Trump and Mental Health: An Alternative Truth?

February 28, 2017



The increasingly discussed matter of the mental health of President Trump brings to mind an extensive study into eccentrics and mental illness


The Guardian introduced the topic describing the President’s coping mechanisms for denying unpleasant news. [Trump denies presidency in state of chaos, Guardian, February 17]

Other reports report his refusal to confront media (purveyors of fake news), for example, and general repeated assertions of what is increasingly described as alternative truths.

Not ill, but in denial

One possibility is that the President is not mentally ill, (in the sense that such illness is a form of destructive self-harm). Rather, the delusions of Mr Trump are health-protective, avoiding the traumatic consequences of damage to self-image. It should be noted that socially, such individuals may well induce mental and physical ill-health on others, but that is another story.

Eccentric behaviours

This is where our understanding of people classified as eccentrics does enter the story. Some years ago, following analysis of over a thousand individuals, researchers concluded that eccentrics were less likely than the general public to require treatment for mental illnesses. Some subjects of the study were thoroughly delusional, which permitted them a life protected from the sufferings of many considered more normal.

A national study from Scotland captured remarkable lifestyles of self-defined eccentrics taking fascinating forms. (I have lost my notes on this study, and would welcome suggestions for retreiving it).

Being ill and causing illness

Ironically, in a another article the same day, the Guardian reported on the occupational hazards and proneness to mental illness, burn-out and stress, suffered by many cancer specialists around the world. Here, it is the carers as well as the victims, who suffer

As Polonius noted, though there be madness, yet there is method in it.

Follow up

I have left uncited the remarkable number of news items about this subject on the web. The debate is now touching on the Goldwater Rule (that ‘experts’ as well as lay-persons are expected not to comment on the mental state of the POTUS)



Rainieri fired: A toxic default mode in football and other businesses

February 24, 2017


Less than a year ago, Claudio Ranieri crowned a successful and graceful career by leading Leicester City Football Club as their manager to the greatest upset in football history. At enormous odds , Leicester wins the premier league title. There is talk of a movie being made of the feat

The board of Leicester joins in global recognition and joy at the team’s astonishing success. A month ago, after half a season of disappointing results, the board gave him their full backing. Two days ago, his team again showed fighting spirit.  A day ago, the same board fired him ‘in the long-term interests of the club’.

Actions have consequences

It is a symptom of leadership failure often associated with abuse of power, and a lack of appreciation of long-term consequences of such actions.

A toxic default mode

The lessons from the past suggest it can become a toxic default mode in football. Aston Villa (‘deadly’ Doug); Newcastle (a hereditary flaw in a great culture); even Chelsea (whisper it, Roman Abramovich); and now last year’s local and global heroes Leicester.

‘Sad’ (As another well-known businessman, entertainment show host and would-be politician   likes to tweet).

Sad. Toxic. Rarely effective. Weakness masquerading as strength.

Cressida becomes chief Dick

February 23, 2017


The apppointment of a Cressida Dick, a real-life celebrity detective as head of London’s police force, gave me a chance to compare her achievements with that of my fictional character Wendy Lockinge

Wendy Lockinge stars in the 2016 campus thriller Chronicles of Leadership. (see blurb details above). If you have not yet bought or obtained a copy by other means, do so immediately.

First, a spoiler alert about this post to the heavy-breathing brigade. There is nothing of an offensive or sexually explicit nature here. I couldn’t resist that headline, although I will now have to spend some time deleting messages from trolls who may have expected something rather different in this post.

In my story as well as that of Cressida Dick, a highly capable woman overcomes prejudice to reach the top of her profession. Female leaders remain in the minority in many walks of life. An exception is in the police, where opportunities are given for the brightest to reach the top.

Both Wendy and Cressida take the fast-track graduate recruitment pathway, starting out as the lowest rank uniform copper on the beat. Both take higher degrees in a branch of forensic science.  Both have contacts with individuals in our security services.

In my dreams, I see them in film versions  portrayed by one of our leading actresses whose name I will not reveal. There may be an agent out there already working to secure the part of Wendy for someone else.

Maybe in a future work of fiction, Wendy Lockinge will re-enter the police, and work with Cressida Dick to secure our Country and protext the world from the threats coming from desperate  Remainers attempting to kidnap a member of the royal family, blow up Parliament, and install Angela Merkel as Empress of the newly United States of Europe.


Cressida Dick is the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the first woman to take charge of London’s police force. Ms Dick, previously the national policing lead on counter-terrorism, said she was “thrilled and humbled”. But her appointment was criticised by the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was wrongly shot dead during an operation she led.

The Brazilian electrician was killed two weeks after 7 July 2005 London Bombings when he was mistakenly identified as a terror suspect. A jury later found the Met had broken health and safety laws, but found there was “no personal culpability for Commander Cressida Dick”.

Ms Dick, 56, left the Met for the Foreign Office after 31 years of service in December 2014. She was chosen for the commissioner’s job ahead of National Police Chiefs’ Council chairwoman Sara Thornton, Essex Police chief constable Stephen Kavanagh and Scotland Yard’s Mark Rowley.

Her statement said: “This is a great responsibility and an amazing opportunity. “I’m looking forward immensely to protecting and serving the people of London and working again with the fabulous women and men of the Met.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Ms Dick was “an exceptional leader with a clear vision and an understanding of the diverse range of communities [The Met]serves”.

BBC website, 22 February, 2017: Cressida Dick appointed as first female Met Police chief

I am now writing to a few friends with a background in policing to whom I sent a copy of The Chronicles of Leadership, repeating that Wendy is a creature of my imagination, and that any connection with any real-life individual is purely coincidental.

University suffers from attack by smart lampposts

February 21, 2017

Overwhelmed with news

On April 1st , I would have shrugged off this story as fake news. Maybe even today.  I was already suspicious after a week when accusations of the crookedness of media stories rained down on me, not least from the new POTUS

The crooked lampposts

I came across a fascinating story about how hackers turned lampposts into smart points of attack. The (unnamed) university found itself obeying its own computer system in accepting requests to re-fill its vending machines due to unprecedented demand for sea-food products.

This is yet another scare story about the malign consequences of The Internet of Things.


Poorly secured internet of things (IoT) devices have become gold mines for hackers looking to launch DDoS attacks to take websites and services offline. But this latest case, detailed in Verizon’s Data Breach Digest 2017, is the rare example of gadgets attacking their own network.

The devices were making hundreds of Domain Name Service (DNS) lookups every 15 minutes, causing the university’s network connectivity to become unbearably slow or even inaccessible.

The firewall analysis identified over 5,000 discrete systems making hundreds of DNS lookups every 15 minutes. Of these, nearly all systems were found to be living on the segment of the network dedicated to the IoT infrastructure.

With a massive campus to monitor and manage, everything from light bulbs to vending machines had been connected to the network for ease of management and improved efficiencies. While these IoT systems were supposed to be isolated from the rest of the network, it was clear that they were all configured to use DNS servers in a different subnet.

Luckily for the guys at the university, there was no need to replace “every soda machine and lamp post”.

To solve the massive hack, the university intercepted a clear-text malware password for a compromised IoT device and then used “that information to perform a password change before the next malware update”.

Overall, it doesn’t look like this problem is going away anytime soon. There are more than 6 billion IoT devices currently running, according to Gartner Research. That number could reach more than 20 billion by 2020.



To Susan Moger at Alliance Manchester Business School for encouraging my interest in The Internet of Things and alerting me to the BBC article.

To go more deeply

A top-level conference on the Internet of things is to be held in London this April. Don’t miss a chance to protect your organisation from attacks from very smart lampposts.


Can a leader be one of the boys or if female one of the girls?

February 19, 2017


This week, England announced Joe Root as the new cricket captain. Hours after the appointment the question was raised. Will he have to change his behaviour from being ‘just one of the boys?’

To avoid accusations of gender-blindness, I will note that the general question is whether anyone from within a group has to change behaviour on becoming the group’s appointed leader, regardless of gender

The question applies to any leader who has not been ‘parachuted in’ to a position. As I thought about , I realised I am not sure whether most leaders are insiders or outsiders [I don’t know of any statistics, and informed suggestions are welcomed].

Succession processes and planning

Tribal succession has always passed on leadership to the recognised successor. When that is in dispute, claimants (‘pretenders’) have to sort out who gets the top job. It is a process that can lead to the bloodiest of conflicts.

In these enlightened times of rational management, succession planning is guided by experts in the field, and is followed by results that are sometimes bad, sometimes not so bad.

It is here that I see the succession process justifies the maxim that we get the leaders we deserve. In America, a long and bruising selection process resulted in the appointment of President Trump, about which I have written far too much already for my own state of mental equilibrium. It is in the succession process that I see justified the maxim that we get the leaders we deserve

It is in the succession process that I see justified the maxim that we get the leaders we deserve

The born leader

Within hours, the appointment was hailed as the inevitable one, with Joe Root being ‘a born leader’according to Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon.

Root, 26, takes over from Alastair Cook despite having led in only four first-class matches – three for Yorkshire and one for England Lions.

“He has always studied the game and different tactics throughout his career,” Moxon told BBC Radio 5 live.

“It’s not something that he is going to have to learn before his first Test. I’m sure he will do a good job.”

BBC Sport

This harks back to a fifty-year-old angels on a pinhead debate on whether leaders are born or made. After a lot of huffing and puffing, discussion has died down. There is a consensus that leaders who are appointed have no ‘necessary and sufficient’ characteristics, and that various patterns of effective leader behaviors suggest a mix of inherited and acquired (situational) traits.

On the other hand

Within hours, discussion began on whether Root’s chirpy young man style would be appropriate for the job as captain.

A subtler point was whether the team’s best batsman should be entrusted the captain’s job. Examples were for found of appointments which were followed by a higher rate of accumulation of runs per innings, sometimes by a lower one. To my surprise, the stats show that the majority of England captains performed better after receiving the captaincy. [Yes, I leave the deeper analysis of this to my readers]


On balance, the issue of leadership style seems a minor consideration. Captains in recent decades have varied from the introverted and predictable (Hussain, Atherton, and arguably Cook) to the impulsive (Petersen) and the obsessive (Boycott).

It will be interesting to see what reports leak out about Cook’s leadership style as England’s cricket fortunes ebb and flow, as they probably will over the next few years of his captaincy. (Unlike football managers, England Cricket captains with one or two exceptions have been given a ‘decent innings’ before being retired.

[Image, Wikipedia]

Don’t lose that deal over lunch

February 13, 2017



In this Trumpian era, it is important to understand deal-making. I pass on a hint to deal-makers.  Don’t lose the deal you almost won in the morning, by something you do over lunch.

I write, not as a great deal-maker, but as a student of those who claim to be. My case-example goes back some years to a time when executives would swap leadership stories in workshops encouraging the sharing of their experiences.

In one of the workshops, I came across the account of an international deal that had been moving to a satisfactory conclusion. The tale-teller came from a UK international organization. The deal was in a country with a very different culture. Negotiations were made with simultaneous translations on each side.

The technical details of the deal were surprisingly easy to wrap-up. Most had been agreed through professional teams working in advance of the meeting of the corporate leaders. Having reached the point at which a decision to go ahead seemed certain, the final morning meeting broke up for lunch. A celebratory mood prevailed.

The senior British figures were driven to a top dining place in the country for lunch. “They spoke in a few words of English,” the British manager told us “We had been briefed that it was vital to keep up with them in the drinks and the toasts. Unfortunately, the booze got to us more than it did to them. Worse, their broken English was a sham.  At least one understood every word we said about them, our real thoughts about them, not the censored versions they had been hearing before. You could say we won the contract in the morning, and lost it over lunch.”

Please take from my story what you will. As we are learning from events in America and around the world, this is a time when we all have to learn the art of the deal.

The case may also apply to those political figures setting out on Brexit negotiations.

The more Senator Warren is silenced, the more powerful become her words

February 8, 2017

The distinguished Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in Congress this week for reading a letter from Martin Luther King’s widow as illustration of the unfitness of Mitch McConnell nominated as the next attorney general by Donald Trump

In the recent presidential campaign, she spoke powerfully (if ultimately without success).  She might have been a more successful candidate than Hillary Clinton, although perhaps with her views in the US seen as dangerously liberal as those of Bernie Sanders


Her action has produced a wave of reaction. Hash tag #shepersists and #letlizspeak and tee-shirt with the slogan She Persisted have taken off [Note: Capitalism and the women’s movement. A theme for a future post?].

The theme is trending on social media [Wednesday 8 February 2017]. I particularly liked the contribution from Wired, arguing the potential of a repressive act to trigger a wave of protest (and illustrated in this post) through The Streisand effect.

[The banning] inadvertently triggered a little internet phenomenon known as the “Streisand effect,” who once sued a photographer for taking pictures of her Malibu home. The lawsuit achieved the opposite of what Streisand had hoped, driving tons of traffic instead to the website that hosted the photos. The Streisand effect, then, describes the phenomenon in which efforts to conceal or censor information only drive more attention to it.

That’s precisely what happened last night. Almost as soon as McConnell silenced Warren, his own words were used against him as a battle cry for Warren online

Wired: The Streisand effect [08/02/2017]

The BBC reported details of the ban order:

The 30-year-old letter criticised Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, said Ms Warren had broken Senate rules by impugning the conduct of another senator.

She is banned from speaking again in the Senate on Mr Sessions’ nomination. The incident occurred during a debate in the Senate on the nomination of Mr Sessions to be America’s top prosecutor.

Ms Scott King’s letter alleged that Mr Sessions was unsuitable for that role because he had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters”.

Mr Sessions’ nomination process has been dogged by allegations of racism. The Alabama senator has denied the allegations, and his supporters have pointed to his vote to extend the Voting Rights Act.

Ms Warren’s reading was interrupted by the Senate’s presiding officer, Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, who said she was breaking a rule that stops senators accusing each other of “unbecoming” conduct.

His objection to Ms Warren’s speech was put to a vote, and the chamber voted [according to party lines] to silence Ms Warren by 49 to 43. Under Rule 19, members of the Senate are not allowed to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator”.

Democrats have argued that Republicans are selectively enforcing the measure.

BBC News [8/02/2017]

I have little grasp of the legal issues at play here. The political issues are clearer. Please pass on this post as a further illustration of the Streisand effect.

In the interests of accuracy if not balance, I should mention the only post referencing Mitch McDonnell on this site. He has cited as a harmonising force, as Congress entered one of its periodic budget melt-downs.

Paul Chambers: The case of the malicious tweet

February 6, 2017


The Judge

Paul Chambers, a frustrated air traveller, tweeted in exasperation at the delays to his flight. The tweet was to change his life, and not for the better

Our story starts in January 2010.  Snow was adding to travellers problems’ including those at Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport

A young accountant was in danger of damaging his planned romantic meeting. In heavily ironic tones he tweeted

that unless service improved, he would be back in a week to blow up the airport.

Pause for reader reaction

The cautious me suggests that if security learned of the tweet, it might prompt the mildest of low-cost checking to see if the tweet was intended as. Joke (say 99% probability) or a bizarre early warning of terrorism intentions (say 1% probability).

What happened next

According to the report of the court case, Mr Chambers was en route to Belfast to consummate a twitter romance in real life. Failing to make his flight, the thwarted suiter returned to work when the local police arrived, and hauled him off into custody.

Legal proceedings followed, which resulted in a fine for which the appeal was originally turned down.

Eventually his high court challenge was successful, as The Guardian reported


Paul Chambers, who was found guilty of sending a menacing tweet, has won his high court challenge against his conviction. Outside the court, he said he felt “relieved and vindicated”, adding: “It’s ridiculous it ever got so far.”

He had tweeted in frustration when he discovered that Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire was closed because of snow. Eager to see his girlfriend, he sent out a tweet on the publicly accessible site declaring: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

He has always maintained that he did not believe anyone would take his “silly joke” seriously.

The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, said:

“We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the crown court that this ‘tweet’ constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it. On this basis, the appeal against conviction must be allowed.”

Twitter to the rescue

As the mills of justice had ground on, twitter had sprung to the rescue. Celebrity twitter comedians such as Stephen Fry offered moral support, the spotlight of publicity, and some bankrolling of legal charges.

Not the only case

The tweeter appeared on Radio Five Live today [February 3rd, 2017]. He seemed a remarkably sanguine victim of wrongful arrest and of the loss of his job. His new wife too has given him moral support. (I’m not sure yet if she was the object of his snow-abandoned flight in 2010.)

I added this case to my collection of stories about twitter going viral over injustices visited on tweeters. Airline passengers have appeared quite frequently in the stories. [See Dilemmas of Leadership .]

Lessons learned

Twitter is a good friend but can be your worse enemy. A lesson there for Donald Trump perhaps?

Tom Dalyell: Father of EVEL?

February 1, 2017


Tom Dayell, (1932-2017), was a controversial figure who lived a tumultuous personal and political life. Among his varied achievements and embarrassments he should be remembered for  being the person who posed the West Lothian question, which prepared the way for the 2015 legislation on English votes for English laws, [or EVEL to give it its slightly sinister-sounding acronym.]

I leave others more informed that I am to offer a formal obituary on ‘Daft Tam’ . The BBC offers a thoughtful account.

I will restrict this post to a few thoughts on his much-discussed conundrum, and its connection to EVEL. I make no attempt to hide my view that both are distractions from the needs from a political process of reconciling the rights of minorities within a wider union, be it the EU or the United Kingdom in their present forms.

The West Lothian question

In a parliamentary debate on devolution in 1977, Dalyell first proposed what would become known as the West Lothian Question.

A vocal opponent of Scottish devolution, Dalyell contrasted the town of Blackburn in his own constituency, and Blackburn in Lancashire.

“For how long,” he asked, “will English constituencies and English Honourable Members tolerate at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important and often decisive effect on English politics?”

It was Enoch Powell who coined the term West Lothian Question, in his response to Dalyell’s speech.



The Guardian, at its socially-sensitive best, had a decent stab at resolving the question.

EVEL is one of the signals of a paranoid streak in politics which manifest from time to time. It is a near-pointless effort to protect English interests against their disruption by pesky minority interests of other members of the United Kingdom. It deserves approval only by the rabid supporters on the now defunct English National Party, although I suspect it has the dubious merits of appealing to British Nationalists, and for all I know to the arguments whirling around in the head of Douglas Carswell, the only UKIP member of parliament at present.


The flow chart of the process of implanting EVEL makes a wondrous, if Alice through the looking glass, wall chart.

Today at PM Questions [February 1st 2017] all sides of the house paid homage to the man who lived up to his quote: You must not be afraid to be thought a bore

Anyone who wants to explain how you should have voted in the EU referendum deserves quizzing on how they understand EVEL, and Dalyell’s brain-numbing question.