Leonard Zwelling

As David Brooks points out in this op-ed from The New York Times on June 16, it is arbitrariness that most characterizes tyrannical reign. He is using this language in association with Donald Trump. He basically says that Trump upsets all norms and does not obey external rules. He makes his own rules and does so at the blink of an eye.

Personally, while I agree with Brooks and understand his concern because Trump is very much still in the running to be president again, I am really tired of trying to explain Trump or rationalize his support from his amassed admirers. The Republicans have many very good candidates in the running for the White House. Why Trump should even be on anyone’s mind any more is beyond me. We need to let the various legal processes run out. It is likely that he will be found guilty of several different crimes in an assortment of venues. If he’s in the White House then, Congress will have to decide if a convicted felon is who it wants to run the country.

Rather, it is the general prevalence of tyranny that attracted me to the Brooks column and his identification of arbitrariness as its chief characteristic.

Lately, I have had this arbitrariness thrust in my face on several fronts.

I serve on the advisory board of a non-profit here in Houston. There has been a recent changing of the guard there. It was not arbitrary. The previous leadership was what had become arbitrary making random decisions of great consequence to suit the leader’s needs, but not necessarily those of the organization. And the board allowed this. I am not on the big board. I’m on the advisory board. The JV. When I became aware of the behavior of the leader, I made the upper authority aware of the problem. The arbitrariness is in the process of going away—I hope. I still worry that vestiges of the past reign remain and will cause a problem again.

The vanishing of the arbitrary leadership should also apply to MD Anderson. Clearly, there is one set of rules for the faculty and another set for the administration and it is that administration led by the president that makes the fluid rules.

In both cases, the non-profit board and the academic cancer center, the tyrannical rule of the leader has caused many to suffer. I know. I have spoken to many of them from Anderson and they have all been victimized by the arbitrary application of nonsensical rules in a heavy-handed fashion.

Like Brooks, I believe that most people want to do good. I do not, however, believe this is true of most leaders. Today it seems, the ethically impaired gravitate to the corner office while the morally sound fall victim to the tyranny.

I wish I could do more to help the faculty of MD Anderson than write this blog. It’s all I have. I am not an active faculty member any longer. When I was, and when I was a faculty senator, I spoke up to the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs accusing Dr. DePinho of questionable integrity. Someone out there needs to take my place now. Soon.

Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,


directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

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