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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Baby doll voices, Part II

Yesterday morning Rona commented:

Baby doll voice in a grown woman is so disturbing I tend to categorize these women as of questionably sanity. It sends a signal of something being not quite right about a person. Maybe I'm prejudiced because it creeps me out, I wonder if they did a study comparing baby voiced women to normal women.

I replied:

It's not really a question of sanity so much as it is of just phoniness. It's sort of like when women thrust their breasts at you and pout and act overtly sexual: I've always found that to be a big turnoff. And the baby doll voice usually goes hand in hand with that kind of behavior. It's almost as if these women think they're appealing to the child molester in every man when they act like faux little girls. What I always seem to hear, though, is a faint echo of, "Daddy, why did you leave when I was a little girl? Wasn't I cute enough for you?"

It's sad, but simultaneously off-putting.

It had never really occurred to me before I wrote that reply yesterday, but when you really think about it, what exactly is a woman trying to accomplish with that voice? (I'm not talking about women with naturally squeaky little voices, only those with whom it's an affectation.) If she thinks that by sounding like a little girl she's going to be more attractive to you, what she's implying is that, at heart, you're a child molester. 

And women who speak in an effusively syrupy-sweet voice, which often overlaps with baby doll/sex kitten voice, are almost guaranteed to be the opposite. 

Whenever I hear that voice, I just assume there's a viper lurking inside.

Update, three days later: I realized, after being given several examples of women who speak that way, that I was overstating the case; they're not all vipers. I should have said, when you hear a voice like that, it's anybody's guess as to who's behind it. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Today's show

The Washington Post, among other outlets, quoted Matt Lauer's recent words to Bill O'Reilly, on the subject of O'Reilly's firing:

“Think about those . . . women and what they did. They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn't that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated?”

You have to wonder exactly what Lauer was feeling as he said those words. Was he filled with self-righteous fervor? Was he actually angry, at any level, with O'Reilly? Was he mostly thinking about how wonderfully moral he appeared? Or did he feel, one would hope, just a little sheepish? 

The comment comes at 4:08 of this video if you want to watch it. (The line was actually delivered fairly blandly; it's the words themselves that are damning, of O'Reilly, and even more so, of Lauer.)

Think about that video the next time you see some sanctimonious liberal on TV. 

The other thing that was stood out about today's scandal was that Lauer evidently could lock the door to his office with a button located under his desk. 

How exactly did he arrange that? 

Can you imagine phoning up Human Resources, or maintenance, and asking for that to be installed? How do you justify it?

"Uh, well, you see, I'm in a lot of important meetings where, uh, I don't want to be disturbed. We're, uh, discussing sensitive matters and, uh, I don't want people to feel that their confidentiality is going to be, you know, compromised or anything. And, you gotta understand, sometimes I just don't have time to get up from my desk to lock it."

I guess being able to lock your office door from your desk must be some kind of liberal thing. 

Kadian Noble

Actress Kadian Noble has brought suit against Harvey Weinstein. The relevant quote from today's article in the NY Post:

British actress Kadian Noble said Tuesday she was head-over-heels impressed when she first met Weinstein at an event in London because he was hanging out with model Campbell and had megastar Oprah “swinging off his arm.”

“I thought, obviously, this man has something amazing in store for me,” she said during a teary-eyed press conference in Manhattan to discuss the sex trafficking lawsuit she filed a day earlier against Weinstein in Manhattan federal court.

Instead, Weinstein used promises of career advancement to lure the actress to his hotel room in Cannes, France, where he forced himself on her, she said.

I have no idea whether there's any merit to Noble's lawsuit. It seems to me that whether Weinstein was socializing with Naomi Campbell and Oprah is irrelevant. I wouldn't be surprised if he did hold out the sugar plum of acting roles in order to entice her to his hotel room. And it certainly wouldn't be out of character for him to have been aggressive about obtaining sex from her, either. 

But, I obviously have no idea about what went on between the two of them. 

What made the article interesting to me was Noble's picture:

This is a classic sociopathic pose: wiping away a nonexistent tear. Look closely at that photo, and see if you see any evidence of liquid emerging from her eye, or on her cheek. And note that her eye makeup remains unsmudged. 

Again, I have no idea about the merits of the case. And I don't know anything about Noble other than that she brought this suit.

But I do know a little about people who pretend to wipe away nonexistent tears. 

Music to his ears

Now that Matt Lauer has been taken down by the sexual harassment tidal wave sweeping the nation, it's hard not to wonder how Harvey Weinstein reacts each time he hears about another man being brought low.

He must absolutely love it, in a misery-loves-company sort of way. For him, each new scandal must be like a mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter day.

Each time a new figure gets accused of some sort of sexual misbehavior, his own crimes fade just a little bit more.

The accusations that have been made against various men range from the ridiculously inconsequential (dirty talk and relatively mild overtures) to the serious (actual assault and rape, and not just as defined by the third wave feminists).

The more actual assaults there've been, the smaller a piece of the overall picture Weinstein's crimes were. And the more silly accusations that get made, the stronger the backlash will be when enough people finally realize that to some extent, men are simply being penalized for being, at worst, ill-mannered.

And both of those things benefit Weinstein, if only in a vague and indirect way.

Of course, Weinstein is reportedly guilty of several rapes, along with a number of other less serious, but boorish behaviors.

So, whatever backlash ensues won't help him.

Nonetheless, he must delight in each new scandal. Maybe, in his own twisted way, he even takes "credit" for them coming to light.

After he gets out of prison, and after he settles the various lawsuits, how will Weinstein present himself? You have to think there's going to be a certain amount of reinvention involved. Maybe he'll become seriously religious, a la Ivan Boesky. Maybe he'll try to present himself as one who has seen the light and repented, and even become an advocate for women. Or, maybe he just avoids all publicity.

It'll be interesting to see.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Supreme Allah, Jr.

An article in the NY Post yesterday described the tragic and senseless killing of local anti-crime activist Shuri Henry in Newark, NJ.

It's hard not to be struck by the name of her 18-year-old killer: Supreme Allah, Jr.

Does a kid with a name like that have any chance in life? Wouldn't you sort of half expect him to develop a misguided sense of omnipotence?

Presumably, if he's a Junior, he has a father with the same name. Did his father change his own name to Supreme Allah, or was that his given name as well? (I'm guessing the former.) How many delusions of grandeur did the father have, if he did adopt that name?

It's not as if the Muslims need any more bad publicity, but it's tempting to file this murder under the heading of terrorism. That last name implies jihad, even if the first name has sort of a black twist to it.

All in all, a sad situation.

Shuri Henry, who was trying to do some good in the community, can do so no longer. And her feral 18-year-old murderer will be housed and fed at taxpayer expense for the next few decades.

Baby doll voices

I've never, ever, known a grown woman who affected a baby doll, sex kittenish voice who didn't come from a screwed up background; usually, at the very least, the father was missing.

I've previously said that "gay voice" is the surest giveaway of homosexuality in men.

Sex kitten/baby doll voice is probably the surest giveaway of phoniness in women.

It makes perfect sense: phony voice = phony person.

That rule applied to Madonna's English accent, Hillary's black accent, and Obama's black accent.


I got a comment from someone who called herself "Redhead Girl" recently on the post about Dr. Michelle Oakley, and that got me to thinking about how I've simply never found redheads attractive. I'm not suggesting there's any rhyme or reason to this: attraction is purely subjective, so trying to analyze it in some superficially objective way is essentially silly.

(Not that that's stopped me in the past.)

In my case, it may have something to do with the fact that for others, red hair is a plus, and so I've had various redheads pointed out to me as beautiful, and I always think, nah, with those features, if she were a brunette, she'd be pretty ordinary-looking, so what's the big deal?

To prove myself right, I Google-imaged "beautiful redheads." I kept scrolling through the pictures, and thinking, aha, I was right, these women simply don't attract me. Even though some actually were beautiful, which means that maybe it's the hair color itself which puts me off.

Then, I ran across this picture --

-- and actually got that old, breathless, high school feeling of having a crush.

Sometimes, it's gratifying to be proven wrong.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Life is like a well constructed screenplay

It is said that in a well constructed drama, all of the action must be character-driven, and that every word out of each character's mouth could have been spoken only by him.

It's amazing the extent to which that holds true in real life. Think of the people you know. When was the last time one of them acted out of character? Smart people tend to act smart, dumb people act dumb, lame people act lame, nice people behave themselves, and selfish people act obnoxiously. Everyone seems to have a certain set level of pretension and subterfuge which they consistently weave into their speech.

All the time. 

People have varying levels of intelligence, which they never exceed (although they can often fall short of it). They have a certain level of narcissism, which also never deserts them, and a certain detachment (which is sort of the opposite of narcissism).

Whenever I hear a dullard say something insightful and/or funny, my first reaction is always: I wonder where he heard that?

People can put on acts for a short while, but they always revert to form. Everybody just has a certain way of.....being. Life is like a particularly well constructed screenplay that way, even if it usually lacks dramatic tension. (And, usually, heroic characters.)

I sometimes like to play a game at dinner: I suggest everybody act like one of the other people at the table, and say things that only that person would say. The game usually devolves into a situation where someone won't play by the rules: if I say something obviously stupid which the person I'm role-playing has actually said, that person will sometimes get angry and, whether or not he's supposed to be playing me, say, "Oh, I'm John and I'm a stupid asshole."

Which, believe it or not, I actually don't say. (I may act like one from time to time; but I never 'fess up to it in quite those words.)

Anyway, it's a fun game, and I recommend it, with the caveat that if you play it with someone unable to take a joke, be prepared for anger.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sociopath alert: Grace Mugabe

An article in yesterday's NY Post highlighted the behavior of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace.

At first glance, it might seem difficult to tease out what is truly sociopathic when such behavior might be hard to distinguish from the difficult situation in Zimbabwe. But Grace Mugabe's behavior illustrates so many different facets of sociopathy that it's impossible not to come to the conclusion that she is one.

A few excerpts from the article, in italics, with my comments in between:

Meet the woman whose insatiable appetite for power set in motion Zimbabwe’s ongoing military coup: First Lady Grace Mugabe.

[Both "insatiable" and "appetite for power" are, at the least, yellow flags for sociopathy. Combine the two, and they become a red flag.]

The 52-year-old shopaholic, who has earned the nickname “Gucci Grace” thanks to her taste for designer clothes, allegedly convinced her hubby — dictator “President” Robert Mugabe — to sack his heir apparent, ushering in a military backlash that left the 93-year-old despot under house arrest while she high-tailed it out of the African country to parts unknown. 

[A "shopaholic" is one with no restraints on self-indulgence, a sociopathic specialty -- especially when spending ill-gotten gains. And note that when her husband got into trouble, Grace didn't have the loyalty to stick around.]

“I say to Mr. Mugabe, you should . . . leave me to take over your post,” the silver-tongued Grace said in a church meeting, according to the The Globe and Mail. “Have no fear. If you want to give me the job, give it to me freely.”

Then, she gave him the not-so-subtle instruction to ax his vice-president and right-hand man of 40 years, Emmerson “Crocodile” Mnangagwa — so-named because the beast is his clan’s totem and because his erstwhile political resilience has been likened to the leathery reptile’s skin.

“The snake must be hit on the head,” Grace hissed, referring to Mnangagwa.

[Sociopaths always project their own character traits onto others.]

Within a few days, Robert delivered a proverbial crocodile-skin handbag to spendthrift Grace by ousting longtime ally Mnangagwa. The plot cleared the runway for his fashionista wife’s ascent to leader — until the military intervened Tuesday.

Grace’s tale is equal parts Imelda Marcos and Lady MacBeth, a profligate first lady who has incurred a struggling nation’s ire while manipulating her powerful husband.

[Good comparisons: Imelda Marcos was at the very least an extremely narcissistic personality, and possibly a sociopath, and Lady MacBeth, while fictional, is often cited as the ultimate exemplar of devious manipulativeness.]

The South African native’s rise began in the early 1990s, when she was a single mother and secretary in Robert’s typing pool.

“He just started talking to me, asking me about my life. ‘Were you married before?’ Things like that,” she told South African journalist Dali Tambo in 2013. “I didn’t know it was leading somewhere. I was quite a shy person, very shy.” Robert’s wife at the time, Sally Hayfron, was still dying of kidney failure when the president first bedded Grace — who is 41 years his junior — even though it “appeared to some as cruel,” he said.

[No one who was ever shy demands to be named President of her country. The fact that she felt obliged to misrepresent her own character like that in an effort to disguise her own sociopathy is typical of sociopaths.]

“She happened to be one of the nearest and she was a divorcee herself. And so it was,” he told Tambo in the same interview.

In the years since, she has insinuated herself deeper and deeper into politics, executing by 2016 what critic and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai called a “palace coup.”

[Palace intrigues are another sociopathic specialty.]

Now she is considered next in line for the presidency, a position military allies of Mnangagwa found so detestable that they took the nation’s capital Harare by force this week days and imprisoned Robert in his own home. Critics fear her inauguration would only accelerate decades of mismanagement by her husband....

[I]n the three decades since [Mugabe gained power], he has raided his country’s resources, leaving most of his fellow countrymen near starvation while he and his family live in opulence....

Meanwhile, the flamboyant first lady allegedly blew $120,000 on a 2002 shopping junket to Paris that got her banned from entering the US and EU member states as punishment for wastrel spending while Zimbabweans back home went hungry.

[That much money could have fed a lot of Zimbabweans for a long time, a fact which didn't seem to bother Grace.]

Aside from her exceedingly pricey tastes, she is notorious for her shrewdness and outsize intensity.

["Shrewdness" is characteristic of sociopaths: they are forever scheming for self-advancement. And "outsize intensity" is another way of saying "without scruple or inhibition."]

In October, she had to publicly deny trying to poison rival Mnangagwa after his claims that an August bout of food poisoning was actually the result of an assassination attempt...

[Who knows whether Mnangagwa's claims are true; but if they are, it would not be surprising.]

Grace allegedly savaged South African model Gabriella Engels with an electrical cord in August after she found the hottie partying with her Robert-sired sons, Robert Jr. and Chatunga, in a Johannesburg hotel. “She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over,” Engels said at the time. “I had no idea what was going on . . . I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.”

Photos showed a gash on Engels’ head that required 14 stitches and bruises on her thigh. Grace, who claimed the “intoxicated and unhinged” stunner lunged at her with a knife, never faced charges because South African officials granted her diplomatic immunity.

[What incentive did Grace have for attacking Engels? Grace is a good-looking woman, but most would consider Engels more so; was she jealous of Engels for that reason? Was she simply jealous that Engels was having fun? Did she just think that Engels wasn't good enough for her sons? Or did she suspect Engels was, as she herself had been, a scheming vixen hoping to glom on to some of the Mugabe power and riches?]

Robert reportedly lobbied South African President Jacob Zuma to have the situation “solved amicably,” though Zuma denied any role in the proceedings.

Back in 2009, Grace reportedly chased down British photographer Richard Jones and pummeled him in the face while her bodyguards held his arms behind his back — all because he tried to take a picture of her outside a Hong Kong hotel.

[Again, the lack of self-restraint and viciousness.]

Her blood feud with Mnangagwa goes back at least to 2014, when she signaled her entry into politics by taking over the women’s league in the ruling ZANU-PF political party where they were both members.

At the same time, she raised eyebrows by announcing she had obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Zimbabwe after just three months of enrollment there in what became a national joke.

[Embroidering on one's academic credentials is a common theme with sociopaths.]

“I feel sorry for the University of Zimbabwe dragging its name into the mud and trashing its credibility as a place of excellence,” quipped longtime party member Simba Makoni, according to South Africa’s Independent Online news outlet.

Grace’s thesis was never made publicly available.

The striking thing about Grace Mugabe's sociopathy is how, despite the fact that she's from a completely different culture, it takes so many similar avenues. The lack of self restraint, the unbridled spending, the lust for power, the ability to ingratiate herself and seduce a powerful sponsor, the jealousy, the viciousness, the complete lack of inhibition, the academic fakery.

Cultures vary, but sociopathy is a constant.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to slow down a sociopath

The best way to deal with a sociopath is the same way he deals with you -- by focusing on his weaknesses. In his case, that means his vanity, his desire for admiration, and his need to hide his true character.  

If he's been misbehaving -- something you can always count on -- raise the subject of sociopathy in some oblique way. This implies you're starting to suspect him, and in an attempt to dissuade you from your suspicions, he may actually behave, temporarily.

Alternatively, ask something along the lines of, "You never talk about your mother much. What was she like when you was growing up?" This is likely a sensitive point, and may spark a strong reaction. But it will also imply that you're at least somewhat onto him. 

If you're in the mood to anger him, ask, clumsily, "Hey, what did you think of Ted Bundy?" -- as if you think he's going to blurt out, "Oh, I thought he was a great guy!" This will show him you're onto him, and you can have the satisfaction of making him bristle at your incredibly awkward attempt at psychoanalysis.

(I'm not seriously recommending the above paragraph.)

But the overall idea is to imply that you're wondering about whether he's a sociopath, without making it a statement of fact. There's a chance he'll think he can fool you into thinking that he's not one, and will be on his best behavior, at least for a while, as a result. 

Other hints:

Sociopaths tend to think they're fooling people when they're not. Let your sociopath think he's fooling you when he's not. Express admiration for one of his claimed accomplishments you know is false, then get him to embroider on it. Then, once he's painted himself into a corner, you can pick it apart. 

Sociopaths are particularly susceptible to flattery. Tell your sociopath he's too smart to do something you don't want him to do.

Let him think others admire him for something you want him to do; he'll likely believe it. For example, tell him that people admire him for his loyalty, and that you know he's the kind of stand up guy who'll show up to help at a certain occasion. He may be swayed. 

When a sociopath is in full lying mode, tape him surreptitiously, or even videotape him. It's easy enough to do with a smartphone. Just have it ready, then hit "record" at the appropriate moment. It may be unethical, but he would do the same to you. (Of course, that's the same justification he uses to do similar things to everyone else.)

Just be ready for the sociopath's revenge; make no mistake, it will be uninhibited. But, have that smartphone handy. He probably won't be able to resist threatening you first. So get him on record making the threat.

But the best advice, as always, is simply to put as much distance as you can between yourself and him. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Louis C.K.'s earlier non-denial denial

Comedian Louis C.K. has come clean and admitted to having masturbated in front of numerous women, something he had been rumored to have done for years. He didn't even attempt to deny it, or throw any accusations back at his accusers, or lawyer up, or hire Black Cube.

He just said, yep, it's true. His straightforwardness was almost admirable. 

But it was a far cry from the way he had previously deflected the accusations when asked about them: 

”Well, you can’t touch stuff like that,” he told New York last year. “There’s one more thing I want to say about this, and it’s important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, you’re sick in the head. I do the work I do, and what happens next I can’t look after. So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life.”

That's actually a masterpiece of obfuscatory language. If you were to hear it in person, it would be difficult to know how to respond, since the "answer" he's already given is so hard to digest. That blizzard of words was designed to leave you so confused that you would be unsure how to keep pressing him for an answer. 

But let's parse that statement, sentence by sentence.

"Well, you can't touch stuff like that."

Was Louis saying that the interviewer was venturing into forbidden territory by having the temerity to ask such a question? Or was he saying that it would be verboten for him to discuss it? And whom, exactly, did he mean by "you?" Himself?

Louis certainly had no qualms about touching his own stuff in the presence of all those female comedians.

"There's one more thing I want to say about this, and it's important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, then you're sick in the head."

You have to admire the way he emphasized his own statement's importance, as if it was an urgent moral message which everybody should pay attention to. But doesn't practically everyone in Hollywood need their public profile to be "all positive?" Isn't that what all those agents and PR people are for? And isn't that what all that virtue signaling is for? So is Louis C.K. saying that all of Hollywood is sick in the head?

Well, at least he was being honest on that score.

But when you claim that others are sick in the head, you're at least implying that you yourself are healthy in the head. Does a guy who forces women to watch him wank it really fit that description?

"I do the work I do, and what happens next I can’t look after." 

Imagine a foreman at the GM plant in Lansing saying, "I do my job responsibly every day, but after my shift is over, and I have a few brewskis, well, I can't be responsible for what happens next."

But isn't an adult supposed to be responsible all the time? And if you can't look after your own behavior, who will?

"So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life."

See? He's just doing his thing. Which is to "speak to the work" whenever he can. (Is that phrase vague and meaningless enough for you? No one actually chats with their own work, so you have to think about exactly what he means.)

"Just to the work and not to my life."

His meaning might have been clearer if he'd just said, "I try to speak about my work whenever I can. Just about the work and not about my life."

Then again, Louis obviously didn't want to be clear. He wanted the interviewer to back off, confused.

It's a little ironic for Louis to be making that distinction between his work and his life, given that his life is his comedic material.

And, at the end of all that, he still hadn't answered the question.

Why couldn't he have just replied, "I'm not going to tell you."

Or, "I'll take the Fifth."

Or, "That's none of your business."

Well, because those responses would have been admissions of guilt. The response he gave was designed to make people think, "What? Wait a sec.....what am I missing here?"

The only reason anyone ever obfuscates like that is because they have something to hide.

Louis used his words the same way a squid uses a blast of ink: to cloud your vision while he makes his escape.

That skillful use of words is probably what made Louis C.K. such a great comedian.

Even if he was sort of a jerkoff.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Allegations are evidently enough

One of the striking things about the recent sexual harassment scandals is that mere allegations are all that's necessary to derail someone's career. Due process has been tossed out the window.

Now, I have no doubt that what all those women are saying about Harvey Weinstein and James Toback are true. And I'm pretty sure that the allegations against Kevin Spacey are true too. There are simply too many people pointing their fingers in the same direction.

But still, none of these guys have been convicted in a court of law, yet their careers have been derailed. Is this fair?

In the case of those three, their trespasses were so blatant, so constant, and so aggressive, that even if they somehow escape conviction, they deserve the verdicts handed down in the court of public opinion. And they deserve to lose their lofty Hollywood status.

But there have been other guys tarred by the #Metoo movement, guys who aren't really guilty of anything other than being a little pushy in the ways that guys often are.

Roy Price, whom I'd never heard of him before the scandal that enveloped him, had to resign from his job as head of Amazon Studios because the executive producer of one Amazon show accused him of lewdly propositioning her on several occasions in 2015. She didn't accuse him of grabbing her, or touching her, or being overly forceful. Merely of propositioning her.

Jeremy Piven was accused of putting his hands on the breasts and bum of Ariane Bellamar --

-- at a party at the Playboy mansion. I have no doubt that Piven's a jerk, and he's undoubtedly worse when he's had a few drinks. But does an awkward pass really reach the level of "assault?"

Dustin Hoffman has also been accused of sexual harassment. Hoffman evidently asked a 17-year-old intern if she'd had sex that weekend, and other mildly intrusive flirtation. He also reportedly put his hand on her butt a couple of times. I know Hoffman's type: an older guy who hides his horniness under the guise of friendly banter, as if he's just a playful uncle. Meanwhile, he's hoping that she'll give him some sign she's interested, but he's not quite willing to make an overt play because he doesn't want to suffer a rejection. (At least give that much to Weinstein: he put himself out there, and didn't play coy.) In any case, Hoffman's was a common type of behavior, and hardly worthy of being brought up 30 years later.

Another point has to be made here. If a good-looking guy acts in exactly the same way, and these women found him attractive, they might have just gone to bed with him. But when an ugly guy follows the same script, he's guilty of sexual harassment.

So the exact same behavior is either rewarded, or punished, depending largely on how good-looking the guy is. Somehow, that doesn't seem quite right.

(Would this current #Metoo movement even exist if Harvey Weinstein weren't so hideous?) Note that Warren Beatty, one of the most famous womanizers of all time, has yet to be named.

Here's another thing to consider: would all of these women be coming forward if these men weren't famous? Of course not.

I made my share of awkward and occasionally overly aggressive passes when I was young. I guess it's a good thing I never became famous, otherwise I'd be up for my 15 minutes of shame. (To paraphrase Andy Warhol.)

At least, with all these new "victims" coming forward, let's stop calling them courageous. It would have taken courage to be the first person to accuse Weinstein, or someone else. But after all these other women have already come forward? It's merely lemming-like.

As I said earlier, Weinstein deserves the censure he's gotten, and if he's guilty of rape, he should go to prison.

But in the cases of some of the other guys, it's a lot more questionable. Just a few unsubstantiated allegations and someone's career is derailed?

This doesn't seem quite fair.

That said, I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and John McCain have all molested me.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Video shows 'abducted' jogger unshackled, running to safety"

That sexy spokesmodel for Munchausen Syndrome, Sherri Papini, may have been lying about her purported kidnapping a year ago, but she certainly wasn't lying about being a jogger, as the video embedded in this article shows.

You can see her in the background in the first part of the clip, moving along at quite a respectable pace.

And if her original story is true, and if she was in fact wearing shackles while running like that she'd be an amazing athlete indeed.

Especially after two straight weeks of being starved and beaten.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wall Street sayings

Trading stocks or bonds is a big, complicated, murky business, and it's human nature to try to make some sort of sense out of it. Some of the expressions you hear regarding investing are basic good advice, but many are misguided, or conflict with each other. 

One of the things I noticed when I worked on Wall Street was that for many adages having to do with trading, there’s an equal and opposite expression. A lot of people will recite these cliches as if they’re giving you the wisdom of the ages, but once you’ve heard enough of them, you realize that many tend to contradict each other. And while there’s a little bit of truth to each of them, many are correct about fifty percent of the time.

When I worked there, my boss would say, “Cut your losses and let your gains run.” On other occasions he would say, “Bulls make money, bears make money, and pigs get slaughtered.” (In other words, don’t get too greedy.) But those expressions are diametrically opposed to each other.

You'll hear that "Wall Street is just a big machine for transferring money from the impatient to the patient." But you'll also hear, "It never hurts to go to the bank,” and "No harm in ringing the cash register," both of which contradict the first one.

Another expression you hear a lot is, “Be greedy when everyone else is fearful, and fearful when everyone else is greedy.” That's basically sound advice. The problem there is figuring out when the
"fear" and "greed" have run their course. Up or down a thousand points on the Dow? How about four thousand? Bear in mind that this expression applies much more to overall market swoons and peaks than it does to individual stocks, which can go up tenfold, or to zero (unlike the market, at least in the short term).

Another thing you’ll hear is, don’t use leverage (margin) and become overextended. That’s true: there’s no quicker way to go bankrupt (or to get rich). Think of it this way: the difference --  in terms of both peace of mind and lifestyle -- between your current net worth and zero is far greater than the difference between your current worth and double that.

Another thing you’ll hear a lot is John Maynard Keynes' famous quote, “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” That's certainly indisputable: you may have logical, compelling reasons for why a stock – or the market – should be higher or lower, but that doesn’t mean that either will revert to reason in the near future. Another reason not to get overextended.

"Markets always tend to swing too widely." This echoes Keynes, and is often true: markets do tend to get overexuberant on the upside, and can reflect too much pessimism on the downside. (But neither necessarily implies an immediate correction.) You'll usually make money by buying the large swoons, but they don’t come all that often. And when they do come, the question is, as always, is this the end of the swoon? 

Another truism is to invest in what you know. The idea there is, if you go into, say, a Costco, and you like the way the store is organized and you like the prices and you see that they’re getting a lot of business, you should invest in Costco stock. The only problem with that is, a lot of other people have already been to Costco, and had the same idea, and Costco’s shopper-friendliness is almost certainly already factored into its price.

However, the corollary to that is unquestionably true: don’t invest in what you don’t understand. (Warren Buffett has always been a big proponent of this.) If someone tells you that such and such a company has a hot new product, unless you really understand how and where it will be used, and who the players are, and what competitive advantages each has, it might be best to stay away. Unless you have complete faith in whoever told you this. 

Another thing you’ll hear is, don’t invest more than you can afford to lose. That's inarguable. You can drive yourself crazy thinking, wow, with the amount of money I lost on that stock could have bought a new car! I’m not suggesting you torture yourself this way, but going through that mental exercise beforehand is worthwhile. It’s too easy to start throwing large sums of money around as if it’s a different currency than the one you use in your everyday life.

An investing expression I first heard a few weeks ago is, "All you need to do is find a two inch high bar and then jump back and forth across it." In other words, you're generally going to be better off finding a little niche and exploiting it than you are by making grand predictions about the course of the overall market.

I've never known anyone who's consistently right about market direction; I'm not even sure I've ever known anyone who was right more than fifty percent of the time. There are just too many variables. It’s like trying to predict the weather a year from now. No one can possibly take into account what the Fed, the dollar, the economy, world events, the stock market, interest rates, commodities, and computerized trading systems will do, and how they will all affect each other. Yet, some people try. One thing I found on Wall Street is that the surer someone sounds about market direction, the more full of crap he is in general.

"You're never as good as you think you are, you're never as bad as you think you are." This is another way of saying that luck plays a huge role in investing. With you, and with everyone else. Of course, people tend to use this expression more often when they’re doing poorly. But never underestimate how much luck has to do with outcomes. If picking the right stocks were purely a matter of intelligence, all you’d have to do is hand out IQ tests and follow the lead of whoever scored highest.

"He's talking his book." Often true. Fund managers often appear on TV to talk about how such and such a stock is a fantastic value. When you hear that, bear in mind that he’s merely trying to goose demand to send the price of a stock he owns up (maybe, so he can sell it). Likewise, bank analysts usually talk up a stock if their firm is handling its corporate financing. The “Chinese wall” that supposedly exists between the finance side and sell side of a bank has always been extremely porous.

"It's harder to manipulate the top line than the bottom line." In other words, you can always adjust things like good will, amortization, accounts receivable, set-asides for potential problems, etc., to fudge your profits. But it's much harder to massage the amount of revenues you have coming in. This
is true, and why companies always announce their revenues as well as earnings per share.

Another thing a lot of people look at is insider selling and buying. You always hear that insider selling means less than insider buying because there are always all sorts of reasons for people to sell a stock: because they want to buy a house, get divorced, diversify, etc. But if insiders buy, it’s almost always a good sign. Who else is in a better position to know that their stock is going up? Some investors base their stock trading entirely on following insider buying; that's not a bad strategy.

"Don’t get married to a position." If you own a stock for a certain period of time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, I’ve held it this long, just think how mad I’ll be if I sell and then it finally goes up. But that’s letting your own emotions – or potential emotions – drive your trading, and that’s never wise.

Those are sayings and bits of advice that have become cliches, some for good reason. Let me add a few things here I've learned on my own. (I'm not suggesting these thoughts are original, merely that they don't come attached to Wall Street cliches.)

As an individual investor, be aware that you're going to be the last person to hear about things that go wrong with a company. And there are an infinite number of things that can go wrong. A competitor could produce a superior product. The company could be sued for something not its fault. There could be production glitches. Any "act of God" -- as the insurance companies phrase it -- could go against them. Legislation, both foreign and domestic, could negatively impact them. Maybe they've been cooking the books. A single rogue employee could singlehandedly bring disaster. You can’t trade as if you’re always expecting disaster, but the possibility is something to be aware of.

Given that you're at an informational disadvantage, also be aware that the stocks of small, early stage companies are even more vulnerable to new information. Unless you have a network of well placed spies, you’ll be the last to hear news which could send a thinly traded stock soaring or collapsing. Given which, you may be better off sticking with huge, liquid, widely traded stocks like GM, XOM, AAPL, and AMZN, which react more to macro trends than to little bits of inside information.  

While we're on the subject of inside information, be aware that on the day before an announcement that a company is being bought out, its stock almost always trades up. It’s extremely suspicious, but only rarely does anyone gets prosecuted for insider trading as a result. (It happens, but rarely; my guess is, it’s far less than one percent of insider traders are caught.)

Be leery of taking friends’ advice. I’ve had a lot of friends give me a lot of advice. It was all well meaning, and I’ve never let a piece of bad advice affect a friendship. But just because someone is smart, or witty, or conversant with market terminology doesn’t mean he knows which way a stock is headed. And even if someone has a good track record, in the end, no one is infallible.

Even hedge fund managers aren’t necessarily better than the rest of us. They’re just confident guys with big egos who figured they could outperform the market, were good at convincing others of this, and thus were successful at raising money. Some did outperform the market, and got extremely rich by making bets with other peoples’ money. Others didn't, and simply closed up shop. And even those with good records don't have hot hands which last forever.

If you think that hedge fund managers are brilliant, take a look at their stock picks. It’s surprising how mundane many of them are. They’re usually invested in the most obvious, widely traded, heavily capitalized stocks. When you hear that a certain financial wizard’s largest holdings include Facebook, Apple, Netflix, General Motors, Exxon, Amazon, and Citigroup, it leaves you wondering, where is the genius in that? Most don’t seem to have researchers who tell them which small biotech is going to be the next 20-bagger. This is not to say that such people don’t exist, merely that most fund managers are simply good salesmen.

Some hedge funders have consistently outperformed thanks to insider trading. The Feds were convinced that Steven A. Cohen, who ran one of the biggest funds, was guilty of this, and managed to convict a couple of people who worked at his firm, but were never able to ensnare him. I, of course, don't know, but my guess would be that they were suspicious of him for good reason.

Mentally separate your long term positions from your short term positions. If you buy a stock because you think it can double, don’t then sell because it’s up a point. There’s no harm in day trading a small portion of a large position, to try to capture the daily zigs and zags. But unless the longer term trades start going against you in a big way, sequester them, and continue to think of them as long term. Likewise, if you bought something for a day trade, don’t let it turn into a long term investment.

If you see that a company is run by a guy who comes across like a sociopath, stay away. I’ve ignored that rule in the past, to my detriment. A sociopath is far more likely to be lying about results, or about expectations, or embezzling, or somehow using company funds for his personal use. Or, maybe he just has overly grandiose expectations for what he and his company are capable of, and thus is far more likely to be using leverage and getting overextended (sociopaths like risk). And, he’s likely creating discord within the company, and using bad judgment to drive it into the ground.

Also be aware that while sociopaths constitute only 3% of the overall population, they represent a far larger percentage of CEOs.

Most of us are easily conditioned by the last mistake we made. (And every trade, unless you put all your money in at the very bottom and then take every last cent out at the very top, can be defined as a mistake.) So if you overstayed your welcome in a stock last time, chances are you’ll sell early next time; and if you got out too early last time, you’ll likely hold longer next time. Half of the time that will be the right thing to do, the other half the wrong thing. Just be aware that you’re probably being a little too swayed by your last trade.

Maybe the most important thing is to recognize your own quirks. Are you by instinct a bull, or a bear? Are you a momentum trader, or a contrarian? Do you prefer value stories, or growth stories? You have to recognize your own instinctive tendencies and, if not counteract them, at least, take them into account.

Everybody has personal idiosyncracies in terms of how they invest. And you must be brutally honest with yourself about this. It’s the smartest thing you can do as a trader. The only way you’ll ever learn is by constantly asking yourself, how did I screw up this time?

I’m a contrarian by nature (in case that wasn't apparent from this blog). And one of my weaknesses is that I'm impatient, too quick to take a profit. So what I do more of these days is sell covered calls against stock I own. That way, instead of making one point on a stock if it goes up, I might make two. (And if the stock goes down, I'll be "hedged" by the amount of the option premium.) That limits my upside, but that tends to already be limited by my impatience anyway.

If you're a patient investor, that approach probably isn't right for you. But the point is, I try to be aware of and counteract my personal idiosyncrasies -- and so should you.

Finally, remember what I said at the beginning of this post, that a lot of Wall Street adages are right approximately 50% of the time – and that probably includes much of what I just said.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Does fame make people better-looking?

One of the things I've always been struck by is how some women who are famous are automatically thought of as great beauties, even when they're not. A case in point would be Jackie Kennedy:

Yes, she was good-looking, and yes, she was half of the twentieth century's most glamorous couple. And when someone is photographed as much as she was, the effect when you finally see them in person must be electrifying. But she really wasn't any great beauty.

If you didn't know who she was, and saw her for the first time, say, behind a cash register at your local Stop & Shop, and she wasn't all dolled up in the latest expensive fashions, with makeup perfectly applied, you might not even look twice. Her own sister Lee Radziwill was better-looking:

I was idly Google-imaging Anouk Aimee, the French actress, recently, which is what sparked this post. She was a rough contemporary of Jackie's, and in some pictures bore a resemblance to her, but was a real beauty:

The fame phenomenon seemed to apply to Princess Diana:

She was frequently described as a great beauty, but if you look at her face, feature by feature, it's pretty ordinary. Again, given how much she was photographed, she must have seemed magical to those who finally saw her in person. And, of course, having the best makeup artists and hairdressers helped too.

But all that makes you wonder how she would have been perceived if she hadn't been married to Prince Charles, and if she hadn't been famous. I can honestly tell you that if I'd gone to high school with her, she would barely have registered.

I've seen local high school girls, and local housewives, who are far better-looking than either Jackie or Princess Di, though they'll never become famous. And who knows, some of them may lose their looks by middle age anyway. But that doesn't mean they're not better-looking now than Jackie or Di ever were.

Fame, and glamor, are weird things. They put beer goggles on us, even when we're stone sober.