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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Here's to you"

A post I wrote three years ago today, which is still appropriate for tonight.

American Hustle

American Hustle is about a pair of small time grifters who get caught up in an FBI sting modeled after Abscam, which ensnared a Senator and several Congressmen in the 1970's. The movie was well written, well plotted, and captured the late 70's perfectly, without being condescending to a decade toward which condescension is almost de rigueur. But the most striking thing about it was how good the acting is.

Amy Adams, as one of the grifters, was nothing at all like the fairy tale princess she played in Enchanted, nothing like Lois Lane, nothing like boxer Micky Ward's lower middle class girlfriend. Here she went from frustrated to (fake) elegant to ecstatic to scared to manipulative to desperate to angry to bitter to adoring, and she was convincing throughout.

Christian Bale played the other small time grifter. He has been heroic in 3:10 to Yuma, Batman Begins, and Terminator Salvation. He's been glossily evil in American Psycho, pathetically addicted in The Fighter, and tortured in The Machinist. In American Hustle he was nebbishy and sleazy and brilliant, all at the same time.

Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic in a role that called for her to be aggressively, passionately stupid. She is an absolutely fearless actress, and plays raw like no one else. Judging from her recent public comments, playing stupid may not be a stretch, but she still puts it all on the screen with great courage.

In the last two decades Robert Deniro has been reduced to a mockery of a shell of his former self. But he was downright scary as a Mafia chief here, and exuded a hardness that was a reminder of how great he used to be.

Jeremy Renner has played tough in The Town, stoic in The Bourne Legacy, and fearless in The Hurt Locker. Here he was great as the expansive New Jersey politician who gets caught up in the bribery scandal for mostly noble reasons.

Louie CK was believable as the put-upon mid-level FBI manager who must navigate between an ambitious underling and an ambitious boss.

Bradley Cooper was good as the ambitious underling. He seems somewhat overrated as an actor -- somehow, in every role, he's always recognizably Bradley Cooper, trying gamely to portray every emotion he's supposed to -- but he's still good.

There seems to be an almost direct inverse correlation between acting ability and vanity. Note how Angelina Jolie (at least since 2000, when she was excellent in Girl, Interrupted) has concentrated on playing glamorous. She is never photographed in light less than flattering and never has a hair out of place. And as a result, her roles have been limited to, cool heroine.

The actors of American Hustle on the other hand, exhibit no such vanity. Smeared makeup, black eyes, ridiculous hairstyles, fat, and baldness are all on ample display, along with the great acting.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Updating "going postal"

UncleBob's Treehouse, Bob Wallace's excellent blog, mentioned recently that there have been over 80 public school shootings in the past decade as a result of people "going postal."

That phrase originated after a series of five incidents involving postal workers between 1986 and 1993. But it occurs to me that with the far greater number of shootings involving students, it's time for the expression to be updated.

I propose a new phrase for unbalanced people who go berserk: "going scholastic."

You could say that the Columbine killers "went academic."

You could say that Adam Lanza "went scholarly." You might even say that Lanza, given the extremely horrific nature of his crime, "went Phi Beta Kappa."

If you're particularly frustrated with a situation or filled with rage for some reason, you could express your emotions by muttering ominously, "Man, I'm about to go to school."

Or, "I fucking feel like going to college."

Or, "If that jerk pushes me any further, I swear, I'm gonna get studious on his ass."

The change in our language is really long overdue, given that the new phraseology is far more warranted than "going postal" ever was.

When you think about it, the new expressions would work on more than one level. To become scholarly at most colleges these days is to gain a patina of political correctness, which basically translates as factual incorrectness. And since the traditional definition of insanity is to be divorced from reality, the new expressions would be doubly appropriate.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sociopath alert: L. Ron Hubbard

I've always been vaguely aware of Scientology as a religion, though I've never paid it close attention. I knew of its cult-like reputation. I knew that it had attracted a couple of prominent Hollywood stars who were supposed to be closeted gays, and I'd heard something to the effect that the church had claimed it could "cure" homosexuality. I'd heard that the church had gotten into bitter disputes with former members.

And I also knew --- vaguely -- that it was somehow based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer. But for all I knew, some people had decided to base a religion on his writings, perhaps the same way, say, a group of people might decide to base a new religion on the Dune series by Frank Herbert.

When a commenter ("Remnant") recently asked if I was aware of how L. Ron Hubbard was a sociopath, I looked into it. The fairly extensive Wikipedia article about Hubbard makes it apparent that he was.

Scientology, of course, presents an idealized version of Hubbard's life, some of it exaggeration, some outright lies. For instance, according to Wikipedia:

Biographical accounts published by the Church of Scientology [say that Hubbard] was brought up on his grandfather's "large cattle ranch in Montana" where he spent his days "riding, breaking broncos, hunting coyote and taking his first steps as an explorer". His grandfather is described as a "wealthy Western cattleman" from whom Hubbard "inherited his fortune and family interests in America, Southern Africa, etc." Scientology claims that Hubbard became a 'blood brother" of the Native American Blackfeet tribe at the age of six through his friendship with a Blackfeet medicine man.

However, contemporary records show that his grandfather, Lafayette Waterbury, was a veterinarian, not a rancher, and was not wealthy. Hubbard was actually raised in a townhouse in the center of Helena. According to his aunt, his family did not own a ranch but did own one cow and four or five horses on a few acres of land outside the city. Hubbard lived over a hundred miles from the Blackfeet reservation. The tribe did not practice blood brotherhood and no evidence has been found that he had ever been a Blackfeet blood brother.

All this is hardly evidence of sociopathy: the lies and half-truths may well have come from Scientologists who later tried to romanticize his life, and not from Hubbard himself. (If some group later decides to start a religion based on this blog, and worships me as its god, then claims that I got "millions of readers daily," that lie could hardly be attributed to me.)

Nonetheless, Hubbard told plenty of lies about himself on his own, and if you look at his life through the prism of sociopathy, there is a pattern of dishonesty, disloyalty, and fraud that is unmistakeable.

Hubbard claimed to be a "graduate engineer." In fact, he dropped out of George Washington University after less than two years there. He also claimed to have studied nuclear physics; records indicate that he took one course in the field, for which he received an "F."

Hubbard, who was born in 1911, married his first wife Margaret "Polly" Grubb in 1933, and started to write science fiction to support himself shortly thereafter.

In 1941, Hubbard was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. He claimed to have seen combat repeatedly. Official Naval records show that he never saw combat and that his performance was judged as substandard. According to Wiki:

After Hubbard reported that the PC-815 had attacked and crippled or sunk two Japanese submarines off Oregon in May 1943, his claim was rejected by the commander of the Northwest Sea Frontier. Hubbard and Thomas Moulton, his second in command on the PC-815, later said the Navy wanted to avoid panic on the mainland. A month later Hubbard unwittingly sailed the PC-815 into Mexican territorial waters and conducted gunnery practice off the Coronado Islands, in the belief that they were uninhabited and belonged to the United States. The Mexican government complained and Hubbard was relieved of command. A fitness report written after the incident rated Hubbard as unsuitable for independent duties and "lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation."

(Sociopaths tend to lack judgment and cooperation, though they can be skillful at a twisted form of leadership.)

In 1945 Hubbard moved into the house of Jack Parsons, a fellow occultist, and befriended him. Shortly after, he stole Parsons' girlfriend, Sara "Betty" Northrup. Shortly after that Hubbard convinced Parsons to invest his life savings in a company whose ostensible purpose was to buy yachts in Miami and sail them to the West Coast where they could be sold for a profit. In the meantime, Hubbard tried to leave the country with one of the yacht, intending to take a world cruise with girlfriend Northrup. Parsons was ruined financially by this venture and subsequently had to sell his house to make ends meet.

According to Wikipedia:

Hubbard's fellow writers were well aware of what had happened between him and Parsons. L. Sprague de Camp wrote to Isaac Asimov on August 27, 1946, to tell him:

"The more complete story of Hubbard is that he is now in Fla. living on his yacht with a man-eating tigress named Betty-alias-Sarah, another of the same kind ... He will probably soon thereafter arrive in these parts with Betty-Sarah, broke, working the poor-wounded-veteran racket for all its worth, and looking for another easy mark. Don't say you haven't been warned. Bob [Robert Heinlein] thinks Ron went to pieces morally as a result of the war. I think that's fertilizer, that he always was that way, but when he wanted to conciliate or get something from somebody he could put on a good charm act. What the war did was to wear him down to where he no longer bothers with the act."

In August of 1946 Hubbard married Northrup, despite still being married to Polly.

In 1951, according to Wikipedia:

Hubbard and two Foundation staff seized Sara and his year-old daughter Alexis and forcibly took them to San Bernardino, California, where he attempted unsuccessfully to find a doctor to examine Sara and declare her insane. He let Sara go but took Alexis to Havana, Cuba. Sara filed a divorce suit on April 23, 1951, that accused him of marrying her bigamously and subjecting her to sleep deprivation, beatings, strangulation, kidnapping and exhortations to commit suicide.

In 1952 Hubbard, then 41, married 18-year-old Mary Sue Whipp, and moved to Phoenix to set up Scientology.

During Hubbard's lifetime, Scientology had more than its share of controversies. In 1958 the FDA seized thousands of pills that Hubbard had been marketing as "radiation cures."

In the early 1960's, Scientology was banned in parts of Australia. In 1972, France charged Scientology and Hubbard with fraud and customs violations. Scientology's fleet of boats, known as Sea Org, were banned from various ports around the world.

Hubbard "invented" a device called the "E-meter," which he climbed could read a person's innermost thoughts. (Sociopaths are good at reading people; this is an ability that helps fortunetellers and other con artists. The idea that there was a device that could do this is, of course, ridiculous.)

Scientology is well known for its extremely aggressive approach towards anyone who criticizes the religion. According to Wikipedia:

[Hubbard] told Scientologists: "If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace ... Don't ever defend, always attack." 

(Vindictveness -- and being on both sides of a lot of lawsuits -- is another hallmark of sociopaths.)

Here's a character testimonial from Hubbard's own son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr, from an interview with Penthouse Magazine in 1983:

Hubbard: Well, he didn't really want people killed, because how could you really destroy them if you just killed them? What he wanted to do was to destroy their lives, their families, their reputations, their jobs, their money, everything. My father was the type of person who, when it came to destruction, wanted to keep you alive for as long as possible, to torture you, punish you. If he chose to destroy you, he would love to see you lying in the gutter, strung out on booze and drugs, rolling in your own vomit, with your wife and children gone forever: no job, no money. He'd enjoy walking by and kicking you and saying to other people, "Look what I did to this man!" He's the kind of man who would pull the wings off flies and watch them stumble around. You see, this fits in with his Scientology beliefs, also. He felt that if you just died, your spirit would go out and get another body to live in. By destroying an enemy that way, you'd be doing him a favor. You were letting him out from under the thumb of L. Ron. Hubbard, you see?

Wikipedia also cited a telling opinion about Hubbard, this one from Judge Paul G. Breckenridge, who in 1984 ruled in favor of a former Scientology member, Gerry Armstrong, who was disillusioned when he found out that much of what he had been told about Hubbard was lies:

The evidence portrays a man [Hubbard] who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile. At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating and inspiring his adherents. He has been referred to during the trial as a "genius," a "revered person," a man who was "viewed by his followers in awe." Obviously, he is and has been a very complex person and that complexity is further reflected in his alter ego, the Church of Scientology.

Judge Breckenridge has given us a textbook description of a sociopath.

I came across this clip of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology on Youtube. He has some interesting things to say. Two quotes:

"A Scientologist has the ability to create new and better realities." (Is this not what sociopaths do with their lies?)

"We are the authorities on getting people off drugs. We are the authorities on the mind….We can rehabilitate criminals…We can bring peace and unite cultures…" (Sociopaths tend to believe in their own omnipotence.)

I'm not saying Tom Cruise is a sociopath. He comes off more as a True Believer: dim and/or crazy. (It occurred to me while watching that clip that he may have Asperger Syndrome as well. People with Asperger's are far more likely to join an organization which will do their thinking for them.) But the religion itself, and its tenets, is obviously the outgrowth of a sociopathic mind.

Adherents must cut off all contact with family and friends who are judged to be unsympathetic to Scientology. (Sociopaths tend to be very controlling personalities.)

Hubbard first organized Scientology into franchises, with all of the local franchises expected to pass along ten percent of their income to headquarters. (This is not entirely unlike an old-fashioned chain letter, or what is now known as multi-level marketing, or pyramid selling. The people who start such schemes tend to be con men.)

Hubbard himself was called a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. He was also called, a con man and a pathological liar, back in an era where people weren't as familiar with the concept of sociopathy. An extremely narcissistic personality would, rather than take any sort of "blame" himself, simply reject such labels. Hence, Scientology abjures all conventional psychology.

During Hubbard's time, low level adherents to Scientology aboard his fleet of ships were treated abusively, and that tradition has reportedly continued more recently. (This is consistent with how a sociopath treats others.)

The vindictiveness of Scientology towards its former members is also reflective of Hubbard's personality.

Hubbard himself was unquestionably a sociopath, and his fingerprints are all over Scientology.

(Now, I can only hope they don't notice this obscure little blog.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

President Klitschko?

The most divisive issue facing the Ukraine right now is whether to join the European Union, or remain more closely allied with Russia. Vladimir Putin is currently threatening to disrupt their natural gas supplies if they opt to become members of the EU.

Current heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, is now evidently the leader of the opposition to President Yanukovych, who wants to remain in Russia's orbit. Klitschko is now seen as a potential leader of his nation. Klitschko also favors greater transparency for government, a crackdown on corruption, and lower taxes.

At age 42, Klitschko is reaching the end of his boxing career. (His last fight was on September 8, 2012, but he is still the reigning WBC titleholder.) It is nonetheless surprising that he can juggle both roles. Apparently if this political thing doesn't work out, he wants to have a trade to fall back on.

This seems to be a surprisingly common career path for former Eastern Bloc athletes. Alexander Karelin, the great wrestler who won the super heavyweight gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling in three successive Olympics, is now a member of Russia's Duma, or parliament, as a member of the United Russia Party:

Here is a more recent picture of Karelin:

Nikolai Valuev, the recent heavyweight boxing champion, is also a member of the Duma, and also a member of the United Russia party:

(The acromegalic Valuev is seven feet tall and weighs 331 pounds.) Here he is in the Duma:

Even Manny Pacquiao, who has been a world champion boxer in eight different divisions, is now a Congressman in the Philipine House of Representatives:

Strangely, this progression doesn't seem to happen in the US. You never see a Senator Mayweather or Congressman Holyfield.

One has to wonder about the wisdom of voting in as political leaders men whose livelihood has entailed getting their brains battered for the past decade or longer. But, evidently, they don't worry about that in places like Russia and the Ukraine and the Philippines.

Humans were hunters and gatherers, i.e., "cavemen," for roughly four million years. Agriculture came into existence about ten thousand years ago, and technology three hundred years ago. So we humans spent the vast majority of our evolutionary development being selected for traits which would enhance our hunting and gathering abilities. Throughout all that time, the natural leader of any tribe was the man who could best lead the effort to take down a woolly mammoth, or to beat the opposing tribe with which they were constantly at war. And the man best suited to doing those things was often the strongest and most aggressive man.

We no longer hunt mammoths, and wars now tend to be high tech affairs, but our primitive instincts remain with us.

Vitaly Klitschko, at a well muscled six foot seven inches, is a natural leader of men. (There is one caveat to that "natural": he tested positive for steroids in 1996, at the end of his amateur career, but has tested clean since.)

Klitschko recently announced that he intends to run in the 2015 Ukrainian Presidential election. I would recommend this as his campaign poster:

The picture would, in a way, lend credibility to whatever caption he chose:

"I will crush our enemies!"

"I will stamp out corruption!"

"This is what I will do to inflation!"

"I will fight for the people of the Ukraine!"

Or, ironically:

"Vitaly Klitschko -- the candidate of peace!"

(Klitschko does in fact favor greater Ukraine-NATO cooperation, and he and his brother have worked for UNESCO.)

In any case, whatever Klitschko promised, that picture would send the message that he is not just another hack politician making empty promises, but a man who backs up his words with action.

I'm joking, of course, but if he actually did use it, it would likely get him some votes. It would appeal to atavistic notions of what a leader should be. Plus he has that every-man-wants-to-be-him-and-every woman-wants-to-do-him sort of appeal.

As for the steroids, when I mentioned this to my son, he suggested that all national leaders be required to take steroids, "just to help them make the right decisions…..well, the more manly decisions, anyway."

Charlemagne was said to have been six feet six inches, which made him even more of an anomaly in a day when the average man stood five foot six inches tall. There's nothing like towering over other men -- and embodying the implicit threat of physical violence -- to give one a commanding presence.

It's really not all that different in spirit from Californians having electing Arnold Schwarzenegger their Governor. Of course, he was only a fake warrior, whereas Vitaly is a real one. But, he was a real movie star. And more to the point of this post, he was a commanding physical presence. Ultimately, the Governator was unable to muscle his agenda through the state legislature, and ended up bogged down by the minutiae of politics. But that didn't mean that a big part of his constituency didn't secretly long for Schwarzenegger to exert his will Conan the Barbarian-style.

Vladimir Putin is evidently a huge fan of Fedor Emelianenko, the mixed martial artist. It would be interesting to see what his reaction would be to a President Klitschko. My guess is, he will instinctively have a more visceral regard for him, perhaps even to the point of not following through with his threats to cut off those natural gas supplies.

Klitschko's younger brother, 6' 6" Wladimir, is the current WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion. There must be a place for him in a Klitschko administration. Perhaps Vitaly could appoint him Attorney General, the same way John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Bobby to that position. Or better yet, name him as his Vice President. This would ensure a virile image for the country for years to come.

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the US turn in a similar direction. As my son said back when he was in high school, "As long as we're going to have a black President, why couldn't we get someone exciting, like Mike Tyson?"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Obama's selfie

There's been a lot of talk in the press lately about the way Obama took a selfie with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron at Nelson Mandela's memorial service recently:

Most of the commenters have criticized Obama for showing disrespect at what is supposed to be a solemn occasion. And many have noted Michelle Obama's disapproving expression while these shenanigans were going on.

Some have even said how hypocritical this seems, especially given that when Mandela died, Obama ordered all federal flags to be flown at half mast, something almost never done for a foreign leader.

But perhaps there is a different take on all this. Perhaps our Fearless Leader is merely showing courage in the face of what must be a devastating personal loss for him. Perhaps he is simply trying to cover up his grief.

Or perhaps not.

Whatever your interpretation, a picture of someone taking a picture of himself is worth a thousand words.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Those Russians are tough

There are subcultures of toughness in the US. Any criminal gang -- black, white, or Hispanic -- is going to esteem toughness. The military obviously does. And jailhouse culture is all about proving you're not a "punk."

Among whites, both Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans seem to have more than their share of self-proclaimed tough guys. In general, the Irish seem to pride themselves on being tougher than the English (both here and in the UK). It's a little the same way Norwegians pride themselves on being tougher than Swedes, both here and in Scandinavia. (Those Old World rivalries die hard.)

In today's America, though, much of the toughness is just Sylvester Stallone-ish posturing. (What is Stallone, after all, but a more intelligent and successful version of the Jersey Shore boys?) It's an ersatz, for-show version of toughness: take steroids, lift weights, strut around in a muscle shirt, try to look manly, and if you're lucky, have people film you. The Italian Mafia can be tough on other people -- but the ability to inflict pain on others is an altogether different quality than a willingness to undergo it yourself.

The Russians shine in both regards. They have a culture of toughness, and they seem to venerate the quality for its own sake.

It may have something to do with having being toughened by years of communism. But it goes beyond that. There are plenty of other places -- like most of Eastern Europe -- which suffered under years of communist rule, but which simply don't place the same premium upon stoicism and grit.

The prominence of combat sports can be a fair barometer of the character of a people (think tae kwon do in Korea), and Sambo (a form of grappling) is a popular sport in Russia. Fedor Emilianenko, considered by many to have been the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, was also a four time world sambo champion. He was known for his calm, businesslike demeanor while fighting. Here is a good example of that.

While Fedor was the greater MMA fighter, his brother Aleksandr Emilianenko, a three time world sambo champion, may be an even better embodiment of Russian toughness. Here is his brief fight against the pumped up, posturing James Thompson. Aleksandr somehow managed to look not only calm, but downright bored, not only before and after, but even during the fight. Aleksandr spent three and a half years in jail (in Russia, one doesn't get those kinds of tattoos, especially those stars on the front of the shoulders, without earning them). And Alexander reportedly goes bear hunting with just a pitchfork and a knife. (C'mon, it wouldn't be sporting if the bear didn't stand a chance.)

A man who had once visited some brothels in Prague told me that they employed Russian ex-military guys as security men there. He described these guys as "all muscle, arms covered with tattoos, probably in their thirties but with their crew cuts already going gray, with these incredibly hard faces which looked as if they hadn't smiled in about ten years."

A recent article in the NY Times about training Russian flight attendants explained that the biggest hurdle seemed to be to get them to smile. (A culture which venerates toughness does not engender smiley face, have-a-nice-day personalities.)

Prison shows are a staple on various cable channels these days. Most emphasize the harshness and brutality of life behind bars. There was a show about a Russian prison recently; it made even the American supermax jails look like summer camp.

Consider how the national character of our two countries is reflected by our leaders. There's no doubting Vladimir Putin's no-nonsense, realpolitik attitudes. Our President, on the other hand, is Barack Obama.

We could wish for a more formidable leader like Putin, but do we deserve one? As long as enough of us are willing to be brainwashed by the mainstream media, we probably deserve a President who is the embodiment of political correctness.

Others who've had firsthand experience with Russians tend to agree.

Last year my daughter was a freshman in college. She was assigned a roommate from Moscow, who came to stay with us over Thanksgiving. This girl was intelligent, well-mannered, good-natured, and extremely enamored of the US. At one point I asked her who she thought was tougher, Russians or Americans. I knew beforehand what her answer would be, but was curious as to exactly how she'd say it. She didn't hesitate: "Oh, Russians."

This past summer when I was in London, I chatted for a while with a South African woman, a former ballerina studying to be a midwife. She was a Boer, and back home she had helped her uncle illegally poach game. (She could still skin a sheep with a knife.) The Boers are a plain-spoken lot; she mentioned that her father had told her she was "pretty from far, but far from pretty," meaning that she wasn't good-looking up close -- not the kind of thing most American fathers would say. She herself had gotten her ten-year-old son over his fear of the ocean by forcing him to swim out alone beyond the breakers; this, too, is not the usual American way. In any case, at one point I asked her what the Russians in London were like. She immediately responded with a shudder, "Oh those Russians, they're tough."

(If you haven't clicked yet on the link to Aleksandr Emelianenko's fight, it's worth a look; he is the quintessential Russian.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

The really deadly sins

The seven deadly sins -- wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, gluttony, and envy -- are really nothing more than a basic description of human nature. All of those sins are committed by everybody, and on a daily basis. The only danger is in letting any one of those basic human instincts gain too much control over your life.

The only really unforgivable sins are:

1. An inability to admit fault.

2. Hypocrisy.

3. Habitual dishonesty.

Funny how these three truly deadly sins always cluster.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shakespeare receives ultimate compliment

A recent NY Post article quoted rapper Kanye West as saying, “I’m standing up, and I’m telling you, I am Warhol. I am the No. 1 most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh.”

How happy the Bard would have been to have known of this comparison!

From the same article:

Kanye told radio station Power 105 that his daughter “is in a position of a level of royalty like the Prince and Princess in London,” appearing to refer to Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who was pregnant at the same time as Kardashian.

A sampling of other Kanye West quotes:

Regarding not being nominated for Album of the Year: "You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, 'This is wrong.'"

On his cultural significance: "I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump."

On grabbing the MTV award from Taylor Swift: “It only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness ... That’s all it is.”

“I am so credible and so influential and so relevant, I will change things. So when the next little girl that wants to be, you know, a musician and ... to express her talent ... that thing is more fair because I was there.”

“I am the number one person in music. That means any person that’s living or breathing is number two.”

“I’m doing pretty good as far as geniuses go….The Bible had 20, 30, 40 characters in it. You don’t think that I would be one of the characters of today’s modern Bible?”

“My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.”

“Kim doesn’t understand what a blessing I am to her.”

“I’m like a tree. I feed the branches of the people.”

Some might say West is suffering from an extreme narcissistic personality disorder, or perhaps delusions of grandeur.

I say, they're just jealous.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sociopath alert: Joe Arpaio

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls himself "America's Toughest Sheriff," and he may actually be that. He's famous for having set up "Tent City," an extension of the Maricopa jail system, which he described as a concentration camp. It is an outdoor facility where Arpaio himself once measured the temperature at 145 degrees. (Most of the inmates at Tent City have not been convicted of any crime, but are merely awaiting trial.)

Arpaio is also known for limiting meals to two a day, and for serving inmates surplus food, sometimes consisting of moldy bread and rotten fruit.

In 1995, he re-instituted chain gangs, and in 1996 started female volunteer chain gangs.

Arpaio's sociopathic aura stems not so much from the fact that he thinks that prisons are too lenient; many agree with him on that. (Prisons can be hell, but that is usually mostly a function of the other prisoners.) It is more the gleeful vindictiveness with which he institutes these reforms, his self-righteousness, the way he publicizes them, and the way he expects the public to love him for his actions.

Arpaio even forced prisoners to wear pink underwear. According to Wikipedia:

Arpaio subsequently started to sell customized pink boxers (with the Maricopa County Sheriff's logo and "Go Joe") as a fund-raiser for Sheriff's Posse Association. Despite allegations of misuse of funds received from these sales, Arpaio declined to provide an accounting for the money.

(Sociopaths working in law enforcement never seem to feel that laws apply to them.)

Arpaio has claimed to average 200 television appearances a month. (Sociopaths can never get enough airtime.)

While immigration laws should be enforced -- I personally believe in deportation -- illegal immigrants are not evil. They're mostly just ordinary people looking for a better life. Arpaio treats them with ill-disguised contempt, as if they're child molesters or worse.

Meanwhile, for some strange reason, Arpaio and his office have ignored real child molesters. According to Wiki:

During a three-year period ending in 2007, more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Arpaio's office were inadequately investigated, or not investigated at all. While providing police services for El Mirage, Arizona, the [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office] under Arpaio failed to follow-through on at least 32 reported child molestations, even though the suspects were known in all but six cases. Many of the victims were children of illegal immigrants.

Violent crime in general has soared under Arpaio's watch. But Arpaio seems to prefer concentrating on highly publicized illegal immigrant sweeps.

This type of selective law enforcement, especially when it involves ignoring more serious crimes in order to aggressively pursue a lesser but more politicized crime, smacks of the sort of posturing which often characterizes sociopaths.

Arpaio also carried on a long feud with the Maricopa Board of Supervisors and various judges:

Over the two years prior to September 2010, feuding between Arpaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas on one side, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on the other side cost at least $5.6 million, most of which was paid to private attorneys. Arpaio and Thomas filed several lawsuits against the Board of Supervisors, including a federal civil-racketeering suit against the supervisors, four judges and attorneys who work with the county. Arpaio and Thomas lost every case, either by ruling of the courts, or by dropping the case.

In early 2010, Arpaio and Thomas sought to have a grand jury indict a number of Maricopa County Judges, Maricopa County Supervisors, and employees of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The grand jury, in an unusual rebuke, ordered the investigation ended. This action has been described as meaning that "...the case is so bad, there's no further evidence that could be brought [to substantiate it]"...

Arpaio was sued in turn by most of the people he filed lawsuits against. Being on both sides of numerous lawsuits is another sociopathic specialty.

Arpaio has also been cited for election law violations, misuse of funds, and even a staged assassination plot:

In 1999, undercover MCSO deputies arrested James Saville, then 18 years old, and charged him with plotting to kill Arpaio with a pipe bomb. A local television station had been tipped off to the arrest by the MCSO, and broadcast footage of the arrest that evening. The MCSO held a news conference shortly after the arrest, and Arpaio appeared in interviews on local television stations, saying "If they think they are going to scare me away with bombs and everything else, it's not going to bother me."

After spending four years in jail awaiting trial, Saville was acquitted by a Maricopa County Superior Court jury, which found that Arpaio's detectives had helped buy the bomb parts themselves and had entrapped Saville as part of a publicity stunt. Saville filed suit against Arpaio and Maricopa County for wrongful arrest. In 2008, the suit was settled, with Maricopa County paying Saville $1.6 million.

Showing bravado in the face of a falsely claimed victimhood is a dead giveaway for sociopathy. Sociopaths often try to set up situations in which they appear the victim in an effort to evoke sympathy and admiration.

What we're talking about here is really a variant of Munchausen's Syndrome, though no one has applied that label to Arpaio's behavior.

Arpaio is a dishonest, vindictive, cruel, egotistical bully. For his many abuses of power he really deserves some time in his own Tent City.

Yet the most interesting thing about Arpaio is something he can't be blamed for, but which holds the key to his character. It can be found in the "Early Life" section of his Wiki bio: his mother died while giving birth to him.

Arpaio grew up never knowing a mother's love. This explains his personality perfectly.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I've never quite understood the Black Friday mass insanity. Whenever I look at the advertised prices, it usually seems there are better deals to be had later in the year, in the post-Christmas sales, or end-of-the-season sales for clothing.

The idea of braving the crowds in the stores and possibly getting into a tussle over a piece of merchandise which is on sale is about as appealing as joining a stampede off a cliff.

Or maybe it's just that after an entire day of being on their best behavior with their in-laws at Thanksgiving, people are actually that desperate to get out of their homes -- at midnight if need be. And maybe all that enforced good behavior puts them in such a bad mood they're spoiling for a fight the next day.

I can't think of any other explanation.

55 wives

I recently looked up Gary Gilmore, the first man executed by the US in 10 years (back in 1977), on Wikipedia. The most interesting part of most sociopaths' biographies is the "Early Life" section, where you can often find clues as to why the sociopath turned out the way he did.

Sure enough, Gilmore's father Frank was an alcoholic con man -- also a sociopath -- who "would often whip his sons Frank, Jr., Gary and Gaylen with a razor strap, whip or a belt for little or no reason. Less often, he would beat his wife."

Gary, despite an IQ tested at 133, dropped out of school in ninth grade and turned to a life of petty crime, which eventually led to armed robbery and then murder.

The Wiki account also said that Frank Gilmore would often anger his wife, a Mormon, by referring to church luminary Brigham Young as "Bring 'em Young."

I actually thought that a clever formulation -- despite the fact that it was probably not original with Frank -- given the Mormons' penchant for polygamy.

I then looked up Brigham Young, curious as to how many wives he'd actually had and what their ages were. Turns out he had a total of 55 wives. Nine of the brides he took while in his 40's were still teenagers.

Either Young was a strong personality, or he was the definition of henpecked. It seems likely that the man who led the Mormons to Deseret, the first Governor of Utah Territory, and the founder of the predecessors to both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University was the former. He undoubtedly earned the title his followers bestowed upon him, "The Lion of the Lord."

But he also deserved the nickname that Frank Gilmore used.