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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The missing joke about Obama

You don't have to look far on the internet to see a lot of nasty jokes about Obama. There are jokes about how he was born in Kenya. About how he is really a Muslim. About how he never had a serious job before he entered politics.

There are a slew of jokes about how Obama is effeminate, and about how he is less of a man than Vladimir Putin. There are Photoshopped pictures of him with a Pinocchio nose, in an Urkel outfit, and with a Hitler mustache.

There are even Photoshopped pictures making him and Michelle look like chimps, and jokes about how Obama is shit-colored.

On the mostly anonymous internet joke circuit, there's basically nothing considered sacred, or off-limits. Google-image "Obama jokes" and you'll see what I mean.

But the one thing you never see is a joke implying that Obama presents a danger to white women, or about Obama-as-rapist. Given that so many of the other jokes about him indulge in overt racial stereotypes, you'd think you might see something along these lines. But you simply never do.  

Certainly, as evidenced above, there are people who wouldn't be above making such jokes, if they resonated. If the President were a darker-skinned ex-football player, the internet would be plastered with jokes about locking up your wives and daughters and so on. That's how the internet works: if you think it, somebody's already put it online.

But Obama simply doesn't evoke those fears. Absolutely no one seems to suspect him of chasing white women. Or, really, any women. (If Herman Cain had somehow been elected, there would have been endless jokes along those lines. He would have been compared to a pimp, have been named as a "suspect" in countless unsolved rapes, would have been asked to provide a DNA sample, etc, etc.)

But in 2008, white America subconsciously felt about Obama the same way it felt back when Michael Jackson "dated" Brooke Shields in 1981: it's okay, really, we don't mind. Really. I mean, he seems like a nice guy. You know, harmless. 

The feeling back then was, our sweet little Brooke isn't about to be defiled by some big black thug. (And this was long before the public had heard anything about Jackson's child molesting.) 

For similar reasons, white America -- at least at first -- didn't mind having Obama take them to the prom. As it turned out, he was interested in stealing from their wallets. But he never evoked fears of rape. 

Subconsciously, white America knows

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Physical impressions of the Republican field

The Republican debate last night generated the usual amount of publicity. All of the candidates are obviously intelligent, and well-rehearsed, and several had interesting ideas when it came to taxes, trade pacts, and so on. But voters are emotional creatures, and tend to vote for more visceral reasons. Do they like the way a candidate looks, does he seem likable, and does his body language inspire confidence?

So, based on such superficial criteria, here are some takeaways from last night's debate:

John Kasich's campaign is on its last legs, so his advisers told him to come out swinging. He was the only one in the field who didn't even try to answer the moderator's first question about what their biggest weaknesses were. He said, "Good question, but I want to tell you…" blah blah blah.

Kasich was trying too hard, and it showed. With his slightly unkempt look, hunched posture, and overly emphatic hand gestures, he evoked the Christopher Lloyd character in Back to the Future:

The overall effect was that of desperation, which never inspires confidence.

Mike Huckabee comes across as sincere, but he is neither physically prepossessing nor inspirational. When he objected to Chris Christie's plan to means check Social Security recipients, he used the analogy of someone who says he's going to have one more Krispy Kreme donut before he goes on a diet.

It was hard not to see this as a somewhat veiled jab at Christie's weight. But since Huckabee is the second fattest candidate, it was a barb that should have been delivered by someone else.

I've written about Bush's resemblance to Ned Beatty before:

This probably has something to do with why Jeb never really caught on. Of course, Jeb's Mexicans-come-first priorities never really captured the hearts of the Republican base either.

Marco Rubio has a lot of crowd-pleasing lines ("I'm against anything that's bad for my mother," in reference to Medicare). He exudes earnestness, but comes across like the President of the Student Council at your high school.

He's 44, but looks 32, and if he's listed at 5' 10" by his campaign, you just know he's got to be shorter. (If you're going to look like a kid, at least be taller than a kid.) Rubio is tougher than he looks; he wasn't fazed in the least by the personal attacks on him. But he'd be better off looking as tough as he actually is.

I've written before that Donald Trump reminds me of Goldfinger, and that the resemblance is more than physical:

Like Goldfinger, Trump comes across confident, which inspires confidence. And also like Goldfinger, he is unapologetic about who and what he is, which inspires even more confidence. This, as well as his stance on immigration, has something to do with Trump's high poll numbers.

Dr. Ben Carson seems like a nice guy; he has a gentlemanly demeanor. And he must be smart if he's a neurosurgeon. But his slow, sleepy way of talking always make him seem as if he just smoked a doobie. And it's hard to imagine him out negotiating Vladimir Putin.

Carson recently admitted that when he was 14 he tried to stab someone in the stomach with a knife. (An early attempt at surgery?) He needs to bring a little of that fire back. America needs a President who's ready to stick a shiv in Putin, not heal him afterward.

Despite this, though, Carson is doing surprisingly well in the polls.

Carly Fiorina, whom I'm convinced is a sociopath, said she was Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare. That may or may not be true:

Fiorina's problem is that she also comes across like Dorothy's worst nightmare:

Trump needn't have insulted her looks; all that was required was a bucket of water.

Ted Cruz had the best moment of the debate, when he lambasted the CNBC announcer for his nasty questions: "Let me say something at the outset: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions: 'Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?' How about talking about the substantive issues?"

What was most impressive about this little speech was that it couldn't have been fed to Cruz beforehand -- unlike the other candidates' better lines. Cruz managed to remember all those questions in the heat of the debate, modified them slightly, and then recited them back -- without rehearsal. That took considerable wattage.

Cruz's problem from an image standpoint, however, is that he always looks so pleased with himself:

He also looks a little duplicitous. The other Republicans seem to feel he's opportunistic; and he does give off those vibes.

Many have pointed out that Chris Christie is too fat. But it's a little surprising that no one has pointed out that Christie has spent an inordinate amount of time leaning on the podium during all three debates:

Virtually every time the camera panned to him, Christie would have a full forearm on the lectern, and seemed to be resting some of his bulk on it.

In a way, it makes him appear relaxed and informal. But in his case, it also seems to be a crutch. The Presidency is not a physical fitness test, but it also shouldn't be a weight loss camp. And how is a candidate who needs support for two hours going to last four years?

Christie would have been better off had the debate been held in water:

Rand Paul is a smart, commonsensical guy, and his voice sounds authoritative enough. But at 5' 8," he looks a little elfin (note the shape of his ear):

Paul isn't quite pretty enough to have been one of the elves in Lord of the Rings, but with his Irish-looking features, he could easily have been one of the hobbits:

Unfortunately for Paul, America doesn't seem to want President Frodo.

Yes, this is an awfully superficial analysis of the Republican field. But, the fact is, physical considerations -- which are often referred to as "presence," or "charisma" -- do count with the voters. And it's always been my contention that the voters these factors resonate most strongly with are those unaware that they are swayed by such things.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dope, Jurassic World

Saw two movies on pay-per-view in the last two days. Dope is about a nerdy black guy from Inglewood who wants to get into Harvard. Most of the movie is quite engaging. It's mostly a comedy, and like a lot of black-themed comedies, is quite funny.

But at the end, the movie got a little preachy. They felt obliged to inject a message about how stereotypes are wrong -- right after having spent the entire movie using stereotypes to good and humorous effect.

As my son said afterward, "The movie would have been better if it hadn't been aimed at a white audience as well as a black one."

The second night we watched Jurassic World, which was a big hit this past summer. It had a lot of expensive, well done special effects, and an entirely predictable plot. It was sorta fun predicting which characters were going to die, and how, though it wasn't much of a challenge. I never bristled while watching the movie, but it was instantly forgettable.

Bryce Dallas Howard, pictured below in an early scene, is a surprisingly good-looking and capable actress considering she is the beneficiary of Hollywood nepotism (her father is director Ron Howard).

Anyway, as my son said afterward, "This is the fourth installment of the series. Gee, you'd think by now they'd have figured out that it's not a good idea to open up a theme park with dinosaurs."

The Homo naledi "scandal"

Six weeks ago this blog mentioned the discovery of Homo naledi, the most exciting recent development in the human fossil record:

Evidently, a month ago certain South Africans complained that digging up these bones was all part of a racist plot to make Africans seem subhuman.

From the Agence France-Presse article:

"No one will dig old monkey bones to back up a theory that I was once a baboon. Sorry," said Zwelinzima Vavi, former general secretary of the powerful trade union group Cosatu, a faithful ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"I am no grandchild of any ape, monkey or baboon."

His comments were backed by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), which was historically involved in the fight against apartheid…

"To my brother Vavi, I would say that he is spot on," SACC president Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa said in response to the former Cosatu leader's comments.

The discovery of the new ancestor supports the West's "story that we are subhumans," said ANC member of parliament and former chief whip Mathole Motshekga. "That is why today no African is respected anywhere in the world because of this type of theory," he said in an interview with television network ENCA…

But the South African backlash has perplexed people around the world at a time when Darwin's theory of evolution is widely accepted as fact. It "breathes new life into paranoia," said prominent British biologist Richard Dawkins on his Twitter account this week. "Whole point is we're all African apes."

Lee Berger, an American working at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand and overseeing the Homo naledi dig, tried to keep his distance from the charged debate, though he did specifically clarify that man doesn't descend from baboons.

The funny thing is, no one connected to the project said or even implied anything remotely along racial lines. It's fairly obvious that if Homo naledi is an ancestor to humans, then it is an ancestor to all humans, and not just sub-Saharans. All races descended from a common ancestor we share with the chimpanzee.

The fact that Zwelinzima Vavi, Ziphozihle Siwa, and Mathole Motshega see themselves as being more closely related to naledi and don't want the bones dug up to provide proof of this is, in its own way, quite revealing. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

NY Times double standards

The newspaper of record was at its most New York Times-iest this morning. The front page upper right hand article, two columns thick, was titled, "The Disproportionate Risk of Driving While Black."

The online version of this story, linked above, is slightly different from the print version. The print version featured two pictures on the front page. This is the top one, of James Fields, with his friend Marie Robinson:

Right below the picture is the quote, "Every time I see a police officer, I get a cold chill. Even if I needed one, I wouldn't call one."

The picture right below is of Devin and Rufus Scales (the print article used another picture of them):

Right below the photo is a quote from Rufus, "Whenever one of them is near, I don't feel comfortable."

Mr. Fields was once charged with resisting arrest, though he says he didn't. And Mr. Scales was once charged with being drunk and disorderly, although he says he was neither. (The Greensboro city manager later apologized to Mr. Scales.) 

Assuming both men were arrested falsely, their feelings of trepidation around policemen are understandable. Fear stemming from a bad experience is just part of human nature. If you get bitten by a dog, you're going to be a little afraid of the next few dogs you see. If you get thrown from a horse, you'll naturally be reluctant to get on another one. 

But a quick look at the statistics shows that black people are in far, far more danger from other black people than they are from the police. From 1994 to 2008, 93% of black murder victims were killed by other blacks (84% of white victims were killed by other whites).  

As of July 29th of this year, 174 blacks had been killed by the police, and 321 whites had been. (Given that blacks commit slightly over half of the homicides in this country, they seem, if anything, to be underrepresented by these numbers.)

But, given that both of the people pictured above had bad experiences, their gut reactions to being in close proximity to the police is understandable. (Particularly given the constant media drumbeat against the police.)

But here's another interesting statistic: when whites commit a violent crime, they choose black victims 3.9% of the time, whereas when blacks commit a violent crime, they choose white victims 47.7% of the time. (Bear in mind, there are three major categories of violent crime beside murder: assault and battery, armed robbery, and rape.)

So if whites are fearful of blacks, that is only natural as well. But if a white, who, say, had been mugged by a black once, ever said, "Every time I see a black person, I get a cold chill," or, "Whenever one of them is near, I don't feel comfortable," he would be considered an evil person. Especially by the  New York Times.

Yet his reaction would be as natural as that of the two black men above who felt they had been unjustly harassed by the police.

Why are some natural reactions to traumatic experiences acceptable, yet others aren't? 

In today's NY Times editorial section, Maureen Dowd said, in reference to the Benghazi hearings, "Hillary Clinton is never more alluring than when a bunch of pasty-faced, nasty-tongued white men bully her." 

What would happen to a mainstream journalist who referred to, say, "a bunch of mud-colored, nasty-tongued black men?" Obviously, it would bring swift censure and an end to his career.

The New York Times has always been one of the chief enforcers of double standards. The good news is, more and more people seem to be waking up to this hypocrisy. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Michelle Carter, classic sociopath

Commenter Steven recently mentioned Michelle Carter. You may have heard of her: she's the high school girl in Massachusetts who cajoled and pressured her friend Conrad Roy into committing suicide.

There's no need to label this post as an alert because Carter's sociopathy is so obvious. But she's worth talking about because she illustrates several facets of sociopathy so perfectly.

Listen to these texts between Carter and Conrad the day of his suicide:

CARTER: You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.

CONRAD: I don’t get it either. I don’t know.

CARTER: So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then. All that for nothing. I’m just confused.

CONRAD: I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up.

CARTER: No you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You kept pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action. You’re just making it harder on yourself by pushing it off. You just have to do it. Do you want to do it now?

CONRAD: Is it too late? I don’t know. It’s already light outside. I’m gonna go back too sleep. Love you. I’ll text you tomorrow.

CARTER: No. It’s probably the best time now because everyone is sleeping . . . If you don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it, and you can say you’ll do it tomorrow, but you probably won’t. Tonight? . . . Love you.

Later that morning:

CONRAD: I do want to but I’m like freaking for my family.

CARTER: I told you I’ll take care of them. Everyone will take care of them to make sure they won’t be alone and people will help them get through it. We talked about this and they will be okay and accept it. People who commit suicide don’t think this much. They just do it.

CONRAD: I know. I know. LOL. Thinking just drives me more crazy.

CARTER: You just need to do it, Conrad, or I’m gonna get you help. You can’t keep doing this everyday.

CONRAD: Okay. I’m gonna do it today.

CARTER: You promise?

CONRAD: I promise, babe. I have to now.

CARTER: Like right now?

CONRAD: Where do I go?

CARTER: And you can’t break a promise.

That afternoon:

CONRAD: Like, I don’t want to kill anyone else with me.

CARTER: You won’t.

CONRAD: When they open the door they won’t know it’s odorless and colorless.

CARTER: You’re over thinking. They will see the generator and realize you breathed in CO too.

CONRAD: So should I keep it in the back seat or front?

CARTER: In the front. You could write on a piece of paper and tape it on saying carbon monoxide if you’re scared.

CONRAD: I was thinking that but someone might see it before it happens.

CARTER: Well, wait, the generator is gonna be on because you’ll be passed out, so they’ll know you used carbon monoxide. Dead.

In the early evening:

CARTER: So it’s time?

CONRAD: Oh, it’s been time.

CARTER: Are you gonna do it now?

CONRAD: I just don’t know how to leave them (his family), you know.

CARTER: Say you’re gonna go the store or something.

CONRAD: Like, I want them to know that I love them.

CARTER: They know. That’s one thing they definitely know. You’re over thinking.

CONRAD: I know I’m over thinking. I’ve been over thinking for a while now.

CARTER: I know. You just have to do it like you said. Are you gonna do it now?

CONRAD: I still haven’t left yet, ha ha.


CONRAD: Leaving now.

CARTER: Okay. You can do this.

CONRAD: Okay. I’m almost there.

You can hear the impatience and lust to kill in Carter's texts. (Sociopaths are impulsive, and patience is not a sociopathic virtue.) 

Carter is manipulative (as are all sociopaths). She continually tells Roy that his troubles will be over, and that he will finally be at peace. Then, when he delays, she gets angry at him and accuses him of breaking a promise, playing on his guilt -- a guilt she would never feel.

Note the "Love you" at the end of one of Carter's tests. False emotionality is another sociopathic hallmark. 

Carter is also, like all sociopaths, utterly without shame. According to CBS News:

[Carter] allegedly sent text messages to her friends and to Roy's mother expressing concern about Roy's whereabouts on the day he committed suicide, despite having been in constant contact with him and encouraging him to take his own life.

The police documents indicate authorities believe she was putting together "a plan to get sympathy." They also allege that after Roy's death, Carter organized a softball tournament to raise money for mental health awareness in honor of Roy and posted several messages on social media about suicide prevention and how much she missed Roy.

In a message to Roy's mother dated July 25, 2014 -- twelve days after his death -- Carter wrote, "...There was nothing anyone could do to save him no matter how hard they tried. I never tried harder at something in my life."

So, like many sociopaths, Carter not only wanted the satisfaction of seeing another destroy himself, she also wanted credit for being a helpful, caring person. 

Carter was one of the worst people in the world, pretending to be one of the best. Which is exactly what many sociopaths are.

One final point always worth making: sociopaths come in all shapes and sizes, genders and colors. Look at this picture of Michelle:

What would you think, at first glance, if you saw her walking down the street?

You'd figure she is just another sweet, innocent, naive young high school girl who still has a lot to learn about life. You certainly wouldn't cross to the other side of the street to avoid her.

But, you should. She's far less innocent and sweet and naive than you are.

And if you take a closer look at that picture, you'll see that expression is in fact a calculated, practiced look of innocence.

There's a monster lurking in there, just as there is inside every sociopath. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Principal stalls school election results after too many white kids won"

An article in the NY Post just described why Principal Lena Van Haren at Everett Middle School in San Francisco decided to withhold school election results:

"It’s not okay for a school that is really, really diverse to have the student representatives majority white," she said (despite there being absolutely no allegations of fraud of any sort).

Van Haren further explained, “This is complex, but as a parent and a principal, I truly believe it behooves us to be thoughtful about our next steps here so we have a diverse student council that is truly representative of all voices at Everett….[This decision] was not about hurting democracy or putting diversity over democracy."

That, of course, is exactly what her decision was about: putting diversity over democracy. (Does anyone doubt that her decision have been different if black and Hispanic students had been disproportionately elected?)

The article didn't show any pictures of Van Haren, so, curious as to what she looked like, I Google-imaged her and found this:

I had expected a typical middle school principal-looking woman, but Van Haren is surprisingly attractive. She certainly doesn't fall into the bitter-against-the-world-because-she-wasn't-asked-out-to-the-prom cohort. She seems more to be a member of the nice-white-lady-who-doesn't-want-to-offend-anyone club. 

Some of the other pictures of Van Haren are telling. Here she is with two former students: 

Note the tense smile on her face. Alarm bells seem to be going off in her head. ("Don't show any racism! Don't show any racism!!")

Or check this selfie out:

How eagerly she leans towards her student in a game effort to overcome her white privilege! (And note the young black boy's expression of disbelief, disdain, and discomfort as she does so.)

The problem with these nice white ladies is not that they're too dumb to understand that they've been brainwashed, if someone explains it to them properly. It's that they're too nice to step outside the boundaries that have been set by the brainwashers.

This was just about a middle school election of little consequence. But unfortunately, this type of thinking permeates our society at every level. As post-election analysis showed, it was all those white women like Lena Van Haren who were so eager to prove they weren't racist who elected Barack Obama.

And if Van Haren had been in charge of that election, Obama would have won whether he had the votes or not -- you know, to make sure that "all voices" were heard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"The Killing of Osama bin Laden"

Seymour Hersh's article in the London Review of Books about how the killing of Osama bin Laden really occurred, which came out in May, hasn't gotten nearly the publicity it deserves. His account makes much more sense than the White House version of events, and is really worth reading.

I have to admit, having gotten my "knowledge" of the raid mostly from the Hollywood production Zero Dark Thirty, which was made with the cooperation of the Obama administration, I was shocked to find out how much of what we'd been told was untrue.

According to Hersh:

Waterboarding had nothing to do with getting the crucial information which led to bin Laden; the CIA learned of bin Laden's whereabouts from a Pakistani informant who wanted to collect on the $25 million bounty the US was offering for information leading to bin Laden.

Bin Laden had been at the Abbotabad compound since 2006, and he was more a prisoner of the Pakistanis than their guest. They used him as a bargaining chip in their dealings with the Taliban and al Qaeda; the Pakistanis could always threaten to turn bin Laden over to the Americans.

The two Black Hawk helicopters carrying the Navy SEALs could not possibly have entered Pakistani airspace undetected by the sophisticated radar of the Pakistani military, especial considering that the helicopters went directly to Abbotabad, the nerve center of military operations in the country. This means that the Pakistani military cooperated with the raid.

In fact, negotiations had started in the fall of 2010 and continued right on up to May of 2011, when the raid occurred. The Americans threatened to cut off all aid to Pakistan if they did not cooperate, and in fact had already started to do so.

The Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) guards around the bin Laden compound had orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the American helicopters. Residents of the neighborhood had been warned by ISI personnel to turn off their lights that night, stay inside their homes, and not come out until they were told it was safe to do so.

Despite what the Obama administration has maintained, there was never any intention of taking bin Laden alive; the SEALs knew from the start that their mission was simply to kill him. (This was actually one of the conditions Pakistan had set.) Bin Laden did not shield himself with one of his wives, nor was he reaching for an AK-47 when the SEALs confronted him. He was not killed by a "double tap" to the head but instead his body was ripped to shreds by numerous bullets.

The SEALs did not shoot their way into the compound, and there were no guards there to be dealt with. There was no firefight, despite White House claims to the contrary. The only person killed was bin Laden; there weren't five people killed as the administration maintains. An ISI liaison officer actually led the SEALs up to the third floor, where bin Laden was located.

There was no treasure trove of computers and storage units with vital information on al Qaeda. Bin Laden was not actively involved in al Qaeda operations anymore.

Bin Laden was never buried at sea. His body was most likely tossed out of the helicopter in pieces over the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

If you read Hersh's account carefully, it makes far more sense than the Obama administration account. And Hersh has a long history of journalistic exposes, starting with that of the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam; almost all of what he has written has proven to be true. Anonymous sources with little to gain are more likely to be telling the truth than an administration hell bent on reelection.

Hersh's article takes roughly half an hour to read, but it's well worth the time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Movie stars' political opinions

Somehow we all seem to know where George Clooney, Susan Sarandon, and Matt Damon stand on the political spectrum. We know that Sean Penn was friendly with Hugo Chavez, that Alec Baldwin hates Republicans, that Pamela Anderson supports PETA, and that Jane Fonda is a former communist sympathizer.

How is it we all know these things, even if we don't want to? For some reason, movie stars are asked their opinion about political matters quite often, and they are rarely reticent about giving them.

Yet the requirements for being a "movie star" consist of being good-looking, and having a talent for mimicry. Neither of those attributes would necessarily make one's political opinion worth listening to.

And movie stars themselves are -- quite often -- some of the most narcissistic, needy, vacuous, temperamental, diva-like, uneducated morons around.

All of these traits are negatively correlated with having a calm, level-headed, rational, numerate approach to problem-solving.

So why do we listen to actors and actresses? And why don't we listen to people whose opinions might be worth something?

For instance, engineers. They understand how things work; and they know how to make things that are efficient and durable. I'm not talking about people like Steve Jobs, who took credit for a lot of other peoples' ideas, or Mark Zuckerberg, who essentially stole the idea for Facebook from those twins. I'm talking about, for instance, the guy who made the flat screen TV, or the guys who actually made those chips faster at Intel, or the NASA engineers who attended to all the details of the spacecraft which landed on Mars. These are all guys who do their jobs quietly, responsibly, and intelligently.

How do they feel about getting us more involved in Middle East wars, or gun control, or affirmative action, or the Pacific trade agreement? We should listen to them, not Susan Sarandon.

Or doctors. You need both brains and discipline to get the grades and MCAT's necessary to get into med school, and then get through four years of med school. If we want a brainy, disciplined foreign policy, we should listen to them. Not Sean Penn.

Or crossword puzzle constructors, who are able to fit things together in clever ways. Being a cruciverbalist is the sort of job that results in genteel poverty, but it still takes a lot of brainpower to make all those words mesh seamlessly.

Physicists, mathematicians, biologists, neurophysiologists, and chemists all understand the inner workings of things, and have a deeper understanding of how our world works on at least some level. Which means they probably have, on balance, a better sense of how things work at other levels as well.

The people who come up with the questions on standardized tests understand how intelligence works, and people who are interested in that subject are almost inevitably intelligent themselves. So their opinions on political matters will probably be likewise.

If we do want to hear what Hollywood has to say, let's listen to the screenwriters, since they're the real brains behind the movies. (It's not the directors or producers or actors.) But we'd have to interview them anonymously, so that they wouldn't have to be worried about being blacklisted by Hollywood by giving the wrong opinion.

But our media isn't interested in what engineers, or chemists, or mathematicians have to say. They prefer the rantings of a drug-addled, needy, insecure, self-righteous, hard-partying actors -- who happen to be good-looking, or at least were at one time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Another gay look-alike couple

My deepest, darkest confession is that I read The New York Times wedding section. (The darkest one you're going to hear here, anyway.) My only excuse for reading it is that it's so gratifying to see certain patterns repeated over and over.

One of the patterns is that a bride's looks correlate highly with the amount of money the groom makes. It's not a perfect correlation, but it's pretty close. The really pretty brides almost always get married to a guy who works at a private equity firm, or a hedge fund, or at an investment bank, or maybe a lawyer at a high-powered firm, or maybe a doctor.

After a while, you realize, the pretty ones are essentially just selling themselves to the highest bidder. Yes, the guy's looks enter into the equation, but they don't count for nearly as much as his job.

These good-looking brides usually work at pretty-girl-jobs, which they will undoubtedly quit after their weddings. For instance, they might work for Sotheby's, or as a buyer for Macy's, or as an account executive at an advertising firm, or as a fund-raiser of some sort.

I could reproduce their pictures and wedding articles here, but if I did there wouldn't be room for anyone else. And I don't think the fact that pretty girls tend to marry rich guys exactly qualifies as a huge newsflash.

Another pattern that I see repeated fairly frequently is that gay guys who get married often marry guys to whom they bear a notable resemblance. One such couple, Andrew Hermann and Timothy Poulin, were featured in today's Times:

No one would mistake them for identical twins; but they could easily be fraternal ones.

You'd think that having sex with someone who looks like you would pall quicker than normal, but this is evidently not the case in certain sectors of the gay community.

(I was going to say something about how this way at least we won't have to wonder about whom the children will take after, but commenter "Gardner" recently implied I was snarky, so I'm going to refrain.)

Another pattern it's hard not to notice is how often the gay guys have gay jobs. Andrew Hermann, on the left, "is a digital producer in New York for the website of Bravo, the cable television network. He graduated from Swarthmore College."

That sorta makes him a walking, talking gay stereotype. (Bravo has a lot of gay-themed shows, and Swarthmore is, well, Swarthmore.) Poulin, on the right, has avoided that stereotype: he works for a mutual fund, Lord Abbett.

Both Andrew and Timothy look like nice guys, the kind who would be quite pleasant to be around.

I wish them both happiness. And I hope they never get bored looking in the mirror.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Are good moods caused by pleasant memories, or vice versa?

You may have noticed that when in a good mood, you'll either relive a pleasant experience, or indulge in a pleasant fantasy about something you hope will happen.

Conversely, when in a bad mood, you'll stew over an unpleasant memory, or will worry about some potential catastrophe.

And either of these moods can strike without any immediate catalyst, i.e., anything good or bad happening in your life.

But is it thinking about fond memories which puts us into a good mood? Or do biologically-induced good moods steer us in the direction of pleasant reveries?

Are bad feelings sparked by a random series of thoughts which then cause us to remember something unpleasant, and then go into a funk? Or are they, too, primarily functions of our neurochemistry?

I suspect it's the latter. When your serotonin and endorphins are going full blast, and you're well rested, and your blood sugar is just right, that predisposes you to travel down neural pathways which stimulate the pleasure centers of our brains.

And, when you're exhausted, you tend to become more paranoid and think negatively.

Certainly, unpleasant experiences can put us into a bad mood. When bad things happen, that makes us feel bad, no question. But when nothing particularly noteworthy has happened recently, our mood ought to be independent of recent experience.

I know I tend to think more pleasant thoughts right after having exercised (when the endorphins are circulating), or right after having eaten. Or when I'm well rested.

Think of how alcohol can put us into a good mood, or cause us to think silly thoughts. My guess is that our normal biorhythms can have similar, but subtler effects.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom is the former Los Angeles Laker who was married for a few years to Khloe Kardashian. If you read the tabloids -- as I do -- you've probably heard of his epic binge this past weekend in a Nevada brothel which resulted in an ischemic stroke, at age 35. He is now in a coma and it is unclear whether he will survive.

Over the course of a three day weekend Odom evidently smoked crack cocaine (on several occasions), took ten doses of an herbal sexual performance enhancer, and when he was found had needle marks on his arms and an open bottle of cognac by his side.

It would be easy to laugh at his foolish behavior, and I'm certainly not going to argue with its essential foolishness.

But there's something epic, almost heroic, about someone who would party that hard. Someone who has absolutely no thought for tomorrow or the risks he is taking and throws down with that kind of abandon is demonstrating a certain kind of fatalistic courage.

I know, I know, it's stupid, and Odom is now paying the price for his stupidity. (And I understand that a real hero is someone who takes risks for other people, not just out of recklessness.)

But I can't help but contrast Odom to someone like me. I'm the kind of little weenie who, before he has a second beer, thinks to himself, gee, this is going to make me have to urinate more frequently, and that will be inconvenient. And it will kill some brain cells, a side effect I don't want. And what little nutritional value there is to beer is more than offset by the harm alcohol causes. And it will hurt my conditioning. And if I don't get to sleep soon, I won't feel good tomorrow morning. And I might even get a headache…..

In other words, I'm no fun to hang out with.

Odom, on the other hand, must be a blast. Or, must have been a blast.

I'm actually serious about this. This sounds like another tongue in cheek post which is really making fun of someone, and, well, maybe there's a touch of that here. But I actually do admire -- even envy -- people like Odom who live entirely in the present.

If you're looking for someone to party with, he would make a far, far better companion than someone like me.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Biological anthropology

One of the most fascinating parts of Erectus Walks amongst Us is Chapter 9, which deals with the differences between the races in their bone structure (mostly their skulls). Some excerpts from the chapter (with my thoughts in italics):

An Asian skull:

A Caucasian skull:

An African-American skull:

    Overall, the dome of the Asian skull is round and the face is flat. Although the Caucasian skull is a bit longer (top to bottom), it is very similar to the Asian skull, indicating that the Asians and Caucasians did not separate into two races all that long ago, or that there was interbreeding between their lineages.
    Although this [third] skull is described as being of an African-American, it has many African features….The African skull is quite different from the Asian and Caucasian skulls, indicating a much greater genetic distance between Eurasians and Africans than between Europeans and Asians. Compared to Asian and Caucasian skulls, the African skull is narrower. The bones of the skull (and the rest of the body) are denser and thicker. The eye sockets are rounder and proportionately larger and the distance between them is greater. The slight bump at the top of the head suggests a “saggital keel,” a ridge along the top of the head from the forehead to the back of the skull for attaching chewing muscles and strengthening the skull from blows received in fighting. The opening for the nose is wider, the nose bones protrude less, and the teeth more massive, with the incisors meeting at an angle.
    The most noticeable difference, however, is the protruding jaw, a condition known as “prognathism,” a trait found in apes and in ancient human fossil skulls, even those not from Africa. The considerable gap between the cheekbones (“zygomatic arches”) and the indentation on the sides behind the eye sockets (“post-orbital constriction”) indicate that the more massive jaw was serviced by powerful chewing muscles that passed through the gap.  [The following two pictures] provide a side-view comparison of the skulls of an African of the Manbettu tribe in the northern Congo basin and an Englishman. The African skull has less prominent nose bones and chin, a deeper jaw and the bone that supports the jaw (the “ascending ramus”) is wider; the shape of the skulls is also different.



[Here] is a tree showing the linkage between living human populations based on 57 measurements of male skulls. (DeAnza College, CA). The African skulls are very different from the skulls of all the other populations, even the Australian aborigines. Figure 9-9 show a Negro skull profile superimposed upon a European skull profile. The Negro skull is smaller, with less space in the forehead, but proportionately more at the back.

(The chart showing the relatedness of the various races is a little surprising. One would think that Northeast Asians would be more closely related to southeast Asians than they were to Caucasians just based on facial resemblance, but this appears not to be the case. And it's revealing that "Arctic Northeast Asians" are more closely related to Northeast Asians than they are to the rest of the Native Americans, as they look more Asians. A white friend who had grown up in Japan once told me that he had been in Anchorage briefly and was amazed at the number of drunken Japanese people he'd seen there. I once made the same mistake, but more embarrassingly. I met a family from Canada; the father was white, and the mother Inuit. I sort of nodded at their kids and told them that I was half-Asian, too. Neither my friend nor I would have made that mistake with, say, indigenous Mexicans.)

Endocranial volume varies by race: Asians average 1491 cubic centimeters, Caucasians 1441, Africans 1338, and Australian aborigines 1290. (Homo erectus checked in at somewhere between 1000 and 1200, and chimpanzees at roughly 500.)

At birth, Africans have fewer cranial bones than Eurasians. The skull bones (and other bones) in Africans and erectus are thicker and denser (higher mineral content; even in the fetus, making them more difficult to break, which is an aid in head butting and fighting as blows to the head can easily be fatal. Some anthropologists believe skulls got thicker about 1.6 to 1.8 million ya when erectus developed clubs as weapons, resulting in more cracked skulls. “Herodotus … described how easily, in comparison to an Egyptian’s skull, a Persian’s skull cracked.” Egyptians had interbred with Africans by that time.) Denser bones (and less fat) make Africans less buoyant and less capable swimmers, but reduce their susceptibility to osteoporosis. Female bones are lighter than male bones. Whites and Asians rarely have a saggital keel (crest), Africans sometimes do, and Australian aborigines and Homo erectus usually do.

(This may have something to do with why blacks seem less concussible in the boxing ring, something I've noticed as a longtime boxing fan.)

Asians have medium-sized teeth; whites smaller; and Africans have larger, more widely spaced teeth, as did Homo erectus. 

(I had no idea that this was so; the pictures of the three skulls at the top of this post make that quite apparent. The picture of the Asian skull also seems to lend credence to the stereotype of the buck-toothed Asian, by the way.)  

Anyway, these are just a few of the highlights from the chapter, which is worth taking a look at. I can pretty much guarantee that as big a connoisseur of racial differences as you might be, you'll find a few things you weren't aware of there. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Kevin McCarthy and Renee Elmers

Kevin McCarthy, who withdrew his bid for speaker of the House yesterday, is now being accused of having had an affair with fellow Representative Renee Elmers. Here are the two of them in 2011:

They actually bear a resemblance to each other: similar eyebrows, foreheads, noses, and slightly cleft chins. Even their hair seems to fall similarly. Both are from California, and both are Republican. It's not a stretch to believe that both politicians have similar dispositions.

Assuming the accusation is true, does the fact that both are attracted to someone to whom they bear a resemblance mean they are narcissistic personalities? Or does it simply mean that they have a healthy self-regard? Or does it signify nothing?

I have no idea. But the resemblance is notable.

Maybe both felt they had finally met their soulmates when they started seeing each other.

McCarthy, by the way, looks nothing like his wife, pictured with him here:

But that probably means nothing, either.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Matt Jackson

The current Jeopardy champion, Matt Jackson, is on a roll. He's won eight straight games, and over $200,000. By the second or third time I saw him win, I found myself rooting against him. He would rudely step on all of Alex Trebek's lines, not waiting until Trebek finished before choosing the next question.

Then, after he would win, he would give a completely insincere smile. He looked like a six-year-old who's been told to smile, and who does so in a purposely insincere way, merely stretching his mouth out to the sides. (The picture above doesn't quite capture it.)

Then it hit me: Jackson has Aspergers Syndrome.

If you're curious to see an Aspie in action, watch Jeopardy tonight (on channel 7 at 7 PM Eastern time). He'll probably be on for at least a few more nights; he's awfully good.

Jackson evokes the phrase "idiot savant." But idiot savants, as some autistic people used to be known, usually have just one or two subjects about which they have encyclopedic knowledge. Jackson's memory seems to encompass everything.

Anyway, he demonstrates what's both good and bad about Aspies. He's completely focused, has tremendous recall, and evinces no discernible social skills.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aspergers and mass murderers

According to Christopher Harper-Mercer's mother, who was quoted in the NY Times this morning, he had Aspergers Syndrome. Just like Elliot Rodger (the 2014 Santa Barbara killer) and Adam Lanza. (Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was initially said to be autistic by family members in South Korea, though that diagnosis was later disputed.)

In his "manifesto," Harper-Mercer bemoaned his inability to get a girlfriend, just as Elliot Rodger had.

There are all sorts of other correlations among both mass killers and serial killers. Profilers haven't been shy about pointing out that most are relatively young males who are loners and most often white.

Being male, or white, seems no barrier to profiling.

However, even though a highly disproportionate share of serial killers have been homosexuals, you don't hear about that as much.

That's probably because gays are a group favored by the media.

Now it seems that a disproportionate number of mass murderers have some degree of autism. Are they, too, a favored group about whom nothing bad must be said?

My experience with Aspies is that they have a hard time dealing with frustration and lash out much more easily. If you doubt that, look at the comments after this post about Aspergers Syndrome and note the number of Aspies who lashed out at me for having written it.

(They won't be happy with this post, either.)

This certainly isn't to say that most Aspies are a threat; only a very tiny percentage of them ever murder anyone. But, if a disproportionate share of mass murderers do have the syndrome, given the current push to not allow those with mental disabilities access to guns, shouldn't this correlation be pointed out?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fred Brito, Part II

As Rifleman discovered, it turned out that the "Mark" who made that unwittingly self-abnegating comment is almost certainly Fred Brito, a well known con man. One of the things that is apparent from the articles is that he is a homosexual.

In an NBC interview in 2007, Brito said:

I learned a lifestyle that I’d never participated in before. The lifestyle of Mercedes Benzes, living in the Hollywood hills, going to Beverly Hills restaurants, doing all the things movie stars would do. And I got to meet a lot of movie stars….Paul Lynde, you know, he had an entourage of people. He had usually five or six people that were friends of his and I at one time was lucky enough to be the the favorite chosen one, until I got older ...and I was cast off.

(This almost certainly means that Brito was Lynde's boy toy for a while.) 

The Lies of Fred Brito states that Brito was arrested for molesting an underage boy in 1974, though the charges were eventually dropped.

Looking back, Brito's comment to this blog on the Abagnale sociopath alert did sound awfully gay somehow:

"what is this the Jerry Springer show ? Is that retard Steve Wilko going to throw people off the stage. Uneducated finger pointing trailer trash calling people sociopaths and narcissists as if the they have a clue. Passing judgement is so unproductive.How disrespectful to this life we are lucky enough to have that you draw conclusions with such tiny amount of facts. So this is what feels like to be a hypocrite."

What exactly was it about that comment that betrayed Brito's sexuality?

The worst insult he could come up with was to call me (and possibly some of the other commenters) "uneducated trailer trash." Brito had admitted in his interview that he had developed a taste for "the lifestyle of Mercedes Benzes, living in the Hollywood hills, going to Beverly Hills restaurants, doing all the things movie stars would do." In other words, the opposite of living in a trailer park: glitz and glamor. These are things that gay men tend to be more attracted to.

Brito seems to consider the Jerry Springer show the height of tackiness. Yet he is evidently familiar enough with the show to know who Steve Wilko is, meaning that he has enjoyed watching the show himself. The man he's referring to is actually named Wilkos, and he was head of security on the Jerry Springer Show from 1994 to 2007. He is a 6'3" former police officer. And how would an effeminate little guy express his resentment of big, masculine, straight guys? Probably by calling them "retards" or something to that effect.

And then, "Passing judgment is so unproductive." This line is not so much gay as it is namby pamby, the kind of thing you'd hear a liberal woman say. (And when it's said right after having passed judgment oneself, it's hypocritical to boot.)

"How disrespectful of this life we are lucky enough to have that you draw conclusions with such tiny amount of facts." I can't say exactly why, but that sounds awfully gay too. Maybe it's the nominal nod to the fact that we are lucky to be alive, which is something no one would argue with, and then trying to tie that in to something which has nothing to do with it, which is drawing conclusions about others. How is calling Frank Abagnale a sociopath (which, by the way, there is plenty of evidence for) disrespectful to life itself? Brito's statement was utterly logic-free -- in a gay sort of way.

Anyway, I've milked his comment for all it's worth. I promise not to bring it up again -- unless Brito writes in again. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Secret Service agents: Hillary is a nightmare to work with"

The worm's eye view of a person is always far more illuminating than any other view.

Update, next day: yet another book detailing Hillary's violent tantrums, many of them directed against Bill. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fred Brito

Rifleman did some research and turned up these two articles about the commenter "Mark" whom I spoke about three posts ago (Another commenter insulting himself):

The Lies of Fred Brito


The ultimate con artist

Turns out that when you click on "Mark's" name, his Google ID of "Mark Esparza" comes up. That is evidently one of the names Fred Brito uses.

It makes perfect sense that Brito would have been looking up Frank Abagnale, who led a very similar existence as a con man.

It also makes perfect sense that Brito would be resentful of those who would disparage Abagnale as the sociopath he is, since Brito himself has undoubtedly been called one many times himself.

And my original guess about him being sensitive about his socioeconomic and educational background turns out to be correct. Brito had big social aspirations, but had neither the education nor the financial means to back them up. He talked his way into a number of high profile jobs, but was fired from all of them after his lies were uncovered.

Something for everyone

The latest mass killer, Chris Harper-Mercer, is a bundle of contradictions who will probably prove a telling Rorschach test for many.

He's of mixed race, meaning that in this country, he's be considered black. And he had sympathized with Vester Flanagan, the gay black man who killed that reporter and her cameraman recently. But Harper-Mercer had also condemned the killing of random policemen, and said that Black Lives Matter bore partial responsibility for that.

Most notably, Harper-Mercer singled out Christians to kill, asking various students if they were Christian before killing them. (If they weren't, he shot them in the leg.) And he belonged to an organization called, I Hate Organized Religion. Yet he idolized the Irish Republican Army, which was largely a Catholic organization. And he also an admirer of the Nazis, having ordered Nazi memorabilia on at least two occasion.

So, no matter your racial or political outlook, Harper-Mercer provides plenty of grist.

Barack Obama, of course, wasn't going to let this crisis go to waste: he called for more gun control the very next morning. (In Obama's world, whenever a white kills blacks, as with Dylann Roof, it's proof of what a horribly racist society we live in. Whenever a black kills whites, as with Vester Flanagan or Harper-Mercer, it's proof that those dastardly Republicans are keeping us from getting the gun control we need.)

Other interested parties will undoubtedly also react as expected.

Harper-Mercer had also shown interest in both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings, having recommended documentaries on each -- proof, once again, that the media should be belittling these killers, not making them larger than life. (I wrote about this before regarding Adam Lanza.)

Rather than mention Harper-Mercer by name, they ought to just refer to him as "the latest loser" and scoff at him. ("Did he have any idea what the Nazis would have thought of him? They would have considered him subhuman. And why did he have to advertise for girlfriends? Could he not hold onto one? And how did he get to age 26 without accomplishing a single worthwhile thing? It's always most the pathetic losers who lash out like this.")

Filial respect, Part VI

While we were on the subject of men's looks this evening, my son offered the following analysis of mine:

"Dad, you're like a walking, talking anti-miscegenation poster."

(I'm half white, half Asian.)

Another commenter insulting himself

In June of 2011 I wrote a sociopath alert about Frank Abagnale, the con man about whom the movie Catch Me if You Can was about.

Yesterday I got the following comment on the post from "Mark":

what is this the Jerry Springer show? Is that retard Steve Wilko going to throw people off the stage. Uneducated finger pointing trailer trash calling people sociopaths and narcissists as if the they have a clue. Passing judgement is so unproductive.How disrespectful to this life we are lucky enough to have that you draw conclusions with such tiny amount of facts. So this is what feels like to be a hypocrite.

I replied:

"Passing judgment is so unproductive"?

What exactly is it you just did?

Mark is a perfect illustration of someone whose worst insults are unwittingly about himself. First he calls me "uneducated finger pointing trailer trash….as if they have a clue." Then he makes that statement about how passing judgment is unproductive. Then, to cap it off, he accuses me of being a hypocrite, which is what he has just proven himself to be.

Judging from Mark's grammar, his syntax, his tendency towards projection, and his absence of knowledge about sociopathy (Abagnale is an open and shut case), I'm guessing he's also sensitive about his own education and socioeconomic background.

Anyway, a big thank you to "Mark" for providing yet another colorful example of a person whose most scathing insult is to accuse someone of being like him. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A nation of immigrants

The other day Ed Gendreau pointed out:

"People always say 'We're a nation of immigrants' as a rationale to allow illegal immigrants to stay, find a path to citizenship, and so on. In other words, since we started that way, that path must be continued indefinitely. But aren't we are also a nation born of, and founded by revolution? And does that mean we should continue to revolt? Why work with a dysfunctional government?" 


A few other thoughts: 

We're a nation of slaveowners. 

We're a nation of indigenous people-killers.  

We're a nation of atomic bomb-droppers.

We're a nation of Jim Crow law-enforcers. 

We're a nation of polluters. 

We're a nation of people who drove many animals, like the buffalo, to near extinction. 

Liberal logic demands….