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Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I went for a swim the other day with my daughter at a nearby Y. while coming out of the shower in the men's locker room afterward, a naked man was coming out of the steam room opposite. when he saw me he came to an abrupt halt and his face lit up. His twitchy body language said, "Well hello there!"

I looked away and walked over to my locker. I got my gym bag out and started to get into my clothes, then sat on the bench to put on my socks and shoes when I noticed that he was just standing there, directly behind me, still naked.

I though he might be waiting to get to his locker, so asked, warily, "Do you want part of this bench?"

He replied airily, "Oh, I'm in no hurry. I have plenty of time. I don't have to catch a train anymore, or commute. Maybe some day you can be like me." He sounded awfully self-satisfied.

I thought, you're the last thing I would want to be like. But I wanted to keep the conversation to  a minimum, so said nothing.

A few moments later I squeezed some skin cream out of a small vial, and a small globule went on my bag.

"Oh, some got on your bag," the man exclaimed and reached forward as if to wipe it off.

I quickly held up a hand and gruffly said, "That's okay -- I got it," and wiped it off myself. (I didn't want him touching my gym bag.)

He was obviously getting a charge out of prancing around naked; he seemed to think he was in a gay bathhouse.

A normal, well-adjusted person wouldn't continue to push after someone acted standoffish. And to suggest to a complete stranger that the stranger could aspire to be like him demonstrated an extraordinarily clueless vanity.

I couldn't help but get the impression that his weirdness was inextricably tied to his sexuality. All I could think as I was exiting the locker room was, that's the kind of guy who inspired the use of the word "queer" to describe homosexuals, because there was just something really queer about him, in every sense of the term.

Some people will read this and accuse me of homophobia. But isn't it sexual harassment if he stands around completely naked, trying to continue a one-sided conversation?

If a woman feels repulsed by a pushy guy, the guy is assumed to have been harassing her. But if a guy feels repulsed by a pushy guy, he must be guilty of homophobia.

I support gay marriage. If I meet a nice, helpful gay guy, I'll appreciate his character.  If I meet a witty gay guy, I enjoy his sense of humor. But this guy inspired nothing but disgust.

The point being, gays have reclaimed the word "queer," in an aggressive/defensive sort of way. Maybe they ought to reconsider, just keep it at LGBT and drop the Q.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A latter day Blanche Dubois

I was driving down the left hand lane of a highway this past Monday when I saw that the cars in front of me had come to a sudden halt, so I jammed on my brakes.

I then saw that the car at the front of the line had come to a dead halt. I was wondering what was going on when it slowly moved into the middle lane, it's right turn signal flashing. The cars in the middle lane then had to come to a similar screeching halt.

The car then moved slowly into the right lane, and then to the off ramp which was a few yards ahead. I was seething, and if my thoughts had been public, well, I could have been convicted in the court of sexism.

As the cars on the highway slowly started up again I looked to my right to see if my suspicions would be confirmed, and, sure enough, they were. And not only that, but the driver was holding her phone up to her ear.

She had evidently been chatting the entire time.

I'd never seen anyone just come to a dead stop on a highway like that before.

Anyway, the spirit of Blanche lives on.

What is James Bond's IQ?

The other day I was talking to a young man whose IQ has been tested at 140.

He said, "You know, James Bond's IQ must have been around 140. That's just about right. Anything more and it would backfire -- he'd have ended up questioning himself all the time."

I replied, "Yeah, but Bond was awfully clever."

He shrugged, "I'm clever. Really, guys with IQ's of 155 just aren't that cool, they're sorta like helpless quivering masses of neuroses. Even at 140, I may be too high. I'll sometimes wonder if I did something right, rather than just looking forward and thinking about what's next."

I thought about that, but could think of no response.

The young man added, "Yeah, if you want to be a man of action, you can't become paralyzed with self-doubt, all those extra synapses firing off."

I had to agree. "That's actually why blacks are generally cooler than whites -- don't have all those extra synapses firing off all the time, making them nervous and neurotic like whites."

The young man continued, "Now Q, he may have been a 155. At least, the older version played by Desmond Llewelyn, not that new young twerp. But would you want to be Q?"

He concluded, "Guys with 155's just aren't that cool. At 140, I'm just way cooler. And even 140 may be too much for me."

It was an interesting take, and he's probably right.

And yes, I know, James Bond's IQ, silliest discussion ever.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Son of Sam: I've found my life's calling"

An article in the NY Post this morning describes David Berkowitz's latest parole hearing, in which he talked about the good work he is doing in prison.

Back in 2011 I wrote about how Berkowitz claimed to have found God, and how he was working as prison chaplain and doing various other good works. But one thing we know about sociopaths is that they never change. Their acts may change, often by necessity (it's a lot harder to keep up the serial killing once you've been caught and convicted). And they often claim to have turned over a new leaf (and actually expect people to believe them). But inside, they remain the same old unreconstructed sociopaths.

In 2012, in a post about "The Day Stalker" (serial killer Franklin Lynch), I explained how sociopaths will often give themselves away with a certain stylistic quirk: overuse of adjectives and adverbs.

In today's NY Post article, Berkowitz, who will be a sociopath until the day he dies, does his gentleman-doth-protest-too-loudly bit once again, talking about the good works he does in prison. But if you pay close attention to his words, you'll see how he betrays himself with overemphasis:

“I’ve really done wonderful,” said Berkowitz appearing before a parole board during his latest and 15th parole hearing, according to the transcript, dated May 17, obtained by The Post.

“I was constantly putting myself out there to help other individuals, with kindness and compassion,” he said. “I mean, I feel that’s my life’s calling, all these years. My evaluations, and so forth, should show that to be true. I’ve done a lot of good and positive things, and I thank God for that...”

(Note that he wasn't just constantly putting himself out there to help others, he was doing it with kindness and compassion. A nonsociopath would never bother to add those two qualities, because it's just assumed he has them if he's helping others; ironically, a sociopath will, because he lacks them. And it wasn't just Berkowitz's entire life's calling, it's his life's calling all these years. And he hasn't just done a lot of good things, he's done a lot of good and positive things.)

“I feel I am no risk, whatsoever,” said the “.44 Caliber Killer” who called his gory reign of terror a “terrible tragedy...”

(He's not just no risk, he's no risk whatsoever.)

“Unfortunately, it was a terrible tragedy. I regret that with all my heart. I would do anything if I could ever change that,” said Berkowitz, adding that he is “deeply sorry.”

(Note the way he distances himself from his killings by referring to them with the impersonal "it." And the way he doesn't just regret it, he regrets it with all his heart. And the way he's not just sorry, but deeply sorry. You see, his emotions run very deep.)

“It was a time that my life was out of control. I’d do anything if I could go back and change that, but it’s impossible to go back into the past and fix those kinds of things.”

(Note that he doesn't say that he was out of control, merely that his life was. Another distancing.)

Berkowitz boasted about himself to the parole board, saying that while imprisoned, “for many years I have worked as…just like a caregiver.”

“I have a heart for helping and reaching out to inmates, offenders, who have psychiatric problems, who have a lot of depression, and things like that…so, I feel that’s my calling in life,” Berkowitz said….

(A nonsociopath would simply say that he's helping other inmates; a sociopath feels obliged to emphasize his "heart.")

However, he admitted that he told prison staffers that parole is not “realistic” for him.

“I feel that the crimes were so serious and the damage so severe, and so many people I’m sure are still hurting and grieving, that, realistically, something like parole, in my situation, would be very unusual,” he said.

(Once again, he doesn't take responsibility for his serial killing, referring to them as "the" crimes and not "my" crimes. And hey, "unusual" does not mean "impossible," does it?)

When pressed by the board as to where his past “rage” came from when he murdered and wounded innocent people, Berkowitz replied, “it’s beyond my comprehension.”

(By saying it's beyond his comprehension, Berkowitz is disavowing responsibility once again, and also trying to imply that it's almost as if he was in a fugue state when he committed the murders, and is a completely different person now. This is not all that different in spirit from how, when first caught, he claimed that a dog told him to commit the murders, in a sly effort to set up an insanity defense.)

He added, “I look back with, like, so much disbelief. There are times that I wake up and say, I can’t believe this happened…”


Berkowitz ended the letter saying, “I want to continue to be something of a role model for my fellow inmates, as well as a source of hope and inspiration to whomever I can.”

(Only a narcissistic personality sees himself as an inspiration to others. And only a shameless personality actually talks about it.) 

You have to think the only people who actually find the Son of Sam to be inspirational are wannabe serial killers. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Who exactly are the "mentally ill" whom Obama wants to keep guns from?

President Obama, as always, tried to turn the latest mass killing to his political advantage, following up last weekend's Orlando massacre with yet another call for more gun control.

Obama's adamant refusal to associate Islam with terrorist attacks has long since passed the point of ludicrousness. Starting with his characterization of Major Hasan's killing of 14 at Ft. Hood as ordinary "workplace violence," Obama has consistently turned a blind eye to the obvious jihad-like nature of the attacks.

Obama also said this past week that it was ridiculous that a man like Mateen, who had been investigated (and cleared) by the FBI, would have ready access to guns. What Obama didn't say was that organizations like the FBI are reluctant to go after Muslims precisely because of the politically correct atmosphere promoted by his own administration.

Every operative at a federal agency knows that it's worth his career if he shows any "bias" or "prejudice" or does any "racial profiling" against a member of an Obama-favored group.

Obama did say this week, as he has said several times in the past, that guns have to be "kept out of the wrong hands." But if he's not referring to those bent on jihad, then which exactly are the "wrong hands" he is referring to?

Obama mentioned that mental health records should be cross checked when gun purchases are made. But very few young people (most mass shooters are young) actually have publicly available mental health records.

And who exactly is Obama referring, anyway, when he talks of the "mentally ill?" Exactly which people, with which syndromes, is he talking about?

People who suffer from depression? Someone who is suicidal might possibly be thinking in terms of taking somebody with them. Should Robin Williams, Isaac Asimov, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Abraham Lincoln, and John D. Rockefeller all have been denied a gun for that reason?

People who are bipolar? Should Dick Cavett, Carrie Fisher, Phil Ochs, Lou Reed, Ted Turner be denied permits? Should Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf have been denied them?

Schizophrenics? Even when they're medicated?

Most Americans believe that any jihadist who thinks he is going to receive 72 virgins in Paradise is delusional, i.e., psychotic. But of course, going by that definition, Christians who believe in Heaven and Hell are similarly misled.

Or how about people with narcissistic personality disorder? That includes an awful lot of people too: just think in terms of everyone you know who thinks he's better than he is at various things. Or everybody who seems inclined to take more credit and less blame than he deserves. That would seem to include a high percentage of those in Congress.

Sociopaths? At first glance, this would probably be the first group you'd want to prevent from having access to firearms. But would Barack Obama want to prevent Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Wendy Davis, Carly Fiorina, Joe Arpaio, and even himself from having guns?

How about the gays? Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness by the DSM until quite recently. And male homosexuals punch way above their weight when it comes to serial killing. So should they be excluded from the gun-carrying fraternity?

Or how about transgenders, who put the "T" in LGBT? The DSM does still list them as having "gender dysphoria," an identifiable syndrome. So….should Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono not be allowed the right to defend themselves? You'd think that of all people, they need protection most.

Neurotics? (That includes most of us.)

Or how about people with ADD or ADHD? That's an awfully big segment of the population, too. But lapses in concentration can lead to lapses in judgment.

People with OCD? Would Obama have prevented Charles Darwin, Howard Hughes, Michelangelo, and Ludwig Van Beethoven from owning weapons? Doubtful. Would he prevent Donald Trump from owning one? (Probably.) But what about Howard Stern, Harrison Ford, Martin Scorsese, and Leo DiCaprio?

People with Aspergers? Would Obama not allow Al Gore to have a gun? Would he have prevented Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, and Thomas Edison from obtaining permits?

Or how about war heroes with PTSD? Certainly if there's one category of people who've earned the right to defend themselves, it's those who've defended the country. But, some of them have been known to turn violent.

The "mentally ill" is an awfully vague category that covers a whole lot of people.

On top of that, does Obama have any idea how few young people have actually visited a psychiatrist? Is he aware that the vast majority of people with these various syndromes go undiagnosed? And does he realize that if they have visited a psychiatrist, that doctor is unlikely to have given his records to law enforcement, because of privacy concerns?

Is Obama aware that the vast majority of people with these various syndromes never turn violent? Wouldn't this type of program, if aimed at, say, an entire ethnic group, be deemed "discrimination?"

Think in terms of how black people commit a vastly disproportionate share of handgun violence, yet at the same time the vast majority of black people are law-abiding. Wouldn't keeping guns from blacks be viewed as discriminatory? The very idea seems unthinkable; yet wouldn't keeping guns from "the mentally ill" be equally discriminatory?

The concept of keeping guns from "the mentally ill," without being very specific about exactly whom you're referring to, seems extremely problematic. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Man headed to gay pride parade had assault rifle, 15 pounds of explosives"

Evidently at the same time that Omar Mateen was in the middle of his murderous rampage in Florida, James Howell was planning mayhem at the annual West Hollywood gay pride parade.


The most interesting excerpt from the article:

Friends in Indiana described Howell as a gun enthusiast with a short temper. In October, he twice was accused of pulling a gun and making threats, once against his then-boyfriend and once against a neighbor.

There's a lot of publicity these days about prejudice against the LGBT community. And, well, yes, it definitely exists. But, it would be interesting to find out what percentage of murders of gays are committed by other gays. 

Judging from recent evidence, it would seem to be quite high. 

There's a parallel here with the murder of blacks. To hear the Left tell it, the biggest danger blacks face is rampaging, violent whites, especially the police, who have nothing better to do than hunt young black men. 

The statistics, of course, tell a different story.

There's also a lot of talk from the left about how the poor, victimized LGBT community needs to be protected from prejudiced heterosexuals. After all, just look at their poster child, Mathew Shepard. For a long time, he was the gay martyr, an innocent youth murdered in a fit of homophobic hatred.

You don't hear Shepard's name as much anymore, because that story was debunked, though the debunking received very little publicity. It turned out that one of the two men who tied Shepard to a fencepost and left him to die on that freezing Wyoming night -- because of a drug deal gone bad -- was his occasional lover. 

I've heard that NYPD detectives can usually tell if a murder is a gay-on-gay killing, because the victim is so often disfigured.

Perhaps from now on gays should carry placards that read, "Save us from ourselves!"

Or, "Stop LGBT-on-LGBT violence!"

Straight guys may feel a mild revulsion for gay men, but nobody quite hates gays like other gays.

Question about Omar Mateen

Islamic State warrior Omar Mateen, having single-handedly won the Battle of Pulse, is now in Paradise, enjoying the ministrations of 72 virgins.

But are those virgins women, or men?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Ex-wife's bombshell claim: Club shooter had 'gay' tendencies"

An article in the NY Post this morning made it quite clear that Omar Mateen himself was gay. The relevant excerpts:

Sitora Yusufiy, who was married to Mateen in 2009 for three months, made the shocking claim on Brazilian television station SBT Brazil.

Her fiancĂ©, Marco Dias, speaking in Portuguese on her behalf, said that Yusufiy believed that Mateen had “gay tendencies” and that his father had called him gay in front of her...

The bombshell came as a male former classmate of Omar Mateen said he had been asked out romantically by the mass killer, who reportedly was a virtual regular at the Pulse nightclub, having visited it more than a dozen times over the years.

The former classmate said he would hang out with Mateen, hitting gay bars after attending class at Indian River Community College police academy in 2006 — and one time Mateen asked him out “romantically,” according to the Palm Beach Post.

The classmate’s claims came after reports emerged that Mateen frequented the club for years before Sunday’s massacre.

“It’s the same guy,” Chris Callen, a drag queen who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

Callen’s husband, Ty Smith, recalled seeing Mateen being escorted drunk from the club.
“Sometimes he . . . would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” he told the Orlando Sentinel...

They also shot down claims that Mateen had snapped after seeing two men kissing each other in public.

“That’s bullcrap, right there. No offense. That’s straight-up crap. He’s been around us,” Smith said. “Some of those people did a little more than (kiss) outside the bar…He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?”

Kevin West, another regular at Pulse, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen used gay dating apps on a regular basis and even messaged him on the gay dating app, Jack’d...

One Orlando man, who refused to be named, told MSNBC that he had seen photos of Mateen on several gay dating apps, including Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Jack’d. He claimed that at least two of the man’s friends had been contacted by Mateen on the apps in the past...

The headline of the Post article obviously understates the case: Mateen didn't just have "tendencies." With that mountain of evidence, there's no question he was gay.

You normally don't associate a black skullcap with homosexuality. And looking at pictures of Mateen, he doesn't have a discernibly gay face. In fact, he has a masculine face. Which makes him that creepiest of characters, a masculine gay guy:

The whole incident makes more sense now. Mateen was partly just a traditional gay-basher, beating up -- or in this case, killing -- that which he didn't like in himself.

Anyway, now that it's turned out that Mateen was gay himself, it'll be interesting to see if the Left treads a little lighter when it comes to the hateful anti-LGBT nature of the crime. (Was it a "hate crime" when Jeffrey Dahmer ate so many of his fellow homosexuals?)

Mateen must have been awfully conflicted. As someone who reportedly cheered 9/11, he must have wanted to be a good Muslim; his brief marriage was probably an attempt to fulfill that role. But, unfortunately for him, he found himself full of homosexual desire. 

So, at one level, Mateen was merely a sexual misfit. 

But he was also a serious Muslim. 

So the central question is, would he have committed these murders if he hadn't been Muslim? It seems fairly obvious he wouldn't have. The conflict between his religion and his sexuality, his anti-American sentiment, and the shame inherent in not living up to his Afghan father's strict edicts all fed into his murderous spree.

(And the fact that, right in the middle of his murderous spree, he phoned the local police to swear his allegiance to ISIS is a pretty solid clue as to his motives.)

I sometimes wonder if a lot of suicide bombers aren't people whose earthy existence isn't quite working out to their satisfaction. And if they weren't Muslim, if they might be suicidally inclined anyway. But being Muslim gives them cover, or perhaps just an excuse, to do what they might have done anyway. And this way, they get to think of themselves as "noble martyrs" and take a lot of people with them at the same time.  

So, yes, it's still basically a Muslim killing. The story just has an unexpectedly perverse twist.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack soon after it happened. Now that some of the details of Mateen's lifestyle have come to light, will they continue to claim his as one of their own, as an Islamic State fighter and hero? 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Florida shooting

The latest reports are that 50 people are dead and 53 wounded at the hands of Omar Mateen, an American Muslim of Afghan descent who was born here in 1986:

Turns out he had pledged allegiance to ISIS recently.

The Left will renew their calls for gun control and cite the anti-gay aspect of the killings, while soft-pedaling the Muslim angle. The Right will see this as another incident of domestic Islamist terrorism.

The public at large, with no axe to grind, will see mostly the Muslim angle. They'll see the anti-gay aspect of it, too, but they know that Islam is an anti-gay religion, and that you can't separate the two.

Mateen might as well have marched into that nightclub with an "Elect Trump" sign.

Academia in action

Got the following comment after the Sociopath alert: Julie Miller post yesterday from "Alex":

John, I disagree. I do not know this person or anything more about the situation than what I read above.

Lying with emphasis is something children and crooks do all the time and not an definitive indicator of sociopathy . Parking illegally and avoiding fines is dishonest but not an indicator of sociopathy. Fallacious.
Bill Clinton denying his relationship is not sociopathic either, probably a feeble attempt at protecting ego and position.

It's like ADHD diagnosis for kids, autism spectrum etc and it's a dangerous trait that blurs the line between acceptable and truly unacceptable behavior - and institutes a dangerous form of normative and sociological control of individual's behaviour (in this case, a dishonnest behavior of stealing a victory by unfair means which should not be equated to the damage done by truly sociopathic individuals to others - usually through physical and continuous psychological abuse and deception.).

It seems that the article describes symptoms of narcissistic PD more than psychopathy/sociopathy.

As with all Personality Disorders, We all display sociopathic traits of various amounts at various times.

By trying to enlarge labeling of "sociopath" to a larger set of people who display sociopathic tendencies or traits at times, it diminishes the value of the term to label truly dangerous individuals to society. Race cheaters are not sociopaths. Most serial killers are sociopaths.

I replied:

First, I didn't say that lying emphatically is itself proof of sociopathy. I said that that is what sociopaths do. And yes, kids do it, but that's one reason why the DSM and other sources say that you shouldn't make a diagnosis of sociopathy before age 16 (though the signs of it are often there early on).

It's the entire pattern of behavior that gives away sociopathy, and one of the surer indicators in adults is lying about something you don't have to lie about (in order to get out of trouble), i.e., lying to burnish your own glory. And this wasn't the only time Miller had lied about a race.

"Most" serial killers are sociopaths??! Where did you get that? ALL serial killers are sociopaths, period, it's the surest sign of sociopathy there is. There are mass murderers who are not sociopaths, but serial killing takes a degree of cunning and also such a complete disregard for others that only a sociopath could do it. Keep in mind, sociopaths are generally considered to be roughly 3% of the population, and serial killers, who are the most dramatically destructive of sociopaths, represent only a small percentage of them.

And if race cheaters are not sociopaths, you must be absolving Kendall Schler and Rosie Ruiz from that diagnosis as well. Have you ever looked at Ruiz's life history?

You're throwing around some of the jargon without really having a feel for sociopaths, which says to me you've learned about sociopathy almost entirely from a book.

I've met people like Alex before. They think they sound smart if they take the middle ground on everything, regardless of the truth. They tend to be enamored of academia. And they give themselves away by using words like "normative" and "sociological."

Saying something like, "We all display sociopathic traits of various amounts at various times" makes Alex feel that he's showing balance, and wisdom. It's sort of like saying, "We all have good and bad in us," the sort of homily that has some truth to it but in the end imparts no useful information. The fact is, we don't all do what Julie Miller did, stage an elaborate hoax, sawing off our timer chip and cheating on the course to "win" a large race, maintaining an obvious charade, and lying so vociferously even after being caught. Most of us would be so consumed with shame at doing such a thing that it would never even occur to us to so it in the first place.

Alex also pointed out, helpfully, that "Parking illegally and avoiding fines is dishonest but not an indicator of sociopathy. Fallacious." (I don't believe I said that they were.)

What Alex is thinking is, well, we can all be a little dishonest from time to time. (So what?) Little white lies, or parking illegally, or fibbing about the traffic as an excuse for why we were late aren't even close to sociopathic behavior. What distinguishes sociopathic behavior is the utter shamelessness and scope of the lie(s). So equating other lies with sociopathic lies is meaningless. 

I particularly liked his line, "Most serial killers are sociopaths." There are some murderers who are not sociopaths; and there are mass killers who are simply psychotic, rather than sociopathic. But there's never been a single serial killer -- someone who appears relatively normal to his neighbors and coworkers, and sneakily kills people one by one over a long period of time, usually to satisfy some sexual kink --  who hasn't been a sociopath. 

Ah, but by not speaking in absolutes, Alex seems to think he appears wise. 

I, too, would like to appear that wise. So let me try a few similar statements on for size: 

Most Olympic champions in the 100 meter dash are fast runners. But we all run quickly at times, to various degrees. 

Most people who weigh over 600 pounds are overweight. But we all have a little extra fat we probably don't need, in various amounts, at various times. 

Most billionaires are rich. But we all have money, in various amounts, at various times. 

There -- don't I sound smart? And don't you feel better-informed for having listened to me?

Alex obviously needs some firsthand experience with a sociopath in order to really learn about them. But I get the sense that Alex, even with that firsthand experience, might not see what's in front of him. 

Then again, that's what academics specialize in.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why people loved Ali

It's become even more apparent over the past week how fond people were of Ali. Not just the media types, and the usual suspects trying to burnish their anti-racist credentials, but the vast majority of people.

One crucial point always overlooked in discussions of Ali is that when he converted to Islam after winning the title is that he was 22 years old at the time. College age. Think of what college students are protesting these days. (And would you want to be held responsible for all the things you said and did at 22?)

When Ali refused to be drafted in 1967, he was 25. At the time, and even now, people took his stances very seriously, as if he were some insightful statesman who had arrived at his decision after a lifetime of careful observation and study, and that his political views were of earth-shaking consequence.

(I was guilty of this myself two days ago when I wrote the previous post about his pronouncements about all whites being the devil, though that post was more about that idea than Ali himself.)

So, keep in mind that he was just a kid. Nobody ever saw him that way because he was the heavyweight champion of the world. But, he was still just a kid.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. What made Ali so likable?

It was that while the world was taking him very seriously, he, for the most part, didn't seem to take himself all that seriously. If you had to choose one word to describe Ali, it would be playful.

Traditionally, the heavyweight champion has carried the mantle of baddest man on the planet. Sonny Liston, that glowering, menacing, humorless man seemed like the kind of guy you'd expect to hold the title. You got the sense that he was dangerous outside the ring as well as in it.

Then along came a crown prince who hammed it up and spouted doggerel and proclaimed that he was the greatest of all time. But when he did these things, it was always with a touch of self-mockery. And while everybody else was taking his pronouncements very seriously, if you looked closely, you could see that he was basically just playing a big joke on the world.

While looking at those videos of Ali proclaiming that all whites were the devil, I also stumbled across this one, and this one, both of Ali's funnier moments, as well. In some of them he's taunting his opponents; watch closely, and you'll see he's just play-acting.

And even when I was looking at those videos of Ali saying that the white man is the devil, somehow I couldn't quite bring myself to dislike him.

A sense of humor can allow you to get away with all sorts of things you might not otherwise. I'm not suggesting Ali should totally escape censure. But even when he was saying poisonous things, he didn't seem to have that much poison in his system.

When taking part in prefight publicity, he would often pretend to be angry at his opponents, but the "anger" was so obviously playacting that you almost got the sense he was incapable of real anger.

So he came across cute, in his uninhibited, boyish way.

The videos linked above show Ali with the rich and famous, but he never demonstrated any desire to social climb. He joked with everybody, and loved to mingle with people he met on the street. He could have been "friends" with anyone, but preferred to just hang with his entourage.

The closest equivalent today is Usain Bolt. Bolt jokes, dances, and plays to the crowd, just as Ali did. And you always get the sense he enjoys himself, just as Ali did.

You could say it's condescending to regard Bolt and Ali as embodiments of the old stereotype of the happy-go-lucky negro. You could say it's condescending not to hold Ali completely responsible for some of the things he said, the same way we would not hold a child responsible. And, maybe it is.

But, at the same time, it's an admission that these guys were charismatic in a way that most of us couldn't possibly hope to be, and enjoyed life more than we ever could.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali weekend

We were all greeted with the news of Muhammad Ali's death when we woke up this morning, and the rest of the weekend we'll be hearing fulsome tributes from those who want to bask in his reflected glory.

Ali was, unquestionably, larger than life. At one point he had the most recognized face in the world, more so than any world leader at the time.

Ali was also, unquestionably, a noble warrior. His longevity as a boxer was incredible. It's amazing to think that he became an Olympic champion during the Eisenhower Presidency, then won his final title when Jimmy Carter was President.

Ali faced the hardest punchers of several generations of boxers, and never gave up. But in the end, his victories were Pyrrhic, as he spent the last 30 years of his life essentially punch drunk. He beat Foreman with his much vaunted "Rope a dope" strategy, but eventually he was the one it turned into a dope. We can blame his Parkinson's on Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, and George Foreman.

It seemed all the more a shame because when Ali was young he was quick-witted and playful and humorous and charming.

Ali, born in 1942, spent his early youth in the era of segregation, and his politics, an outgrowth of that, were an entirely different matter from what the BLM crowd is pushing now.

Back then, civil rights were about desegregating lunch counters and swimming pools, and gaining admission to college if they were qualified. Today, it's all about pretending that black people are in more danger from whites than whites are from blacks. Or about pretending that if blacks don't do as well on the SAT's it must be because of "racism," that amorphous evil that magically accounts for all racial differences.

So it's easier to be sympathetic to Ali than to the current crop of protesters.

Still, it's as silly to pay attention to the political opinions of athletes as it is to pay heed to those of movie stars. And a lot of the things that Ali stood for didn't bear close scrutiny. He was, as I pointed out here, sort of a segregationist.

He claimed to be a pacifist, a seemingly hypocritical stance for someone who beat people up for a living.

And he famously said, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me nigger." (True enough, but that was mainly because the Vietnamese were unfamiliar with blacks. It's been well documented since then that the Vietnamese treated the offspring of black GI's and Vietnamese women even more harshly than they did the half white Amerasians.)

But don't expect any close scrutiny this weekend. Expect a lot of maudlin tributes. And expect the usual suspects to try to grab some of his glory for themselves. Jesse Jackson will undoubtedly show up at his funeral next week, try to act as master of ceremonies, and in general hog the limelight as much as he can (especially if Obama doesn't show up). Al Sharpton will undoubtedly attend as well, looking appropriately somber.

Obama may or may not attend the funeral, but will undoubtedly release a carefully crafted statement -- written by his speechwriters -- about what a great hero Ali was and subtly expressing solidarity with Ali's political stances while simultaneously sanitizing those stances.

White liberals everywhere will spout about how much they loved Ali, and how wonderful he was, using the occasion to boost their non-racist credentials.

And newscasters, most of whom will be too young to remember, will reminisce about how incredible it was when Ali beat Foreman.

My advice: turn off the TV.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A cliche of a sociopath

The NY Post ran an article last week, The downfall of NYC's hottest vegan, which illustrated perfectly how a sociopath can lead a naive, somewhat weak-minded person astray.

Sarma Melngailis is now charged with stealing two million dollars from her trendy restaurant, Pure Food and Wine. (She's the weak-minded one.) Evidently everything had been going fairly well for her until she got together with Anthony Strangis, a man with a long track record of deceit and criminality:

Strangis' life appears to be one big sociopathic cliche. For instance, he once impersonated a police officer. That's pretty much all you need to know right there: impersonation is a sociopathic specialty, and impersonating a cop takes a special kind of gall. Strangis also posed as a wealthy man in order to drum up funds for Melngailis' restaurant, another deception.

Strangis was a gambling "addict." Gambling, like sex, isn't physically addictive. But a sociopath has so few inhibitions and so little thought for the future that he "can't resist" their lures, and thus is far more likely to become "addicted" to sex or gambling.

Strangis was manipulative. He got Melngailis, a woman with an Ivy League degree, to act completely self-destructively. He, like all sociopaths, had a "reality distortion field" that caused her to buy into his ridiculous demands and see things from his point of view. It looks pathetic from the outside, but being in thrall to a Svengali is something that can only be experienced from the inside.

Strangis told his ex-wife he was a retired Navy SEAL. Sociopaths often claim to be either former Special Forces, or ex-CIA. These are pretty much the ultimate in badass jobs, so someone who's a pathological liar will often falsely claim them. Stolen glory is another sociopathic specialty.

(Strangis originally told his ex-wife that the bandages on his chest were from a war wound, when in fact he was just taping down his man boobs.)

Pointing the finger at Melngailis is another sociopathic touch. Strangis obviously has zero loyalty: after manipulating her into abetting his crimes, he then blamed her for them.

Strangis' life appears to be almost a parody of sociopathy. But in fact, if you look closely enough, every sociopath has led a life which is nothing but sociopathic cliches, since sociopaths never depart from character. They may pose as something they're not -- like kind, caring, or noble -- but even those acts are cliches of sociopathic subterfuges.

Melngailis is certainly not without blame; she knowingly went along with Strangis' schemes. So she deserves whatever jail time she's going to get.

But not as much as Strangis does.