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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"What ISIS Really Wants"

This Atlantic piece does an excellent job of explaining what ISIS is all about. The author, Graeme Wood, explains exactly why they do what they do, and how they are in fact practicing the purest form of Islam.

(Warning: the linked piece is long, and takes roughly half an hour to read.)

If you don't have a half hour to spare, here are a few of the highlights:

-The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

-We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

-Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it.

-All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day."

-The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

-The waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph.

-Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.

-One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.

-Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. "That really would be an act of apostasy.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Giuliani's comments

Rudy Giuliani's comments about Barack Obama got a fair amount of publicity over the past few days. In his first set of comments Giuliani questioned Obama's love of country:

"I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the President loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

Loving one's country has always been a somewhat slippery concept. It's one of those things that people claim to do, but what does it really mean? That one loves all the real estate extending from Canada to Mexico? That one loves every US citizen? That one loves the current administration? That one loves all of the USA's past actions? That one loves the direction the US is headed in? 

And as far as not loving "you" and "me," well, how many of us truly love strangers? The honest answer is, none of us. 

Patriotism has always been a concept that scoundrels tend to hide behind, and its meaning is often twisted into whatever a politician feels suits his own best interests. 

For instance, Barack Obama himself questioned George W. Bush's patriotism back in 2006 when Bush raised the debt ceiling. (Obama himself later raised the ceiling further when he became President, though no one seemed to question his patriotism for doing so.)

In any case, love of country is such a vague, ill-defined standard that it's a topic best avoided by those who would hurl accusations.

Giuliani said the next day that Obama had been under the sway of communists since he was a young boy. An excerpt from a NY Post article

“From the time he was 9 years old, he was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, who was a communist,” Giuliani said. Giuliani also said another bad influence on Obama was Saul Alinsky, a community organizer whom the ex-mayor called a “socialist.”

“He spent 17 years in the church of Jeremiah Wright, and this is the guy who said ‘God damn America, not God bless America,’ ’’ Giuliani said.

“Obama never left that church.”

“He was educated by people who were critics of the US. And he has not been able to overcome those influences.”

About this, there seems little doubt. Giuliani didn't even mention that Obama's own grandparents were members of the Communist Party. Nor did he mention the fact that Obama had admitted in his own autobiography that he was always drawn to Leftist professors when in college. Nor did he mention Obama's close association with Bill Ayers, the former Weatherman Underground bomber. 

The proof of all this is that the White House didn't even attempt to deny the charges. Instead they tried to imply that Giuliani was crazy: 

“I can tell you that it’s sad to see when somebody who has attained a certain stature and even admiration tarnishes that legacy so thoroughly,” press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

“There’s no element of schadenfreude that people are feeling around here. What people are feeling is sorry for Rudy Giuliani.”

And to hammer the message home, Earnest added a personal note. “I think, really, the only thing that I feel is to feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani today,” he said.

This, of course, is exactly what the Soviets did to dissidents back in the good old days of the USSR: call them crazy. If anyone had the temerity to criticize the Soviet government, the government would simply label the person insane and send him off to the gulag. 

Unfortunately for the Obama administration, they can't just ship their critics off to Siberia. But they do seem to be taking a page out of the Soviet playbook while not even addressing the issue of whether the President was basically a red diaper baby.

Which, of course, he was. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Confessions of a beta male, Part XX: Crushes

There's something about getting insane crushes, to the point where every mundane thing about a girl seems magical, that exudes beta-ness.

Someone once said, if we weren't told there was such a thing as romantic love, would we feel it? It's a good question. Some of it may be the power of suggestion, but I do remember experiencing it -- or at least a version of it -- as a first grader. And at that point I couldn't possibly have been inculcated yet. Back then, I felt that way about a girl named Adrienne Zuppe.

Romantic love is, as has been noted by many, a form of temporary insanity. And, when I was younger, and would finally come to my senses a few months later, I always felt foolish.

But not that foolish. I recently saw my first grade class picture, and was struck by how Adrienne Zuppe really was as pretty as I had remembered.

It would probably be more palatable to say that when I had crushes on girls, it was for something other than their looks. But it never was. "Falling in love," for me at least, always meant falling in love with a face. As superficial as that makes me sound, that's how it happened.

(Hey, at least I never fell in love with a pair of tits, or an ass.)

I remember feeling a little hot in Zuppe's presence. It wasn't a sexual feeling; I just sort of felt hot all over, especially in the face. Actually having a crush -- even when you're past puberty -- is not primarily a sexual feeling, even if it is a sort of erotic obsession. In fact, if it's intense enough, it actually robs you of sexual feeling.

In any case, I still remember all the girls I ever had crushes on, from first grade on. (Now that I think of it, even remembering people is sort of beta. "Sorry, have we met before?" sounds far more alpha.)

The worst part about a crush is being rejected. (And if you feel that way, you're far more likely to be rejected, as you'll lose whatever cool you might otherwise have.) I've sometimes wondered if "romantic love" isn't just depression looking for an expression.

The alphas I've known -- most of whom had narcissistic personalities -- never seemed susceptible to this sort of fixation. To them, the idea of romantic love is incomprehensible. If they got turned down, so what? It might be sexually frustrating, but that was the extent of it.

There's something almost a little feminine about "falling in love," even heterosexually.

Example: an alpha male has a high school class with an extremely pretty girl and lusts after her. His feelings can pretty much be summed up by, I really, really want to see that body naked.

Then, if the alpha gets rejected, he thinks, what a stuck up bitch, and forgets about her.

A beta looks at her and pines away, thinking, she's so wonderful, it would just be heaven to live the rest of my life with her. And every word from her lips sounds like music.

Then, if the beta gets rejected, he gets depressed.

Or, even worse, the beta just worships her from afar, too shy and afraid of rejection to make a move in the first place.

Being horny, and just wanting a handy female body to use, is alpha. Being romantic, and pining away for a specific person, is beta.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I spent my youth as a complete beta.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Interview with Hillary Clinton on Fifty Shades of Grey

Just Not Said was lucky enough to obtain an audience with Hillary Clinton, so we decided to ask about her reaction to the new hit movie.

JNS: Fifty Shades of Grey just set an all time record for Presidents' Day weekend with a box office of $95 million. What do you make of this?

HC: Honestly, I expected to hate this movie. I really did. And I tried to. But once I started watching, me a convert. I now understand why the book is so popular.

JNS. But don't you think you should be showing more solidarity with the sisterhood? By maybe calling for a boycott or something?

HC: Don't be silly. Why would we want to boycott something that makes us feel so good?

JNS: But isn't the underlying message that a woman has to be dependent on a man for money and power and prestige? What does that do to the psyches of young girls?

HC: Who cares? And c'mon, realistically, where would I be if I hadn't married Bill? Do you honestly think they're paying me two hundred grand per speech because I graduated from Wellesley?

JNS: Early reports are that 68% of the viewing audience for the movie are women. Do women really want to be dominated by a man like that?

HC: Well, yes. Unless they're lesbians or something.

JNS: That's a little shocking given your previous statements on gender politics.

HC: Puh-leeze. To be a helpless quivering mass while some man explores the depths of your, uh, soul…Let's face it, that's what life is all about.

JNS: But didn't the lack of a coherent plot line and the lame dialogue bother you at all?

HC: You really think I care about that stuff when Jamie Dornan is on the screen? Ohhh my….(HC fans herself with her hand.)

JNS: You have a longstanding reputation for never giving a straight answer, for always sidestepping questions. It's a little surprising you're so direct about this movie.

HC: I'm a changed woman, I really am. I mean, I still intend to run for President and all. But if I win, I plan to convert the Lincoln Bedroom into a private dungeon where Bill and I can act out all of our secret fantasies.

JNS: That brings us to another topic: isn't this movie sort of rape porn?

HC: Yeah, I know it goes against my feminist principles, but I now realize that women were meant to be dominated, and, let's face it, subjugated.

JNS: Well, good luck with your Presidential run.

HC: Thank you. Hey, what other movies has Jamie Dornan appeared in?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sociopath alert: LBJ

A commenter, Quartermain, just sent this link from It's a picture perfect portrayal of a man utterly lacking in conscience (though White only uses the word "sociopath" once).

I'd heard it speculated that LBJ was a sociopath, and hadn't doubted it based on what I knew, but had never looked into it that closely myself.

I hadn't known before, for instance, that Johnson had tortured and killed both a dog and a mule in his youth.

I had heard that Johnson had had sex with various women while his wife was in the next room; but I'd never heard that he'd actually fondled them while his wife was in the same room.

And I hadn't known about the hired killer Mac Wallace LBJ had at his disposal.

LBJ's possible connection to the Kennedy assassination will never be proven, of course. But reading about all the other things LBJ did does make one more inclined to believe it was real.

Part of the case that White makes is simply for LBJ's uncouthness. A lack of refined manners is by itself not proof of sociopathy; in fact, it can sometimes just mean that someone is merely unpretentious and more "real." But many of LBJ's well documented personal habits, such as conducting meetings while sitting on the toilet with the door to his stall wide open, are indicative of his complete lack of inhibition and embarrassment.

Normally when I put up a "sociopath alert" I try to make the case myself. But I can't improve on what White has written.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Journalistic dishonesty

Until two weeks ago, the three most in famous fabulists in journalism were Janet Cooke, who wrote for the left-leaning Washington Post; Jason Blair, who wrote for that exemplar of political correctness, the New York Times; and Stephen Glass, who wrote for the liberal New Republic.

Brian Williams worked for NBC, the most left-leaning of all the networks. Here is a representative compilation of examples of Williams' biased reporting. 

Now that we can look back at his career through the prism of Williams' pathological lying -- i.e., his sociopathy -- the question has to be asked: is there a connection between his personal dishonesty and the way he reported on politics?

When a reporter ignores Fast and Furious, ignores Solyndra, pooh poohs the IRS scandal as a partisan witch hunt, pretends not to notice the ugly way in which Obamacare was passed, and swallows the administration's lies about Benghazi, does that not show a certain intellectual dishonesty?

And is intellectual dishonesty really all that different from the self-aggrandizing variety?

It's hard not to see a connection.

Williams, as a pathological liar, is typical of that breed in the way he lied about his own derring-do. As a journalist, he's typical of that breed in the way he dishonestly slanted the news.

Both of these seem to require a similar sort of personality.

As a sociopath, Williams was eminently well suited for both roles. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams, Part V

The latest: Williams lied about this trip to Israel in 2006.

Right after the trip, Williams reported that there was rocket fire on the ground below as he rode in a helicopter with an Israeli general. But a year later, in 2007, he claimed that “there were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in.”

One point that should be made clear here is that there is no such thing as a pathological liar who is not a sociopath. After the last Williams post an anonymous commenter asked if it were possible to be a pathological liar but not be a sociopath. I responded:

Good question. Theoretically it should be possible, but I've never seen it. Pathological liars are always sociopaths, and always have the rest of the characteristics that go along with the lying: lack of remorse, lack of shame, impulsiveness, disloyalty, an ability to perform on a public stage (lack of nerves), etc.

When you think about it, to be as much of a self-serving fabulist as Williams is, you can't feel shame. And if you can't feel shame, it's because you have no conscience. And if you have no conscience, all the other characteristics fall into place.

Most of us don't tell self-aggrandizing lies because it just wouldn't feel right. If we claimed an accomplishment falsely, we wouldn't be able to enjoy basking in the reflected glory because we'd feel too much like a jerk for having falsely claimed it. That's because we can feel shame.

When someone tells a lie like that, he's also effectively being disloyal to whomever he's lying to, by misleading them. If you think so little of people that you don't think twice about fooling them, then you have no regard for others. And such lies are usually spur of the moment acts, reflecting a certain lack of impulse control.

So all of these traits are interrelated.

I've always felt that the two most obvious signs of sociopathy are serial killing and pathological lying. One, of course, is far worse than the other. But both reflect the same basic inability to feel shame or remorse, i.e., sociopathy.

So, psychologically speaking, Brian Williams is far closer to Ted Bundy than he is to the rest of us. Williams may not have that psychological quirk which caused Bundy to need to kill someone to get off sexually. But he is equally incapable of shame or embarrassment.

If you've ever seen Williams on TV, you can see that while he comes across a little pretentious, with that faux-thoughtful full-of-gravitas anchorman delivery, he doesn't come across as evil. (Even if, if push came to shove, he would be more capable of it than most.)

He doesn't look evil, either. In fact, he looks like the nice Irish Catholic boy next door. And yet, when I look at pictures of him now, somehow that crooked smile of his seems…..crooked:

Hindsight is, of course, 20-20. But the way his nose veers off to his right, and his mouth semi-offsets that by curling up to the left, now appears reflective of an intrinsic dishonesty.

Ascribing character to facial features is foolish. But look at the following two pictures and tell me you don't have the same reaction:

Williams' next public statement will probably be some sort of solemn semi-apology to his viewers for having stretched the truth, and a claim that he will be seeking help for his problem, as if it is some isolated quirk that can be cured.

But pathological lying is never an isolated quirk, and sociopathy can never be cured.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What kind of accident?

Back in April of 2011, this blog ran a post about the differences in driving styles between men and women. (Men are more likely to drive drunk at 90 mph, women more likely to shear off the side of a garage wall while backing out, and so on.)

Yesterday Bruce Jenner evidently rear ended another car on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, causing the driver of that other car to spin into oncoming traffic and be killed.

Jenner was driving a large SUV and towing a dune buggy behind him. He is thought to have possibly been texting right before the accident.

The interesting question, in light of the post linked above, is if Jenner's accident was more typical of men or women?

Carelessly rear ending another car while towing a dune buggy is the type of blunder you'd associate with men. On the other hand, not being as spatially aware seems a more female trait. Texting while driving, from what I've seen, seems to be a sin committed equally by both sexes.

Take it all into account, and this unfortunate tragedy seems to represent a curious amalgam of the worst in both male and female driving styles.

"Residents debunk Brian Williams' encounter with Christmas bandit"

The relevant excerpt from this morning's NY Post article:

In a 2005 interview with Esquire magazine, Williams said a thief drew on him in the 1970s — leaving him “looking up at a thug’s snub-nosed .38 while selling Christmas trees out of the back of a truck.”

He told the tough-to-believe story at least four times, claiming he was trying to help a local church when the thief snatched his money on West Front Street and Riverside Avenue.

“That wasn’t a bad job, until a guy came up and stuck a .38-caliber pistol in my face and made me hand over all the money. Merry Christmas, right? Of course, I suddenly appreciated the other jobs I thought I hated,” he told New Jersey Monthly in 2008.

[The article goes on to quote several long time resident of Red Bank who say it is extremely unlikely that that particular crime would have taken place in that era, especially in that particular location.]

There are a few distinctively sociopathic touches to this tale, too.

First, Williams wasn't just selling Christmas trees to make money -- he was doing it to help a local church. (What a noble guy!)

Second, he injects a falsely self-deprecatory boy-did-that-ever-teach-me-a-lesson note when he claims to have suddenly appreciated all the other jobs he thought he'd hated.

And third, in a weird foreshadowing of his later lie about having been in a helicopter that went down, this Christmas tale puts Williams' life in danger, adding to its drama. (When you think about it, what are the odds that a high school boy would be so familiar with guns -- and so cool under pressure -- that he would be able to identify the caliber of the gun he was facing?)

OK, all these fibs have now reached the level of pathological lying.

Official verdict: Brian Williams is a sociopath. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

More hilarity from Williams

An article that appeared last night in the NY Post detailed Brian Williams' conflicting accounts of a puppy -- or puppies -- that he rescued as a teenage volunteer firefighter:

In October 2011, Williams waxed rhapsodic about how his dad took him to fires.

“I remember one such house fire . . . conducting a search on my hands and knees, when I felt something warm, squishy and furry on the floor of a closet,” Williams said.

“I instinctively tucked it in my coat. When I got outside, I saw two small eyes staring up at me, and I returned the 3-week-old and very scared puppy to its grateful owners,” he said.

But in July 2005, he told a different story, insisting he had saved not one but two pups from certain death.

“All I ever did as a volunteer fireman was once save two puppies,” he said, according to Esquire magazine. 

Note the usual credibility-enhancing self-deprecatory note from Williams: "All I ever did…" When someone is nominally putting himself down like that, our tendency is to believe him.

Williams rides in a helicopter that gets shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. He watches bodies float by his hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and gets dysentery in the process. And he saves puppies from burning houses.

What an unbelievable guy!  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Brian Williams lied about Hurricane Katrina as well

An excerpt from an article in the NY Post this morning:

More heroic tales of Brian Williams' adventures in journalism are being questioned…

Williams claimed to have gotten dysentery from drinking flood water and seeing dead bodies float past his hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter while covering Hurricane Katrina.

However the The New Orleans Advocate noted that the French Quarter was not flooded and quoted a local health expert who did not recall anyone getting such a stomach ailment.

The level of Williams' lying is now starting to sound almost sociopathic, so I looked him up on Wikipedia to see what I could find. But there was nothing about either his early background or personal life that jumped out as a red or even yellow flag for sociopathy. 

That doesn't mean he's not one, of course. There are plenty of sociopaths who come from outwardly normal backgrounds, whose parents simply did not love them the way parents should. So they end up as glib liars who are good at projecting an air of sincerity.

Most of the reporters who were found to have made up their stories (Jason Blair, Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke) gave off an air of sociopathy. Will Brian Williams go down as a member of that club?

It's the skill with which Williams lies that is most disconcerting. He'll say that his own harrowing experience paled compared to what other people were going through, a falsely modest touch that lends a bit of credibility to what he's saying. 

When nonsociopaths lie, they tend to give themselves away with some sort of tell: a sheepish expression on their face, a catch in their voice, a certain hesitancy. When sociopaths lie, they do so with the same full-throated, look-you-straight-in-the-eye conviction that most people use when telling the truth. Just like Williams does. 

And then, it's the way they lie about their lies when caught that is most telling: to explain a lie with the poetic phrase "the fog of memory" and to say that constant viewing of war footage caused you to "conflate" the story of your helicopter with that of another helicopter is simply dishonesty piled upon dishonesty.

I'm not saying that Brian Williams is a sociopath -- yet. But the evidence seems to be headed in that direction. Stay tuned. 

By the way, did I ever tell you that I won the Medal of Honor? 

Oh, wait a sec, the fog of memory just caused me to conflate my story with that of Michael Murphy.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Brian Williams' "mistake"

From this morning's NY Times:

The NBC News anchor Brian Williams apologized Wednesday for mistakenly claiming he had been on a helicopter that was shot down by ground fire in Iraq in 2003.

Last week, NBC Nightly News filmed Mr. Williams taking a soldier to a New York Rangers game. The public address announcer at the game explained to the crowd that “U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Tim Terpak was responsible for the safety of Brian Williams and his NBC News team after their Chinook helicopter was hit and crippled by enemy fire” during the invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Terpak received a standing ovation, and, on Facebook, where NBC posted a video of the story, Mr. Williams was also praised. But one commenter cast doubt on the story, which Mr. Williams also told in vivid and specific detail to David Letterman in 2013.

“Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft,” wrote Lance Reynolds on Facebook. “I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.”

“You are absolutely right and I was wrong,” [Williams] wrote, adding that he had in fact been on the helicopter behind the one that had been hit. Constant viewing of the video showing him inspecting the impact area, he said, “and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize….This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and by extension our brave military men and women veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not,” Mr. Williams said. 

The fog of memory over 12 years? Is that sort of like the fog of war? Sorry, but whether or not you were in a helicopter that got shot down is the kind of thing you tend not to forget. Even after twelve years. 

And you have to love the way Williams passes off his mistake as an attempt to thank our brave military men and women veterans everywhere. (In other words, if you don't accept his explanation, you're not honoring the service of our brave vets.) 

Sorry dude, nice try.  

For those of you smart enough to have never listened to Williams on NBC, rest assured that he brings that same honesty and objectivity to his reporting. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The ISIS murders

In the past few months, ISIS has proven itself the most bloodthirsty, savage group imaginable. Their horrific string of murders -- it's hard to call beheadings "executions" -- culminated yesterday with the burning to death of the Jordanian pilot.

ISIS has not restricted itself to killing enemy combatants, either. So far they've murdered aid workers and journalists as well. They killed a group of Iraqi youths for having watched a soccer game, and threw two homosexuals off a tower to their deaths.

My instincts vis-a-vis the Middle East have always been to stay away, and let them kill each other. But ISIS has killed every foreigner they can lay their hands on, including Americans, Brits, and now Japanese.

Someone showed me the video of the pilot being burned to death. His captors put him in a metal cage, sprinkled phosphorus or some other flammable agent over the floor of his cage, and then lit a long "fuse" of the stuff from about thirty yards away. The fire slowly made its way to the cage, and gradually lit up the entire cage, covering the poor pilot in flames. You could hear his screams as he covered his face with his hands and jumped around, slowly roasting.

At that point I had to stop watching.

It was hard not to react to that video by saying, "Let's just nuke 'em all."

I'm not suggesting that's the right course.

Frankly, Obama's drones have already killed upwards of 300 innocent children over the past few years. And killing even one innocent child is worse than killing an enemy combatant like the Jordanian pilot.

Still, the brutality of that video, and the evident joy that ISIS takes in all of their brutal killings makes one want to see a similar fate befall them.

I'd probably still vote against more rather than less US involvement in the Middle East. But if we do decide to bomb ISIS out of existence, I'll be less disapproving about it now that I've seen that video.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tell me your IQ, not your academic credentials

An awful lot of people think that the various academic degrees they have obtained are somehow proof of intelligence.

But to have been brainwashed at some prestigious university is an indication of priorities, not brainpower.

You can usually get a pretty strong sense of someone's wattage simply from chatting with him for five minutes. How much common sense does he have? How quick is he? How witty? Is he receptive to cues? How resistant to new evidence is he? How well reasoned are his arguments? How willing is he to stray from commonly accepted wisdom? To what extent can he think for himself?

The only thing a PhD confirms is that someone has been content to devote a big portion of his life to academia.

Just as truly tough people don't care about whether or not they're tough (they just are), truly smart people tend not to care about degrees.

It's oversheltered mama's boys -- like me -- who place the greatest premium on being tough. And that's for good reason: because we're not.

Likewise, it's those of average intelligence who place the greatest premium on academic degrees.

Bobby Fischer -- generally acknowledged to be one of the two greatest chess players of all time -- was a high school dropout. But his brain was a Cray XK7 Supercomputer compared to the abacuses most PhD's have to work with.

The presence -- or absence -- of a degree does not change biology.

A person with a high IQ can be (depending on his temperament) a joy to be around. He at least has the potential to delight you with his wit, or insights, and maybe he can even help you solve your personal problems.

On the other hand, anybody who brandishes his degree like a weapon is a chore. Unless you enjoy pedantry, pretentiousness, and a wealth of received opinions.

In a sane world, people would boast about their IQ's, not their degrees.