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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Don't get fat

Articles about people who've lost large amounts of weight are a staple on the internet, and I often find myself clicking on them out of curiosity. It's not that I want to see how different their bodies look, since that's a given. I'm more interested to see how different their faces look afterward.

Sometimes their faces don't change that much, but sometimes they look like completely different people. A couple of days ago I stumbled across this article, which featured two people, one of whom, Austin Shifflett, was unrecognizable after his weight loss:

At first I thought they'd made a mistake; the guy on the right seems to have a different nose and mouth, and darker eyebrows. But then I Google-Imaged Austin Shifflet and came across this triptych, which made it apparent it hadn't been a mistake:

In both sets of pictures, he looks like a different person on the right. I was also struck by the fact that Shifflett somehow looks a little gay after the weight loss, but that may be partially the effect of his Zoolander-style pose in those shots.

In any case, Austin was one of the lucky ones: he looked good afterwards, as opposed to looking like a former fatty with saggy skin. The fact that he'd lost the weight while still young undoubtedly helped.

I've said this before, but I think at least 75% of women would be attractive if they were exactly the right weight. Bone structure is a wonderful thing, always better apparent than not. The problem is, very few women -- or men -- hit the appropriate target.

There have certainly been plenty of instances of people going in the other direction. Roberto Duran, the great boxer, went from looking like this --

-- to this:

Granted, we all get old, and granted, our metabolisms slow down as we age. But it seems sort of a shame with Duran; he had a sort of feral beauty when young, and now he's almost unrecognizable.

Duran was famous for his toughness and untamed ferocity in the ring. One of my favorite Duran stories happened after he beat Davey Moore for the junior middleweight title in 1983 in a bruising, bloody battle of attrition. After the fight, instead of taking a shower and changing -- the way a civilized human would -- he simply threw his clothes on over his boxing trunks and went out into the night to celebrate with his friends.

That tends not to be the type of guy who spends the latter half of his life obsessively counting calories. And, it might only diminish Duran's legend if he had.

Still, it seems unfortunate, as it always does when someone loses his or her looks. Better to go in Austin's direction.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Muhammad Ali, segregationist

In all the hoopla over Muhammad Ali's "statement" about Islam a couple weeks ago, none of the major newspapers which celebrated his defense of Islam thought to remember what Ali used to say about race mixing: he was against it.

Take a look at this clip from an interview he gave on British TV in 1971.

Here are a few quotes from that interview:

"I'm sure no intelligent white person watching this show, no intelligent white man in his or her right white mind, want black boys and black girls marrying their white sons and daughters, and in return, introducing' their grandchildren as half-brown, kinky-haired black people."

When the white host interjected that he wouldn't mind, Ali continued, "Well you don't have it, you say you do, but you don't have it, you really ain't gonna have it, you on your show, you gotta say that."

When the host said, again, that they were the same, Ali said, "Oh, we're different, you know we're different…..No, not society, God made us different…..Listen, bluebirds fly with bluebirds, red birds gonna be with red birds. Listen, listen, tell me when I'm wrong. Pigeons want to be with pigeons…..I don't see no black and white couples in England or America, walkin' around proud, holdin' their children."

"Life's too short for me to be catchin' hell for something like that. Again, I'd rather be with my own, have a beautiful daughter, a beautiful wife, they look like me, we all happy, and I don't have no trouble.  Now I ain't that much in love with no woman to go through all that hell, ain't no woman that good."

When the host said that he thought Ali's attitude was sad, Ali replied, "It ain't sad that I want my child to look like me, every intelligent person wants his child to look like him. I'm sad because I want to blot out my race and lose my beautiful identity?"

This, by the way, is the same Muhammad Ali who called Sonny Liston a "big black ugly bear" and Joe Frazier 'King Kong." Of course, he also once said that all white men are the devil.

But one stance Ali never wavered on was racial separatism. Somehow George Wallace and Lester Maddox have ended up demonized ("devil-ized?") for that view, while Ali remains a liberal icon. And neither Wallace nor Maddox ever went so far as to say that all black men are the devil. Gee….you'd almost think there was a double standard at work here.

In any case, while the newspapers were so triumphantly quoting Ali's defense of Islam -- words he almost certainly never said -- it would have been nice, for the sake of balance, if they had quoted some words which he actually did say.

But since those quotes don't fit with the media's narrative, they will remain buried.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

BBC productions

Netflix doesn't have a great selection of movies; most are "B" productions with low ratings from Rottentomatoes.

What makes Netflix worthwhile are its TV shows.

And its best TV shows are generally the BBC productions. The best of those may be Broadchurch, The Fall, and Luther.

Broadchurch features a great ensemble of "real" actors (meaning, none look like movie stars) acting exactly as real people would if a young boy had been found murdered in their midst.

The Fall is about the search for a serial killer in Belfast. As I mentioned this past January, it may feature more beautiful women per reel than any show since the original 1967 Casino Royale. It's an excellent drama, and it also seems to have that indefinable quality known as "cool."

Idris Elba is appealing as the star of Luther, a London detective who must cope with a wayward wife, a corrupt colleague, and various criminals. He's got issues himself, but the various misfits he must deal with make him seem well-adjusted by comparison.

The Killing is also great, even though it's an American (AMC) show. It takes a few episodes to warm up to, but once you're into it, you'll be hooked. As an example of how well done it is: one of the two main characters, a detective, is both a wigger and a drug addict, but by the end of the show you'll see him as both likable and heroic -- as hard as that may be to believe.

I don't think you'll regret watching any of these series.

If I had to sum up the difference between the BBC shows and the typical American TV show (The Killing excepted), it's this: the British writers create their characters as real people, whereas Americans create their characters act as they think TV characters are supposed to be. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

One cause the SJW's need to take up

It's hard to argue with the original civil rights causes. A government shouldn't mandate segregation and exclusion. Women shouldn't have their opportunities limited just because they're women. And it's unfair to ask gays to stay in the closet.

Most fair-minded people would agree that people ought not be penalized for something they have no control over -- but that they shouldn't be rewarded for those things, either.

But some of the original causes have since been turned on their heads: minorities and feminists now demand discrimination in their favor.

Given the direction that many of these original liberation movements have taken, one movement seems conspicuous by its absence: liberation for the low-IQed.

Prejudices of all sorts are now analyzed and even invented by social justice warriors. Yet nobody ever seems to complain about prejudice against the dumb. To be honest, it's what some of these other movements have sort of morphed into anyway. So why not call it what it is?

In an era in which tests themselves are deemed "discriminatory," it's high time someone took up this cause.

Are dumb people not human too? Being dumb does not make you a bad person. Should they not have civil rights? Why should dumb people be excluded from the better colleges? Why should they not have a chance at the highest-paying jobs?

Why should this be the disability that dare not speak its name?

Just think of the great slogans that they could (mindlessly) chant:

"We're dumb, but we're not scum!" (To the lower-IQed, rhymes seems to imbue more meaning and truth to whatever they're saying.)

"'Dumb' is a four letter word!" (Or, perhaps, more in character, "'Stupid' is a four letter word!")

"America was built on the backs of dumb people!"

"Abolish intelligencism!"

"Stupid pride!"

A dumb person could say, with that vague but unmistakable sense of hysterical victimhood/entitlement, "I am a person of stupidity."

In fact, instead of trying to win arguments by logic, they could simply fall back on, "You're an intelligencist!" in the same way in which liberals try to end arguments by calling names.

There's really no argument against that. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Stupidity, unnatural beauty, natural beauty, and wisdom

By now you've undoubtedly heard of the mix-up at the Miss Universe contest, when emcee Steve Harvey mistakenly announced that Miss Colombia was the winner over Miss Philippines.

It was actually sorta funny -- if you have a twisted sense of humor.

The funniest thing may have been Steve Harvey's subsequent Tweet:

(To the best of my knowledge, that Ivy League school does not hold a beauty contest. "Philippians" is a New Testament epistle, not a country in Asia. And while Harvey made both an honest mistake and a terrible one, was it really "terribly honest" as well?)

This sends a clear message to all young students: hit those geography books, study your syntax, and you, too, might become successful enough to announce the Miss Universe contest.

You can't really be angry at Harvey, though. It was an honest mistake, he owned up to it, and he obviously felt bad about it afterwards.

What I was really struck by when I first saw a clip of the incident was how unnatural Miss Colombia looked:

She seems to have had a lot of work done. Those big lips simply don't go with that narrow nose, which makes it appear as if at least one, and probably both, were surgically altered. Her cheeks look unnaturally full, as if she's had implants. Her eyebrows are obviously painted on. And she's wearing heavy makeup.

The overall effect is, one of the less wholesome showgirls in a Vegas topless revue.

Speaking of which, her skinny arms contrast sharply with her ample breasts, which indicate that those may have been enhanced as well:

It would have been more in keeping with the rest of her look to get double-D's rather than small C's, though.

Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia have reportedly all gone plastic surgery-crazy in recent years. And a high percentage of Brazilian athletes seem to be on steroids these days. When those things are just part of the culture, it's a little harder to blame people who simply go along.

But should a contest which essentially celebrates young beauty really be encouraging that much artifice?

(The pageant now sparks the same feeling you get when you see a picture of the Mr. Universe contestants: wow, that's a lot of store-bought enhancement.)

The third place finisher, Olivia Thomas, Miss USA, has a much more natural look:

There's real hair in those eyebrows, and her face is in balance. (Which is to damn her with faint praise: she's stunningly beautiful.)

Anyway, back to the mix-up. Donald Trump, who sold the contest six months ago, at first said that this would never have happened when he owned the contest. That's a little ridiculous, as human error is always a possibility whenever humans are involved.

But then he proposed that the Miss Universe title be awarded jointly this year, which actually isn't a bad suggestion. Miss Colombia may not deserve the title based on her natural beauty, but she does deserve something as recompense for her humiliation.

Ah, the wisdom of Solomon.

Just what we'd want in a President.

And if there is zero chance that any errors would ever happen on his watch, all the better.

A sociopath's ability to perform

The AP recently ran an article titled, "Actor decapitated neighbor, performed in musical soon after."

The relevant excerpts: 

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A Southern California man who killed two people and dismembered one in a scheme to steal money and cover his tracks was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder. Daniel Wozniak, 31, was convicted by an Orange County jury that must now decide whether to recommend life in prison or the death penalty.

Wozniak was convicted of killing two Orange Coast College students on May 21, 2010.

Wozniak was deeply in debt, needed money for his upcoming wedding and was facing eviction when he concocted a plan to kill a neighbor, Samuel Herr, and steal $50,000 that the Army veteran had saved from his service in Afghanistan, prosecutors said.

Wozniak shot the 26-year-old Costa Mesa man in the attic of a Los Alamitos theater where Wozniak performed in community theater productions — including playing the lead in a musical the night after the killing. He later dismembered Herr and dumped the remains in a park.

Prosecutors said Wozniak used Herr’s phone to text the victim’s friend, Julie Kibuishi. He pretended to be Herr and got the 23-year-old to come to Herr’s apartment to talk so he could shoot her and make it appear that Herr had raped and killed her before fleeing.

Wozniak was arrested days later at his bachelor party….

A 16-year-old boy testified that Wozniak hired him to use Herr’s ATM card to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.

Jurors also saw video of a police interview in which Wozniak confessed to the double killing.

Asked about motive, Wozniak replied: “Money and insanity.”

“I don’t know why I did it,” he added. “Mainly it was the money, and it seemed so easy.”

There are several aspects to this crime -- beyond the obvious one of the double murder -- which exude sociopathy.

Most of us would get nervous at the thought of singing in front of an audience. And we'd be absolute wrecks if we had just murdered someone, hacked up his body, and were worried about getting caught. Wozniak just got up on stage and sang his heart out, feigning love for the female lead -- all while plotting his next murder.

Sociopaths are always the best performers going, as they never suffer from self-doubt.

Wozniak was arrested at his bachelor party. Sociopaths have the unique ability to want to party even when their world is tumbling down. (This is why you'll see Ponzi schemers seeming to enjoy their riches, even as the Feds close in.) 

When asked why he did it, Wozniak replied, "Mainly it was the money, and it seemed so easy." Well, of course it was the money. But that aside, why did he do it? Most of us would respond, tremulously and shamefacedly, "I don't know, I don't know what came over me, I'm just really a horrible person, I guess" -- or something to that effect.

But Wozniak's shrugging response? He did it because "it seemed so easy." Sociopaths tend not to look inward.

(Wozniak's words are reminiscent of Richard Speck's response when asked why he killed those eight student nurses in Chicago on that fateful night in July of 1966: "Just wasn't their night, I guess.")

That Wozniak had thought pulling off a murder would be easy illustrates another aspect of sociopathy: they overestimate their own abilities. In particular, they overestimate their ability to fool others. 

Here's a picture of Wozniak, sitting in court last week: 

Look at that serene, untroubled, almost cherubic face. He's on trial for murder, yet he looks as if he's still looking forward to the rest of his bachelor party. You know, the good part, where he gets to have sex with the hired stripper in front of all his buddies.

A certain smugness also seems to be etched into that face: "Hey, I really am pretty cool."

All of this shows why it's so misleading when young sociopaths are labeled as "troubled youths." They are, in fact, the least troubled people in the world -- things that would tear the rest of us apart simply don't faze them in the least.

On the other hand, sociopaths are always a lot of trouble -- for other people. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The religion of peace

Donald Trump has gained a lot of publicity, most of it negative, for his suggestion that the US stop allowing Muslims to immigrate until we can "figure out what's going on."

His statement elicited the usual howls of outrage from the Democrats and from the mainstream media (pardon me for being redundant). Even many in the Republican establishment have taken pains to distance themselves from Trump's suggestion.

They point out that not all Muslims are terrorists, in fact only a miniscule percentage of Muslims are, and that the vast majority of them are peace-loving and will fit in well in this country.

But is that actually the case? Take a look at the results of these polls:

The polls date back to a few years ago, but the last three conducted in 2015, under the category of terrorism, are quite telling:

A full 19% of Muslim-Americans say that violence is justified in order to make Sharia the law in the United States (66% disagree).

25% of Muslim-Americans say that violence against Americans in the United States is justified as part of the "global Jihad (64% disagree).

Following the November attacks in Paris, 1 in 4 young Muslims in Britain (and 1 in 5 overall) said they sympathize with those who fight for ISIS.

One in four, or one in five (depending on which poll you look at) is not a miniscule number.

If just one in ten of those 25% of Muslims-Americans who believe in violent jihad act on their beliefs, we could see a lot more San Bernadinos.

But hey, Obama's right. It would be un-American not to let more of them in. 

Let's not "invade their privacy"

Obama's edict that immigration officials not be allowed to check the social media of would-be Muslim immigrants on the grounds that it would "invade their privacy" is completely disingenuous, especially coming on the heels of the San Bernadino massacre, which could have been prevented had immigration officials only checked the Facebook postings of Tashfeen Malik, who had openly advocated jihad.

I used to think that people who said that Obama hated America were crazy. I thought, well, his loyalties are obviously racial, and his mission seems to be to transfer as much money and power as he possibly can from whites to blacks. But it's not as if he actually hates this country.

But it's hard to think of any other reason why he would want to prevent immigration officials from screening potential immigrants for terrorist leanings. How is it "invading their privacy" when they post these things on social media?

It's especially galling when you consider that the US government (until this past June) regularly spied on its own citizens by tracking their telephone conversations, which were never meant to be made public. Yet now they will not even look at the public postings of foreigners from fundamentalist Islamic countries who want to immigrate here?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Martin Shkreli story

In the fall of 2012, I had a friend who owed me $21,900. Martin Shkreli owed him a similar amount, so he told Shkreli to just send me a check for $21,900. Shkreli then wrote out a check to me, photocopied it, and sent the picture to my friend as "proof" that he was paying me. My friend then forwarded me the email Shkreli had sent him.

Although I had never heard of Shkreli before this, I knew the minute I got that email that Shkreli would not send the check. If he had intended to pay, he would have simply sent the check. No one would go to the bother of photocopying it and sending the picture if he actually intended to pay.

I couldn't really say anything to my friend at that point because he was operating in good faith, and I didn't know anything about Shkreli, but I knew I wouldn't be getting it.

Three weeks later I told my friend that Shkreli hadn't sent the check, and my friend apologized and sent me a check himself.

I have no idea whether Shkreli ever paid my friend, as my friendship with him ended soon after.

But I haven't been all that surprised by what I've read about Shkreli since. Like all sociopaths, he thinks he's fooling people when he's not, and I have to admit I was gratified to hear that the Feds caught up with him yesterday.

Finally, a substantive cause we can get behind

The latest brouhaha on campus is taking place at Oberlin College, where students are claiming to be offended that the ethnic cuisine in the cafeterias isn't prepared authentically enough.

The more we hear about these various student protests, the more it seems that it's all one big contest to demonstrate how refined their sensibilities, or, in this case, their palates are.

It's hard not to wonder how these students will feel about their behavior twenty years from now, as they look back on their college years.

Will they be proud that they had the courage to stand up and fight for justice this way? Or will they feel just a little bit embarrassed?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hate crime hoaxers and Munchausen's Syndrome

It's tempting to think that all of these hate crimes hoaxes are the work of slick political operatives who are merely trying to make the opposition look bad, raise awareness of "hate crimes," and get their own side fired up. But the more you look at these hoaxers, the more it becomes clear that many are just not right in the head.

What some have is a variety of Munchausen's Syndrome, that "mental illness" where people pretend to be ill in order to gain attention and sympathy and affection. But, Munchausen's Syndrome, as I've written in the past, is not so much a separate syndrome as it is simply a manifestation of sociopathy.

Think of Martha Nicholas, who claimed to have Stage 4 ovarian cancer when she didn't, and held fundraisers to help her pay for her (nonexistent) treatment. To keep a scam going as long as she did, you'd have to be utterly without shame.

The clearest proof that people with Munchausen's are sociopaths is provided by those who have Munchausen's-by-proxy, like Lacey Spears, who gradually poisoned her son, making him sick, and eventually killing him, in order to gain attention and sympathy for herself. Her actions were so utterly dishonest, shameless, and unspeakably cruel, that a nonsociopath simply wouldn't have been able to pull them off.

Bear in mind, Spears' case wasn't just an uncharacteristic moment of insanity, it was a long, ongoing process that required lots of planning and subterfuge.

Think of Jackie Oakley, the University of Virginia student who falsely claimed to have been raped by eight fraternity boys. The temptation at first might be to think that she was just a mixed up girl, but in fact she, too, was a sociopath who kept her scam going until her story finally fell apart.

Oakley's case is exceptional in that it garnered so much publicity, and was used, most (in)famously by Rolling Stone, as a way to highlight the "plague" of campus rape. But none of the political ramifications changed the fact that Oakley was simply a conniving little sociopath with a bottomless need for attention and sympathy.

I've had personal experience with this phenomenon too: the woman who educated me about sociopathy claimed to have cancer when she didn't.

Munchausen's Syndrome is not all that rare: you've probably heard of cases where someone, usually a woman, claims to have cancer and garners all sorts of attention and sympathy, and sometimes, even admiration for her "courage." Then it turns out she never had it.

While writing the previous post, it occurred to me that the parallels between Munchausen's and hate crime hoaxes are striking.

Not every last hoax is purely about getting personal attention and sympathy. Some of these hoaxers were covering up other misbehaviors. And they had varying amounts of politically motivation.

But all require a level of ongoing dishonesty so extreme that almost by definition, the perpetrator of the hoax has to be a sociopath.

Another distinctly sociopaths trait is wanting to sow discord: faking a "hate crime" fits that bill perfectly.

Imagine the mentality of a hate crime hoaxer. You prefer to believe that your own frustrations in life are due to racism or homophobia than to anything intrinsic to you. And you keep hearing about how racist and homophobic our society is, but you don't really see all that much in the way of overt examples. People seem to generally ignore you around campus, or, even worse, act as if you're not even there. And while you are incensed about racism or homophobia, some of your fellow blacks or gays don't seem to be as riled up as they should be.

What to do?

Solve all those problems at once by staging a hate crime. If you're black, you can put up a swastika made out of human feces in the bathroom. Or post anonymously on Yik Yak that you plan to shoot every black you see on campus the next day. Or hang a noose somewhere people will be sure to see it.

If you're gay, you can spray paint "Faggots get AIDS and die" on a convenient wall. Or maybe carve "gay" into your own arm. Or, if you have a fight with your boyfriend which leaves some nasty bruises, report that some gay bashers beat you up.

Once you've started, of course, you're committed to following through. You have to give a complete report not only to campus authorities but also to the police. You have to act like a traumatized "victim."

You'll be the center of attention, and people will act very sympathetic to you. Your cause will be promoted, and the narrative about what a racist or homophobic society we live in will be reinforced. The right people will be riled up at this injustice, and your cause may even gain a few converts. And people will admire you for your "bravery."

If you're a sociopath, this is how you think.

It's curious that the Left seems to attract so many of them.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Two sociopaths made the front page of the NY Post in the last couple days. One is Father Miqueli, a closeted gay priest who skimmed money from the collection plates at his parish in the Bronx and spent it on S&M sessions with his master, expensive liquor, and a house in NJ.

It turns out that Miqueli was, according to the Post:

a holier-than-thou blowhard who denied sacraments to “unworthy” parishioners, railed against gays at baptism class, yelled at the faithful on the Communion line and conducted his own vindictive war on Christmas, say members of his flock.

The other is James Burke, a former police chief in Suffolk County, NY. He was in the news for having purposely stymied an FBI investigation into the Gilgo Beach serial killings for several years, and also for having beaten up a handcuffed man who was accused of breaking into Burke's car and stealing his sex toys and pornographic tapes. Burke is also alleged to have broken into the suspect's apartment to retrieve those stolen items, and to have intimidated potential witnesses, including police who worked for him.

(To get the full flavor of each man's personality, look at the linked articles.)

Father Miqueli and James Burke both illustrate what happens when you give a sociopath power: they become tyrannical.

Miqueli was more of a petty tyrant, as he could only make life miserable for his parishioners in small ways. Burke was a little scarier, as he had real power. It's possible that if Burke had allowed the FBI more access to information about the Gilgo Beach murders, the killer might have been caught and stopped by now.

Unfortunately, sociopaths are more adept at rising to positions of power, as they will do anything to achieve those. If you doubt that, just think about Miqueli's and Burke's actions.

A guy who embezzles money from his church and does his best to make lit miserable for his parishioners would not have felt any qualms about currying favor with the right people in the Catholic hierarchy in order to land that plum parish in the first place.

And a police chief who beats a handcuffed suspect in front of his officers, intimidates those officers, and stymies an FBI serial killer investigation would certainly not have hesitated to campaign aggressively for the position of chief in the first place.

One thing you can always count on with a sociopath is that he will always act in character, and will abuse whatever power he is given.

Today's look-alike gay couple

This morning's NY Times featured a wedding announcement for David Taylor and David Bergad:

They were married Thursday in San Francisco. Once again, they wouldn't be mistaken for twins, but they could be brothers.

Gay men often look as if they have pleasant dispositions. Is it partly because they look unthreateningly non-hyperandrogenized?

I'm also struck by what an overwhelmingly white phenomenon gay marriage is. The NY Times has shown pictures of hundreds of gay couples, yet I can't recall seeing a single picture of a black or Hispanic (Amerindian) man as part of such a couple, and I think I've only seen one or two Asians.

Where's the diversity? Does this mean that white homosexuals only want to marry white, or that the New York Times covers only white gay weddings?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Muhammad Ali's "statement"

Most of the major news outlets reported yesterday that Muhammad Ali had issued the following statement in response to Donald Trump's suggestion that further immigration of Muslims be temporarily suspended:

“I am a Muslim, and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion … We, as Muslims, have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.”

“Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

Most of the newspapers which reported this statement had a triumphant tone to their articles, as if to say, see? We have this great icon on our side!

USA Today said that Ali was "an inspiration" and described his statement as "touching" and a "beautiful response after Donald Trump's anti-Muslim comments."

The Washington Post said that Ali was "clearly unhappy with the businessman's politics." 

NBC News' headline was, "Muhammad Ali Hits at Trump and 'Misguided Murderers' Sabotaging Islam." The first sentence of the article started out, "Like the champion fighter he is, Muhammad Ali took jabs Wednesday…."

The New York Times at least said that Ali had said these things "in a statement delivered to NBC." In other words, nobody heard him say these things himself. Of course, this is not atypical of celebrities; they often have PR firms which release statements for them. 

The question is, to what extent are these actually Ali's thoughts? He has suffered from Parkinson's since the early 1980's, and his own brother Rahman said in 2013 that he is basically a helpless captive of his wife, Lonnie, who is only interested in his money.

Ali remains a huge icon to liberals, to boxing fans, and especially, to the black community. During the past 15 years, he has made occasional public appearances in which people always fawn over him, tell him how great he is, and tell him that he's their hero. He smiles, mumbles something unintelligible, then totters off the stage, usually with someone helping him. 

When Ali was young, he was quick-witted as well as quick-handed, beautifully coordinated, and robustly healthy. No matter what you thought of his politics, it was impossible to deny that he was a lively, energetic, uninhibitedly playful and charming presence. 

Now he is the pretty much the opposite. So it's always a little painful to watch when he gets trotted out for a public appearance.

Most of the news reports yesterday included undated photos of Ali, either from roughly 15 years ago, like this one --

-- or pictures in which he is seen with Donald Trump, like this one:

But Ali doesn't look like that anymore. Here is a more recent picture of him:

Given the advanced nature of his deterioration, it seems highly doubtful that he would be following the news closely these days and be cogent enough to analyze it the way his official statement implied.

That statement read in part, "We, as Muslims, have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda."

But who is going to stand up to those who use a senile old man to advance their own personal agendas?

Certainly not any of the major newspapers. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

"You won't believe the wild tales of this 'White House chef'"

A funny story by -- and about -- a sociopath.

Sometimes it's mind-boggling what pathological liars think they can get away with.

Pistol-packin' Pinch

The NY Times had a front page article about gun control yesterday, their first official front page editorial since 1920. (Everything that appears on the front page of the Times is spun in some way, but this is the first article that's actually been labelled as an editorial.)

No one's name was attached, but it's unfortunate in a way that the editorial didn't come with publisher and CEO Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger's byline. He's actually one of the rare New Yorkers who has been able to obtain a carry permit from the NYPD.

Pinch just doesn't think the rest of us should be allowed to get one.

Hard not to wonder what kind of gun Pistol-Packin' Pinch carries. A snub nose .38, whose compact size makes it ideal for concealed carry?

A Glock 21 semiautomatic? The cops use it, so it must be good, right?

A Sig Sauer P220? This one is a favorite among gun aficionados. It was featured in Rambo: First Blood Part II. Wait a sec, the Times didn't like the Rambo movies, so, nah.

Perhaps he favors the Walther PPK, the one James Bond carries. Don't worry Pinch, we've all seen the movies. We'd understand.

Or maybe Pinch prefers the Heckler & Koch VP9. Okay, so maybe the Times has mentioned the Holocaust a time or two. But let's face it, those Germans make reliable guns.

Maybe he likes the Kahr CM9, available for just $460. Although, given the fact that Pinch pays himself $6 million a year (at a time when The Times is laying off reporters), he can probably afford a more expensive gun.

Many gun owners tend to think of their guns as "cool." Does Pinch show off his gun(s) to his friends? To his wife? How many guns does he have?

Does Pinch compare notes with Carlos Slim? Surely the world's richest propaganda-buyer does not travel unarmed. Or, as is much more likely, with a retinue of armed bodyguards.

How often does Pinch go to the range? How many rounds has he shot, total? Does he ever worry about the anti-environmental effect of all that gunpowder going off? (Every shot he's fired does contribute a little to global warming.)

Does Pinch load his gun with standard ammo, or does he prefer the more deadly hollow points, which expand once inside a man's body?

We know what Pistol-Packin' Pinch's favorite publication is. But does he also make time for Guns 'n Ammo?

Whatever the answers to these questions, don't expect the Times to report them.

(Is it just my imagination or does Pinch have the soft-faced, wimpy, pencil-necked look of a mass killer?)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Of all places…..

Whenever there's been talk of possible terrorist targets, the usual list includes Times Square, The Lincoln Tunnel, various football stadiums, bridges, and nuclear facilities, as well as reservoirs (to be poisoned).

No one ever thought to mention The Inland Regional Center, a facility for the mentally deficient in San Bernadino, California. To most Los Angelenos, San Bernadino is pretty much Nowheresville. It's hard to imagine a less glamorous place.

Of course, this attack seemed to be a weird mix of Muslim fanaticism and personal animosity. (Had someone made the mistake of wishing Syed Farook a Merry Christmas at that ill-fated office Christmas party?) So maybe it was unique in that San Bernadino just happened to be where some Muslims who happened to be ripe for jihad just happened to live.

Farook had been described as quiet but well-liked at the Center, where he worked. Like many American men, he had tried multiple dating websites before eventually getting a mail order bride from Pakistan. Until his neighbors started noticing a lot of strange packages arriving at his house -- which they didn't report for fear of being labeled racist -- no one ever suspected Syed of being a terrorist.

In any case, if San Bernadino isn't safe, it's pretty obvious that no place is.

ISIS doesn't seem to care if you work at packing plant in Enid, Oklahoma, are going to school in Orono, Maine, or work as an usher at a cinemaplex in Raleigh, North Carolina.

They're coming soon, to a theater near you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

If history were recorded by fashion writers

Every now and then, after stumbling across an article on fashion, I'll wonder, what if these were the scribes who wrote the final draft of history? How would our textbooks read? Where would the emphasis lie?

Attila looks stylishly equestrian in piped breeches with a gold breastplate and sandals to match. But with the always well turned out Attila, form follows function: the high-riding body armor allows for ease of movement as he pivots on his bay mare to let loose another volley at the enemies of fashion. And that cute rabbit fur hat keeps him toasty on those cold Teutonic nights! This Hun is the scourge of everybody who finds grunge acceptable!

Alexander's armored mini-skirt reveals a scandalous amount of leg, but who can blame him when he has such manly quadriceps? Ooh la la! And how jaunty he looks with that over-the-shoulder scarf tossed just so! They don't call him "The Great" for nothing! Even his horse is stylishly attired! And note Alex's haircut, short in front and long in back: wear a mullet and conquer the world! That's our Alex -- subduing the Balkans, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Persia, the Levant, Assyria, Babylonia, and India, all for the right to marry his boyfriend!

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, isn't shy about sporting fancy bling! That ermine cap (dyed red with the blood of his enemies) with pearl headband provides a perfect backdrop for the giant ruby set in a solid gold star, which emphasizes the prince's piercing gaze. If fashion were a car race, Vlad would definitely be sitting in the pole position! Note the fancy brooch holding together the finely textured cape: Count Dracula wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything less!

Tamerlane looks regal in his royal headdress with egret plume, and those spikes on his crown show that he means business! His blue tunic with the paisley/Islamic crescent motif and red lapels set off his flowery silk robe perfectly, while his white undergarment symbolizes the fact that even after all those bloody sieges, his soul is still pure. Think of that stern visage as yet another accessory: it just wouldn't be right to sack a city while looking sheepish!

Atahualpa had absolutely no choice but to bow before the superior fashion sense of Francisco Pizarro! The Incan must have been overwhelmed by the spiked helmet with the sumptuous feathers streaming behind, the royal blue shirt, and contrasting red sash. Long live conquistador chic! And check out the long sword and brown tights -- Francisco is one macho peach, you can't deny that!

Benito makes a bold statement in a cap with red braid and a beautiful gold-plated eagle. The bird matches his epaulets, buttons, and eagle on his arm, adding just the right touch of color coordination. The black shirt reflects Benito's point of view perfectly! And the hands of his German Leica sweep reliably around their axis, letting Il Duce know when it's time to get rid of those pesky limits to his power. Whether you're talking fascism or fashionism, Benito rules!

A true leader doesn't have to wear loud clothes that scream, look at me! Adolf's brown jacket may seem more peahen than peacock, but it exudes an understated, quiet authority which does far more for him than any loud zoot suit would. It's just enough to keep him warm on those cool Alpine evenings! Adolf's unique mustache shows that he is a fashion leader, not a follower. And while some fuhrers might be torn between wearing a swastika or iron cross, Adolf's final solution was pure genius: he sported both!

Political power may come from the barrel of a gun, but fashion power comes from timeless simplicity and austere elegance, and the buttoned up Mao Zedong embodied both! There is nary a wrinkle in sight, either on Mao's minimalist jacket or on his serene, youthful countenance. It may seem to come easy for the Chairman, but it's actually a long march to such revolutionary elegance.

No one -- but no one -- could rock a camouflage outfit and matching cap like Manuel Noriega! The man was equally at home in a jungle and behind a microphone! SeƱor Noriega may have been dogged by some nasty rumors about torturing and homosexually sodomizing his prisoners, but he also never forgot his friends: he helped Pablo Escobar export his product, and Fidel Castro export his revolution -- all while retaining his common touch!

The medals that Idi Amin wore, like the titles he bestowed upon himself, were all richly merited. One does not earn that kind of hardware by cannibalizing others' heroism! Even more impressive is the way Idi wore them: with understated good taste and a finely tuned sense of proportion. Amin's well cut uniform perfectly reflected his quiet refinement, proving yet again that high moral standards do go hand in hand with high sartorial standards.

If you have to think of one word to describe Saddam Hussein, it would probably be…..dapper. He looks as if he had practically been born in a homburg, with dark blue overcoat and suit to match! Even his tie, with subtle white dots, adds to his air of savoir faire. Those sheikhs in Kuwait, with their traditional dish dashes and keffiyehs, could never have hoped to be a match for this Beau Brummell! Let others learn from Saddam's example -- his every last accoutrement should be regarded as a weapon of mass instruction!

No man on earth could ever hope to outshine Muammar's breathtaking fashion range. Whether he is sporting a sky blue military ensemble, a wool-lined aviator jacket with Mongol hat, or a color-coordinated kepi with semi-traditional Arab robe, you can always pick Muammar out in a crowd! All those outfits must take some serious storage space though, and he probably uses his formidable all female Praetorian Guard to protect it. Woe to the man who does not let that locker be!

(The "answer key" to this post is located here; you can see how many references you got.)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pretty girl jobs

A young man mentioned to me the other day that certain jobs are basically those that strippers would do if they had college degrees.

For instance, advertising account executive. They get hired in large part because of their looks, and also because they have pleasing personalities. They don't get hired because they're mistaken for marketing geniuses.

When was the last time you saw a plain woman who worked at Sotheby's or Christie's? An auction house hoping to present an elegant facade wants traditionally beautiful women to augment that impression. And management knows that if you're going to throw away a bundle on art, you at least want that money collected by enticing women. Even if those women don't know anything about art.

Pharmaceutical reps are supposed to have some understanding of chemistry, and biology. But if you've ever seen the women who traipse around to doctors' offices hawking recently FDA-approved drugs, you realize that their number one qualification is pulchitrude. Doctors are only human, and more susceptible to the blandishments of someone they want sex with. Science be damned.

Ditto for photographers' reps, though a college degree isn't a requirement there.

Even Wall Street hires saleswomen for their looks. Look at the contrast between the traders, analysts, investment bankers, and internal technology people on the one hand, and the female salespeople on the other. Or just ask yourself this simple-but-telling question: how many of the former have had plastic surgery, vs. how many of the latter?

How many female newscasters do you see who aren't good-looking? Sure, a beauty might be disqualified by an overly strong regional or ethnic accent. But it's not as if what separates the women who get the on air jobs from their fellow Communications majors is a keen grasp of realpolitik.

As always, the gap between what employers will say ("We want self starters, hard workers willing to roll their sleeves up and learn the business") and what they mean ("We want good looks") is yawning.

You'll never see a help wanted ad for these jobs which specifies beauty as a requirement. But that doesn't mean that isn't the primary prerequisite. As the young man pointed out, these are all jobs where women get hired mostly because of their sex appeal.

The same reason strippers get hired.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" is sociopathy in political form

Community organizer Saul Alinsky published Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals in 1971. We've all heard his name, and we've all heard that Barack Obama is an Alinsky-ite, so it's instructive to take a look at exactly what tactics Alinsky recommended.

According to Wikipedia, the rules are as follows (my comments in italics) :

1.“Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (This reinforces what Alinsky said -- in 1971 -- about how real radicals must cut their hair, wear suits and ties, and infiltrate from within. Pretending to be what you are not or have what you don't is typical sociopathic behavior.)

2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. 

3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (Sociopaths are master manipulators, adept at ferreting out and preying on others' insecurities.)

4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (Sociopaths frequently insist that others play by the rules while they themselves flout them.) 

5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Sociopaths are by nature bullies, which is what this is essentially recommending; this was obviously what Obama was trying to do when he said recently that Republicans were "afraid of widows and orphans.")

6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (More manipulation, from the drug dealer playbook: get them addicted, so they want more.)

7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Sociopaths themselves are easily bored, so they assume others are as well.) 

8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Sociopaths show no mercy.) 

9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Sociopaths love to threaten and scare.) 

10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition." It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign. (This sounds like a repeat of #8: show no mercy.) 

11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Provoke a reaction on purpose, then play the victim -- classic sociopathic behavior.) 

12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Sociopaths are glib, and always seem to have an answer to everything.)

13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (Sociopaths love to create dissension between others.) 

Sociopaths seem to come by these types of techniques naturally. It's pretty much instinctive with them, which is why we see these patterns repeated over and over again in their behavior.   

Believe it or not, Alinsky actually dedicated his book to the Devil: "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer."

Little wonder Barack Obama would take to Alinskyism so readily.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

David Canary, RIP

Last night commenter Birdie told me that David Canary, a well known actor who lived in my hometown, had just died. I'd met him in 2008 without knowing who he was, and wrote about my impression of him here.

He was a regular at the local pool, so I saw him pretty often. Towards the end his Alzheimer's was more apparent. But even though he had lost his short term memory, he remained gracious. The last time I saw him, this past spring, he still looked magnificent.

Despite being a big star, he was unassuming, and modest. And he went out of his way to be nice to a nobody like me. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Protesting segregation by demanding segregation

An article, Princeton students stand up to political correctness, appeared on Marketwatch today. After the 200 members of the Black Justice League made certain demands to the President of the university, 1300 students signed a politely worded petition affirming free speech as a core value of the campus.

In any case, what really stood out about the original demands was this paragraph: 

The Black Justice League’s demands include a dorm for those who want to celebrate black affinity; mandatory diversity training; and a requirement that students take a course on so-called marginalized peoples. They also want the renaming of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the removal of a mural of President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson, who graduated from Princeton in 1879 and who served as the university’s president from 1902 until 1910, formally segregated the federal workforce.

So, to protest Woodrow Wilson's segregating of the federal workforce, the Black Justice League is demanding a "dorm for those who want to celebrate black affinity," i.e., a segregated dorm. 

What a finely tuned sense of irony this group must have.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Edwin Edwards quotes

I saw two days ago that John Bel Edwards had won the governorship of Louisiana, and wondered if he was related to Edwin Edwards, the colorful former four term Governor; he's not.

But, I was reminded of Edwards, who was born in 1927 and served from 1972-1980, 1984-1988, and 1992-1996. Eddie Edwards was a charming rapscallion of the sort rarely seen in politics anymore. (There are still plenty of rapscallions, but whatever charm they might have possessed is smothered by their overwhelming need to appear good and noble, an act Edwards never felt obliged to put on.)

Edwards was unquestionably corrupt, although he was not actually convicted until 2001 (he served a little more than eight years in jail), and he had, at best, a mixed record as Governor. But his charm and sense of humor carried him far further than his record should have.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the strong possibility that Edwards is a sociopath. He seemed to be without inhibition, had few brakes on his personality, and was an inveterate gambler as well as prolific womanizer throughout his life. He was glib and charming, and seemed to take his responsibilities lightly. (On the other hand, he never pretended to be what he was not, and did not leave a trail of disgruntled former associates in his wake.)

There are some men who act like naughty boys because that is essentially what they are, and there are some who put on that act to hide the fact that they are in reality evil. I'm not sure which Edwards was, so I'll remain agnostic on that score.

In any case, the point of this post is to celebrate his wit.

Edwards described his 1983 gubernatorial opponent David Treen as "so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes."

In 1985, Edwards was indicted on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and bribery. He was acquitted, and afterwards it was revealed that half of the jurors had stolen towels from the hotel where they were sequestered. Edwards commented, "I was acquitted by a jury of my peers."

On the subject of his alleged corruption: "People say I've had brushes with the law. That's not true. I've had brushes with overzealous prosecutors."

"I never speak ill of dead people or live judges."

In 1991, Edwards was asked by a reporter about a claim he had slept with six women in one night. Edwards replied, "No, it wasn't that way. He [the author] was gone when the last one came in."

In 1992, Edwards ran against white power advocate and former KKK member David Duke. Edwards, referring to his own reputation as a ladies' man, said of Duke that "the only thing we have in common is that we both have been wizards beneath the sheets." He also feigned concern for Duke's health due to smoke inhalation "because he's around so many burning crosses"and when a reporter asked Edwards what he needed to do to win the election, Edwards replied "stay alive."

During his 2011 roast after his release from prison, the 83-year-old Edwards said, "I give blood for them to make Viagra."

At that same roast, in reference to the aphrodisiacal nature of oysters, "I had a dozen last night, and only ten of them worked."

When his brother Marion told the 86-year-old Edwards that having sex with his 36-year-old wife could be dangerous, Edwards reportedly replied, "Well, Marion, if she dies, she dies." 

During a 2012 press conference with his wife, a registered Republican, on his upcoming run for Congress, when asked about what use he'd found for Republicans: "You sleep with 'em."

We still have plenty of corrupt politicians with dubious morality; it's just too bad that none of them are this entertaining anymore. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What is the appropriate penalty for a hate crime hoax?

One sure hate crime hoax and one likely hate crime hoax have been in the news in the past few days. At Delta College in Michigan, a person who posted on YikYak that he was going to "shoot every black person I can on campus" turned out to be Emmanuel D. Bowden, a black student.

At Harvard, there was a big outcry this week after students found black tape defacing the photographs of all of the black Harvard Law School professors. It turned out that the black tape was identical to the tape used by a group of activist black students at Harvard Law who used it the very same day to cover up Harvard Law School's current seal, which incorporates the coat of arms of a slaveholding family involved with the school's founding. While it isn't yet certain, this appears to be yet another hoax.

I've always felt that if a false accusation of rape can result in a prison term of, say, five years for an innocent man, if it can be proven that it was a maliciously false charge, the accuser should get an equivalent sentence herself. After all, this is what the accuser was trying to get for her victim, so that seems only fair.

So it should be with a hate crime hoax. What would the penalty have been for the white student who covered the faces of the black professors in black tape? Getting expelled from school? The same should apply to the hoaxer. Unfortunately, once an affair like this turns out to be a hoax, the matter is usually just dropped.

UVA rape accuser Jackie Coackley was never prosecuted for her false accusations. The woman who falsely accused the Duke lacrosse players of rape was never prosecuted. And whenever there is a racially-motived "hate crime" which turns out to be a hoax, usually everybody just breathes a big sigh of relief that it wasn't "real," and that's the end of it.

It shouldn't be. A hate crime hoax is every bit as bad as a hate crime.

In fact, the case can be made that a hate crime hoaxer is in fact guilty of a worse crime. What if the person who had placed that black tape over the photos of black professors had been white? What would he have been trying to accomplish? He most likely would have been trying to vent some animosity. The result would have been exactly what happened, a mini-tempest of outrage by the black students. The white student certainly wouldn't have won any converts to his side.

What would a black student have been trying to accomplish with that hoax? He would have been trying to stir up hatred between the races, which is arguably worse than just venting one's own spleen.

And all of this brings up a larger question: why are there so many such hoaxes these days? Because people want to be thought of as victims. It gives you the right to complain, to ask for special privileges, to demand more black faculty be hired, and so on.

A hate crime hoax is a hate crime, and should be prosecuted as such.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mal Whitfield, RIP

An obituary for Mal Whitfield, the 1948 Olympic champion in the 800 meter run, appeared today in the NY Times. Whitfield was a heroic figure whose inspirational life story serves almost as a rebuke to today's self-indulgent college protesters.

The relevant excerpts, in italics:

Mal Whitfield, Olympic Gold Medalist and Tuskegee Airman, Dies at 91

Mal Whitfield, a sleek middle-distance runner who won three Olympic gold medals for the United States, at one point as a Tuskegee Airman, and later became an American good-will ambassador promoting athletics abroad, died on Thursday in Washington. He was 91…

Orphaned as a child in the Watts section of Los Angeles, Whitfield went on to set records and achieve celebrity while running for Ohio State University. In 1954 he became the first African-American to receive the coveted Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete….

During World War Two, he was a member of the celebrated and racially segregated Tuskegee Airmen, part of the Army Air Forces. In Korea, he once trained for the Games between bombing missions, running on runways at night with a .45 caliber automatic strapped to his side. 

Whitfield was still a staff sergeant when he set an Olympic record in the 800-meter event at the 1948 London Games with a time of 1 minute 49.2 seconds.

He won another gold medal in the same Olympics anchoring the United States’ 4x400-meter relay team, and a bronze medal in the 400 meters.

Four years later, at the Helsinki Olympics, he won the 800 again — in the identical time — and added a silver medal in the relay. He just missed making the Olympic team in 1956….

With World War II on, he joined the Army Air Forces after graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1943. He enrolled at Ohio State after the war, in 1946, while stationed nearby as a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 332nd Fighter Group, popularly known as the Alabama-based Tuskegee Airmen. With that double duty, he said, he would wake up at 5 a.m. and go to bed at 12:30 a.m.

When the Korean War broke out, Whitfield was recalled to the service and served as a tail gunner on 27 bombing missions. But he continued to train for track, running at night while carrying his sidearms.

He was honorably discharged in 1952 and went back to Los Angeles to complete his bachelor’s degree at California State University, Los Angeles.

Whitfield went on to become a sort of roving ambassador for sport.

It's hard to read an obituary like this, in the midst of all the current college protests, and not reflect that people tend to act as they are encouraged to. In Whitfield's day, people were encouraged to act heroic, and they did. Whitfield was a shining example of that. 

Today, people are encouraged to act self-indulgent, and, for the most part, they comply.

When Whitfield was training for the 800 meters on those runways in Korea, he didn't ask for a safe space. He just strapped on his .45 and ran.

When Whitfield was with the Tuskegee Airmen, he didn't worry about microaggressions from the white soldiers. He was too busy dealing with macroaggressions from the North Koreans and Chinese.

And not only did Whitfield not benefit from affirmative action, he lived under the opposite system, segregation. The only reason the Tuskegee Airmen existed was because in those days blacks were not allowed to be part of regular units.  

Rest in peace, Mal Whitfield. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Billionaire confidence

No matter how much you agree with Donald Trump's policies, it's hard to escape the conclusion after listening to him for a while that as a billionaire, you're apt to end up thinking yourself a little better-looking, a little smarter, and a little funnier than you actually are, simply because people treat you a certain way.

The Miss Universe contestants who throw themselves at Trump must make him feel quite attractive. They must all say something along the lines of "Oh Donald, you're so sexy," even if what they really mean is, "I find the idea of a multibillionaire quite stimulating, and by the way, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to have you fix the contest in my favor, if that's possible."

(You can tell Trump thinks he's good-looking by the way he so freely insults others' looks.)

Trump also seems to equate dollars with IQ points. In his view, he's basically ten times as smart as a guy with only one billion.

Much of Trump's justification for running seem to be that he has written The Art of the Deal and has a net worth of (supposedly) ten billion, which makes him far more successful than the other candidates. Given which, one has to wonder how he will react if Michael Bloomberg, who's legitimately worth 37 billion dollars, decides to run as an independent.

In the most recent debate, Trump responded to a criticism from Governor Kasich with, "I’ve built an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars. I don’t have to hear from this man. Believe me, I don’t have to hear from him." Trump wouldn't really be able to use that line on Bloomberg.

The people who work for the Trump Organization undoubtedly laugh heartily at all of Trump's jokes, funny or not. Which has undoubtedly led Trump to see himself as quite the wit.

If I had a billion, I suspect people would treat me differently. And it would probably take more discipline than I've got to dismiss their blandishments as empty flattery.

Donald Trump doesn't seem to have that kind of discipline either. And he's a longtime billionaire, which only makes it worse.

Sometimes, when you look at the pictures of the nerdy young internet billionaires, they seem to have a deer-in-the-headlights look, as if they're uncomfortable in the spotlight and afraid of making fools of themselves. And while many look understandably happy, they don't have that practiced look of arrogance.


Give them a couple decades with yes-men (and "Yes!" women) and they'll see themselves differently.

As I've said before, I think Trump would actually be the best candidate for the middle class, unlikely as that seems. Of course, if he actually gets elected, it's always possible he will renege on some of his campaign promises.

One thing will not change, however, and that we can be sure of: his ego.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I'd read some middling reviews of the new James Bond film, but was still looking forward to seeing the movie last night. I figured, the critics just don't get it, Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig did such a great job with Skyfall that they couldn't possibly have gone too far astray with SPECTRE.

They did. The writers must have been so happy with the praise they received for Bond's childhood backstory in Skyfall, and for having resurrected the original Aston Martin, that they decided to milk the nostalgia angle even more in the new movie. They tried way too hard.

They threw in -- spoiler alert -- the exact stretch of highway in the Alps where Sean Connery used his Aston Martin's tire-slashing hubcaps to good effect on Tania Mallet's (Tilly Masterson's) Mustang in Goldfinger.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld's white pussycat -- formerly highlighted in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever -- reappears.

At one point Bond finds himself in an underground chamber next to a body of water, which looks like one of the scenes in Dr. No. The high tech desert encampment vaguely resembles Dr. No's island fortress, and the way it self-destructs at the end is similar as well.

The funeral scene with Monica Bellucci is evocative of the funeral scene in Thunderball, and the house she retreats to afterward is similarly elegant.

During one high speed escape, Bond's car goes almost on its side, just like in Diamonds are Forever.

The only thing that was missing was Roger Moore's car which turns into a submarine. But at least the moviemakers were smart enough to realize that audiences are only nostalgic for the real James Bond --

-- so there were absolutely no references to any of the Moore, Dalton, or Brosnan Bonds.

In any case, one or two references -- a la Skyfall -- would have been fine. But referencing the entire Connery oeuvre was overkill.

Much of the movie was so over the top that it verged on camp, which is always unwelcome in a Bond movie. At the beginning of the movie, in the much lauded Day of the Dead sequence, Craig surfs his way down a collapsing building, in a ridiculous sequence far beyond any parkour artist's wildest dreams, and then lands, finally, in a couch.

How cute. Only James Bond is not supposed to be cute.

In another scene, Craig, in an airplane, does battle with the bad guys in their cars (usually it's the other way around). When the wings of Craig's plane come off, he continues to use it as a sort of prop-propelled sled, and drives it through a barn. (Well, maybe that was a Roger Moore-ish touch.)

All of the action scenes in Casino Royale, if not completely grittily realistic, at least gave that illusion. (Think of the initial fight scene where Bond earns his double-0 status in that bathroom, or the scene where he kills the bomb maker at the African embassy, or the way he strangles the African leader in that basement stairwell.) Most of the action scenes in SPECTRE, like the initial fight on the helicopter, were silly, and didn't even try to appear realistic.

It was almost as if, by trying so hard to evoke the early Connery movies, they turned it into Never Say Never Again.

The chief enforcer for the bad guys was played by Dave Bautista, a half-Filipino professional wrestler:

Bautista's low forehead, beard, and height make him appear sufficiently menacing, and of course a 'roided-up body is almost de rigeur for battle these days. Craig and Bautista have an extended fight scene in an elegant Orient Express-style train going across the North African desert (one wonders which line that is) in a scene which is meant to evoke the train fight in From Russia With Love.

This David-and-Goliath fight wasn't quite as ridiculous as, say, Angelina Jolie beating up a bunch of musclemen in a Lara Croft movie, but watching Craig hold his own against Bautista did defy credibility.

During the fight, the inside of the train is laid to waste as if it were made of papier-mache, and it was hard to escape the feeling that the action sequence was choreographed by the same people who choreograph Bautista's pro wrestling fights.

Somehow, having included a professional wrestler seems a fitting metaphor for the movie.

Christopher Waltz plays the criminal mastermind, and his performance marks the second film in a row in which the chief villain is effeminate. Waltz doesn't gay it up quite as much as Bardem did in Skyfall (the one discordant note of that movie). But, at the rate the franchise is going, it won't be long before Bond himself is playing for the other team.

My son complained that it was ridiculous that Bond didn't shoot the villain when he had the chance to at the end of the movie. That, of course, was because Blofeld must return in another movie.

I almost regretted that Bond didn't shoot himself.

The weird thing is, despite everything I just said, the movie was still fun: I have to admit, I enjoyed watching it, though not nearly as much as I did Skyfall. It's mostly when you think about it afterwards that you recoil a little.

Ah, I guess I'm glad Bond didn't shoot himself.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What would Hillary have been without Bill?

A Gail Collins article in the Sunday Review section of today's NY Times was titled Hillary in History. About halfway through the article is the following line:

When the question of whether Hillary would have risen to presidential status if she hadn’t been married to Bill comes up, her fans tend to argue that if she hadn’t gotten married at all, she’d probably have gotten to the same place quicker on her own.

If you ever doubt how delusional Hillary fans are, just remember that. First of all, the odds that anyone -- no matter how politically talented -- will rise to the point where they are considered a viable Presidential candidate are minuscule. The path to the Presidency is a long, serpentine one that requires ambition, fortuitous circumstance, the right connections, willing accomplices, a friendly media, a talent for subterfuge, and a ton of luck.

There are lots of people with political ambition and talent who never make it. The formula for success is tricky and far, far beyond any one person's control.

So the idea that any individual was somehow predestined from the start to end up with a major party nomination necessitates a leap of faith so large that it precludes any sense of the incredible amount of happenstance required to actually ascend to that position.

Family connections can certainly help. Even the elder President Bush had a father who was a US Senator, Al Gore had a father who was a US Senator, and President Kennedy had a father who basically pushed him into the Presidency.

But the Rodhams were neither a political nor financial dynasty.

If you don't have those family connections, you have to be able to ingratiate yourself with those who can help your career. To do that, you must employ charm, humor, salesmanship, and a certain moral flexibility.

Hillary has only that last attribute.

So the idea that Hillary would "probably have gotten to the same place quicker on her own" is as ludicrous as saying that George W. Bush would have risen to the Presidency even if his father hadn't been President. Or that Donald Trump would be the Republican frontrunner if he was a blue collar worker with a net worth of $50,000. Or that a less-than-one-full-term Senator from Illinois with no legislative accomplishments to speak of would have been elected President if he hadn't been black.

The difference is, you don't hear any of those statements from Bush, Trump, or Obama supporters. Only Hillary's supporters are that insane. (That quality, of course, is reflected in many of their other cherished beliefs.)

If Hillary hadn't been married to Bill, it's not hard to imagine where she would have ended up. She might have been a small time lawyer in Chicago. Or, with a little luck, a partner at a larger law firm. She might have been a college professor, maybe in law, or maybe in a subject closer to her heart, like Women's Studies. Or, she might have ended up as an organizer for NOW.

She probably would have been fairly successful at any of those occupations. She's smart enough, and probably would have been fairly successful at currying favor within the Women's Studies Department, or among the other functionaries at NOW.

But the idea that the political powerbrokers in Illinois, Arkansas, or anywhere else would have taken a look at this woman --

-- and thought to themselves, "Yep, there's the charisma we're going to ride all the way to the White House" is just not credible.

Bill was known to have the ability to make every person he spoke to feel special. He was quick on his feet, charming, and humorous. He could appear patriotic when that was called for, contrite when that was called for, angry when that was called for, and compassionate when that was called for. He may have been none of those things, but he knew how to project those emotions because he was a great salesman, and a consummate seducer. (He is, after all, a sociopath, and sociopaths tend to be good at those things.)

And even with all that going for him, he needed a tremendous amount of luck.

Hillary is by nature stiff, brittle, and (genuinely) angry. During the '08 primary campaign, Obama was criticized for having said, lukewarmly, that Hillary was "likable enough." He was actually being generous.

If Hillary hadn't married Bill, you'd never have heard of her.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jeb: the postmortem

The main reason Jeb was the early frontrunner in the Republican sweepstakes was his last name. Despite the fact that we are nominally a democracy, Americans still harbor a secret hankering for royal dynasties.

But that hankering has its limits. After eight years of Bill Clinton, the American public was nostalgic for the decent, patrician George H.W. Bush, so they elected his namesake. But even after eight years of Obama, the American public is not nostalgic for W. So, Jeb is paying the price.

Jeb also had other problems right from the start. First, that eminently punchable face. And second, he was way too liberal on immigration. You don't win over American voters by pandering to the Mexican electorate.

Early on, Jeb's own parents saw him, not W, as the carrier of the family flame. This, despite W being the older brother. If anyone knows which the smarter sibling is, it would be the parents. But the Presidency is not an SAT test; it's simply not enough to have a high IQ.

Character counts -- bad character, that is. Jeb is simply too nice a guy for this arena. He is an intelligent beta male without the instincts for battle that a Trump or Cruz or Rubio have. It's almost as if Jeb was coddled too much as a kid, and never developed the kind of spiky armor that more feral kids tend to develop. For instance, Jeb obviously defers to his wife. (Do you think Trump does that?)

Ted Cruz had a great line about the moderators in the last debate, but he was wrong about one thing: a debate IS a cage match. And if you don't have the instincts of a pro wrestler, you're simply not going to survive the Wrestlemania Summer Slam, or Wrestlemania Survivor Series. The debates were just slightly higher IQ versions of those extravaganzas. Both sets of audiences certainly want the same thing: blood, whether physical or metaphorical.

Jeb simply isn't bloodthirsty enough. When someone shoots an arrow at Jeb, instead of shooting back, he just looks down in astonishment at the feathers sticking out of his stomach. He spent much of the debates looking like a mole that's been dragged from its protected underground lair, and, blinking in the bright sunlight, has no idea how to defend itself against the coyotes which surround it.

And, nice guys finish, if not last, at best sixth in a field of ten.

In the last couple debates, Jeb has tried to be a little more combative, because his advisors have told him he needs to be. But you can tell, it's really just not in his nature.

But while it's hard to blame Jeb for being too nice, it's a little easier to criticize the vague sense of entitlement that always surrounded his campaign. Jeb's pedigree is that of card-carrying member of the East Coast WASP establishment who used to run the country. You can see it in the way he talks about the illegal immigrants, with the sort of noblesse oblige that WASPs of good character were expected to show when speaking of the less fortunate.

But it's a little as if Jeb is living in a time warp, and doesn't quite realize that the world has changed. The nexus of power has long since shifted from the WASPs to the Jews, and while most of the candidates were eagerly declaring their allegiance to Israel in hopes of some of that Adelson and Singer money, Bush seemed to think that if he carried himself like Clark Clifford, he'd inherit the Presidency.

It just doesn't work that way anymore.