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Monday, October 12, 2020

The New York Times, then and now

In 1891, eleven Italian-American men were lynched by a mob for allegedly having killed the New Orleans chief of police, David Hennessy. The Wikipedia account of this incident quotes the New York Times' article about the murders, which ran the very next day: 

"These sneaky and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cut-throat practices, and the oath-bound societies of their native country, are to us a pest without mitigation. Our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they...Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans." 

Hmm. The august Grey Lady, justifying lynching. A little hard to recognize her.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Munchausen by proxy and virtue signaling

I've written previously about the inverse correlation between virtue and virtue signaling. I'm not using the expression in its usual political sense, but in a broader way. That correlation is probably most clearly illustrated by the way Death Row inmates, in their prison pen pal advertisements, almost always talk about what loving, giving, caring people they are.

I've explained how Munchausen Syndrome, and Munchausen by proxy, are nothing more than offshoots of sociopathy. Munchausen's requires someone who is utterly dishonest, utterly without scruples, and utterly shameless. In other words, a sociopath.

I've also written about one aspect of virtue signaling which doesn't get a lot of publicity: wearing a prominently displayed cross.

I recently stumbled across pictures of two of the more famous cases of Munchausen-by-proxy which perfectfully illustrate the intersection of these phenomena.

Dee Dee Blanchard claimed that her daughter suffered from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy, among other things. She also said that her daughter was retarded due to her premature birth, and she kept her daughter Erin a wheelchair, even though she didn't need one.

Here's Dee Dee. (She's on the right; her daughter, Gypsy Rose, is on the left):

Gypsy Rose, along with a boyfriend she met online, murdered Dee Dee in 2015.

Kathy Bush is another well known case. By the age of 9, her daughter Jennifer had been hospitalized over 200 times and had had 40 operations. Hospital workers said that Jennifer's condition would inevitably worsen whenever her mother visited. A nurse said that she had seen Kathy fiddling with Jennifer's feeding tubes and IV lines, which would subsequently malfunction. Jennifer was also found to have been given drugs that hadn't been prescribed. As soon as Jennifer was placed in foster care, her condition miraculously improved. (Jennifer now insists she was never abused.) Kathy was sentenced to five years in prison, to be followed by five years of probation.

Here's Kathy:

Her cross is a little more discreet, but still plainly visible.

In each case, the woman seems to be making a statement with her cross: "Look at what a god-fearing, pious, good person I am."

As always, the more virtue signaling, the less virtue.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Casually chic, and stylishly skinny

Today I had to bring a bunch of beer bottles to the return center at a Stop & Shop in a nearby town. (The one in my town doesn't accept them because they don't sell beer.)

I got a shopping cart, filled it with the cartons of bottles from my trunk and back seat, and went to the room with the recycling machines. It was just me and a homeless-looking guy who had two large trash bags full of cans and plastic bottles.

As I put the bottles in the slot, the machine spit out a bunch of receipts, which eventually added up to $7.50. I then went into the store to spend them on three boxes of Swiss Miss hot chocolate. I got to the checkout and handed the cashier, a plump, pleasant-faced young black man, the receipts.

He ran the receipts through a machine, then said, "Your total is 17 cents."

I had thought the receipts would cover it, but I guess I hadn't taken tax into account. I pulled out a dollar bill. But the cashier must have interpreted my surprised look as panic, because he said, "That's okay," and extracted a quarter from his pocket.

I asked, "Wait a sec -- that's your money?"

He nodded.

"You were just going to give me the 17 cents?"

He nodded again.

"Here, then this is yours," I said, handing him the bill. "One good turn deserves another."

He took another look at me and said, "No, that's okay."

I finally realized what had been going through his mind. I said, "Please, take it, it's okay, I don't return cans for a living. I was just getting rid of empties we had around the house."

As I left the store, I looked down at my shirt and saw that it had two holes in it. (I've never been of the opinion that a shirt should be thrown out when 99% of its material is still intact.)

When I took my mask off outside, I was reminded that I hadn't shaved that morning.

I pride myself on being lean. But, maybe to others, I just look malnourished.

I also take pride in looking younger than 66. But maybe I just look like a ravaged 50-year-old. My "habit" is exercise, not meth. But the long term effect of both is the same: the fat disappears.

In retrospect, I wish I'd given that cashier more; a dollar is a considerably smaller percentage of my net worth than 17 cents is of his. But it all happened so quickly I didn't really have time to think. Next week I'm going by that Stop & Shop again. If I see him, I'm going to give him a twenty.

It's the least he deserves for his good deed. 

As for the insult, I suppose I'll have to let that pass. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

I was wrong about Derek Chauvin: he has Aspergers

Six weeks ago I wrote a post about how Derek Chauvin was being viewed through the wrong lens, one of racism rather than sociopathy. The main point of that post was that when black people run into a difficult white person, their default assumption is that they were treated badly because of racism, when in fact it probably had more to do with that white person's overall dysfunction.

I had watched the video showing Chauvin's utter disregard for George Floyd's life. I had read about his conduct at his second job as security for a nightclub. I had read about the 22 complaints against him. And I had seen that the junior officers he was working with that fateful day had deferred to him, almost as if they were afraid of him. From those data points I concluded that Chauvin was a sociopath.

But the New York Times recently published an article on his past, and it now seems far more likely to me that he had Aspergers Syndrome, rather than sociopathy. Given the NY Times' leftist slant, had they been able to draw a picture of Chauvin as the apotheosis of evil and racism, they would have done so. But, the story they pieced together describes a man who was socially clueless, awkward, and isolated.

Consider the following excerpts (in italics):

[D]ozens of interviews with acquaintances depict a police officer who seemed to operate at an emotional distance from those around him. Chauvin was a quiet and rigid workaholic with poor people skills and a tendency to overreact...

"Rigid" is a word often used to describe Aspies. And Aspies are known for their "poor people skills." Sociopaths, by contrast, are often charming and manipulative.

He was awkward. Other officers either didn't like him or didn't know him. He didn't go to parties and didn't seem to have many friends. Some neighbors knew so little about him that they didn't even know he was a police officer until after his arrest.

"Awkward," of course, is the most frequently used word used to describe Aspies. And the fact that he was asocial -- as opposed to antisocial -- also indicates Aspergers.

Even on the police force, Chauvin was an outsider. He often partnered with a rookie he was training, exacting in his expectations. That was fine with his veteran colleagues, who did not necessarily want to ride alongside him.

"Exacting" means strictly by the book, which is how someone with Aspergers would operate. The veteran colleagues, who presumably knew what he was like, avoided him, as people generally end up doing with Aspies.

Derek did not play sports in school -- at least, not that anyone remembers. He did not have a yearbook photo for his junior or senior years. One classmate from Park High School in Cottage Grove, another Twin Cities suburb, remembered him as the student in ROTC who never talked but always held the flag. Another classmate, Scott Swanson, said Derek flew under the radar.

Never talked? Flew under the radar? Sociopaths tend to be both loquacious and memorable. In fact, they'll often do anything to make their presence felt.

After joining the military police, [Chauvin] was deployed to a U.S. Army base in Germany, here he studied for the Minnesota police exam in his spare time. He did not socialize much or drink alcohol...When Chauvin reported for training after the police academy, he showed up in a new white Crown Victoria outfitted to resemble a police car....Leaving work, most officers dressed casually. But Chauvin, who stood ramrod straight like he was in the military, left in full uniform, his pants pulled higher than most people would wear them, his boots polished.

Being obsessed with the trappings of his job, to the point of looking foolish -- and being oblivious about the impression he's making -- sounds like Aspergers as well.

In a group setting he would never connect and stand there like a small child. I was put off by his lack of communication skills...You never felt like he was present.

Again, typical of an Aspie. A sociopath is usually very present, and in a destructive way.

The article continues in this vein. He was not smart financially. He was awkward at the beauty pageant where his wife competed for the title of Mrs. Minnesota. And he and his wife often went separate ways.

The worst the Times could come up with as far as Chauvin's meanness was the incident they led off with, which occurred when the police observed some teenagers shooting their nerf gun out a car window:

[Chauvin] made a lasting impression. In fact, Bergh and another passenger said they would never forget him, nor what he said as he gave them back their guns. "Most of you will be 18 before the end of the year," before letting them go. "That means you'll be old enough for big boy jail."

That hardly presents the picture of unbridled viciousness and evil the New York Times would have preferred to draw.

I had pointed out in that previous post that police departments now guard against sociopaths by using the MMPI. Given that a policeman's job consists of interacting with the public, perhaps departments should guard against Aspies as well.

As far as the behaviors which initially made me think he was a sociopath, not thinking through the potential consequences of kneeling on an arrestee's neck can be a function of an Aspergerian lack of awareness -- and inability to identify with anyone else -- as well as callousness. Being overeager to use pepper spray at that nightclub could just reflect a rigid "by the book" approach to his job. And getting numerous complaints in the course of his duty as a police officer could well just reflect the fact that Aspies are often infuriating to deal with.

(I had mentioned "stupidity" as one of the lenses that Chauvin should have been viewed through; but I see now that it's that peculiar form of stupidity associated with Aspergers, not just a low IQ.)

In any case, I was wrong to label Chauvin a sociopath.

The main point of that previous post still holds true though: it would help race relations immeasurably if blacks realized that whites can be difficult to deal with for a whole host of reasons other than racism.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Vera Lynn, RIP

It didn't get much publicity over here, but Vera Lynn, 103, died yesterday. She was the British singer who popularized We'll Meet Again.

During WWII she traveled, at what must have been some risk to herself, to India, Egypt, and Burma to sing to the British troops to keep their spirits up.

From Wikipedia:

Lynn devoted much time and energy to charity work connected with ex-servicemen, disabled children and breast cancer. She was held in great affection by Second World War veterans and in 2000 was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century. 

During World War II, Lynn lived with her parents in a house she bought in Upney Lane, Barking. In 1941, Lynn married Harry Lewis, a clarinetist and saxophonist, and fellow member of Ambrose's orchestra whom she had met two ears earlier. they rented another house in Upney Lane, near her parents' house. They had one child in March 1946, Virginia Penelope Anne Lewis (now Lewis-Jones). Her husband died in 1998....Lynn lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, from the early 1960s, living next door to her daughter. 

Somehow, devoting herself to those charities seems in keeping with the way she traveled to the front during WWII. Living next door to her daughter seems in keeping with the way she moved her own parents into her house during WWII. Both of those things are in keeping with the way she stayed married to the same man for 57 years, until his death. And all of those things are consistent with each other.

How gratifying to see that she was selected as "the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century." (Think about that: she beat out Winston Churchill for the honor.)

Here she is singing We'll Meet Again to RAF members.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Further indication Amy Cooper is a sociopath

In the previous post I pointed out that Amy Cooper was almost certainly a sociopath. Yesterday the NY Post ran an article, Central Park 'Karen' Amy Cooper reportedly tried to have her doorman fired.

A few excerpts:

Alison Faircloth, one of Cooper's neighbors at her Upper West Side apartment, recalled finding
Cooper "on the verge of tears" after a confrontation with the building's doorman last winter, the New York Times reported. 

The neighbor says Cooper told her the doorman had apparently cursed at her for no reason and she vowed to have him fired, the outlet reported. 

But when Faircloth asked the doorman for his side of the story, he said Cooper had complained about a malfunctioning elevator, then hurled curses at him after forcing her way into a security booth, the outlet said. 

Cooper had to be removed by a security guard, the doorman said, according to Faircloth.

Trying to get a doorman fired on false pretenses is the kind of behavior you'd expect from a sociopath. Sociopaths will anger at the most innocuous behavior, and somehow always manage to convince themselves of their own righteousness.

In this instance, had the doorman been black, he would likely have interpreted this incident in a racial light.

"There's always a narrative from her about someone who has done her wrong," the neighbor told the outlet.

Sociopaths have a unique ability to see themselves as victims, even when they're the victimizer.

Aside from the confrontation with the doorman, other neighbors knew Cooper to be "combative" with other dog walkers and staff at the building, the outlet reported.

"There was a sense of entitlement," Marisol De Leon told the Times, adding Cooper would often walk her dog, Henry, without a leash and would become angry when told not to. 

"Combative"is the perfect word for sociopaths. They love to pick fights, then fight dirty.

Had those other dog walkers and staff been black, they, too, would likely have seen their interactions in a racial light. And voila, we would have had a "West Side Karen." But a sociopath will go after anybody, of any race, on the slightest pretext.

Cooper is not a "racist" who happens to also be unpleasant. She's a sociopath who leaves everyone in her path feeling burned. Everyone needs to understand that sociopaths like Cooper will go after anyone who crosses them and will lie shamelessly to get their way. There's nothing they won't stoop to.

Black people in a sociopath's way will often assume they ran up against a racist whose ill will was a function of their race. (Their underlying assumption here seems to be that an Amy Cooper is perfectly pleasant to other white people.) With Christian Cooper, she did use his race against him. But the key to understanding an Amy Cooper is to realize that she will use any means possible to go after anyone who crosses her.

And the overall racial climate is not improved by the fact that whenever the media hears of an incident involving an entitled white woman and a black person they turn it into national news. Amy Cooper was undoubtedly just as nasty and dishonest in all those other encounters involving whites. But none of those would have initially been reported to and by the media.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Chauvin being viewed through the wrong lens

America's attention for the past two weeks has been completely riveted by the George Floyd killing, just as for the previous two months it was dominated completely by the coronavirus. Most of the discussion of the Floyd killing, with the strong encouragement of the media, has centered on race. But it can't really be fully understood until viewed through the prism of sociopathy.

Derek Chauvin (and his recent counterpart, the semi-forgotten Amy Cooper, the "Central Park Karen" whom I'll get to in a bit) are both almost certainly sociopaths.

When I first saw that video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck, I found Chauvin's utterly depraved indifference to human life infuriating. Floyd had his hands cuffed behind his back at the time, and it's easy to keep a suspect prone on the ground without kneeling on his neck. And Chauvin did it despite Floyd saying he couldn't breathe twelve separate times, despite being questioned by his fellow officers, and he continued to do it for three minutes after Floyd had lost consciousness.

My second reaction was: oh no, if I get angry seeing this video, how are black people going to react? You couldn't possibly ask for a worse visual metaphor than a white man in a position of power with his knee on the neck of a defenseless black man, slowly killing him. It was the ultimate in inflammatory imagery.

Almost every interpretation of this event since has, of course, centered on race. But how much of Chauvin's behavior was actually motivated by racism, as opposed to just being a function of his sociopathy?

A look at Chauvin's history is instructive. He had moonlighted by working security at a Hispanic nightclub, el Nuevo Rodeo. There he had evidently gained a reputation for being quick to pull out the pepper spray at the slightest provocation. In his 19 years on the force, Chauvin had received 18 complaints. Given Chauvin's reputation at the nightclub and his treatment of Floyd, it's a safe bet that at least some -- if not all -- of those complaints were warranted. Did this behavior stem from dislike of other races, or just from a generalized sociopathic dislike of all humanity?

It also came out recently that Chauvin had committed voter fraud by voting in Florida while living in Minnesota. Voter fraud, while not proof of sociopathy, is probably a yellow flag for it.

Chauvin had married a Hmong woman, certainly not something one would associate with what the media likes to refer to as a "white supremacist." Of course, it's entirely possible to harbor no particular ill will towards Asians while being suspicious of, and possibly afraid of, blacks.

A big part of the problem with blacks and the police is that any cop who works in an area with a lot of blacks, no matter what his attitudes when he starts out, will almost inevitably become leery of young black men. A quick look at the statistics shows why. In an average year, blacks, despite being only 13% of the population, commit 53% of the murders in this country, and the rates for the three other major categories of violent crime (assault and battery, armed robbery, and rape) are roughly commensurate. The majority of those crimes are carried out by males between the ages of 15 and 40. So any cop who's been on the job for a while is inevitably going to become wary of that roughly 3% of the population. (And so would you, if you were a cop.)

If the cops rousted old black church ladies on a regular basis, I'd be the first to condemn them; but they don't do that. And when the police are constantly told what horrible racists they are because they are more leery of young black men or because they arrest blacks disproportionately, that's going to breed resentment. (By the way, I also don't blame law-abiding young black men for being resentful about being viewed with more suspicion when they've done nothing wrong.)

In any case, I don't doubt that Chauvin's attitudes on race followed a similar trajectory. Many would say that Chauvin's action was due to a combination of racism and depraved sociopathic indifference. But it's more complicated than that.

One of the things that struck me when first watching that video was how thin -- how downright wimpy -- Chauvin's arms looked. He must have undoubtedly been aware of the fact that there were plenty of black men who in any sort of fair fight could easily overpower him. So fear, which is a distinctly different emotion than contempt, must have entered the equation as well. Add to that the fear of being humiliated in front of his fellow officers.

Obviously if Chauvin had had any idea he was actually killing Floyd, he wouldn't have done it, given that it now basically means the end of his world. He looked several times in the general direction of the videographer while kneeling on Floyd, so he must have been aware he was being taped. And these days, any cop knows that killing a black man comes with potentially greater consequence than killing a white man. (Year in and year out, the police kill roughly twice as many whites as blacks; but when was the last time the killing of a white man got nearly this much publicity or public reaction?)

So, Chauvin was stupid as well as depraved. And while there's no denying his depravity, to really understand his crime it must also be viewed through the prism of stupidity.

(Neither the fear nor the stupidity are an excuse for his crime. But recognizing them does help explain his mindset.)

Chauvin's three colleagues are a different matter. The mob is howling for blood right now, and in the heat of the moment, they want all three of Chauvin's colleagues' heads as well. But a more dispassionate view of them is warranted.

J. Alexander Kueng, 26, a light-skinned black man, was only sworn in as a Minneapolis police officer three months earlier, and was working in only his third street shift. Kueng tried to find a pulse on Floyd, but was unable, and informed Chauvin of this.

Thomas Lane, 37, had been on the police force for exactly four days on the day Floyd was killed. He evidently asked Chauvin twice if they shouldn't roll Floyd over on his side, but was ignored by the senior officer. Lane had been a volunteer tutor to Somali students in math and science.

Tou Thao, 34, had been a police officer since 2012. He appeared to have his back turned to Chauvin during most of the video.

If you've ever worked in a hierarchy, you know how difficult it is to question and criticize your boss. If he's had nineteen years on the job and is your supervising officer, while you're just starting out, it's even harder. The junior officers' thought processes during those fateful eight minutes was undoubtedly something along the lines of: I wish he wasn't kneeling on that guy's neck like that, but he's had nineteen years of experience and I've had none, so, gee, I dunno, maybe that's just the way things are done. And if I piss him off he's going to have it out for me and get me fired, and I need this job.

Add to that the fact that Chauvin is almost certainly a sociopath, which means that the other three cops were probably instinctively afraid of him, sensing that if they crossed him he'd be utterly uninhibited about getting revenge on them. Yet even with all that backdrop, two of them evidently remonstrated with him.

Do you think that if one of those other three officers had tried to intervene with Chauvin more forcefully, there was anything Chauvin wouldn't have stooped to to get back at him? Chauvin would have yelled at that officer, questioned his masculinity, questioned his ability to be a police officer, and questioned his loyalty (while being completely disloyal himself). Then he would have tried to get that officer fired.

I hope they throw the book at Chauvin, and treat his colleagues with mercy.

I've long felt that policing is a profession which attracts not only those who join for the right reasons, but also those who are looking for legal cover to kick ass. The serial killers who've attempted to join police departments is proof of that: Edmund Kemper (the Santa Cruz hitchhiker-strangler) and Kenneth Bianchi (one of the two Hillside Stranglers) both tried to become police, but were rebuffed. Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub killer, also tried to become a law enforcement officer, but did not make the grade. (He was a mass murderer, not a serial killer, but he showed similar disregard for human life.)

I take comfort from the fact that those sociopaths were rejected by the police departments.

But, some sociopaths inevitably slip through. Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State killer, and Gerard Schaefer, a Florida serial killer, are prime examples.

It's unfortunate that Chauvin also slipped through the cracks. I've written before about how most big city police departments guard against sociopaths entering their ranks by using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory as a screening tool. But, somehow, Chauvin got past the psychological testing.

(DeAngelo's police career lasted from 1972 to 1979, when he was fired. Schaefer's career only went from 1971 to 1972, when he was arrested for abduction. Both men were hired before use of the MMPI became widespread.)

Amy Cooper's case had a much more overtly racial component than Chauvin's. When black ornithologist Christian Cooper asked Cooper to leash her dog, since they were in an area for bird-watching where dogs were supposed to be leashed, she refused. Instead, she threatened to phone the police and tell them that an African-American man was threatening her life.

The word "racism" is way overused these days, but that was racism.

As with Chauvin, a quick look at her history indicates that she, too, is a likely sociopath. She had previously stalked a co-worker named Martin Priest and tried to ruin his life when he showed no interest in her. He filed police reports against her twice, once for harassment and once for breaking and entering. She responded with a lawsuit saying that he had stolen $65,000 from her and threatened her life. Her suit was dismissed as baseless, but Priest still lost his job as a result.

The point being, a sociopath will use any trick they can to get their way. There's absolutely nothing they will not stoop to. So my guess is that Cooper was motivated less by racial animus than by fury at someone she felt had crossed her, and, like any sociopath, she has a no holds barred way of dealing with people. With Christian Cooper, the obvious tactic was to take advantage of his race.

The intersection of sociopathy and race is a strange and somewhat surprising one. I once asked a sociopath if he ever went to watch NBA basketball games. He answered, in a tone that managed to combine contempt (for me, for asking such a stupid question), indignation, and annoyance, "Why would I pay to go watch a bunch of baboons run up and down a court?" And he made plenty of other similar comments. But, as a sociopath, he pretty much hated everyone who crossed his path. He could find a reason to hate anyone. He would mock those above him in the organization behind their backs, and mock those below him to their faces.

Here's the surprising part: I never once heard him express quite the same level of antipathy for any individual black that he expressed for a large number of individual whites. I don't doubt that if he'd had more contact with individual blacks, he would have hated them too. But all of the most passionate hatred I ever heard was reserved for various whites.

It only gradually dawned on me that he was, in a weird, roundabout way, one of the least racist people I knew. For all his negative comments about blacks in general, he was really an equal opportunity hater. (Compare his behavior to that of the average white liberal, who says all the right things, but would never dream of living in a black area, or sending his child to a majority black school.)

A parallel: this same guy also made a lot of disparaging comments about women in general. (One frequent refrain: "I've never met a woman who wasn't a pain in the ass. Not one.") But once again, I never got the impression he actually disliked most women any more than he disliked most of the guys he knew. So, in that same weird way, he was actually one of the least sexist guys I knew, as well.

This sociopath was far smarter, better-looking, and richer than either Chauvin or Cooper. But all three of them have basically the same character, which means they're going to perceive most of the people they meet as either obstacles or annoyances. To understand any of them -- and how they relate to all people, not just blacks -- you have to view them through the lens of sociopathy.

So, while both the George Floyd killing and the "Central Park Karen" incident have been defined in the public mind as racial affairs, they're really more about sociopathy. A sociopath never stops being a sociopath, whether he's dealing with whites or blacks.

Thus is something that every black person needs to be told: yes, you will run into unpleasant white people from time to time. But don't make the mistake of thinking that unpleasant white person is perfectly pleasant to other white people. Because he or she is almost certainly not.

On a related note, much of the rioting and looting that has gone on has also been viewed through a racial lens. (Though in fact, while most of the looters have been blacks interested in getting free stuff, most of the Antifa types are whites bent purely on destruction.) However, these things, too, cannot be fully understood until viewed through the same two prisms through which we should view Chauvin: sociopathy, and stupidity.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Cluster B personalities

These personalities are defined by Wikipedia as:

[C]haracterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior or interaction with others. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personalty disorder and antisocial personality disorder. 

"Antisocial personality disorder" is another way of referring to sociopathy.

These disorders are grouped together for good reason, as they are indicative of character flaws, as opposed to either neuroses or psychoses.

If you're trying to figure out who's who in your personal life, it's helpful to think of narcissistic personalities as walking, talking egos (Donald Trump is the most prominent current example).

Think of histrionic personalities as walking, talking needs for attention (think Jim Carrey or Miley Cyrus or any number of Instagram personalities).

And think of borderline personalities as seething, volcanic bundles of rage (think Rosie O'Donnell or Rose McGowan).

A sociopath is in fact all these things; he is simply better at hiding them. He is as egotistical as any narcissist, though he likely affects a veneer of modesty.

He hates not being the center of attention in any group. If someone else is, he'll usually find a way to undermine him. But, he can bide his time about working his way back into the limelight.

And he may not appear to be a bundle of rage, but there is no one more full of schadenfreude. He is in fact constantly overflowing with animosity and a desire to see you fail -- even as he pretends to be your friend.

I've known narcissistic personalities who weren't full of rage (unless someone insulted them).

I've known histrionic personalities who didn't consistently overrate themselves.

Neither of the borderline personalities I've known personally (or have been aware of, at least) floated around on a cloud of egotism, or even needed to be the center of attention.

But I've never known a sociopath who didn't manage to incorporate all of these traits.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

In defense of Greta Thunberg

In the past few months there's been a fair amount of contempt directed at Greta Thunberg. I understand the sentiment: why should have to listen to a 16-year-old (she turned 17 on January 3rd) lecture us about the environment? What does she know of the world?

There were a few recent gleeful articles about how she traveled in a first class compartment while on a train in Europe. In fact, any time she does anything which pollutes, it's pointed out, as if this proves her hypocrisy. 

My reaction to this is, well, at least Thunberg's making an effort. She's evidently given up air travel, and is also a vegetarian. And it's basically impossible to completely avoid polluting in the modern world.

The ones who really deserve our contempt are the Al Gores and Leo DiCaprios and Barbra Streisands and John Travoltas of the world, who wax self-righteous about the sacrifices the rest of us must make while themselves traveling by private plane and living in huge mansions. 

Plus, all the antipathy aimed at a 16-year-old seems a little misdirected. Yes, she's a little self-righteous; but I wouldn't want to be held responsible for some of the things I said at 22, let alone 16.

Whenever someone grows up in the public eye, it's inevitably a little embarrassing. Especially when they're being used by others to promote a certain point of view.

To me, the most interesting thing about Thunberg is the intersection between her psychology and her politics. As a child, she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism. She had evidently been depressed for years before she discovered leftist politics, and, according to her father, her activism has essentially made her a happy person. 

This protesting-as-therapy phenomenon is probably far more widespread than commonly realized. Find a cause, feel good about yourself. 

It's generally a good thing when people do things to improve their self-image, or lift themselves out of depression. But should national policy be dictated by such considerations?

One would think that such would be determined by a clear-eyed, rational, coldly realistic appraisal of the available options. 

In the meantime, a young girl who's driven by her heart rather than her head does not deserve our contempt. Our sympathy, maybe, but not our contempt. 

Accidents happen

The NY Post just ran this article about Reeaz Khan:

The relevant excerpt:

The man accused of sexually assaulting and killing a 92-year-old woman in Queens claimed to cops that he's been trying to help the old woman -- but then he lost his balance, his belt broke, his pants fell down and his genitals accidentally came in contact with hers, it was revealed in court Friday. 

The suspect, 21-year-old Reeaz Khan, told detectives that he found the woman, Maria Fuentes, on the ground near Liberty Avenue and 127th Street in Richmond Hill at about midnight on Monday and tried to help her, a prosecutor said at his arraignment on Friday. 

Khan told detectives, "He fell down, his belt broke, his pants fell down and his penis fell near her vagina," the prosecutor, Joseph Grasso, said in court.

At that point, something came over him, Khan claimed. 

"Defendant then stated that he did lift up her skirt and he tried to put his penis inside of her," the prosecutor added. 

Sources previously said that Khan admitted to suffering "uncontrollable urges," and said that this was the first time he acted on them.

Khan is good-looking, though he's more pretty than he is handsome. Once he's in prison, some bigger, burlier inmate will undoubtedly notice this. Maybe, just maybe, while trying to help Khan, such an inmate will lose his balance, his belt will break, his pants fall down, and his genitals will accidentally come into contact with Khan's anus.

And then, who knows what kind of uncontrollable urges the inmate might feel?

Obviously, any sympathy for Khan at this point is misplaced. But I can't help feel a little sorry for him, given the bleak future he faces.

His best strategy at this point would probably be a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea. That wouldn't be entirely unjustified: you'd have to be crazy to think anyone would believe that explanation.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Donald Trump's syndrome

Two days ago an anonymous commenter accused me of biasing my opinion of Donald Trump for political reasons. He said: 

Trump is a sociopath. No disguise can hides pathology. The fact that you do not recognize Trump as a sociopath illustrates your own political bias. Trump is also dumb. 

I replied: 

I'm going to write a post about this at some point. I agree that Trump isn't all that smart. But if he were a sociopath, he'd be better at hiding his narcissism, and his ugly side. And he'd lie about who he is, which he really doesn't. His attitude is more like, here I am, warts and all, and if you don't like it, fuck you. That's not how most sociopaths come across. Most of them, especially the ones in politics, pretend to be caring, and giving, and noble, and dignified. Trump doesn't bother with any of those things. He's an extreme narcissist. But that's not the same thing as being a sociopath. 

BTW. I'm not averse to pointing out Republicans as sociopaths when I see them. I've written about Newt Gingrich, Joe Arpaio, and Carly Fiorina in that regard. 

The two sociopath alerts about Gingrich are here and here. Nor is there any denying the sociopathy of either Arpaio and Fiorina. And here's a sociopath alert about Christine O'Donnell, the Republican candidate for US Senator from Delaware in 2010. 

I haven't been averse to criticizing Trump. I put him in a machismo contest with el Chapo and also compared him to Goldfinger. I suggested he try a little self-deprecating humor (and suggested he might choke to death on such). I wrote here about how being a billionaire has made Trump think he's better-looking, funnier, and smarter than he actually is. 

But the essence of sociopathy is to lie about who you are, do a lot of moral posturing, and in general put on a big act, and Trump simply doesn't do those things. 

One of the clearest examples of how virtue signaling works outside politics is in prison pen pal ads. Look at enough of these things, as I have, and you'll see a very clear correlation: the worse the criminal, the more they wax on about what kindhearted people they are.

Most of the inmates who are convicted of things like DUI or possession will advertise their sexiness, or talk about how they like long walks on the beach, or some such tripe. But they generally don't claim moral superiority.

The ads from Death Row inmates tend to have a completely different tone. If you take them at their word, there has never been group of more decent, humane, caring, loving people.

Spencer Brasure died last week of natural causes. Here's an excerpt from his ad, in which he describes himself as a "God-loving father of one" trying to organize "global opposition to capital punishment." (Brasure burned his victim's face with a torch, stapled wood to his head, broke glass in his mouth, and then doused him with gasoline and burned him to death.)

Or listen to David Berkowitz (the "Son of Sam") talk about what a wonderful, altruistic man he has become.

Here's an excerpt from Franklin Lynch's pen pal ad, emphasizing his sincerity and spritiuality. (He was known as the "Day Stalker," known for beating old ladies to death.)

The lesson to be learned is that the less virtue someone has, the more they feel obliged to signal such. The same rules of human nature which apply to inmates apply equally well to Hollywood stars. (It always seems to be the most egregious environmental sinners who lecture us most self-righteously about climate change.) And these rules apply to politicians as well.

Think of Bill Clinton, whom even Democrats don't bother to defend any more, telling us how he feels our pain. Think of him laughing and joking at Ron Brown's funeral, but then, once he sees a camera on him, pretending to wipe away a tear.  Everything with Clinton was a pose, as the photographs here and here illustrate.

Think of Wendy Davis saying, "I love this state," or pretending to love animals.

Think of Barack Obama saying that he's answerable only to "the steady gaze of my own conscience." Or claiming that he "chose" heterosexuality over homosexuality because "a same sex relationship would be less challenging and demanding than developing one with the opposite sex."

Think of Newt Gingrich explaining his extramarital affair by saying, "There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

Or Christine O'Donnell advocating against masturbation. (How pure she must be to abjure even that!)

These are the types of poses sociopaths strike. They want to be seen as saints, even though (or perhaps because) they are the opposite.

Trump doesn't bother with any of that. He doesn't pretend to be anything other than what he is: a vulgar, crass, insensitive, boastful, spiteful businessman.

That's narcissism, not sociopathy.

I've known both narcissistic personalities and sociopaths personally. I've ended up disliking some of the narcissists even more than I did some of the sociopaths.

Narcissists think the world of themselves, and disparage anyone who doesn't agree with their inflated self-opinion. Narcissists tend to be upfront about their egotism, and often seem to have absolutely no filter -- like Trump.

The sociopaths I've known have been far more conniving. They sometimes bragged, but more often would put on a pretense of modesty and self-effacement. Many of the sociopaths also had a great deal of personal charm, at least at first; the narcissists generally had none. Look up the definition of "sociopath" in any psychology textbook, and you'll see "personal charm" listed among their traits.

Do you find Trump charming?

I don't know anyone who does, even among his supporters. (Some people find him funny, but no one is really charmed by him.) As I've said many times on this blog, if I knew him personally I'm sure I would end up despising him. He's a walking, talking, billowing cloud of bombast and unabashed egotism.

But the one thing he doesn't do is pretend to be nicer than he is. He doesn't blather on about his conscience, or how he cares about others, or his niceness, or his love of animals.

So I don't think Trump is a sociopath, as personally off-putting as he is. I could be wrong. And yes, I do support him politically. But I think I'm open-minded enough to see it if he were one.

When Trump insulted Carly Fiorina's looks, most people probably thought, what kind of comment is that for a presidential contender to be making? Others thought, that soft-looking fatso ought not to be criticizing anyone's looks. (I thought both things.)

When Trump said General Mattis wasn't "tough enough" to be Secretary of Defense, most probably reacted by thinking, General Mattis has seen combat, while Trump got a draft deferment by claiming bone spurs. What a hypocrite Trump is! (That's how I reacted.)

When Trump gets into spats with various reporters or show business types, most people react by thinking, why can't he just ignore them? (That's how I react.)

When Trump said he was a "stable genius," most people thought, what an egotistical buffoon! He's constantly flying off the handle, and he's hardly a genius! (I honestly didn't react that way. I just thought, well, he is stable in the sense that his personality never changes -- you can always count on him to lash back when someone criticizes him. And while he probably doesn't have a high IQ by any standardized measure, he's been extremely successful, so who cares if I had higher GMATs or can fill out a Sunday Times crossword better? I'm a nobody, and he's a billionaire who's a historical figure.)

And when Trump says all these things, a lot of people also react by thinking, how can he be so stupid as to not realize he'll just alienate people by saying that? (Which is how I react.)

In any case, there are a long list of hypocritical, self-serving things he's said which have turned people off, and understandably so.

If you've ever known a narcissist personally, you've undoubtedly found him infuriating. He will consistently overrate himself, in every possible way. He even seems to think himself better than you at things where you're objectively, measurably better. In the long run, it's impossible not to end up despising someone like this.

It's often hard to see the dividing line between sociopaths and narcissists, especially since all sociopaths are by definition narcissists as well. (Sociopaths are a relatively small subset of narcissists.) The crucial difference seems to be that sociopaths will do absolutely anything to achieve their ends, whereas narcissists will draw the line somewhere.

What makes that difference even more difficult to see is that sociopaths are far more likely to purposely lie about their character, whereas the merely narcissistic don't. So if you're inclined to take people at their word, the sociopaths may actually seem nicer, at least at first.

With Trump, it's even harder to see, since he's such an extreme narcissist.

The criticism I got from the commenter quoted at the beginning of this post reminded me of a similar criticism I got after my post about how steroids shape the body. In the course of the article, I mentioned two British swimmers and a Brazilian swimmer I suspect of juicing, and also said that I thought the vast majority of recent champions -- Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Sarah Sjostrom, and Katie Ledecky -- were clean. I was then accused of having a pro-American bias (even though Sjostrom is Swedish). In response, I pointed out that I'd written previously about Dara Torres, Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, and Michael Johnson, and had said about all of them that I'd thought they were juicers. 

Whenever I'm accused of bias, it occurs to me that my accuser is probably guilty of a similar bias going in the other direction. It's a fairly safe assumption that the commenter who accused me of having a pro-American bias (and who used the screen name "Slaying dumb Americans like Trump") himself has an anti-American bias. 

I'm also guessing that the commenter after the previous post about Elizabeth Warren has a pro-Democrat, anti-Republican bias.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sociopath alert: Elizabeth Warren

When Elizabeth Warren's claims of Indian ancestry first became public in 2012, I found her subterfuge funny -- if mildly despicable -- and even wrote two posts to that effect, here and here. At the time, I figured it was it was just a one off, a single fib that she had felt obliged to defend, and which then took on an embarrassing life of its own. 

At the time it didn't occur to me that Warren might be a sociopath because she seems such an unlikely one: her cherubic cheeks, tremulous voice, and slight build are the opposite of threatening. But I shouldn't have been swayed by such superficialities. 

Sociopaths come in all sorts of guises, even genteel lady academic.

Since 2012, Warren's behavior and character have become more public. A closer look at her overall slipperiness shows that her most famous lie wasn't an anomaly, but part of a pattern.

Most people, when caught in a lie, are, at the very least, a little embarrassed. Not Warren. Rather than admit to her most famous lie, just kept brazenly going with it. She commissioned a DNA test (not from an established DNA service but from a friendly colleague). When it revealed that she was somewhere between 1/256th and 1/1024th Native American, she insisted this proved her right. 

Those tiny fractions might make an interesting tidbit for a cocktail party conversation; they certainly don't justify categorizing oneself as Native American. But Warren had actually listed herself that way during her stints at both Penn and Harvard law schools. (Harvard Law School actually advertised her as their first tenured "woman of color" on their faculty during the 1990's, an era in which the school was under pressure for not having a more diverse faculty.)

Warren claimed that her academic career had never benefitted at all from her having claimed minority status. (But why else would she have done it?) 

She got a number of people from Harvard and Penn to back up her claim that she hadn't been an affirmative action hire. But what academic in his right mind would ever publicly admit that a certain professor wouldn't have been hired if he hadn't been a minority? Any university spokesman knows such honesty would result in instant termination. (Warren obviously counted on this.)

It also turned out that Warren had contributed two recipes to a "Pow Wow Chow" Indian cookbook. She claimed that these recipes, one of which included crab with tomato mayonnaise dressing, had been in her family for generations. But then it was discovered that she had stolen these recipes from French chef Pierre Franey.

When Trump mocked Warren's dishonesty by referring to her as Pocohontas, she responded by saying that Trump was using a racial slur and insulting all Native Americans. But this was obviously not the case: he was merely mocking her for claiming to be something she is not. Twisting the truth this way is a sociopathic specialty.

Warren also said that Trump "likes to call my mother a liar." But Trump has never referred to Warren's mother: he simply calls Warren a liar. (Warren's mother never gained professional advantage by claiming to be Native American.) But Warren knows that she will come across as if she is nobly defending her family (and motherhood) by phrasing it that way. Again, twisting the truth.

Warren's "apology" for her big lie was a masterpiece of obfuscation"I'm not a tribal citizen. My apology is an apology for not having been more sensitive about tribal citizenship and tribal sovereignty. I really want to underline the point, tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship." 

In other words, by claiming to be Native American, she didn't actually lie -- you see, it was just a little matter of misinterpretation, of emphasis, of sensitivity, of semantics. That's all.

This is the kind of word-parsing that's reminiscent of Bill Clinton's lawyerly evasions about what the meaning of "is" is. Or of Wendy Davis saying "My language should be tighter. I'm learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail."

Sociopaths almost never admit to dishonesty; they just try to wriggle out on technicalities.

More recently it emerged that Warren's claims of having been fired from her first teaching job because she was pregnant were untrue. 

Warren has campaigned against school vouchers and against charter schools. Three weeks ago in Atlanta a woman said to Warren that she wanted her children to have the option of where to go to schools, just as Warren's had. Warren replied, "My children went to public schools." 

Technically, that's true: her daughter attended public schools, and her son attended public school through junior high. But after that, he was sent to a private school which cost $17,000 a year. So Warren's reply was disingenuous, at best. 

When Warren announced her candidacy from her kitchen, she said, "I'm gonna get me a beer" and then drank it from the bottle to show she's just a regular down home gal. But she's about as much of a regular gal as she is an Indian. 

You can say that a certain amount of posturing is unavoidable with a political candidacy. After all, kissing babies and trying different cuisines has long been a staple of campaigns. And getting elected usually requires pandering to different constituencies. But pretending to be something you're not is the essence of sociopathy.

And that seems to be second nature with Warren.

Warren was a Republican until she was 47. There's nothing wrong with that; people are allowed to change their minds. But her justifications for her switch simply don't ring true. She says now that she used to be a Republican because they seemed to be the party which supported the markets, but that she no longer thinks so. But Republicans are still more supportive of markets; in fact, they are still frequently criticized for being supportive of the financial asset-owning classes at the expense of the poor. Warren's reason for switching parties is simply not credible. 

Look at this picture of Warren closely. What you see is not an expression of sympathy, but rather an attempt to mimic one. 

The only genuine emotion showing on Warren's face is the pride she feels for looking so "sympathetic." One of the hallmarks of sociopathy is a fake emotionality.

I find it impossible to imagine Warren feeling embarrassed, or ashamed, or guilty because of her lies. If she were capable of those emotions, she wouldn't continue to lie the way she does. And that is the essence of sociopathy. 

Verdict: a well-disguised sociopath.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The statesman

Joe Biden has gotten some bad publicity the past couple days for his peculiarly Bidenesque response to the question of how he would handle the problem of violence against women.

From the NY Post:

"No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman in anger, other than self-defense and that rarely ever occurs," he said. So we have to just change the culture. Period."

Then he maybe took it too far, adding, "And keep punching at it and punching at it and punching at it," making matching punching motions with his fist. 

This got me to thinking, how would I handle that problem?

After some extensive soul searching, I finally hit upon the perfect solution. I would change the culture by slapping it around a little, then ripping off its clothes and raping it.

(Honestly, there's something almost endearing about Biden's awkwardness.)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The people who hate Trump the most

One strong correlation that's become increasingly apparent over the past few years is that the most rabid Trump-haters tend to be those who are in fact most like him, character-wise: narcissistic personalities.

I'm not talking about those who simply dislike Trump. A lot of people, even his political supporters, fall into that category.

I'm talking about the people who cannot talk about him without almost frothing at the mouth.

Psychologists always say that what people hate most is what they dislike about themselves. It's why stupid people always castigate others for being dumb, why habitual liars always suspect others of dishonesty, and why those who lecture others about global warming are usually the biggest environmental sinners themselves.

In that sense, Trump is a Rorschach test.

Eric Schneiderman used to be one of the most prominent Trump haters. As New York State Attorney General, instead of ferreting out corruption in Albany, he focused his energy on attacking Trump. He brought suit against Trump University, sued to force the release of Trump's tax returns, and, along with several other attorneys general, sued to prevent Trump's Muslim immigration ban.

When the initial allegations against Harvey Weinstein first broke, Schneiderman, a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, said, “We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here.”

Schneiderman, of course, was forced to resign after it emerged that he had physically abused at least four former girlfriends, slapping several of them hard across the face, and calling one of them his "little brown slave." 

The interesting question is, how self-righteous Schneiderman felt about his virulent hatred of Trump (and Weinstein). Did he see himself as a knight in shining armor fighting the good fight against the twin scourges of racism and sexism? Did he see himself as one of the good people, trying to fend off the evil that Trump represented?

Narcissistic personalities are capable of that kind of hypocrisy.

When Harvey Weinstein initially defended himself by saying he was "just an old dinosaur" who had come of age during the "free love era," he also suggested that his critics focus on fighting "the real enemy, Donald Trump." 

Did he see himself, perhaps, as Brad Pitt fighting the Nazis in Inglourious Basterds? As Frodo trying to save the world from the evil Sauron? As Nelson Mandela fighting for justice and equality in Long Walk to Freedom?

Weinstein, as I explained here, is a sociopath. And all sociopaths are, by definition, also narcissistic personalties.

Think of some of the politicians who are the most virulently anti-Trump: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Jerrold Nadler. 

Think of some of the biggest Trump-haters in the media and in show business: Michael Moore, Jim Carrey, Madonna, Lena Dunham, Joy Behar, Alyssa Milano, George Clooney, Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus, Debra Messing, and Alec Baldwin.

Judge for yourself whether each of these people are narcissistic personalities.

Think of the most rabid Trump-haters you know. Are they not narcissistic personalities themselves?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Not recognizing people of other races

I recently had an argument with a former classmate about people who have a hard time telling members of other races apart. (Specifically, the subject was whites who don't recognize Asians.) This woman is white but grew up in Japan, and was offended that whites might not recognize individual Japanese.

She seemed to feel that those who had a hard time telling members of other races apart were somehow morally wanting.

Speaking as a half-Asian, I understand why some whites, especially those who've had limited contact with Asians, can't tell them apart. Whites come in a wider variety of obvious physical differences, like hair color, facial shape, nose structure, height, build, etc. Asians exhibit less variety in all those traits, so if you're not used to them, it would only be natural to have difficulty telling them apart. 

My mother found it extremely annoying when a local white woman once mistook her for the woman at the dry cleaning shop (decades ago). I certainly understand why my mother was insulted, but I don't really blame the white woman. 

A young black woman once told me she had a hard time telling the old white guys at her law firm apart, since they all dressed similarly and sort of looked the same, with their white hair and wrinkles. I can't blame her for that either. 

Nor do I blame whites for mistaking one black for another. I've seen this happen on a number of occasions, and it's always embarrassing, especially given the current social climate. But again, it's understandable. 

Blaming people for this is basically the same as blaming people for being dumb. 

And as the LGBTQ crowd always reminds us, it's unfair to blame people for something they can't help. 

Lesley Sharp, Joan Hickson

Scott & Bailey is a British police drama available on Amazon Prime. I told a friend the show was originated by a woman, written by two women, and produced by a woman. It stars two women as detectives, and their boss, the head detective, is also a woman.

He replied, ugh, it sounds terrible.

It's actually quite good; I watched several seasons. But that's not the point of this post. The point is, if you're going to have a lady detective, it's more important to have her look intelligent than to look pretty. This may not be true from a marketing standpoint, but it is from a realism standpoint.

Lesley Sharp, who plays the titular Detective Constable Janet Scott of the series, looks smart:

For all I know, Sharp is a moron. But her face reflects appraisal, skepticism, and maybe a little disappointment. (Precisely the qualities -- and emotions -- that one would hope for in a detective.)

She looks a little like a younger version of Joan Hickson, who played Miss Marple:

Joan Hickson usually wore a similar expression, and had the same intelligence in her eyes. (The correlation between skepticism and IQ has to be pretty high.) And both women act with the same calm demeanor that one associates with intelligence.

Both women have the same large-eyed, owlish gaze.

That got me to thinking, why are owls associated with intelligence? Are they that smart? But when I looked it up, it turns out that the reason is basically because Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, was usually depicted with an owl nearby, and that association has stuck.

Owls, unlike crows and parrots and pigeons, cannot be trained to do anything. (Keas, various species of parrots, and crows are generally considered the most intelligent birds.) But owls have large, observant eyes and intent expressions, so it's easy to see why the assumption is made:

This isn't to say they're not awesome birds of prey, particularly the great horned owl (pictured above).

But whether or not they are, owls look smart -- like Lesley Sharp and Joan Hickson.

I've no idea whether or not Sharp and Hickson actually are/were smart. But I find them far more palatable in their roles as lady sleuths than I would have some sexy babe.

Saying the wrong thing: a brief autobiography

The difference between the higher- and lower-IQed is that the higher are generally capable of seeing patterns more clearly, and grasping more complicated concepts.

It's not that they don't do as many stupid things.

I'm a case in point. I was told when young that I had a high IQ, but over the course of my lifetime, that doesn't seem to have cut down the number of dumb things I've said in the least. (In all honesty, it may have increased the number.)

I probably say more awkward and social inappropriate things than an 85 IQer. (This is not false modesty.) These faux pas fall into three major categories.

The first stems from a lifelong desire not to be boring. (I can't bear the company of the boring, and am well aware that others can find me so.)  But if I try too hard to be amusing, or say the unexpected,  I often lose sight of social propriety. (Which, frankly, I've probably done with this blog.)

The second category has to do with wanting to prove my masculinity, or my nerve. Even worse, in order to keep up that somewhat hollow macho front, I'll sometimes feel compelled to do something foolish. I don't even need someone else to manipulate me by challenging my masculinity, I do it to myself.

The final reason is just my blunt nature. I wouldn't ask someone if a certain pair of pants made me look fat unless I wanted an honest answer -- so I assume others do, too. Most people, of course, know better.

Little white lies: at 65, I'm still gettin' the hang of 'em.

Those three reasons probably account for maybe 75% of all the dumb things I say. The other roughly 25% are simply mistakes, usually just sloppy errors.

I usually know I've said something stupid the moment it's out of my mouth. Still, that's a second or two too late.

You'd think I'd learn from my errors. But somehow, I don't. (And how dumb is that?)

I suppose the biggest conclusion to be drawn here is that you should never, ever say anything in an effort to prove you're not boring, or are macho. And, tact is always a plus.

I don't think I'm alone. I've seen many smart people make unforced errors, if not quite as frequently as me. (I hope for their sake that they don't spend their lives the way I do, reliving their worst moments.)

There's not a day I don't do that. And that may may be the stupidest thing of all.

Looking at this post the next day, I see it's worse than introspective: it's navel gazing about my navel gazing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


The extent to which Trump views himself as the CEO of America became even clearer recently, when he offered to buy Greenland from the Danes.

That's what CEOs do, make acquisitions.

They negotiate, as Trump is doing with the Chinese.

And they try to get their partners in joint ventures to pay a larger share of the expenses, as Trump is doing with the other members of NATO. (CEOs hate being taken advantage of.)

So far, at least, Trump has avoided the needless expense of another war.

CEOs have a tendency to frequently look at how their stock is doing, since this is usually a fair barometer of their own performance. In Trump's case, his "stocks" are the Dow, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500.

And CEOs hire and fire people at will. (Trump doesn't seem to be one of those CEOs who feel obliged to give their departing minions flattering letters of recommendation.)

When you think about it, all of this is only natural. Trump has spent his life as a CEO, so sees our country as America, Inc.

Obama, whose previous experience involved doling out money from the Annenberg Foundation, saw our country as a big foundation, with largesse to be distributed among his favored groups. He had also worked as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, and at times, seemed to regard his Presidency as one big "teachable moment."

If we had elected, say, Bill Belichick as President, he'd have seen the country as a larger version of the New England Patriots. He'd have assembled his ideal team for the Cabinet and tried to come up with winning plays. America might have had to suffer through a Deflategate or two, but sometimes that's the price you pay to get a winning coach.

If we had elected Steven Spielberg, he'd have been a bit of a micro-manager, wanting to direct every last detail. Whether you'd have liked the resulting production would probably depend on whether you approve of the sometimes not-so-subtle messages in his actual movies. (Alternatively, we could have elected Clint Eastwood.)

Maybe we should have people from different professions rotating through the White House. Not only would it be more entertaining, but the diversity of viewpoints (real diversity) would be refreshing.

In the meantime, it's refreshing to have a guy who's negotiating on our behalf. Trump's arrogant CEO-like personality doesn't sit right even with a lot of his supporters, but at least he's on America's side. (Name another country whose prospective leaders campaign by promising to do the best they can for foreigners rather than the nation's citizens.)

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hillary's feelings about Elizabeth Warren

Musing about Rachel Dolezal's thoughts regarding Warren recently reminded me of the one person whose thoughts must be even more poisonous.

A little peek into Hillary's brain:

"It was bad enough when Obama beat me in '08 by parlaying his racial background into the Presidency. But Elizabeth Warren? That would be too much to take."

"I was supposed to be the first woman President! Much as I despise Trump, it'd be even worse if that bitch gets to sit in the Oval Office. If I have to abide this phony dime store Indian taking my place I'll fucking explode."

"How can I undermine her? I think I'll mention the Indian thing every chance I get, you know, just obliquely. Maybe I'll say something like, she'll be great for the downtrodden, for blacks and Native Americans. You know, just sort of inject a subtle reminder. Or I could say, well, at least she didn't benefit from white privilege the way most of the other candidates did. Maybe I'll drop the fact that she was a Republican until she was 47."

"Her husband's a complete nobody. Has anybody ever heard of Bruce Mann? I had to put up with Bill, and let me tell you, most women wouldn't be able to deal with that crap."

"Listen to her talk about her family recipe for Pow Wow Chow, like she's some little housewife who enjoys nothing more than staying at home to bake cookies. What a complete fraud! I made it clear right from the start I was a new kind of woman, not some little Loretta Lynn stand-by-your man type."

"I had to dodge sniper fire in Bosnia; when did she ever do anything like that? I turned a thousand dollars into a hundred thousand in the cattle futures trading market. When has she ever done anything like that?"

"Can you believe the way she drank that beer from the bottle in her kitchen when she announced she was running, like she's just some regular gal? What a complete charlatan! I could drink that prissy little prig under the table any day."

The worst part will be if she's elected, when I have to pretend to be thrilled about it. As if I'm happy to finally see a woman as President even if it's not me. I don't think I'll be able to swallow my bile. It's going to take all my will power not to just shoot her. It should have been me!!"

Friday, August 16, 2019

Fredo's tantrum

This post is a couple days late, especially since most people who follow current events are totally consumed with the Epstein situation. But if you can remember back a couple days....

You undoubtedly heard about Chris Cuomo's reaction to having been called Fredo. It sounded like 'roid rage; turns out, it looks like 'roid rage as well:

The above picture is from Reddit, and was posted by someone who had similar suspicions about him juicing five months ago.

During his outburst, Cuomo claimed that "Fredo" was an insult against all Italian-Americans, and likened it to the n-word. That's ridiculous: anyone who's ever seen The Godfather knows it's merely a reference to a weak, dumb brother.

Chris may be neither as smart nor as sly as his Machiavellian brother, Governor Andrew, which is why being called Fredo struck such a nerve. But with those store-bought muscles, at least he's stronger.