law they agree to follow in order to become a delegate to the process. Seems the example set by the Presidential candidates may bring out the worst in people set to confirm (at least in theory) the election results – could it possibly be that old trickle down theory at work?

   Those wishing to abolish the Electoral College demonstrate just how little they understand the safeguards it provides. Readers should recall how inept and uninformed some people are – voters in England who were rabid about the exit of Britain from the European Union, but when interviewed after the votes were tallied, did not even know what the European Union was.

   Perhaps a bad example, but too many voters in America also vote on an equally uninformed basis. Although Amendment 69 was soundly defeated by Colorado voters, many voted for Amendment 69 not realizing it would be totally exempt from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the result of which a 21-member governing board could impose whatever taxes they chose with no regulation allowed by any state agency, and giving them authority to raise taxes annually anytime the board chose! (Remember TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) – taxes cannot be raised without approval of Colorado voters.)

   Maybe the suggestion by Dr. Daniel Amen in the column that appeared in May of 2011 should become a part of the process – forget producing the tax returns, forget all the schmoozing, forget all the back rubbing for support. Just bring on the brain scan!

May 9, 2011


The killing of Osama Bin Laden (Bin Laden) stirred a vast display of emotions.  Decent, moral and caring people were reluctant to react with joy over someone being killed, but with the heinous conduct Bin Laden so openly, willingly and proudly pursued, most people found it difficult to deny. 

Self deception is a character trait that the human species is oh so adept at, whether it is deceiving themselves about an inherently dangerous activity, or something so mundane as looking great in inappropriate attire. 

Listening to the various published rants of Bin Laden about the evils of America could be described as the ultimate self deception. What harm has America inflicted on Bin Laden until Sunday? The number of immigrants to America identifying themselves as Muslim seems to defy the rules of common sense if America is indeed the vile place Bin Laden portrays. Why do so many immigrate to America?

Regardless of ethnicity, the human species seems to have the innate power to deceive itself on just about any issue. 

The Skeptic’s Dictionary defines self deception as “the process or fact of misleading ourselves to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.” Perhaps a more apt definition is a way we justify false beliefs to ourselves.” Bin Laden seems to have been an expert at self deception. 

Daniel G. Amen, M.D., tells of writing a “tongue-in-cheek” Op-Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times in 2007 on whether brain scans should be performed on political candidates. (Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, brain-imaging specialist, best-selling author, and medical director of the world-famous Amen Clinics, and has conducted more then 45,000 brain imaging studies.) 

In Amen’s Op-Ed piece, he opined that “the President of the United States is the most powerful person on earth, so before we vote for someone, shouldn’t we know if he or she has a brain that works correctly.” Amen explained the impetus of that question was he had “grown weary of the country’s being run by presidents who show clear brain abnormalities, from Reagan’s memory issues to Clinton’s struggles with impulsivity to Bush’s cognitive rigidity.” 

When asked to explain where free will came into the equation if say Clinton’s brain scan showed he would have impulse-control and self-control issues, Amen explained that brain scans can be used to determine problems such as low activity in the frontal lobe which many ADD patients treated by Amen have. 

Without a brain scan to show the low activity in the frontal lobe, people behaving badly or inappropriately are judged as having free will and choose to act as they did.       

Amen is serious about brain scans for political candidates, and notes that President Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease became evident during his second term.  Non-elected staff members covered up periods of forgetfulness and ran things so as not to alarm the country. 

President Clinton’s conduct was ignored and portrayed as poor judgment (free will??) as the country “suffered through his poor judgment, impulse control problems, not learning from mistakes and excitement-seeking behavior – all problems that point to prefrontal cortex problems,” according to Amen.

Amen advocates the possibility of brain studies to determine the fitness of potential candidates – after all, presidents undergo physical checkups and brain studies “have shown predictive value five years before Alzheimer’s disease becomes evident.” Reagan’s Alzheimer’s would have been detected before he was re-elected to a second term. 

The downside of such brain studies would be the loss of what Amen terms “truly great presidents” – President Lincoln who suffered from a brain injury at age 12 and also suffered from severe bouts of depression and illusions; President Kennedy used painkillers which affected his brain. 

Amen’s brain studies led him to the conclusion that “there is a powerful feedback loop between brain function and the condition of the soul.” “A dynamic feedback loop exists between the brain and the events in our lives. The brain impacts our behavior, and how we behave impacts actual brain function.” 

   Understanding this connection may help to understand brutal dictators such as Hitler, and while not a dictator, Osama Bin Laden. Amen’s studies also led him to conclude that faulty brain wiring is likely the cause of conduct so inhumane as inflicted on the world by Hitler and other brutal dictators.

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