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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Kathy Griffin brouhaha

The recent shot of Kathy Griffin holding up what appears to be Donald Trump's severed head --

-- has gotten a lot of attention. People have likened the shot to an ISIS beheading. It's also brings to mind Perseus holding up the head of Medusa, maybe because of all the hair:

Everybody reacted in predictably silly ways.

Trump himself had to weigh in by Tweeting that Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. (How much better if he had just ignored her.)

The photo evidently came to the attention of the Secret Service. (They do have to weigh each and every last threat, but this is a little ridiculous: Griffin, a comedienne who makes her living by being outrageous, is obviously not a threat.)

A number of people from both Left and Right, eager to demonstrate their virtue, condemned the photo as "offensive" and "inappropriate" and "disgusting" and "wrong."

Griffin herself, reeling from the almost universal condemnation, issued an insincere apology: "I am sorry. I went too far. I was wrong." (She had predicted a negative reaction, and was obviously sorry only for its strength and seeming unanimity.)

The most interesting outcome will be how it affects her career. It will probably have little long term effect. It was, after all, Trump she was mocking. And in the end, Hollywood is not going to punish one of their own for essentially toeing the company line.

What's most telling about the incident is how the reaction compared to what would have happened had some Hollywood figure held up a bloody replica of Barack Obama's head.

That person's show biz career would have ended. The TV show appearances would disappear, the gigs would dry up, and that would have been that. Griffin's career will suffer some short term damage, but in the long run should be fine.

Back in 2010 I wrote about what comedians should have said about Obama -- and the deafening silence we got instead -- here and here and here.

Personally, I thought the photo was sort of funny, just because it was so wrong. I've always been a big Kathy Griffin fan, and what I like most about her is her outrageousness. A comedian's job is to push the boundaries, and maybe step over them. Otherwise, they're just not funny. (Griffin is, by the way, as merciless about herself as she is about everyone else.)

And there's nothing lamer than a comedian who's afraid to offend anyone.

The only thing I find offensive about this incident is the hypocrisy implicit in what would have happened to anyone who mocked Obama similarly.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Trump as King Midas, and some advice

We're all familiar with the tale of King Midas, whose greed was his downfall. In a way, Trump is similar, except that his downfall is due to his ego. Everything in his life -- his real estate holdings, his family, foreign policy, domestic policy -- seems to be an extension of his ego.

It's as if when the satyr Silenus offered to grant Trump a wish, Trump had said, "I want everything I touch to make me look great." But Silenus then replied, "But I can't do that -- only you can do that."

So Trump tried, but he tried too hard. And he would constantly point out how great he was, which only made him look bad.

For instance, when Trump said during the campaign, "I will be the greatest President for jobs that God ever created," it sounded good, at first. What's not to like about more jobs? But in retrospect, it was all about him.

Note that Trump did not say, "Our administration is going to create an unprecedented number of jobs, and that will be a primary focus." He started out by using his favorite word, "I," and ended the sentence with "God ever created," as if the Almighty had specifically created him, back in 1946, to be the greatest jobs President ever.

If Trump had taken out the words "for jobs," the sentence would have shown what was really on his mind.

Trump was probably thinking in the back of his mind that invoking God would win him points with the religious crowd. Instead, it merely betrayed his ego.

What Trump needs to realize is that just one or two self-deprecating jokes would do wonders for his image. He actually has a decent sense of humor, but all his jokes are directed outward. If just a few could be at his own expense, people would like him more. The jokes wouldn't even have to be off the cuff, they could be obviously written by his speechwriters.

It's hard to imagine that Trump's handlers haven't thought of this. Does Trump just overrule them and delete the jokes from his speeches? He may just be constitutionally incapable of modesty.

Best of all would be if Trump could make a joke about his own ego. If he wants to rule a certain course of action out, he could say, with a wink, "That's about as likely as me saying something self-deprecatory."

Next time he wants to describe something as "yuuuuge," instead he could say, "This thing....Let me put it this way, it's almost as big as my ego."

Instead of boasting that he's surrounded himself with the very, very best people, he could just say, "I made sure that absolutely every last person on my staff is smarter than me -- which is probably the smartest thing I've ever done."

If he would make these comments, one of two things would happen: his approval ratings would rise, or he would choke to death.

It'd be worth the risk.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Being Nostradamus

Every now and then it occurs to me that since I'm essentially yelling out into the wilderness with this blog anyway, I might as well try to be another Nostradamus. The trick to that seems to make safe, predictable predictions that can be applied to a wide range of happenings. (This is similar to what psychics and astrologers do.)

For instance, I might say, "A great mushroom cloud will herald the end of many lives in a heavily populated area."

As we all know, sooner or later, as long as nuclear bombs exist, that will happen. It maybe be a month, a year, a decade, or a century in the future. But it will happen. And if it does, it's a safe bet that the perpetrators won't be looking to attack Antarctica.

So, I predict it.

In that vein, here are the rest of my prognostications:

Terrorists will wreak havoc and cause widespread panic in New York City.

The earth will shake, and the resulting disaster will end tens of thousands of lives.

A great wave will emerge from the ocean which will drown thousands.

People will be attracted to a charismatic politician who is not nearly as nice as he seems.

Celebrities with double digit IQ's will give their political opinions, and the masses will take them seriously.

The Middle East will be a hotbed of dissension and violence.

Creatures unknown to science will be discovered here on earth.

There will be a tragic war in which hundreds of thousands of people will die.

The path of the world economy will not be a smooth one.

There will be a population crisis in Africa which will make previous crises look minor by comparison.

Asians will mysteriously outscore whites on standardized tests, whites will mysteriously outscore Hispanics, and Hispanics will outscore blacks. No one will be able to explain these inexplicable differences. (Not publicly, at least.)

Professional basketball will be dominated by people of sub-Saharan descent.

Racial tensions will escalate; a large number of killings will take place around the world which will seem to be racially motivated.

The United States will become more like Brazil: darker-complected, with a shrinking middle class.

Great advances will be made in technology and medicine.

And, people who predict the future will continue to do so in vague terms, and will mostly describe basically nothing more than a continuation of current trends.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Just an average guy, morally

The frequency with which I castigate sociopaths might lead you to believe that I see myself as some sort of shining beacon of moral rectitude. I don't.

If someone were to give me insider information I thought would profit me, and I thought I could get away with it, I'd trade on it.

If Angela Jonsson were to beckon, I'd be hard pressed to say no.

I feel no overwhelming affection for the vast majority of people. And I feel zero loyalty to any of the schools I attended.

When I read of a tragedy that strikes people I don't know, I feel nothing. (Except, in the case of recent terrorist attacks, when I feel anger against those who insist we let more Muslim immigrate.)

I often fake a friendliness I don't feel. Overall, I'm a little on the cold side.

I don't think these attitudes and actions are unique to me; in fact, they're fairly typical. But there are people who feel loyalty to institutions, and who care about strangers. I'm just not one of them.

I'm also not a sociopath, since I'm capable of feeling shame, and even mortification at times.

But the reason I understand sociopaths, and see through them, is because I occupy the middle ground, morally speaking. I understand their motivations, because I feel those motivations too.

If I were some sort of angel, sociopaths would probably still be a complete mystery to me. I'd be the kind of guy who, after hearing of a particularly gruesome crime, shakes his head and says, "I don't understand how a human being could do something like that!" Or, "That guy's gotta be crazy!"

If I were an angel, I would ascribe the best of motives to everyone else, and assume that others -- even politicians -- were being truthful most of the time.

But, I'm no angel. I know what it is to hate people so much I want to see them dead. (That's "people," as in plural, which makes me a sort of serial killer in my own head.) And I, like Bernie Madoff, would prefer for me to have the money than for you to have it.

Don't worry, I don't have the nerve to act on these impulses; I'm too inhibited. And, I fear the consequences of my actions. (Or, if you prefer, I'm not man enough to follow through.) These things differentiate me from sociopaths. But the previous paragraph does describe how I sometimes feel.

To tell the truth, I don't even think those feelings are unique to me, either. (Although admitting to them is certainly not the norm.)

I also enjoy admiration as much as anybody. (It doesn't embarrass me in the least, I just soak it right up.) I'm just not quite willing to lie to get it.

I'm past the age where it would make much sense to either take steroids or get plastic surgery, two things sociopaths are more likely to do. But as I said in a recent post, if I had my life to live over again, I'd advise the young me to go ahead and get the surgery. And, frankly, I'm still curious to see what I'd be capable of physically if I juiced.

A sociopath's stock in trade are often mockery and intimidation. I don't intimidate. But as to mockery, well, I do write this blog.

Again, if I weren't this way, I'd never be able to understand sociopaths. (Saintliness may be admirable, but it doesn't lead to a greater understanding of one's fellow man.)

Anyway, next time I write a sociopath alert, feel free to think, ah, no wonder he understands them so well. Or you can even think, he's just trying to make himself feel virtuous since sociopaths are the only people he's better than.

But please don't think, oh, that self-righteous twit is at it again, trying to make himself out to be some kind of saint. 'Cause I'm not.

If morality were measured purely by honesty -- and that is one measure -- then I'd lay claim to being particularly upright. But there are a lot of facets to morality beside that, and on virtually all of them, I am, at best, average.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to sell healthy habits

"Ga" pointed out yesterday that the people responsible for trying to curb diabetes and get people to stop smoking are going about it wrong. Here is his (slightly edited) comment:

Whenever I see the campaigns to stop smoking try to guilt a person, portraying smoking as some evil bad guy in a cartoon, or talking about health effects that may not strike for decades, it seems inefficient. Likewise, with junk food, the attempts at "healthier food" in US high schools makes me shake my head....

If the campaigns focused on the idea that smoking is expensive and spending money on junk food is bad for your budget, maybe more people would stop. Signs saying "you can save enough money for a new computer in a year if you stop smoking" could be more efficient and get the intended result.

All true. Trying to convince teenagers that smoking or sugar may have bad side effects a decade or three down the road is hardly going to jolt them into healthier lifestyles. Money is a far more immediate and tangible benefit. 

I've always thought that to get people to quit smoking, you should appeal to their vanity. Simply point out that if they smoke, their skin will wrinkle far more rapidly, and they will likely look 45 by the time they're 35. As I've pointed out before, vanity is a stronger motivator for most of us than health. 

To get people to cut back on sugar, just feature more before-and-after pictures of people who've gotten fat. Those who disapprove of fat shaming will object, but the fact is, everybody looks better lean and healthy. (The best way to warn against meth would also be with before and after shots.) 

An even better way to push men in the right direction would be to point out that smoking and sugar both lower testosterone levels. The average man cares far more about his masculinity then he does about a potential heart attack decades down the road. 

It would never fly, but they should have a campaign featuring a beautiful young woman saying, "Twenty-five-year-old men ought to be able to do it more than once a day -- I'm through with smokers!"  

Years ago there was a public service message about drugs with a picture of an egg, and the caption, "this is your brain." Right next to it was a picture of a fried egg, with the caption, "This is your brain on drugs."

I can't recall seeing any evidence as to the efficacy of that campaign, but it seemed to have little effect. (As Tolstoy once said, nobody seems to think he has enough money, yet everyone seems to think he has a sufficiency of brains.) 

Needless to say, the campaign spawned a host of takeoffs. One showed a picture of a small circle right next to a larger circle. The caption, next to the smaller circle, read, "This is your asshole before you go to prison for drugs..."

The thing is, that probably would have been a more effective campaign. 

Likewise, appealing to people's vanity (and to men's machismo) would be far more effective than a dry warning from the Surgeon General.

Perhaps they could show a pair of big eggs next to two small ones. The caption could start off, "These are your testicles before you start smoking....."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Are sociopaths happy?

This blog recently discussed the Gethin's question of whether sociopaths ever suffer from depression.

An equivalent question is, are sociopaths happy?

The best answer I can think of is: are great white sharks happy? Just as it's hard to imagine a great white shark getting depressed, it's also hard to imagine them feeling peacefully contented. They must get a feeling of satisfaction from grabbing a seal in their jaws, shaking it, and ripping the flesh off it. But it's a temporary feeling, and great white sharks have to keep moving, or they die.

These sharks are always ravenous, never quite sated, and remain on a sort of psychic autopilot. They are not inward-looking, introspective creatures. And they never stop to worry about whether what they're doing is "right."

In fact, even in the womb, they'll devour their own siblings.

And they spend the rest of their lives looking of their next victim.

Sociopaths are much the same. They always want more, and will do anything to get it.

Sociopaths feel physical pleasure every bit as much as the next person. In fact, because of their low level of inhibitions, they find physical pleasure hard to resist.

And sociopaths enjoy the feeling of schadenfreude even more than the rest of us; they are connoisseurs of it.

Although sociopaths can counterfeit love, affection, gratitude, and loyalty so well that to the naive they appear to be walking repositories of those emotions, they never actually feel them. So they never feel the warmth of those emotions can bring.

And sociopaths never feel the quiet satisfaction to be had from a good book, or a crossword puzzle, or a subtle turn of phrase. They need to be out and about, actively manipulating people and gaining their admiration, and, if there's anything to be gained, screwing them over.

Sociopaths also get a certain glee from fooling people -- sport lying -- but it's a very temporary satisfaction, then it's on to the next one.

Similarly, for "affect-hungry" sociopaths, like the one described in the previous post, who have a bottomless need for others' affection and sympathy and admiration -- and who will lie in order to receive such -- no amount of attention is ever enough. So they must tell more people that they have cancer, or that they were Navy SEALs, or whatever other lies it takes to get their undivided attention.

There's no rest for the scary.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ken Boyer, classic sociopath

The Daily Mail ran this article today about a con man who romanced multiple women while telling them that he was dying of stage 4 liver cancer:

A dying cancer patient who married the 'one that got away' this month despite having just weeks left to live is a conman, his ex girlfriends claim.

Ken Boyer didn't think he'd make it to his birthday next month after being diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer, according to his daughter.

The 60-year-old, of Palm Bay, Florida, even reached out to and married his 'long lost love' Michelle Kimbrel - who gave up her job to care for him - earlier this month.

But now multiple ex-girlfriends of Boyer have come forward to call out the 'cancer patient' as a fraud after reading about his wedding in the Daily Mail.

Karen Hagerty, a teacher from Winter Haven, called Boyer 'a master manipulator and conman' who just appeared to be after some free meals and a place to live, Click Orlando reports.

Another ex, Cheryl Alvarez said Boyer would call her his 'Jamaican princess' and talked about marriage with her even though they never had a sexual relationship.

But she became suspicious of his claims he was suffering from stage 4 cancer when they took a motorcycle trip they took together from Miami to Key West.

'It's five hours to the Keys and five hours back, someone going through liver cancer stage 4 can't do that,' she said.

Hagerty and Alvarez are among a long line of exes who say they were fed the same lies by Boyer.

All of them met him on, and all were told he had cancer.

Boyer even used the same 'love at first sight' line on every single woman he met, it is claimed.

The ex who says she suffered the most at Boyer's hands was Barbara Jones, of Sebastian, Florida, who filed civil lawsuit against Boyer last week.

In it, she alleges that he had borrowed $22,000 from her - and never returned the cash.

Jones said that Boyer moved in with her in September 2015, after they met on a golf course, and he told her that he loved her and was planning to spend the rest of his life with her.

She says that that she too was told about his 'cancer' which would then 'miraculously' go into remission.

Jones says she paid for everything, including all the household bills, until her wallet 'finally broke' in January this year. Boyer left a short time later.

'The man is a menace,' she wrote on Facebook. 'Manipulator and habitual liar doesn't even scratch the surface!'

She says that since he left her, Boyer had left a trail of broken heart and lies.

Trish Marsee, a hairstylist in Winter Park, said she became suspicious when Boyer wanted to move the relationship so fast - telling her he loved her on their first date.

'There were red flags as far as him pushing to move in with me and pushing to have a relationship,' she told WKMG-TV.

She says they only went on a few dates before she ended it, feeling 'I'm too young to be a caretaker.' He said he had a lot of illnesses.'

Boyer's current wife Kimbrel says she and Boyer had began communicating on Facebook earlier this year after meeting 20 years ago in a Missouri bar, but losing touch.

After exchanging a few brief messages, he told her about his condition and Kimbrel offered to take a leave of absence from work to come and care for him.

'I'll talk to them and see what I can do. I will take care of you,' Kimbrel, who is a grandmother, told Click Orlando.

She flew to Florida on April 19 and Boyer proposed a few hours after their reunion.

The pair tied the knot earlier this month.

At the time Boyer described the wedding as being the best possible end to a 'really good life' adding that he was 'ready' to die.

The groom did not disclose what kind of cancer he is suffering or exactly how much time he has left, only that the pair were planning to move back to Missouri to seek alternative treatment.

Yesterday, Boyer was defensive when reporters challenged him about his ex-girlfriends' claims.

'I'm not denying that I know them. I have dated them all, I am not going to play their game. The people that truly know me and truly love me still do, but you haven't talked to any of them. You are only talking to angry, hateful, jealous women.'

He also appeared to dodge the questions about his 'stage 4 cancer.

'Nobody said anything about weeks to live, and I'm sorry the drama card was used to sell the story, but we are done with this,' Boyer said.

However, the channel stated that Boyer's daughter claimed her father would not reach his next birthday which is in June.

Boyer declined to present any medical evidence of his diagnosis. 

Boyer shows a lot of the classic signs of sociopathy. First, pretending to have cancer when you don't is a time honored sociopathic scam. It incorporates dishonesty, manipulativeness, and heartlessness, all in one. (It's often referred to as "Munchausen's Syndrome," and it's driven by a need for attention and sympathy. But really, it's just an offshoot of sociopathy.)

Second, telling all of these women that he felt "love at first sight" for them shows an emotional dishonesty that is another sociopathic specialty, proclaiming positive feelings he simply didn't have. 

Third, scamming a woman you claim to love out of $22,000 is also a neat sociopathic trifecta, combining dishonesty, cruelty, and shamelessness. 

Fourth, accusing one's victims of being "angry, hateful, jealous women" is what sociopaths always do: attack and belittle people who tell the truth about them. 

And fifth, Boyer is a master of that sociopathic trick, being able to produce tears upon command. Here's an article from the NY Daily News which includes a video of Boyer talking about his cancer. Look at the video from the :54 mark to about 1:01. You'll see Boyer saying he's had a really good life, and how God's been good to him, but if it's his time, it's his time. (How brave!) If you've never knowingly seen a sociopath drip with sincerity while lying, you should watch Boyer's tearful performance; it's masterful.  

Boyer is a good-looking guy, but I couldn't help but be struck by his thin lips. Here are a few pictures of him from the Daily Mail article: 

Once again: you won't find the thin lips correlation mentioned in any psychology textbooks, and I certainly can't explain it logically. Maybe I shouldn't mention it, since it probably lowers my credibility on the subject of sociopathy. But, I do keep seeing it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The imperfect messenger

Given how incredibly biased the media has been about Trump, and how hard they try to inflate his every faux pas into a major scandal, it's hard to tell what's real from what's fake. But one thing that's clear is that Trump himself hasn't been helping matters with his personal style.

I support almost all of Trump's stated positions from his campaign. We need to enforce our borders, especially with regard to Islamic terrorists. We need to play hardball with China, have better relations with Russia, and help the middle class by bringing jobs back to this country. And, we shouldn't be engaging in the Sisyphean task of nation building abroad.

I don't blame Trump for the fact that some of his good faith efforts have been stymied by Congress (with the Wall, and with sanctuary cities) and the courts (with immigration). With other issues, it's less clear; but there may be hidden reasons for some of the shifts in stances (for instance, we may need China's help in dealing with North Korea).

But in the meantime, Trump is the ultimate in distractibility. Late last week he had to throw a jab at Rosie O'Donnell (telling her that they finally agreed on something -- that James Comey should have been fired). It was sort of funny, but it was also beneath the dignity of the Presidency. And it wasn't even in response to anything recent, just a gratuitous leading jab.

When people actually insult him, Trump's narcissistic personality and ADHD together render him incapable of not firing back -- whether it's O'Donnell, Chuck Todd, Alicia Machado, Kizr Khan, or Alec Baldwin. Trump's ego simply won't allow him to let an insult go unavenged. And, he seems incapable of admitting that he is not the best at everything, ever.

Presidential candidates used to run ads asking whom you would trust to have their finger on the nuclear button at 3 AM. In the next campaign, they'll be asking whom you would trust not to have his finger on the Tweet button at 3 AM.

A President is supposed to at least pretend to be noble, and gracious. I've never quite bought into the canonization that Ronald Reagan seems to have undergone in Republican circles, but he was a master at acting gracious.

Reagan hit his peak in that regard after being shot by John Hinckley. As he was wheeled into the operating room, a bullet in his chest, he joked to the assembled doctors, "I hope you're all Republicans." If it had been Trump, he would have said, "I hope you're all top rate doctors. Because I deserve the best -- the very best. Hey you, where'd you go to med school?"

Afterward, Reagan told his wife, "Honey, I forgot to duck." Trump would have spent the rest of his Presidency grousing, "That Hinckley....what a loser. Jodie Foster is way out of his league. He's right where he belongs, in a mental hospital. What a loser."

Imagine if FDR had a running feud with some minor entertainment figures, and had constantly sniped at them in his fireside chats. "Oh, and can you believe that fat sow Marie Dressler? She's as big as a house -- and ugly to boot. Her career is really going downhill fast. And Claudette Colbert, what a moron! What she knows about foreign policy I could fit in a thimble!"

Abraham Lincoln was once supposedly asked (apocryphally, I'm sure) how long a man's legs should be. His famous reply: "Long enough to reach the ground." If it had been Trump, he would have replied, "My legs are the ideal length. I'm six foot two inches, which is really the perfect height for a man. The perfect height."

George Washington reportedly told his father (in another obviously apocryphal tale), "Father, I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree." Trump would have said, "Father, that cherry tree was blocking the view from the foyer. We have such a great view now, what I did was a great move. The property is worth a lot more this way, believe me. It was a really smart move."

I'm still rooting for Trump to be able to make good on his campaign promises. It's just hard to root for the man personally.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Aspergers Syndrome and violence

I've mentioned previously that a lot of the recent mass shooters seem to have had Aspergers, or possibly a stronger form of autism. Another thing I've observed about Aspies is that they feel freer to hit people. This is obviously a far milder form of aggression, but it's hard not to notice the correlation.

I'm not sure exactly why they do it. It could be a reflection of their tendency to lash out when they feel they've been spited. It could be an inability to deal with frustration. It could be partly just a simple lack of empathy.

But they do lash out, and always seem to feel justified. I was once punched in the shoulder by a female Aspie, four times in a row. It didn't hurt, and when I laughed, she got even more infuriated.

I've was once kicked in the leg by another female Aspie; that did hurt. And when I expressed annoyance and told her how much it hurt, she laughed, thinking I was lying.

In a way, Aspies are sort of a modified version of a full blown autistic who'll go crazy and start hitting you. (Think of the title character's mentally disabled brother in There's Something About Mary, who seems to have been created  from firsthand experience.)

When I was a small boy my parents were friends with a couple who had a daughter about my age whom I've always thought of as retarded, though she had no physical manifestations as with Downs Syndrome. When the families got together to go camping, she would occasionally get excited and just start hitting me for no reason. I would just look at my parents, or her parents, and her parents would always gently remonstrate with her and pull her off me. In retrospect, I wonder if she didn't just have full blown autism.

I'm reminded of her when I think of how I've been hit by people with the far less severe form of autism, Aspergers.

If anybody has had any similar experiences, I'd be curious to hear about it.


Michael Jackson's daughter Paris has been in the news lately for her recent Calvin Klein modeling contract, for having been signed for a movie with Charlize Theron, and for her penchant for nudity.

She certainly is beautiful:

And she's the spitting image of Michael!

That should put to rest once and for all those ugly rumors that Michael was a child molester.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tony Robbins encourages clients to be more sociopathic

I explained last month how Tony Robbins is a sociopath.

What Robbins essentially exhorts his clients to do is to be more like him -- more like a sociopath. His philosophy has certainly worked for him. He HAS unleashed the giant within, he is incredibly successful (with a net worth reportedly over $500 million), and his philosophy does work -- in certain circumstances.

Robbins is right: once you think you can succeed, you are more likely to. This is partly why so many sociopaths are incredibly successful -- as politicians, as hedge fund managers, as Hollywood producers, and as titans of corporate America.

He has his clients walk across coals and do parachute jumps to prove to themselves that they can overcome their fears and can do more than they previously thought possible. (Sociopaths tend to be fearless and think they can do anything.)

Robbins has people jump up and down and yell out responses to his questions. (Sociopaths are uninhibitedly verbal in public.)

He encourages participants to yell out how much they believe in themselves and how they will succeed. (A sociopath's mind is often in an egotistical whirl.)

Robbins exhorts his seminar attendees to go out and take action and conquer the world. (A sociopath never doubts himself, and is always ready to do whatever is necessary for his advancement.)

And he essentially tells them not to be paralyzed by fear or discouragement, but to take action. (Sociopaths, as discussed in the previous post, don't seem to suffer from clinical, paralyzing depression.)

Telling non-sociopaths to be more like a sociopath actually isn't bad advice.

Robbins doesn't tell his clients to be more disloyal, dishonest, and destructive. Though when you think about it, those sociopathic qualities might help some of them succeed, too.

Do sociopaths suffer from depression?

A few days ago, on the Red flags for sociopathy post, Gethin asked a question that hadn't occurred to me before:

Do you think it's possible for sociopaths to experience depression? I know it's possible for them to have anger issues, and for them to be sad about things, but I've never seen evidence that they can experience the same sort of disabling clinical depression that normal people can. In Hervey Cleckley's 1940s book, he says that suicide threats from sociopaths are rarely carried out. Many years ago I suffered from depression so bad I had psychomotor retardation, where I could sit in a stupor for hours. I somehow can't picture sociopaths having that disease.

It is hard to imagine a sociopath having the sort of disabling, clinical depression of the sort Gethin describes. I've seen sociopaths get discouraged, and be frustrated, but I can't recall ever seeing one in the throes of a disabling depression.

This may have something to do with their narcissistic natures, and their resulting ability to lie to themselves and convince themselves that they will triumph in the end because of their innate superiority.

The basic thought going through the mind of a depressive is, "I suck and there's no hope for me." But a sociopath's mind simply doesn't work that way.

I've heard it said -- and this expression was undoubtedly coined by a depressive -- that depressed people are simply people who see the world the way it is. Sociopaths tend to see the world it suits them to see, and they tend to see idealized version of themselves. When they look in the mirror they see an invincible -- and incredibly cool -- warrior who will triumph in the end.

Does that optimism render them immune to depression? To some extent, it probably does.

The other factor involved here is that sociopaths, when they do get down for whatever situational or neurobiological reason, react to that feeling differently. Instead of becoming essentially paralyzed, and sitting alone in a room feeling helpless and hopeless, they are far more likely to distract themselves with substance abuse, or criminal activity, or by using whatever means they can to make others feel bad (in a "misery loves company" sort of way).

I guess, if you want to escape your depression, you should think more like a sociopath.

Maybe elves not that good after all

After seeing The Lord of the Rings, I realized that elves were on the side of goodness and light:

But then yesterday the NY Post ran an article with the headline Teen arrested for recording girl hanging herself from tree, with this picture of the miscreant, Tyerell Przybycien:

Now I'm totally confused.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How steroids mold the body

Two nights ago ran an article about Brazilian Nicholas Santos, who at 37 swam the second fastest 50 meter butterfly in history (and the fastest without a tech suit).

The article featured this photograph of Santos:

Does it not seem almost embarrassingly apparent that Santos is juicing? Here's another picture of him from a few years ago:

His body has all the usual steroid signatures: the line between the pecs is well-defined all the way up to his collarbones; his deltoids taper down to well-defined points on the sides of his arms; he has convex trapezius muscles; he has a medical muscle chart level of definition; and he has veins popping out in places you wouldn't expect, like the outside of his right forearm in the top picture.

I'm sure he's passed all the drug tests he's been given, like many notorious juicers. But the dopers are always a step ahead with new designer forms of artificial hormones for which tests haven't yet been devised.

Swimming seems to be a relatively clean sport. I think most of its biggest recent stars -- Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky, and Sarah Sjostrom -- are all obviously clean. But swimmers who look juiced aren't all that rare. And it's particularly suspicious when the athlete in question doesn't have any other markers for high testosterone levels.

When you see someone like French rugby player Sebastien Chabal, who was obviously hyperandrogenized as he was growing up --

-- big muscles are supposed to be part of the equation. They fit with the Neanderthal brow, the prominent nose, the wide cheekbones and the big bone structure, all of which express a naturally high testosterone level:

And Chabal, though he was listed as being 6' 3" and 249 pounds, doesn't even look overly muscular.

It's far more suspicious when someone who is basically boyish-looking -- meaning, their facial features and bone structure don't reflect their having had a high level of testosterone while growing up -- has abnormal musculature. An example of that would be Adam Peaty, the British Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100 meter breaststroke:

His huge arms simply don't "match" his boyish face and tiny waist. Here's another picture of Peaty:

Note the way his deltoid tapers down to a well-defined point, and the line between his pectorals extending all the way up to his collarbones. Peaty also shows another telltale sign: incredible, almost unnatural definition around the external obliques (the muscle at the side of the abdomen).

Another example would be Ben Proud, who a couple weeks ago tied the second fastest ever 50 meter freestyle in textile:

Proud has the face of a guy who got picked on in junior high, and the body of a cartoon superhero.

I can't say Peaty and Proud are unquestionably doping (I think most British swimmers are clean, a statement I wouldn't make about the Brazilians or Chinese). And I obviously don't have proof that any of the three swimmers shown above are taking PEDs. But, the visual evidence is pretty compelling.

Bear in mind that it's awfully hard to develop such chiseled, bulging muscles while swimming six or so miles per day. Daily hard swimming workouts tend to wear one down and result in long, relatively slender, loose muscle, not the kind of muscle which would look at home on a body-building stage. Contrast the swimmers pictured above with the following examples of world class swimmers with more typical swimmers' builds.

Jack Conger, the American record holder in the 200 yard butterfly:

Will Licon, the American record holder in the 200 yard breaststroke:

Clark Smith, the American record holder in the 500 and 1650 yard freestyles:

Ippei Watanabe, the world record holder in the 200 meter breaststroke:

Aaron Piersol, the world record holder in the 200 meter backstroke:

It's virtually impossible to swim the distances required to be a world class competitor and be left with a sharply defined, bulging, body builder-like physique.

One must always allow for the fact that human beings come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes. But when you see certain patterns, it's hard not to be suspicious. Especially since steroids leave their mark on a body as indelibly as gluttony, or a taste for tattoos.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What's wrong with Kim Jong Un?

What is Kim Jong Un's syndrome? Is he a sociopath? Psychotic? Or just garden-variety narcissist with unlimited license?

His actions are so bizarre, in so many different ways, that it's tempting to just settle for saying something like "Guy's got a screw loose," or, "He's out of control." Neither of those statements, of course, would convey any useful information. But, neither would be wrong, either.

I've tried hard to pigeonhole him, but I can't: there's no recognizable pattern of behavior, no familiar tics that make me think, aha -- that's his syndrome.

And add to that the fact that the news we get is often misleading, and it's sometimes hard to tell truth from fiction. Yesterday an article in the NY Post said that Kim Jong Un was claiming that the US and South Korea had conspired to assassinate him, and that the CIA had snuck operatives into North Korea to that end.

That sounds like paranoia, and given all the other outlandish claims Kim has made, it has to be taken with a grain of salt. But -- and this has to be said -- it's also plausible. Trump has escalated tensions with North Korea recently, and the most effective way to end the threat of a nuclear strike from that country would be to kill Kim.

So, who knows.

Kim would, based on some of his other actions -- killing his uncle and his half-brother, among many others -- seem to suffer from paranoia. And paranoia, according to all the psychology textbooks, goes hand in hand with delusions of grandeur, which Kim obviously in abundance.

(Kim is a little reminiscent of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who was given to saying, "Off with his head!" The difference is that in that book, the queen's courtiers would never carry out her orders, whereas Kim's minions do.)

But, Kim does present an a tempting target. So maybe these other people were plotting against him. Plus, how many of those killings are due to people close to Kim planting a bug in his ear in order to eliminate their own enemies? All we know is, we'll never know for sure.

And even when it comes to his delusions of grandeur, how many of those are actually his, and how much are merely the machinery of the state? Remember, he is the son of Kim Jong Il, who had these titles bestowed upon him, and about whom it was said by the state press that he would regularly shoot three or four holes in one per round of golf.

North Korea is obviously an incredibly repressive regime, where not only the press but the citizenry speak their minds at their own peril. If Kim had created this society himself, it would be say to say he was a sociopath. But Kim basically inherited a dictatorship. And if that's all you've ever known, it would take a pretty remarkable person to change it.

At the same time, making excuses for Kim this way is a little like saying that we should sympathize with Ted Bundy because he was the product of incest and had been lied to about his parentage as a child. Just because Kim grew up in such extraordinarily warped circumstances doesn't mean he's not a sociopath.

Usually, it's fairly easy to find about someone's family background simply by checking out the Early Life section of their bio on Wikipedia. But Wikipedia gives no sense of what Kim Jong Un's relationship with his mother was.

And what the North Korean press has said about Kim's father doesn't exactly seem reliable: that when he was born on top of a sacred mountain, winter turned to spring. And that his body was so well calibrated that he never needed to urinate or defecate.

Anyway, all of this is a little like trying to analyze the last emperor of China, the boy king Puyi, who ascended to the throne in 1908 at age two years and ten months. He grew up in such unique, extreme circumstances that the normal rules of behavior -- and probably even psychology -- don't apply.

And the same obviously applies to Kim Jong Un. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to get some sense of his personality.

Is Kim Jong Un just extremely narcissistic because he's effectively been spoiled rotten from the time he was very young?

Is he autistic? That would be easy to believe too, given his seeming lack of personal skills. (Though really, he never really had to.) And if he does drop one of his nuclear bombs on a nearby country, that would be the equivalent of some Aspie -- like Christopher Harper-Mercer, or Elliot Rodger, or Adam Lanza, or Seung-Hui Cho -- erupting in a violent autistic meltdown.

Kim doesn't seem schizoid. Although it's easy to attach the word "crazy" to his behavior, if he were in fact psychotic, he wouldn't have been able to hold onto power. And his father wouldn't have chosen him over his various brothers and half-brothers as his successor.

There's such a syndrome as "learned narcissism," which is sometimes applied to movie stars, rock stars, and sports stars. These people have been so indulged, and so lionized, that they essentially just learn to act in a narcissistic fashion.

(Who among us can say that if we were lavished with praise and catered to at every turn, we would not learn to become self-indulgent?)

In a similar way, is it possible that Kim has "learned sociopathy?" As in, absolute power results in absolute corruption? Maybe he didn't start out that way, and maybe his mother actually loved him, and he was the recipient of her affection growing up. And maybe if he had inherited a benevolent monarchy, he would have somehow ended up a benevolent monarch.

In the end, it probably doesn't make any difference. If Kim is not a sociopath, he might as well be. Because whether or not his family background predisposed him that way, he now acts like a sociopath.

And as Kurt Vonnegut once said, you are what you act like.

So if Kim's claims about the CIA were right, well, they had the right idea.

Friday, May 5, 2017

"Man admits posting photo of murdered dog to get back at wife"

Here are the first three paragraphs of this NY Post article from today:

The dog of an estranged Oklahoma couple became a casualty in their bitter lover’s quarrel when the husband killed the pet as revenge.

John Samuel Hise Sr. confessed to murdering the dog and then posting photos on Facebook to upset his wife, who he claimed cheated on him with his brother, according to news station KFOR.

The Facebook post came with a cryptic message: “What or who is next I on a [roll],” Hise said.

Here's a picture of Hise:

We don't know enough about Hise to say he's a sociopath, but his actions are all of a piece. 

Long term marital squabbles can result in a lot of anger, but most people wouldn't go so far as to kill their spouse's beloved dog. What kind of guy would? The kind who came from a family which inspired so little loyalty that the brothers would screw each other's wives. 

Hise's implied threat to his wife -- that he's on a roll and that she's next -- also fits. His original words, "What or who is next I (sic) on a role (sic) today," imply that he's not too bright, either. (Not that IQ has anything to do with character -- sociopaths come in a full range of IQ's.) 

At first glance, Hise's raised eyebrows and wrinkled forehead would seem to indicate concern, but if you look more closely, there seems to be a certain self-righteousness written into his features (though that could be my imagination).

I also can't help but notice his thin lips. Long term readers of this blog may remember all the times I've pointed out how heterosexual Caucasian sociopaths often seem to have those near-lipless mouths. I know it makes no sense, and I can't think of a reason why it would be so, but I keep seeing it. 

Anyway, it's always gratifying somehow when you see someone who seems fairly easy to figure out. The next post will be about someone I can't figure out.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How sociopaths keep you off balance

"Isabelle" described her recent experience with a sociopath on the Red flags for sociopathy post last night. She taught me some things about sociopaths I had been unaware of before. Here's her comment (with my responses not in italics):

I had an encounter with a sociopath yesterday which made me think of adding to this post. Duping delight, couldn't keep it off her face no matter how hard she tried, kept me off balance by asking inappropriate questions and if I tried to deflect her line of questioning, she would contradict me under her breath, obviously not all sociopaths are that overt I realise but it surprised me how grossly entitled she'd have to be to supply her own commentary.

She also complimented me inappropriately not long after meeting which had me on red alert since the timing and everything was off, usually when people notice my good qualities they would never bring it to my attention, but she was bombarding me with compliments within 15 mins of meeting, equally she turned it around and was calling me schizophrenic 15 mins later. Compliments followed by criticisms is a sociopath favourite as well as advertising their punches, at one point saying that she wasn't sadistic, which given everything she was doing, conning me out of large sums of money, was in fact what she was.

The too premature flattery I'm familiar with, but I hadn't realized that sociopaths would follow that up with insults right afterward as a way of keeping you off balance. That makes perfect sense though: it means they get to play offense while you're completely occupied with defense.

Volunteering that she wasn't sadistic was a definite tell: no one ever issues an unprompted denial unless what they're denying is in fact true. That's a little reminiscent of the guy who tells you, without being asked, that he has a lot of integrity and honesty. (Guard your wallet.)

Her calling me schizophrenic also had me on guard since sociopaths love labelling people as crazy, mad or schizo - partly as projective identification but also because it gives them duping delight to talk about themselves so openly without anyone knowing it's really themselves that they are referring to. So they get to advertise their punches and project at the same time. There was the constant communication misunderstandings that she would fall back on, as if she had misheard or misunderstood what I had said when she was being inappropriate or made me uncomfortable, despite understanding all the subtle nuances when I would try to deflect her line of questioning. The psycho stare of course which is a favourite and the watching of micro movements on your face and the paying attention to the smallest nuance in body language, all signs of a social predator at work.

I don't think that accusing Isabelle of being mad was projection; sociopaths aren't crazy themselves, they're simply evil. I think what the sociopath was doing was merely trying to keep Isabelle on the defensive, and also "gaslight" her, making her doubt herself. The intent was to soften her up and make Isabelle more vulnerable to the next line of attack.

However the one thing that made it certain for me that she was a sociopath was her asking about my abuse history, in the context of the massage therapy session it was highly inappropriate, but the feeding frenzy look that literally appeared in her eyes when I mentioned that I had cut away from my parents. I didn't say anything about sociopathy but she assumed that I was a good victim and when I was unclothed, she asked about further abuses that had occurred. I know the particular fascination sociopaths have with abuse histories and that alerted me wholesale to the fact that she was a sociopath but I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had read the inappropriate questioning and compliments faster. The completely over the top compliment at the start was the only thing that had me concerned since it was to lower my guard and it made me wonder why she wanted to lower my guard.

"Feeding frenzy look that literally appeared in her eyes" -- what a perfect description of what happens when sociopaths get to vicariously enjoy the abuse that someone else inflicted on you. Their eyes just light up as they savor your pain. And yes, they are great at reading people.

It was only after reading this paragraph that I realized that the sociopath was Isabelle's masseuse, so the "inappropriate" compliments bit made more sense to me, they must have been about her body. That situation must have made Isabelle feel doubly vulnerable, lying their naked while the sociopath passed judgment on her (even if the first judgment was a positive one).

What we tend to do is minimise all their eccentricities because we don't want to judge, but even we get over that hurdle there is still the social contract that makes it so hard to behave out of context once we realise we've walked into a trap. There is also the tendency to suspect one's own suspicions, partly because the statistics on sociopaths are not accurate. They seem to be much more common then is officially touted and partly because I also don't want to think that they are everywhere, so when I first encounter them I tend to dismiss the red flags but I have done that to my detriment on too many occasions, after all 5 mins of discomfort is better than 4 hours in their company. It seems breaking the social contract goes against our nature and is probably the most difficult part to master given that people are social creatures and are bound by empathy, even if the person you're dealing with doesn't have empathy, you tend to act out of that place and not let them know you know their motivations.

People DO tend to assume other people are like them. So decent people will automatically make the baseline assumption that others are decent, and sociopaths will always suspect the worst of everybody. And it IS hard, even if you know you're dealing with a sociopath, to just slough off the social contract and play the game by their (lack of) rules.

I also agree that the number of sociopaths is underestimated. Most textbooks say that they comprise roughly 1% of females and 3% of males. I'd guess it's more like 3% of women and 4% of men. (I have no hard facts to back that up, it's just a general impression.) Women are likely underdiagnosed simply because they are less likely to be violent; but that doesn't mean they're any the less predatory by nature.

In any case, the bit about keeping you off balance was what was most interesting to me. That's what sociopaths do: they flatter here, insult there, get you wondering about yourself, and make you dizzy and a little defensive. And all of that coming at you from different angles, nonstop, combines to make you just a little more suggestible, and a little more susceptible to their wiles. I'd seen it -- and felt it -- before, but had never quite put my finger on it the way Isabelle did.

Messing with Mother Nature not necessarily deadly

I wrote once about how there seemed to be an awful lot of healthy former drug addicts around: Charlie Sheen, Rush Limbaugh, etc. It makes you wonder if taking those drugs is quite as bad for you as it's supposed to be.

And you've undoubtedly seen a lot of warnings about how taking exogenous hormones (like steroids, or estrogen) will wreak havoc on your body.

By all accounts, Caitlyn Jenner should be the ultimate cautionary tale. As Bruce, he was widely thought to have taken steroids prior to his Olympic decathlon victory in 1976. More recently, he has taken female hormones, and was in the news recently for having had the final surgery to transform himself into a woman.

So if anyone should be suffering from ill health, it should be Jenner. Yet here she was in January, at 67, looking as healthy as a horse:

I certainly wouldn't mess with her (in either sense of that phrase).

Given the massive amounts of hormones of both varieties she's infused her body with over the years, shouldn't she be dead by now? (Keep in mind, 67 is an age at which most people are starting to slide into decrepitude anyway.)

It's hard not to wonder if all those warnings aren't a bit exaggerated.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Success - Looks = Intelligence

When I meet a handsome guy who's a success in the corporate world, I automatically subtract a few points from the IQ I'd generally associate with his degree of success.

As many studies have found, people will always give preference in hiring to the good-looking. People seem more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt once they know them, too.

I see some of these guys around where I live. Big, handsome, self-confident former athletes. And, they look pleased with themselves; I suppose they should be.

But I can tell, talking to them, that there's just not that much going on upstairs. They're mostly pretty smooth, and say the right things. And they'll espouse philosophies of life (which they've heard elsewhere) which could best be characterized as, convenient justifications for being pleased with themselves.

But don't get me wrong: they're not dumb. They're just not that smart.

(It's almost enough to turn me into a liberal.)

Their personalities could best be described as bland -- enthusiastically bland. They're almost like toned down versions of Tony Robbins (though they're generally not sociopaths). They have big smiles, they're masculine, and they radiate optimistic energy.

They usually have good-looking wives, too (which is often how I first notice them). A young version of one of these guys recently married a beautiful girl who happens to have Aspergers Syndrome. (I don't know if she's ever been officially diagnosed, but she definitely has it.) They look great as a couple.

Another young man said about them recently, "I feel sorry for that guy 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day."

But, he shouldn't feel too sorry. The husband is so focused on how they look as a couple that he probably won't even notice her syndrome for a while. He may not even be smart enough to ever figure out what it is.

Not that that will keep him from being a success at his firm.