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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Where are the sociopathic cops?

I've always felt that the percentage of policemen who are sociopaths must be above average, simply because the job carries a certain amount of power and authority and would attract those who want legal cover to kick ass. So, if sociopaths comprise roughly 3% of the overall population, I'd guess -- and this is purely a guess -- that there could be roughly double that percentage among the ranks of the police. And I'm basing that mostly on the fact that the power inherent in the job can attract the wrong kind of individual.

Most of the police officers I've met have been very decent guys. But I've run across a few who were obviously narcissistic personalities, and a couple who were abrasive to the point where I wondered if they were sociopaths.

Police departments know that they attract power-hungry sociopaths, and therefore guard against them. I'm not sure exactly how they weed them out, but they probably use the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a long questionnaire, during the application process. The MMPI is larded with questions like, "Do you ever put off till tomorrow what you can do today?" Everybody does that at times, of course, so if someone answers enough questions like that dishonestly, that indicates sociopathy.

If you've read enough about serial killers, you'll be struck by the high percentage who've tried to join a force. Kenneth Bianchi, one of the two men who were collectively known as "The Hillside Strangler," tried to be a policeman.

Edmund Kemper, who killed his grandparents, his mother her friend, and six young women in Santa Cruz in the 1970's, had wanted to be a state trooper, but was rejected because of his 6' 9" height.

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen tried to get a job with the Florida Department of Corrections, but was involuntarily dismissed from its training program. Remember those pictures of Mateen with the NYPD t-shirts?

The reason the FBI were so suspicious of Richard Jewell in the Atlanta Olympics bombing case was because he fit the profile so well. He was a wannabe cop working as a security guard, and had been censured in the past for his "excessive enthusiasm" on the job. (The FBI initially thought that Jewell had planted the bomb himself so that he could then "discover" it and become a hero.) In fact, Jewell was a hero, since he helped evacuate the area before the bomb went off, and Eric Rudolph was later found to be the real bomber. But, he did fit a certain profile the FBI was familiar with.

In any case, police departments in the US generally do a good job of weeding out sociopaths these days: note that all of the people mentioned above were rejected by the police. (And I could easily be wrong about that ~6% guess.) But, inevitably, some slip through. Drew Peterson, the infamous Illinois police sergeant convicted of killing his third wife and widely thought to be responsible for the disappearance of his fourth, is an obvious case.

There have even been a number of cases where active or former police actually became serial killers. Most of the killers on this list are European, but psychology works the same way on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, virtually every time I've read recently about some well publicized incident involving the police and a black man who is killed, I end up siding with police. (Incidents involving police killings of whites don't garner nearly as much publicity.) And I haven't heard anything that makes me think that the cops involved were sociopathic, despite the fact that I tend to be on the lookout for signs of that.

There's no need to go over every recent highly-publicized case, but with most of them, after the initial media hoopla, it turns out that the innocent black victim was in fact not so innocent. The BLM movement essentially started with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and that case was not atypical. The cop involved there, Darren Wilson, was not only not the aggressor, but even showed remarkable restraint at first. And Wilson was by all accounts a diffident, well-mannered guy.

There have been a couple of recent cases where a jumpy cop overreacted, mostly out of fright; Chinese-American NYPD officer Peter Liang panicked and shot an innocent black man, Akai Gurley, in the darkened stairwell of a NYC housing project. And Geronimo Yanez, the Hispanic cop who recently shot and killed Philando Castile in Minnesota, may have panicked and overreacted as well, though that case is still being investigated.

But bear in mind, a panicky, frightened cop is actually the opposite of a sociopath: sociopaths tend to be cool under pressure, and rarely act from fear.

In fact, the only case I've heard of recently where a cop who was a likely sociopath killed an innocent man was the Charleston, SC case where Michael Slager shot Walter Scott five times in the back while Scott was fleeing. Slager claimed that Scott had taken his Taser, which was a lie; and Slager claimed that he felt in danger from Scott, but Scott was running away from him at the time.

That was, obviously, an out and out murder.

But overall, for every case I read where a cop is obviously guilty, or guilty of a panicked overreaction, there are several where the cop is not at fault, or where the situation is, at worst, a gray area.

(To listen to the BLM crowd, you'd think every case was like the Slager/Scott case.)

So where are the sociopathic cops? There have to be some of them out there. And why do they never seem to be involved with all of the highly publicized recent cases, most of which turn out to be nothing like the way the media initially portrays them?

My guess: when sociopaths operate, they're usually too sly to get caught. They're not going to just kill someone for no reason. And if they did kill someone, they'd make sure they were off camera, had no witnesses, and had a drop gun at the ready just in case. Slager would have gotten away with his murder if someone hadn't just happened to videotape it.

I also suspect that sociopathic cops, like most cops, do their utmost to avoid killing in the line of duty these days. (It's not worth the aggravation.)

Instead, their sociopathy probably gets expressed in a myriad of smaller ways: being corrupt, bullying other cops (especially those further down the chain of command), mistreating perps, and bending the rules wherever they can.

Despite what the media would have us believe, the cops we've read about recently, the ones who've been involved in shootings of blacks, have not struck me as sociopaths.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two sociopaths who look like sociopaths, and one who doesn't

Two new serial killers came to light in the past 24 hours; neither has been convicted yet, but if you read their stories, their guilt is obvious. What I was struck by with both men was how much they looked like the sociopaths that they are.

First, James Worley, who had a secret dungeon hidden by hay bales in his barn outside Toledo, Ohio:

Worley somehow manages to look placid, brutal, conceited, and contemptuous at the same time. Few people look their best in a mugshot, but Worley doesn't look overly concerned. He merely looks annoyed that his streak of bumping female cyclists with his truck, handcuffing them inside his truck, and then transporting them to his barn is over.

The second is Felix Vail, who is thought to have killed both of his wives as well as another woman:

Vail just seems to have an extremely predatory look about him. He has the thin-lipped, carnivorous mouth of a serial killer. And he looks as if he's sizing you up, figuring out what your weaknesses are, in order to take advantage of them. He was at least 73 when this picture was taken (he is 76 now, and was arrested three years ago); yet he still looks ready to pounce. Or, at least, lose his temper.

Here's a picture of Vail when he was younger:

I have no idea whether he had imbibed any substances before this picture was taken, but he has that weirdly relaxed, slightly inebriated, completely confident look that sociopaths sometimes have even when they're not drunk. It's a function of their being completely relaxed and uninhibited and self-confident. (Most of us need a couple of stiff ones before achieving that state.)

Vail must have had grown his hair and beard in an effort to fit in with the hippie ethos of that era. Peace and love!

I know, these impressions are partly due to hindsight. Once you know someone is a serial killer, it's impossible to see him in any other light.

But I swear, both of those guys still have scary faces, and even if I hadn't known who they were, I think I would have felt uneasy around them.

Today, news broke of another sociopath: 14-year-old Kali Jade Bookey, who slit the throat of her brother's 15-year-old girlfriend, telling her she was a psychopath looking for her first kill. After slitting the girl's throat (the girl survived), Bookey told her to "have a nice afterlife," and took off, with an elaborate story already concocted for the police.

I had the same thought you probably did when I saw Bookey's first name, but here are two pictures of her:

If I had been in the same room as her, I definitely would not have felt uneasy. In fact, I probably would have made an effort to convey to her that I wasn't a threat.

No one's character has been etched in their face by age 14, and maybe Bookey's will be when she gets older. But, maybe it won't. The only clue that Bookey might be a little feral is that tattoo on her neck; I'm guessing it's permanent, because she appears to be trying to hide it in the photo on the right. (Most 14-year-olds don't get tattoos on their necks, and most 14-year-olds don't wear scarves like that.)

Sometimes sociopaths look like sociopaths, and sometimes they don't. You just never know.

Update: I've now been told by two people that that's a necklace Bookey is wearing.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Who is temperamentally unfit to be President?

The Democratic line is that Trump is temperamentally unfit to be President, since he has responded to political attacks with personal insults. It's true that he's said some rash things that he would have been better off not saying.

Commenting on Carly Fiorina's looks was un-Presidential; and saying that Megan Kelly was bleeding from "her wherever" was an unfortunate choice of words. Saying that John McCain was not a war hero was simply not true.

But the central conceit of the Democrats that Trump, because he has a sharp tongue, is as likely to lob a nuclear bomb as an insult, is ludicrous. Does anyone really think that he can't tell the difference?

Contrast Trump's behavior to Hillary's. According to several accounts, Hillary would actually claw at her husband's face, punch him, and throw things at him during her tantrums. When a Secret Service man said good morning to her, she replied, "Fuck off!" This was evidently typical of her behavior toward the law enforcement assigned to guard her.

Which is more indicative of a personality temperamentally unsuited to the Presidency -- hurling insults, or hurling ashtrays?

The Clinton Foundation during a Hillary Presidency

Hillary's exchange of political favors in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State has been well documented. She regularly took countries off the State Department's Human Rights Watch after they would make a donation to the Clinton Foundation.

After Frank Giustra donated 32.7 million to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary's State Department approved a deal allowing a Russian state-owned venture to buy a company controlled by Giustra which controlled the rights to roughly 20% of North America's uranium supply.

In 2011 Hillary spent $178 million of State Department money on a new embassy in Norway -- over the objections of diplomats in Oslo -- after Norway contributed between $10 and 25 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Hillary's State Department approved $165 billion in arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors, roughly twice what they were allowed during the previous four years.

And while Hillary condemns those against gay marriage in this country, the Clinton Foundation took in over $25 million from countries that punish homosexuality with either jail time or lashes and stoning.

Think how much more leverage Hillary would have as President. Instead of just approving business deals, she could do far more. Say, for instance, Iran decides to invade Iraq. Ordinarily, the US would feel obliged, in the name of restoring the balance of power in the Middle East, to retaliate militarily.

But if the Ayatollahs gave a hefty donation to the Clinton Foundation, well, all of a sudden Hillary might see things a different light. Time to pull back the Seventh Fleet! Call off those F-22 Raptors! Mission aborted!

Hey, Iraq had it coming anyway.

And by "hefty," I'm not talking about a measly little twenty or thirty million dollar donation of the type that bought her influence as Secretary of State.

No, buying the President is far more expensive. We're talking at least a billion dollars here.

If you had oil money, wouldn't you spend a billion to save your country?

And given how enterprising the Clintons are, well, when you think about it, there's really no need to have to wait around for a hostile invasion on the part of the foreign country.

How might a state dinner feting the Sultan of Brunei go? Hillary could make a toast, and afterwards, Bill could get down to the nitty gritty with the Sultan. "Nice little country you got there. Be a real pity if something happened to it."

Then Bill could shrug and spread his arms in a helpless gesture. "You know, I'm having a hard time keeping my generals under control."

The Sultan would get the message. And the Clinton Foundation would replenish its coffers to continue its good deeds.

Nor would the Presidency mean that military threats would have to be made. There are a lot of people who feel the carried interest deduction for hedge fund managers should be abolished: why should their management fees be taxed at the long term capital gains rate?

But hey, if an industry association would just get together and make a billion dollar contribution to the Clinton Foundation, well, maybe we can put that one on the back burner for another four years or so.

The Clintons may have been "dead broke" after leaving the White House the first time. But Hillary has no intention of making that mistake again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hillary's soulmate

I said last July that Donald Trump reminded me of Goldfinger. It just hit me yesterday who Hillary --

-- reminds me of:

Much of the current resemblance is convergent, given that both Hillary and Madonna are bottle blondes who've had countless plastic surgeries. But they were not entirely dissimilar when young:

(Yes, that's Madonna, believe it or not.)

But the physical resemblance pales next to their psychic similarity. Neither woman has an ounce of honesty or genuineness to her personality. Hillary, despite her claims of consistency, has reinvented herself and her political positions countless times. Madonna, of course, is a chameleon who has reinvented herself too many times to count.

Look at the way Madonna affected a British accent for a while, just as Hillary put on that fake black accent in '08 when she went into that black church. Both are indicative of a person missing a central core.

Both are nasty and self-centered. The Arkansas State Police assigned to guard Hillary ended up the targets of her abuse. And Secret Service personnel consider being assigned to Hillary the worst posting possible. Madonna's diva-ish demands and temper tantrums are well-documented.

Both women are money-grubbers, though Madonna earns her money legitimately. Much of the other Material Girl's cash comes via her personal slush fund, the Clinton Foundation, which received bribe money in exchange for favors she doled out as Secretary of State.

And everything is an act with both women.

The main difference between them seems to be that Hillary's drug of choice is reportedly alcohol, which has left its mark:

Whereas Madonna's is rumored to be steroids:

It's hard to escape the feeing that you've seen both of these women way, way too many times. And when someone is always pretending to be something she's not, it's even more tiring to watch her.

Isn't it time for us, one way or another, to retire both of them?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tears and laughter

Back in January, I wrote about Obama's tears at a press conference, which were supposedly shed over the plight of all the people killed by gun violence. I explained in that post that since Obama had never shed tears over the various mass killings before, it was probably more than coincidental that his tears happened to come on the day after the Senate had passed a bill repealing Obamacare (which Obama vetoed).

Yesterday, Obama spoke of the Munich shootings. After making the requisite boilerplate comment, "our hearts go out to those who may have been injured," within thirty seconds he was grinning and joking about how his older daughter Malia was graduating high school and leaving home.

I certainly don't blame Obama for not shedding tears over the plight of the nine Germans who were killed yesterday. No one is so empathetic that they weep over every tragedy that takes place in the world; that would be impossible. (I certainly don't.)

But I also didn't give him credit for being warmhearted for having cried six months ago.

I do hope that all those media types who gave him credit for a big heart after he shed tears at that January news conference take note of his joking performance yesterday, and try to figure out what it says about him.

(Not that I'd expect them to.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The viewpoint of a Muslim terrorist in Europe

Reading about the Muslim who knifed a number of people on a German train recently made me wonder what goes through the mind of a young Muslim man living in Europe.

Let's ignore the religious, jihadist aspect of it for a moment. (I'm not suggesting denying it, as Obama does, but merely setting it aside for a moment). There has to be a large component of social alienation and personal bitterness involved in these attacks.

Imagine you're a young Arab man in France. You're surrounded by lighter-complected people who all seem to be more successful than you. They don't pay any attention to you, and more or less treat you as if you're not there. You sense that they don't really want you there, and are suspicious of you. And you have the vague sense that they resent having to pay taxes to support your welfare.

Though you long to have sex with those beautiful light-skinned French women, they seem to have zero interest in you. And the indecent way they dress seems geared toward tempting you, which makes their denial of your advances even more frustrating. Every time you see a French man and a French woman enjoying each other's company, it fills you with jealousy.

And every time you see them drive by in their fancy cars, and see the elegant apartment buildings they live in, it fills you with bile. Why should they have all that, and not you?

Although you don't see the world through the prism of IQ, and the language barrier sort of mutes everything, you have the vague sense that the light-skinned people look down on you for not understanding everything they do.

This goes on and on, and your feelings of bitterness and frustration gradually harden. And it's almost inevitable that you would end up feeling this way.

You feel rootless, alien in the country you live in, and long for a group of winners to identify with. Then along comes ISIS, a seemingly worldwide movement of people who are Muslim, just like you, and are completely uninhibited about striking out at the West you resent so much.

You know you're not supposed to just go on a killing spree just for the hell of it, but when ISIS tells you that you can do it for a noble cause and that it would make you a warrior jihadist, the temptation is too much to resist.

You know you pretty much have nothing to live for, so why not kill yourself and take as many of those hated Westerners as you can with you while you're at it?

In a way, these suicidal killers have something in common with Seung-hui Cho and Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodgers. They all see themselves as having nothing to live for, and want nothing more than to lash out at the people who reject them and make them feel like losers.

Which is something that should be taken into account when debating whether to import more of them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Comment from a neurologist on Aspies

A commenter with a background in neurology recently said something interesting on the Do Aspies span the full range of morality post. Here it is, with a few edits:

As a Neurology student with extensive background of general biology I might have some answers. It's very difficult to understand the cause and mechanism of Aspergers Syndrome because it has strong genetic influences and is quite paradoxical. However, I meticulously searched out advanced sources on the internet, and between that and observing the behaviors of Aspies I know personally, I think I can paint a broader picture of Aspergers, particularly in regard to mass shooters.

It's foolish to think that Aspies don't have the capability and/or intent/will to commit harm. I am going to argue, based on from what I know, that people with Aspergers actually have very low cognitive and emotional empathy. It's got less to do with morality and more to do with ability. Aspies have above average connectivity (synapses between neurons) which overwhelms the neurons with constant signals, that's why they have extreme sensitivity and because of that they usually seem to be disassociative and avoidant to cruelty and malice, not because they are truly good compassionate people but because they simply get overwhelmed. On the surface they seem to have virtuous or just philosophies, but that's because with their already hypertensive state of mind they can't afford to invest in other people's endeavors. 

The strange thing is unlike neurotypicals and sociopaths they use their frontal lobes rather than the limbic system to intellectually deduce what the other person feels, rather than just doing it instinctively and quickly like we do. In that regards they seem colder than sociopaths but their neurological methods of socializing are inferior and inefficient. They behave superficially politely or compassionately, since it's better for them to avoid confrontation. The thing is, the hyperconnectivity can go both ways: they can experience above average intense stimulations that explains their obsessive narrow behaviors and because they are so hypertensive they can even experience pleasure more intensely (in certain activities) and theres no reason to think that these activities can't involve downright cruel aggression and sadism. Contrary to popular belief, Aspies have the potential to be even more cruel than sociopaths; Lanza and Elliot Rodgers certainly experienced great pleasure in killing those people.

You have ubiquitous comments from Cassandras who date Aspie men saying things like "But he's so nice and gentle, the other day he walked an old grandma across the street," and "he treats animals nicely," however this is actually misleading.

Aspies, as I mentioned, don't use the necessary parts of the lymbic system in the midbrain region like we do for social communication; instead they use the frontal lobes, where logical thinking and concrete reasoning works, therefore they have a very technical, pedantic, robotic awareness of social norms. Aspies usually try hard to please people and try to follow every moral, social and ethical convention. They also lie less because they want to avoid conflict and confrontation because to them it's the path of least resistance. However, neurologically speaking, this is actually just selfishness: they don't do these good deeds to help people, but rather to make themselves socially presentable.

Like schizoids, they are scared to be judged, confronted, and criticized.

I don't necessarily agree with everything this commenter said. For instance, I'm still not convinced that Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodgers took the same kind of pleasure in their killings that, say, a Ted Bundy did. But the description of the over-connectivity in an Aspie brain was new to me and made perfect sense: much of their behavior is a defense against overstimulation. I've witnessed that myself, and have heard Aspies cry out, "Too much chaos!" if two people are doing different things in a room at the same time. And they are bothered by, for instance, television commercials, in a way that NT's never are. And if anybody even jokingly pretends to be cruel, Aspies will lecture them about their "morality."

And his description of their "technical, pedantic, robotic awareness of social norms" was right on target as well. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Motives shrouded in mystery

After Gavin Long shot the three police officers in Baton Rouge to death, President Obama condemned the killings, then said, "As of right now we don't know the motive of the killer." (Obama has yet to personally clarify that statement.)

Long had praised Micah Johnson, the Dallas shooter who shot the five white cops the week before, and he had previously followed the New Black Panthers and the BLM movement. He had traveled to Baton Rouge from Missouri specifically to avenge Alton Sterling, one of the two black men who had been killed by policemen the week before.

But, to Obama, it was all a big mystery.

When Micah Johnson shot 11 police officers in Dallas (killing 5 of them), Obama, speaking from Warsaw, Poland, said, "I think it’s very hard to untangle the motives of this shooter. By definition, if you shoot people who pose no threat to you, you have a troubled mind." Obama later said, "I think the danger is that we somehow suggest that the act of a troubled individual speaks to some larger political statement across the country. It doesn't."

Johnson had been extremely clear about his intent. He told the police during his final standoff that he wanted to kill white people, white police in particular. He deliberately didn't aim at black police during his shooting spree.

But, to Obama, it was all a big mystery.

Yet when Dylan Roof shot and killed nine black churchgoers, Obama had no doubts at all about his motive. He said, "The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know the hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals."

Later, at the funeral of those churchgoers, Obama said, "We all have to acknowledge that the [Confederate] flag has always represented more than ancestral pride. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. [Dylan Roof] drew on the long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches — not random, but as a means to control. A way to terrorize and oppress.”

No mystery there.

When Obama, while campaigning back in 2008, promised us the most transparent administration in history, he must have meant that his hypocrisy would be transparent to anyone who noticed it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Genius and masculinity

Commenter "Beppo" brought up an interesting point after the 7/14 post about why Asians didn't come up with any of the seminal scientific breakthroughs: Surely this must lead into a discussion of the differences in inventive ability between the sexes, even when confined to the European race (for a start).

It goes without saying that all of the great scientists and inventors in history were men; in fact it's so obvious that most consider it hardly worth mentioning.

But why?

IQ doesn't entirely explain it. I've heard that men average 5 points higher than women in IQ tests, though I'm not sure whether that's true. (If true, it's not exactly a well publicized fact.) Over the past few decades boys have on average scored slightly higher on the math portion of the SAT's, but girls have scored higher on the verbal.

It's not as if there aren't plenty of very smart women around. I've personally known several, and have had the pleasure of "meeting" (in cyberspace) a couple more through this blog. These are women who have common sense as well as insight, write well, and have a sense of humor to boot.

Some of the smart women I've known had personal issues which could sometimes skew their thinking, but that didn't detract from their intelligence. (And I've known intelligent men with issues as well.)

So why is it only men who were the great geniuses? It's not as if women weren't given the opportunity to lead. There were female monarchs, like Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. There were even female military leaders, like Boudicca and Joan of Arc.

So why no great female creative geniuses?

There's obviously only one possible answer: the way that male hormones shape the brain. They provide that special magic -- yes, that word again -- that provides the creative spark somehow.

But here's the more interesting question: if it's testosterone that gives the brain the juice it needs to become a creative genius, why is it that many of the greatest geniuses tended to be not particularly masculine men?

If you look at pictures of great military and political leaders, you'll see a fair number of guys who were obviously just bursting with male hormones. Think of Charlemagne, a rugged 6' 5" in an era when most men were 5'7". (There's some dispute about this height, but he was definitely over six feet.) Henry VIII was also over six feet and sturdily-built; when young -- before he got fat -- he could leap onto a horse while in full armor. Genghis Khan was reportedly bursting with muscle. Think of George Washington, 6' 2" and strongly built.

If you want to be a leader of men, it doesn't hurt to look like a champion wrestler. People are naturally inclined to kowtow to a man who looks fearsome.

Now look at pictures of the great geniuses. I've included scientists and mathematicians, but stayed away from writers and composers, since their output must be judged more subjectively. And, admittedly, we must view the figures above who predated photography through the eyes their portraitists.

But even so, it's clear that most didn't represent an extreme of masculinity. They had enough testosterone so that their brains became male. Most seem to be ectomorphs; there are surprisingly few mesomorphs or endomorphs among their number. Anyway, here they are, in no particular order:

Albert Einstein:

Nikola Tesla:

Isaac Newton:


Leonardo da Vinci:

Charles Darwin:

Johannes Kepler:



Blaise Pascal:

Max Planck:

J. Robert Oppenheimer:

Neils Bohr:

Guglielmo Marconi:

Thomas Edison:

James Watson:

Francis Crick:

None of these guys look like they were on the football team.

I'll admit, this list was ever so slightly cherry-picked: I omitted Descartes and Galileo simply because they looked too androgenized; but, those were the only two on my original list whom I left out.

In case you're curious, here's Galileo, as renowned for his intellectual courage as his intellect:

And Rene Descartes, who was a great mathematician as well as philosopher, and who looked as if he could have been Sean Connery's ugly brother:

But for the most part, these guys are of average masculinity. None are quite effeminate; but none look as if they might have been cast in The Expendables 2. Several of them also seem to have a strikingly serene look.

Anyway, the point is, the elixir for true genius requires testosterone -- but too much of it may ruin the formula.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Brock Lesnar, Neanderthal

I had likened the professional wrestler Triple H --

-- to a Neanderthal in this post from last August because he resembled an artist's recreation of one:

(Neanderthals were known to have prominent brow ridges as well as powerful builds.

MMA champ Brock Lesnar was in the news yesterday for having failed a drug test, and I happened to stumble across this picture of him with Triple H:

I was struck by how much more protuberant Lesnar's brow ridges are. And not only does his forehead recede, the back of his head recedes in the other direction, giving him a weirdly prehistoric look. Lesnar's receding forehead is even more apparent in this picture:

His pose, with the wide open mouth, reminded me of a gorilla, and when I Google-imaged "screaming gorilla," I came across this picture:

They appear to have equally back-sloping foreheads (and a similar hairstyle to boot).

For some reason I've always found it fascinating when humans seem to revert to a more primitive type.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why didn't Asians come up with any major scientific breakthroughs?

East Asians -- Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans -- have an average IQ roughly seven or eight points higher than the average for whites. Yet they never had a Newton, a Galileo, a Darwin, a Planck, a Tesla, or an Edison.

I've always heard that the reason for that is that they have a higher, narrower IQ bell curve, i.e, with shorter tails, meaning fewer idiots and fewer geniuses. I haven't seen statistics on this, but I have heard the theory mentioned several times. This seems intuitively true, as they show less genetic variety in appearance as well: nose shape, hair color, eye color, skin color vary little. If there's less variation outside the skull, one would expect less inside as well.

I've never really bought the theory that the Confucian ethic alone kept all of the budding Asian Galileos and Darwins from speaking their minds. (Shyness and a reluctance to upset the social apple cart didn't seem to prevent Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and numerous others from realizing their ambitions.)

Anyway, I've always sort of vaguely accepted the bell curve theory, without having given it too much thought.

Genius certainly does require a high IQ -- you have to be able to analyze things, and see how they work in the first place, in order to come up with a better idea. But real genius can't really measured by just IQ.

There's also a certain creative spark that one person with an IQ of 150 can have, and another with the same score can entirely lack. And it's that spark, wherever it resides in the brain, that sets the genius apart. Some say it's correlated with being right-brained (and left-handed); I don't know about that.

You have to have both a healthy skepticism about the established way of looking at things, and an abiding self-confidence in your own thinking. It helps to not identify closely with the reigning ethic (which saves one from succumbing to groupthink).

A certain monomania, or obsessive quality, is all important. If you think about one thing all the time, you'll see things others don't. That can't be captured in an IQ test. I've heard that both Newton and Einstein probably had Aspergers, along with its resulting tunnel vision. At a certain level, this would make sense. Both men were capable of incredible focus.

Look at those lists of famous people's IQ's compiled by "experts." This one, Top 12 People with Highest IQ in the World, is typically silly: they rank actress Sharon Stone 12th with a (supposed) IQ of 154. The put Stephen Hawking at #10 with 160, and rank Einstein at #9 with a range of 160 to 190 (at least this shows an appealing uncertainty).

Then look at three of their top four. At #4, Kim Ung-Yong, at 210; he is now a professor at Chungbuk National University in Korea. At #3, Christopher Hirata, with an IQ of 225 (he was a child prodigy). At #2, Terence Tao, at 225-230; Tao was another child prodigy who is now a professor of mathematics at UCLA.

So, among the top four, they list an ethnic Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. This would seem to give the lie to the bell curve theory. (Keep in mind, though, that all three of them seem to have been child prodigies, and it's far easier to obtain a stratospheric score as a youngster, because of the age adjustment.) Will these three go down in history the way Einstein and Tesla and Galileo did? Will they ever invent anything significant? It seems highly doubtful.

IQ alone could never capture what sets apart an Einstein, or a Shakespeare, or a Galileo. (And, when you think about it, even just thinking one can judge the IQs of these various towering historical figures shows a mind-boggling effrontery in the first place.)

So why exactly is it that Asians didn't come up with the industrial or technical revolutions? It's not that they lack focus. Quite the opposite, they can be fanatical about all sorts of things. Just look at Hiroo Onoda and all those other Japanese soldiers who kept fighting WWII in the jungles of the Philippines for decades after the war was over.

And it's not that they're not smart enough to understand how thing work. Their strength -- and reputation -- for decades has been to be able to take Western inventions and improve upon them. They didn't invent the car, but they now make better cars, on average, than the West. They didn't invent the television, but now make excellent TV's. And so on.

But they never really invented anything significant, and if the scientific and industrial and technology revolutions hadn't happened in the West, Asians would still be dressing in kimonos and fighting with samurai swords. Sony and Hitachi and Hyundai simply wouldn't exist.

The huge, seminal breakthroughs seem to have been a function of some special magic that exists only in the minds of a few whites.

So, yes, after all that analysis, that's my final answer: magic.

Call it sorcery, witchcraft, voodoo, or whatever you want. But that special brew of high IQ, monomania, intellectual self-confidence, creativity, and a willingness to take risks seems to ferment into wizardry only in the brains of a few special whites.

Even though the average white is less intelligent than the average East Asian.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Trump's spontaneous acts of generosity

A friend just forwarded an article, Trump Does the Unthinkable, about Donald Trump's various acts of impulsive kindness over the years.

The friend said, "It's hard to imagine Hillary doing these things."

(True enough: Hillary once famously used her husband's donation of his used underwear as a tax write-off.)

You can say that it's easier to be generous when you're rich, and that's certainly true. But these acts are also interesting as a window into what stirs Donald Trump, especially since they all seem to have been done on the spur of the moment, and most occurred long before his political career started.

The relevant excerpts from the article:

In 1986, Trump prevented the foreclosure of Annabell Hill’s family farm after her husband committed suicide. Trump personally phoned down to the auction to stop the sale of her home and offered the widow money. Trump decided to take action after he saw Hill’s pleas for help in news reports.

In 1988, a commercial airline refused to fly Andrew Ten, a sick Orthodox Jewish child with a rare illness, across the country to get medical care because he had to travel with an elaborate life-support system. His grief stricken parents contacted Trump for help and he didn’t hesitate to send his own plane to take the child from Los Angeles to New York so he could get his treatment.

In 1991, 200 Marines who served in Operation Desert Storm spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before they were scheduled to return home to their families. However, the Marines were told that a mistake had been made and an aircraft would not be able to take them home on their scheduled departure date. When Trump got wind of this, he sent his plane to make two trips from North Carolina to Miami to safely return the Gulf War Marines to their loved ones.

In 1995, a motorist stopped to help Trump after the limo he was traveling in got a flat tire. Trump asked the Good Samaritan how he could repay him for his help. All the man asked for was a bouquet of flowers for his wife. A few weeks later Trump sent the flowers with a note that read: “We’ve paid off your mortgage."

In 1996, Trump filed a lawsuit against the city of Palm Beach, Florida accusing the town of discriminating against his Mar-a-Lago resort club because it allowed Jews and blacks. Abraham Foxman, who was the Anti-Defamation League Director at the time, said Trump “put the light on Palm Beach – not on the beauty and the glitter, but on its seamier side of discrimination.” Foxman also noted that Trump’s charge had a trickle-down effect because other clubs followed his lead and began admitting Jews and blacks.

In 2000, Maury Povich featured a little girl named Megan who struggled with Brittle Bone Disease on his show and Trump happened to be watching. Trump said the little girl’s story and positive attitude touched his heart. So he contacted Maury and gifted the little girl and her family with a very generous check.

In 2008, after Jennifer Hudson’s family members were tragically murdered in Chicago, Trump put the Oscar-winning actress and her family up at his Windy City hotel for free. In addition to that, Trump’s security took extra measures to ensure Hudson and her family members were safe during such a difficult time.

In 2013, New York bus driver Darnell Barton spotted a woman close to the edge of a bridge staring at traffic below as he drove by. He stopped the bus, got out and put his arm around the woman and saved her life by convincing her to not jump. When Trump heard about this story, he sent the hero bus driver a check simply because he believed his good deed deserved to be rewarded.

In 2014, Trump gave $25,000 to Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi after he spent seven months in a Mexican jail for accidentally crossing the US-Mexico border. President Barack Obama couldn’t even be bothered to make one phone call to assist with the United States Marine’s release; however, Trump opened his pocketbook to help this serviceman get back on his feet.

In 2016, Melissa Consin Young attended a Trump rally and tearfully thanked Trump for changing her life. She said she proudly stood on stage with Trump as Miss Wisconsin USA in 2005. However, years later she found herself struggling with an incurable illness and during her darkest days she explained that she received a handwritten letter from Trump telling her she’s the “bravest woman, I know.” She said the opportunities that she got from Trump and his organizations ultimately provided her Mexican-American son with a full-ride to college.

Lynne Patton, a black female executive for the Trump Organization, released a statement in 2016 defending her boss against accusations that he’s a racist and a bigot. She tearfully revealed how she’s struggled with substance abuse and addiction for years. Instead of kicking her to the curb, she said the Trump Organization and his entire family loyally stood by her through “immensely difficult times.”

I've said several times that despite supporting him politically, I find Trump personally unlikable. His garish tastes are off-putting, he responds to political attacks with gratuitous personal insults, and he boasts far too much. 

But, he hasn't boasted about any of the above at all. And as closely as I follow the news, I haven't read about any of these incidents. (Someone once told me that story about paying off the Good Samaritan's mortgage, but I wasn't sure whether to believe it.) 

What these incidents show is that Trump has a strong sense of justice -- that virtue deserves more than itself as a reward -- and also has a soft spot for the middle class. This sets him apart from most politicians on both the Left and Right, most of whom just pay lip service to the middle class. 

And if Trump is stirred by the same things that stir most of us, how bad can he be? Certainly not as bad as the media are trying to make him out.

In fact, these incidents put him in quite a favorable light. They deserve to get far more publicity than they've gotten so far. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Adventures in Cancerland

I mentioned in January that I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. (There's nothing more boring than listening to someone talk about his physical ailments, so you might want to stop reading here.)

After the initial shock of my diagnosis, I read a lot about prostate cancer, and quickly calmed down. (Samuel Nock, who comments on this blog occasionally, was quite helpful in that regard, sending me all sorts of reassuring information about the disease.) Prostate cancer is the slowest-growing, most easily treatable form of cancer. In fact, many believe that the disease is over treated, and many doctors who get it don't even follow their own advice and get treatment, opting for "watchful waiting" instead.

I ended up speaking to two more doctors. The first, at Sloan Kettering, recommended a prostatectomy. But the side effects from that operation (a higher chance of incontinence and impotence) seemed pretty grim. Plus, I didn't like the doctor. I got the strong sense that he was showing off the entire time for the young female Spanish doctor who was accompanying him on his rounds.

The second doctor worked at Procure, which specializes in proton therapy, a type of radiation which has fewer side effects. Protons, as opposed to the photons which are used in traditional radiation, just dissipate after they hit the target, and don't pass through the rest of the body before exiting.

By that point I had pretty much made up my mind to go with proton therapy anyway, and the doctor I met there, Henry Tsai, helped confirm that decision. He was both extremely knowledgeable and down to earth, the combination you want in a physician. And he didn't oversell the treatment. He also didn't give the impression that he was rushing me into anything, even telling me that I could wait a year, or two, or even three, before treatment and probably not have to pay a price, though he didn't recommend that.

I didn't want that uncertainty hanging over my head, so I moved the process forward.

The only unpleasant part of the entire treatment was having the markers installed in my prostate. As I drove to the doctor's office that day, I thought mostly about the upcoming humiliation: you lie down on what is basically a gynecological table, your legs in stirrups, and he injects the markers through your perineum while you have an ultrasound up your rear end. But once the five needles started going in (dunno about you, but that's always been a pretty sensitive area for me), I forgot all about the humiliation.

The nurse offered to hold my hand. I felt a little foolish doing so at age 61, but ended up squeezing her hand so hard I thought I might have hurt her. It did seem to help. (Pain trumps embarrassment.)

The next step was the CT scan. By this point, I was pretty much resigned to the lack of dignity, and to the idea that I was nothing more than a blob of protoplasm to be poked and prodded, and wasn't even that embarrassed.

Next was an MRI, which is basically twenty minutes in a coffin, a little foretaste of eternity.

And then, nine weeks of daily radiation sessions. My son suggested I ask for the kind of radiation that gives you superpowers, like Spiderman got. But evidently that wasn't available.

You never feel the radiation. (It's like going to the dentist to get an x-ray.) You lie down on a table (you have to remain still), and a few minutes later the technicians come into the room to tell you it's over. (You only get about 45 seconds of actual radiation in each session.)

People would always ask how my treatment went that day, as if it might be some sort of ordeal. My reply was always the same, that it was uneventful.

I almost felt guilty about the amount of sympathy I was getting. I never once felt pain, other than the original biopsy, which was mild, and the implantation of the markers, which was pretty intense. As far as the cancer itself, I never felt a thing; it was just a poisonous little seed that had started to grow in my prostate and that had to be taken care of. I've had colds that were more painful.

I opted not to under go chemotherapy, which for prostate cancer consists of taking drugs which lower your androgen levels. (I didn't really want to write a blog from Caitlyn's viewpoint.)

I had originally said in that post in January that I'd be blogging less, thinking that either the cancer or the treatment might be debilitating. But neither ever were. In fact, after five weeks of radiation, on Memorial Day, I ran 200 meters in 27.2, my best since 2007.

This, of course, didn't stop me from playing the cancer card. ("I'm dying of cancer and you want me to take out the garbage?!!")

There were patients at Procure who had more serious forms of cancer. I saw two without noses. And there were little kids with cancer, a stark reminder of how unfair life is.

The staff was friendly and cheerful. It's a tough thing to put a smiley face on a cancer ward. But the nurses and radiation therapists must be told it's part of their job to act like happy hostesses, and they did a good job.

I won't know if I'm cancer-free for another year or so, depending on whether my PSA level goes down. I expect it to; if it doesn't, I'm sorta screwed.

And the radiation itself can cause cancer down the road (I had 47 x-rays to go along with my 44 proton therapy sessions), so the future seems less certain. I no longer see my life stretching out another 40 years until I'm 100.

In the meantime, I guess I'm supposed to have absorbed some lessons about how precious and fleeting life is, and how I'm supposed to savor every moment of every day. Have I? Nah, not really.

I'm still the same obnoxious guy, as I plan to demonstrate on this blog.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The second wave of sociopathic damage

I occasionally run across people who seem overly suspicious, and too willing to see me as some sort of con man, right from the moment they meet me. Whenever I meet someone like this, I think, aha, they've had some experience with a sociopath.

People who've been burned are smart to keep their guard up, but it's possible to keep your guard too high, and screen out a lot of non-sociopaths as well. And if you're on the receiving end of their (in your case unjustified) suspicion, it's hard not to be resentful about essentially being accused of being a sociopath yourself.

I exchanged emails recently with someone who had been burned (badly) by a sociopath. She didn't accuse me of being one, but she did wonder aloud what she was doing, after her earlier experience, telling her story to a complete stranger (me).

I responded, "I suppose an incredibly clever sociopath could conceivably write a blog which talked about how to see through sociopaths, just in order to lure in victims. But the odds of that would be awfully slim. And sociopaths generally don't satisfy themselves with quiet pursuits like writing, they want to be out and about actively screwing others over."

"Remember, I could be paranoid about you as well: how do I know you're not a clever sociopath who pretends to have been a victim of a sociopath in order to pull a fast one over on a guy who thinks he knows all about them? Anyway, my guard is up, but it's not that high."

I suggest others do the same: screen out the sociopaths, but don't make your sieve so fine that you weed out a lot of non-sociopaths as well.

One of the tragedies of getting involved with a sociopath is that you have to lose your innocence, and you're never quite as trusting again.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Women athletes

I'm one of those pathetic old guys who never outgrew his sport, so I've been absorbed by the Olympic Trials for swimming this week. (I even watched some of the heats.)

I've corresponded with a few fellow swim fans, and noted that a couple of them are simply less interested in the women's events. I can understand why they'd feel this way: women, are after all, inferior athletes. Why bother to watch someone swim a 100 meter butterfly in 56 seconds when you can watch someone do it in 50 seconds?

My swimming friends aren't the only ones who feel this way. There's a reason the WNBA has never gained the traction the NBA has.

There are certain sports where the women do attract as much attention as men, and make roughly as much money. Tennis comes to mind. Of course, much of the big money in tennis is made from endorsements, and those are as dependent on the looks of the female player as on her playing ability. This, of course, drives the feminists crazy.

But that gets to the heart of why male sports stars tend to have more commercial potential: male athletes, for the most part, represent the male ideal. The ideal swimming build, for instance, is tall, wide-shouldered and muscular. But while that may be the male ideal, it's not necessarily the female one. And high testosterone body types tends to dominate in most sports.

So while women may swoon over male athletes, men tend not to get as excited about female ones.

That said, you don't have to be attracted to the participants in order to appreciate their achievements. And, as far as those achievements go, it's just a matter of using a different yardstick. And if you're using that different set of standards, it's just as exciting when Katie Ledecky breaks a world record as when Michael Phelps does.

If you're a diehard fan of a sport, following the women as well as the men gives you twice as much to follow. Which is why I was surprised when those friends mentioned that they were less interested in the women's events.