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Friday, December 29, 2017

Trump in a nutshell

Donald Trump was in the news again this morning for having said “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”

He misspoke, of course. The President has the right to pick an Attorney General who is like-minded. And every AG is, ultimately, answerable to the President. But the DOJ is, theoretically at least, an independent institution.

The DOJ administers the US Marshalls Service, the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the ATF, and the DEA. And each of those organizations not only enforce, but also adhere to the rule of law.

So Trump's statement, which implied emperor-like powers for himself, was quintessentially Trumpian: he just blurted out whatever came to mind.

After making that comment, Trump must have realized he had gone too far, because then he backtracked with, “But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”

That sentence, too, was Trumpian, at least in terms of grammar and syntax.

But in a roundabout way, Trump's blundering style also shows that he's not a sociopath.

Barack Obama obviously did, and Hillary Clinton obviously wouldn't have hesitated to, use the levers of power for purely political means, in an underhanded way.

But neither would ever have blurted out that they had that right. Both of them would have paid lip service to the rule of law, and would have expressed absolute abhorrence at the very thought that they might ever make a devious end run around it.

They are both natural liars, far too slick to make such a faux pas.

Trump, by contrast, is not nearly as schooled in the ways of Washington, where you never say what you mean and where blurting out the truth is considered the worst type of gaffe.

He may be a buffoon, but he's not sociopathic. And that makes him more trustworthy, if at times embarrassing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The antisocial nature of investing

The recent rise of Bitcoin has highlighted the seamier side of investing. With certain investments, you're implicitly rooting for ugly things. With Bitcoin, for instance, you're on the side of the drug cartels which want to be able to make large cash-equivalent transactions without banks involved. You're on the side of corrupt dictators who want to keep their ill-gotten gains when they flee their countries. And you're on the side of anyone who doesn't want to pay taxes.

Very few investors would admit to this publicly, but they're effectively hoping for the cartels and dictators to thrive and provide a demand for Bitcoin.

If you invest in cigarette companies, like Philip Morris, you essentially want more people to become addicted to cigarettes. As Warren Buffett said about Philip Morris back in the 80's, "It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It's addictive. And there's fantastic brand loyalty." (He later declined to invest because he didn't want the bad publicity; but he was right in his analysis.)

If you invest in a defense company, like Raytheon or Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics, you're rooting for war, never mind the collateral destruction. You've become part of the military industrial complex. (Most of us associate that phrase with the student protests of the 1960's, but the man who coined that phrase was actually President Eisenhower, who knew whereof he spoke.)

But it's not just the cigarette and defense companies -- the traditional villains -- whose investors root against humanity.

If you invest in an oil company, you're rooting for the price of oil to go up. If that means war breaking out in, say, Nigeria or Iran or Saudi Arabia, so be it. The more destruction, the more money you make (assuming your company doesn't have wells there).

Either way, you're certainly hoping that there's a lot of demand for oil -- even if that means more pollution.

If you invest in a biotech, you're basically rooting for more people to get whichever disease your company can cure. And, you don't want their drug to be so effective that it can completely cure the disease, but to be something patients need to rely on for the rest of their lives.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston this past August, 35 people lost their lives. But the flooding also damaged a lot of cars, which needed to be replaced -- and GM stock went up!

If you invest in a leveraged volatility index like UVXY, or a short ETF like SDS, you want the stock market to take a big fall -- meaning, you want a lot of people to lose money, since that's what would cause your stock would go up.

In fact, any time you invest in any company, you're essentially rooting for its rivals to fail, even if that means that their employees lose their jobs and their investors lose their money.

This might present a moral quandary for some people.

(It doesn't seem to for me.)

Monday, December 25, 2017

"Rosie O'Donnell tells Paul Ryan he's going 'straight to hell'"

At times, Rosie seems to be a one-woman juggernaut designed to educate the world about borderline personality disorder.

According to the NY Post:

The fierce opponent of President Trump and the newly-passed GOP tax plan lashed out at Ryan on Twitter.

“paul ryan – don’t talk about Jesus after what u just did to our nation – u will go straight to hell,” O'Donnell wrote Monday.

“U screwed up fake altar boy,” O’Donnell added...

It’s the latest Twitter war for the ex-View host.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro reported an obscene tweet O’Donnell posted about him last week that said “Suck my d___ Ben,” according to Fox News.

Borderlines never seem to have the slightest doubt that they are on the side of goodness and light and that their opponents are, well, going straight to hell. 

And because they are always so completely convinced of their own righteousness, they are utterly uninhibited with their words and actions, since they always consider them justified.

I've never been a Paul Ryan fan. I don't like the way he tried to undermine Trump in 2016, I wish he hadn't lowered the maximum individual tax rate, and I don't like the way he lied about his marathon time. I don't even like his dishonest-looking face or his Eddie Munster hairline:

But if he's headed for eternity in a hot place, he and Rosie will probably have plenty of time to get better acquainted. 

Rosie is larger than life, 200 pounds of constant, unrelenting, unmitigated fury. And since she makes good copy, the press continues to cover her. As long as they do, we might as well let our education continue. 

(It just hit me who else has borderline personality disorder: Rose McGowan. The constant, unrelenting fury, the complete lack of doubt that she is in the right, and the complete lack of inhibitions in savaging people she sees as her enemies are pretty good indications.)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Borderline Personality Disorder alert: Rosie O'Donnell

Rosie O'Donnell was in the news recently for having offered $2 million apiece to Senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins to vote against the tax bill. In another tweet, she offered $2 million to any Republican Senator who would vote no. This may or may not have been an illegal offer of a bribe; opinions on that seem mostly determined by one's political outlook.

In any case, after seeing the picture accompanying the article, it occurred to me that I'd never seen a picture of O'Donnell where she's wearing a normal smile. In every situation where she's supposed to smile, she's wearing a weird forced grimace instead. Here are a few examples of that:

Rosie with adopted (and now estranged) daughter Chelsea:

Rosie and first wife Kelli Carpenter (their marriage was annulled the year they got married):

Rosie and second wife Michelle Rounds, to whom she was married for three years:

Google-image "Rosie O'Donnell smiling" and you won't find a single picture of her actually doing that.

I've seen people with Aspergers who, when they're supposed to smile, just open and widen their mouths instead. But O'Donnell doesn't have Aspergers.

I've also seen sociopaths who never smile. But that tends to be more of a dominance thing, a statement that everyone else is there to please him, and show him they like him, not vice versa.

But O'Donnell's not a sociopath, either. She's not charming, nor is she a skillful liar, nor is she a con artist. And if she were a sociopath she'd have more self control, and would know how to simulate, at least for a short while, decency.

Nor is she an ordinary narcissist, since she never appears happy with herself -- witness her inability to smile.

But she obviously has some identifiable syndrome. The way she flies into rages, her never-ending, countless spats, and the fact that none of her relationships last for any length of time all point to an extremely difficult personality.

It has to be borderline personality disorder.

She's just constantly in a rage, and it appears to be something she has no control over. (The Left tries to apply the label "hater" to the Right all the time, but if you want to see what a real hater looks like, look at the pictures above.)

She was an extremely demanding boss, as former staffers on OWN's The Rosie Show seem to be more than willing to attest. She constantly belittled her staff and changed her mind about what she wanted.

Before that, in 1996, she had her own daytime TV talk show on NBC. When it started, she announced that she wanted to be known as the "Queen of Nice" (in contrast to Leona Helmsley, the hotelier who at the time was known as the "Queen of Mean"). But that didn't quite square with the fact that O'Donnell fired four separate executive producers in her first year on the show.

If she had fired just one, it would be possible to believe the producer was incompetent, or otherwise lacking. If she'd fired two, it still might be possible. But once the number got to three, it became pretty obvious that the producers weren't the problem. At four, there was no room for doubt.

What really made that galling was her public pose as the "Queen of Nice." That was about as credible as the crush she claimed to have on Tom Cruise.

According to Wikipedia, there is a "strong correlation between child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, and development of BPD." O'Donnell claims that she was sexually abused as a child.

One of the hallmarks of BPD is fear of abandonment, and O'Donnell's mother died unexpectedly of cancer when Rosie was 11.

Neither of these things are her fault, of course. But that doesn't help the people she regularly lashes out against.

Borderline Personality Disorder is an ugly syndrome, and Rosie is its poster child.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I don't understand Bitcoin

The Bitcoin frenzy of the past few weeks has been hard to fathom. A lot of people have compared it to famous bubbles of the past, such as the tulip bulb frenzy in the 1600's, or the insanity of 1999 and 2000.

But I can't even categorize it that way, since I don't understand it. As Janet Yellen said recently, since it's not government-issued, it has no backing, nobody has any responsibility to redeem it, and there's no military to protect it.

Nonetheless, like everyone else, I'm gnashing my teeth that I didn't invest in it earlier. (And, like everyone else, I'm sorta secretly hoping it collapses.)

But, in the meantime, I've decided to issue my own currency. I'm going to call it the "Craig." You have my word, it's officially Just Not Said-approved. I'm going to sell a hundred coins, at a million dollars apiece. I promise, I'll never sell any more than that.

You can use it to finance drug deals, spirit your wealth out of Zimbabwe, or pay off gambling debts.

Step right up, folks.

Congressional hypocrisy

It emerged recently that Congress has paid off staffers who've complained about sexual harassment, but as of one day ago, the Congressional Compliance Office still refused to release the names of the Congressmen on whose behalf those payouts had been made.

That secrecy is a scandal in and of itself. But it's even worse that those harassed were paid off with taxpayer dollars. You and I paid for those Congressmens' misbehavior.

When Congress passed Obamacare, they exempted themselves from its requirements, and kept a more generous package for themselves. 

Congress has even exempted themselves from insider trading laws.

And there are several other laws that Congress is exempt from, including the Freedom of Information Act

Why is there not more outrage about this double standard? It's not even a partisan issue; the anger should be universal.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A conversation with a psychopath

I had an interesting conversation last week with a commenter who told me he was a psychopath. It took place after the Murder victims' ages post from December 2012 if you want to see it in its entirety. (There are no other comments on the post.)

Mark (his pseudonym) started out by saying he was researching Cluster B personalities, but in fairly short order admitted that he was a psychopath. He took pains to explain the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths:

The documentaries I Youtubed all roughly say that Psychopaths are not evil per say but are simply the most CAPABLE of harm and evil SINCE they are essentially robots that mimic human emotions brilliantly (thus avoid being exposed) and SINCE they think the most rationally and logically that therefore they're armed with the best arsenal of necessary skills to commit the MOST destructive and MOST efficient harm/evil; think of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie terminator. After all Psychopaths unlike Sociopaths plan and execute their crimes/schemes with deadly efficacy and efficiency leaving little to no evidence behind all the while achieving precisely what they desired. Sociopaths tend to be very messy with their evil endeavors with poor planning and poor results since they act with impulse and Rage.

These documentaries frequently mention that most Psychopaths don't use their 'superior logic' for evil but rather to obtain an advanced career and/or become rich & famous eg. wall-street big shot, Hollywood superstar, genius scientist or clever politician.

This is in contrast to Sociopaths/MNs who are very sensitive to how people perceive them (Psychopaths are mostly indifferent to how people perceive them) MNs/Sociopaths unlike Psychopaths are rather highly emotional and they use intense rage and impulsiveness as opposed to total calculating logic to commit harm/evil (this causes a lot of mess for them) and most importantly they are proudly and willfully evil. On a site note: paradoxically Sociopaths/MNs are capable of empathy for a small circle of people of their choosing in contrast to Psychopaths who literally have empathy for no one.

I replied:

I know there are people who liked to distinguish between sociopaths and psychopaths, saying that psychopaths were born that way because of their abnormal brain circuitry, whereas sociopaths basically became that way because of the (relatively loveless or even abusive) way they were brought up. I don't subscribe to that distinction.

For all practical purposes, since they act exactly the same, they ARE the same. I'm not an expert on the physiology of the brain, and I don't doubt that abnormalities in the frontal lobe can cause people to act more like sociopaths...

I'm more interested in behavior than brain physiology (that's just another way of saying I know little of the latter), so I don't make the distinction between sociopaths and psychopaths. What you've described above (in terms of who gets away with crimes, who achieves success, and so on) is basically the difference between high-IQ and low-IQ sociopaths. 

We argued the point a bit, then agreed to disagree. I admit, though, that by the end of the conversation I had moved a step in his direction.

One of the interesting things Mark said is that he's not really into music, which made sense. If, as Tolstoy said, music is the shorthand of emotion, then since sociopaths lack the full range of emotions, a lot of music's effect will be lost on them. Certainly the types of songs which are supposed to evoke inchoate romantic longing and sentimental journeys are not going to stir them. 

When I thought about it, I realized that the two sociopaths I've known best -- I had extended contact with both -- never expressed the slightest interest in music, nor did they ever play any when I was around them. 

I asked Mark what happened when he met another psychopath. (It has always been my impression that fireworks will erupt, as both are essentially alphas who will not abide the presence of another encroaching on their territory.) He said that he could usually pick them out just from their body language. Psychopaths will often just fix someone with a cold, reptilian stare (my words, not his) and essentially just wait for the other person to flinch. And most non-psychopaths will blink, in fairly short order, and feel obliged to end the silence with some kind of talk.

I found that fascinating. I had always figured that sociopaths recognized each other the same way the rest of us recognize them, by gradually figuring out from their words and actions what they are. Evidently the process is much shorter.

Mark also said that when he did come across another psychopath, he basically just avoided him.

Of course, once someone tells you he's a psychopath, you have to put up your defenses. There are only two possibilities in that situation. If he's lying about being a psychopath, then he's a liar who can't be trusted. But if he's telling the truth about being a psychopath, then he's a liar who can't be trusted. Either way....

But strangely, I got the sense that Mark was being relatively truthful with me, and much of what he said rang true.

Mark also said that he enjoyed trolling. That certainly fits with the literature on the subject, that a lot of trolls are sociopaths or otherwise Machiavellian personalities.

But he also said he wasn't going to troll me, and was complimentary on a number of occasions. When I told him I'd have to write off his flattery as psychopathic manipulation, he seemed amused.

It was a little strange having a civil, almost friendly conversation with an admitted psychopath. I devote a sizable portion of the blog to the proposition that sociopaths are the scum of the earth, yet here I was chatting away with one almost as if we were buddies. Knowing that he's a psychopath, I'd never want to meet him, as no possible good could come of it. But on this blog, as in real life, I try to act towards others as they act towards me, which I guess means...that I'm easily manipulated.

Anyway, I now consider myself more educated on the subject of sociopathy -- or psychopathy. I'd never been aware of the music thing before, but it makes perfect sense. And the bit about psychopaths recognizing each other right off the bat just from their body language made sense too.

The entire conversation is after this post.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

"This 'decorated Green Beret' is a total fraud"

I've mentioned previously that one red flag for sociopathy is to claim to have been in military Special Operations, or to have worked for the CIA, when one has not. The NY Post ran an article yesterday about Papotia Reginald Wright, who dined out on his "service" as a Green Beret for years.

Wright illustrates a lot of different facets of sociopathy.  (Excerpts from the article are in italics, with my comments in parentheses.)

Brooklyn Army vet Papotia Reginald Wright's resume was impressive by any standard. He boasted of a Purple Heart, Bronze Star -- and a slew of other medals as an elite Green Beret that got him into swanky galas and even field access to the Giants. 

But Wright is nothing but an accomplished fraud, it was revealed Thursday. 

He never served with Special Forces, never served in any combat role -- and never rose above the rank of "specialist," according to military documents obtained through FOIA by Guardians of the Green Beret.

Wright even lied about how long he was in the Army, claiming he served 25 years when he was really only enlisted from 1982 to 1990, the documents show.

He spent most of his time as a driver, with stints far from any battlefield in Alaska, Egypt, Georgia and Texas, according to his papers.

While living his lie, Wright became a prominent figure in the local military community. He even started an organization to help vets in Brooklyn last year, calling it the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard.

In his bio on the group’s website, which has since been taken down, he wrote:

“In August of 1982, [Command Sergeant Major] Wright was ordered to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he became a member of the U.S. Military Special Operations Command for over 25 years.

“CSM Wright circumnavigated the world while performing his duties when it pertained to defending America and her citizens for his actions.”

(That sentence doesn't even make sense. And note the grandiloquent phrase "circumnavigated the globe," as if Wright were another Vasco da Gama.)

He even tried to look the part.

Photos show Wright — who was arrested in 2015 in South Carolina for obtaining property by false pretense — at the Giants game and other events in his phony Green Berets uniform, complete with a Special Forces patch and Purple Heart medal.

Under the Stolen Valor Act, it’s a federal crime to lie about military heroics for monetary or other tangible benefits.

Representatives for the Guardians of the Green Beret, which is made up of current and former Special Forces, said they began investigating Wright after receiving tips through the website.

“It bothers us. Stolen valor is an epidemic. We cannot keep up with the cases sent to us,” one member of the group said.

(There's no shortage of sociopaths.)

“Wearing fake stuff — wearing a Ranger tab, Special Forces tab, those things are hard to earn. Wearing a Purple Heart…that stuff’s unforgivable there.”

(Most people would be ashamed to masquerade as something they are not; but sociopaths simply don't feel shame.)

Jeff Johnson, 37, who served over 11 years in the Army, worked at Wright’s organization in November and said he felt duped.

“It wasn’t confirmed to me until three or four days ago when I got a call from one of the members of the unit who was heartbroken,” he told The Post.

“For a while I just started chuckling. It was like this uncomfortable chuckle. That’s when I realized I was played for a friggin’ fool.”

(Sociopaths always leave people feeling foolish after they realize they fell for his tricks.)

Johnson said Wright told wild stories about his Army days, once recalling how someone ran up behind him, cut him open and removed his kidney.

“He said he was living off half a kidney,” the aspiring actor said. “He’s an amazing storyteller because he will get into details.”

(Sociopaths are often full of tall tales.)

Veteran Thomas Miskel, who has volunteered with Wright’s Honor Guard group for several months, said he’s still processing the accusations.

He started to appear before football games and all that and the flags and all that,” he told The Post. “He sort of blew my mind a little bit when I found out that bugle he was blowing was a recording.”

(The more you learn about a sociopath, the more fakeness you uncover.)

He said Wright hasn’t paid his rent at the Armory building in Park Slope, where the group’s offices are located...

(Sociopaths often ignore their financial obligations.)

Wright’s group has stopped posting on Facebook since he was exposed.

The funniest thing to come out about Wright's scam was an error he made regarding his uniform

He wore a black beret. If you're going to pretend to be a Green Beret, you should at least get that part of your outfit correct.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Extreme Makeover, Congressional edition

From 2002 to 2007 there was a TV show called Extreme Makeover which gave its subjects a new look. Its frumpy subjects were given a new wardrobe and hairstyle, and were encouraged to diet and exercise. Some of the subjects were even given plastic surgery.

We were shown how they looked at the start, and then the "new" person was unveiled at the end of the show.

A similar, though not entirely positive transformation, seems to have taken place with Dennis Hastert, who was the Republican Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007. Back in his Congressional days, he exuded a staid respectability:

He seemed at once kindly grandfather and responsible legislator, a man who bore his weighty responsibilities with the seriousness and sense of duty they called for.

Of course, that image evaporated as soon as we found out that he had once molested a bunch of high school wrestlers.

Still, it was a shock to see the picture that accompanied an article this morning about the conditions of his release from jail:

It could just be the lighting of the photo, but it almost looks as if his hair has been dyed blond. His haggard look indicates that jail apparently didn't agree with him.

The picture reminded me of one I'd seen of Richard Speck when he was in jail:

(Speck had dyed his hair while in prison, though it's not apparent from this photo. He also took estrogen so he could grow breasts; you might say he was a transgender pioneer.)

Note to older guys: don't grow your hair long and dye it blond, it's not a good look.

Oh, and don't do anything which will land you in the clink.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

An incredibly moronic assumption

Commenter Ga just wrote, after The Mask of Sanity post:

I imagine the omission in much material of the dysfunctional background in many sociopath's lives is because that is what people would prefer to see. It gives an average person satisfaction that evil is not often created but you have all these bad people who were just born bad because of genetics...and as long as you're not a sociopath, it means you must have been born "right" and can do no harm. You have few flaws when you compare yourself to an extreme case of badness...

The implication that society screws up and creates many of its own problems is disturbing to people who would believe they would always be naturally good in a predestined sort of way. What if you had been abused? Would you be the person you are now? These questions cause uncomfortable feelings to arise, so the premise is thrown out. It erases any possible feelings you too could screw up as a parent. As long as you are not a sociopath you must have "good person" genes and your child will do alright.

I replied: 

I suppose there's a certain amount of that mindset you describe, that people want to think that they would have been good no matter what. It reminds me a little of the way liberals believe that people from other eras should be judged by today's standards, as if had they been born into a slaveholding family in South Carolina back in 1821 they would have held the exact same values they hold now. It's moronic, actually. 

My guess is, if I'd been brought up by Edmund Kemper's mother (who made him sleep all alone in the basement, which he was terrified of, as a little boy), or with Charlie Manson's background (his mother once reportedly tried to sell him for a pitcher of beer), I'd be murderously inclined as well.

But the larger point is, our circumstances shape our viewpoints and personalities in all sorts of ways.

I've written before, here and here, among other places, about how silly it is to apply current moral standards to previous eras.

Full disclosure: had I been born in ancient Rome, I'm sure I would have thought going to the Coliseum to watch Christians get fed to the lions was a perfectly respectable entertainment.

Had I been born in Spain in the late 1400s, I would undoubtedly have thought torture necessary to get people to confess to having had intercourse with the Devil.

And had I been born either a slaveholder -- or a slave -- in the antebellum South, I would doubtless have thought slavery simply the natural order of things. 

Maybe all that acceptance would have betrayed a certain lack of imagination on my part. Maybe it would have showed a lack of moral fiber. Maybe it would have shown me to be stupid. 

But, stupid as I might be, I'm not so dumb as to think that had I been born in any of those times and places that I would somehow miraculously have all of my current sensibilities and opinions derived from living in 2017 America. 

Yet, that's what liberals seem to believe. The same liberals who tell us that there are no genetic differences between people -- or peoples -- when it comes to intelligence, seem to at the same time believe that political opinions are purely instinctive, i.e. genetic, and remain uninfluenced by environment.

The fact is, anybody who lived in Spain in the 1400s who started lecturing others about third wave feminism or white privilege would probably have gotten to experience the Inquisition firsthand.

And, after a while, they would surely have confessed to those concepts being the work of the Devil.

Frankly, I'm not so sure that they're not.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Now that David Cassidy is fair game........

Three weeks after David Cassidy's death on November 21, former model Samantha Fox announced that he had made an aggressive pass at her after she posed topless in one of his music videos.

Fox claims that she was disgusted to see that Cassidy had an erection while she was posing topless. Afterwards, during a dinner with her and her father, he evidently followed her into the ladies' room and kissed her while putting his hand on her breast and trying to put his other hand up her skirt.

She responded by kneeing him in the balls and elbowing him in the face.

What makes this story a little strange, apart from the fact that she would make this announcement right after his death, is that Fox says that as a teenager she had had a poster of Cassidy by her bed, and would kiss it every night before going to sleep.

In any case, dead people are no longer off limits to the #Metoo movement.

So, while we're at it, let's take a look at other men from the past. JFK was one of the most notorious rakes to ever live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He obviously needs to be completely discredited for his attitude toward women.

Likewise with FDR, Eisenhower, and LBJ, all of whom were known to have had mistresses while President. It's time to disavow their legacies as well.

Martin Luther King was a well known user of prostitutes. Time to repeal that holiday.

However, the #Metoo crowd should be relieved to know that we can leave the legacies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George W. Bush untainted, since none of them were known to have had a mistress during their Presidencies.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trump's "Grab 'em by the pussy" comment

Here's Trump's infamous quote, word for word:

You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

What most people seem to have ignored are the five words, "they let you do it." 

By definition, if they let you do it, it's consensual. And that was the whole point of Trump's boast. 

"Grab 'em by the pussy" isn't a particularly romantic formulation. And, taken out of context, it does imply a certain forcefulness. But it's true that if you're a star, women are far more likely to accept and even encourage awkward passes.

Trump wasn't entirely right, as we can see from all the famous people being taken down by #Metoo. But to deny that some women are dazzled by stardom is to deny human nature. 

Trump's comment may have shown what an egotistical buffoon he is, but it did not reveal him to be guilty of assault.

The real message of the #Metoo movement

The most recent men named in the mushrooming sex scandal are, Leonard Lopate (of WNYC radio):

Johnathan Schwartz (of WNYC radio):

Playwright Israel Horowitz:

Public radio personality John Hockenberry:

Conductor James Levine:

Congressman Trent Frank:

And Judge Alex Kozinski:

The real message of the #Metoo movement seems to be, "Don't make a pass at us if you're old or ugly, otherwise we'll scream bloody murder. But if you're good-looking, well, then it's okay."

 Isn't that lookism?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Al Franken

I'm not sorry to see Franken go, but his "crimes" didn't strike me as being particularly bad. He was widely lambasted for the picture he posed for with a sleeping Leeann Tweeden:

It was obviously meant as a joke, and not as a serious attempt at molestation. He's mugging for the camera as if to say, look at me, I'm a horny, sneaky, funny guy!

It wasn't particularly funny. And it was the kind of thing you'd expect from a high school student, not a successful comedian. But no matter how lame, it was still a joke.

And that the nation would take it so seriously in this #Metoo moment shows that we have collectively lost our sense of humor.

Though there may be more to it than that. As Steve Sailer pointed out today, even people in his own party can't stand Franken because he's such a jerk.

On TV he comes across as arrogant and self-satisfied. In person, off camera, he's supposed to be worse.

Back in 1999, he wrote a book titled Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Observations. That pretty much sums up Franken's abrasive personality.

I always sort of hoped someone would write a book titled, Al Franken is an Ugly Obnoxious Dwarf: And Other Observations.

It would have been exactly what he deserved.

He finally got his deserved comeuppance today. Just maybe not for the right reason.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The tax bill

There's been a lot of recent talk about the new tax bill, the conflicting versions the House and Senate have proposed, whom it will benefit, and what its chances of passage are.

What the majority of the electorate wants is something that will be fair, bring jobs back to this country, and stimulate the economy enough so that revenues for the government don't decrease.

Of course, everyone has a different definition of what's fair. Poor people want rich people taxed more,  since they can afford it, and the rich feel that they already pay enough, with the top 1% paying 45.7% of all taxes and the bottom 60% of the country paying only 2%.

Both House and Senate plans lower taxes on all the existing income brackets. But as long as we have a graduated income tax, it seems unfair that a married couple making half a million a year pay the same rate as a hedge fund manager making 20 million a year. We should have new brackets, with higher rates, kicking in at 1, 2, 5, and 10 million a year.

People who make half a million a year are paupers compared to those who make ten.

The corporate tax rate definitely needs to be lowered -- not so that CEOs can make more money, but so that companies will stop reincorporating abroad, and even worse, running their profits through foreign shells. We currently have the highest rate in the world, which is partly why some domestic companies have become foreign ones. Moving the rate from 35% to 20% sounds about right. And, we shouldn't allow large companies to run their huge profits from elsewhere through countries with low taxes.

Almost everyone -- except Tim Cook and his tax lawyers -- can agree that allowing Apple to run its profits through Ireland so it can be taxed at 2% is not an ideal state of affairs.

While we're at it, we also need a tariff for products from American corporations which manufacture them abroad. We also need to respond in kind to countries which either put tariffs on our goods or dump goods here (think China).

The Right tends to look at inheritance taxes from the viewpoint of the parents, who worked hard and paid taxes on their income and want to leave something for their loved ones. The Left looks at them from the children's viewpoint: it's unfair that some children get more unearned bounty than others. Both sides have merit.

So, the inheritance tax should probably be kept as is, with roughly five million passed along tax free and the rest taxed. If we abolish the inheritance tax -- as Trump wants -- we'll move toward feudalism. America's strength has always been its social mobility.

The House wants to cap the home mortgage deduction at $500,000, the Senate wants to keep it at a million. The House version is better: why should someone get a tax deduction for living in a mansion?

Eliminating the state and local tax deduction seems politically-motivated: the highest state tax rates are in blue states. But putting pressure on these states to get their budgets in order isn't a bad idea. (It's not entirely coincidence that these are also the states with the highest deficits, and the highest unfunded pension liabilities.)

Taxing colleges is a great idea. Harvard has roughly 37 billion: why should it be allowed to operate tax free? College tuition has way outstripped inflation over the past 30 years, as student loans have proliferated and colleges themselves have gotten bloated and fat. At the same time, a typical college education now consists largely of pc propaganda, the opposite of teaching students to think for themselves. Tax the rich propagandists.

If you ever doubt how loudly money talks, consider this: the carried interest deduction for hedge fund managers isn't even up for discussion. This provision basically means that hedge fund managers get taxed for their work at the same rate as their investors, the long term capital gains rate. There is no one who understands this who approves -- beside hedge fund managers and the politicians they contribute to.

That deduction should be done away with, immediately.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"The Mask of Sanity"

I recently read Hervey Cleckley's The Mask of Sanity, the first book about sociopathy (and one which had been on my reading list for a long time). It was recommended by commenter GUINEA HENWEED, who has said he's a psychopath. (He provided this free link to the book.) A self-proclaimed psychopath, by the way, is someone you'll almost never encounter in real life.

Cleckley lived from 1903 to 1984, and published the book in 1941. He was a psychiatrist who first worked at the Veterans Administration, and subsequently at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. It was there that he came across number of apparently sane people who'd been committed by their families after repeated brushes with the law.

Cleckley deserves to be called the father of the field of sociopathy; before him, sociopaths had never really been defined as a specific syndrome. Previously, the phrase "morally insane" had been applied to sociopaths, but not much was really known about them. (Individual sociopaths were more likely to have simply been termed evil, or shameless, or villainous, or, even earlier, as being "possessed by the devil" or some such.)

Cleckley came into contact with enough of them to realize that there was something at work there that couldn't be classified as ordinary insanity, yet wasn't quite normal, either. He noticed the traits these people all seemed to have in common, and described what he saw in straightforward terms.

What struck me most about the book was the way Cleckley's experience at that hospital colored his perception of sociopaths.

All the people he described were inexplicably irresponsible, and most had drinking problems. They would do things like go on a bender and wander aimlessly around the countryside, then be found lying in the woods somewhere. They could never hold onto a job, let alone stick with long term goals. When younger, almost all were truants from school. Many loved practical jokes. And they would write bad checks, commit petty thefts, and freeload.

Almost all of the cases that Cleckley saw had parents who worried about them and were mystified by their behavior, so brought them to the psychiatric ward of University Hospital.

What was missing from Cleckley's descriptions was the poison. I've never known a sociopath who wasn't consumed with jealousy, envy, spite, and hatred. I've always said that the two surest giveaways of sociopathy are serial killing and a constant, willful dishonesty; but endlessly overflowing with ill will would come in a close third.

At the time Cleckley wrote his book, they hadn't yet made the connection between sociopaths and serial killing. Had he worked in an institution for the criminally insane, and had he dealt with sociopathic killers, his experience -- and his book -- would have undoubtedly taken on a different hue.

Cleckley alluded to subjects who got into numerous street brawls or arguments, yet he seemed to attribute this to the alcohol they had consumed and the company they kept. Had he actually witnessed those brawls, and seen how they got started, as opposed to just seeing their aftermath, his view might have shifted.

Cleckley also never touched on the extreme schadenfreude which causes so many sociopaths to actively undermine their colleagues and acquaintances, purely for pleasure of watching them fail.

He also never mentioned the inherent emotional falseness that accompanies sociopathy much of the time. Sociopaths are forever laying claim to some noble motivation, or tender feeling, which they are simply incapable of.

Also missing was any sense of the dysfunctional backgrounds from which sociopaths usually spring. The idea that most sociopaths come from loving families is simply misleading. In my experience, even with the ones from outwardly successful families, something is always missing, and that something is usually a bond between the mother and child. (In other words, love is absent.)

Yet Cleckley generally described the sociopaths' families as concerned and worried about their wayward child. Cleckley's views seem to have been skewed by the fact that University Hospital was the type of place where a concerned relative would take the black sheep of the family.

He did capture sociopathic egotism. In the various case histories, he described how they strutted about, puffed up with pride, and how they see themselves as being better than everyone else.

He also described the absence of shame or even embarrassment in their personalities well. And he did recognize how sociopaths are easily bored.

Clerkly also painted a vivid picture of the way sociopaths come across when you first meet them -- even more reliable, sane, honest, stable, and straightforward than most people. And he recognized how extremely that contrasts that with the way they actually are (far less so in every regard).

Cleckley made an effort to describe his patients' appearances, and how that affected one's view of them. He even discussed their attractiveness in a way that people these days are reluctant to do for fear of being labeled superficial.

And he described perfectly the manner in which sociopaths expect you to believe them no matter how outrageous their claims, and how they lie in such a wholesomely convincing manner that you're inclined to believe them. And he captures their utter lack of embarrassment when caught in a lie.

Cleckley mentioned something I hadn't been aware of, but which makes perfect sense: sociopaths are far more likely to make melodramatic threats of suicide, which they almost never follow through with.

Given that Cleckley's contact with sociopaths was limited to those who were institutionalized, he also seemed to have little sense of how sociopaths can achieve success as well. In his practice, he would never have come across, for instance, CEO's, the type who masquerade as pillars of the community, and pay lip service to all the right values, as so many sociopaths do.

He just met the feckless ones who wound up in the nuthouse, whose families cared enough about them to actually put them in a private sanatorium. These, he gave a great description of. But his mix of patients wasn't exactly a typical cross section of the sociopathic population.

At the end of the book, on page 364, Cleckley lists "failure to follow any life plan" as one of the  defining characteristic of sociopaths. Had he met, say, Bill or Hillary Clinton, they would undoubtedly have shifted his opinion on that matter. There are plenty of sociopaths -- in Washington DC, on Wall Street, and in Hollywood -- who have very adroitly realized their life's ambitions in a way that ordinary people are not able to, simply because they are more skillful at manipulation and shamelessly self-promoting.

But, people like that generally don't get sent to psychiatric institutions of the sort where Cleckley practiced. They are, instead, lauded as great human beings by those who don't understand sociopathy, or who have something to gain from the sociopaths.

But this is basically a minor quibble. Hervey Cleckley is unquestionably the father of the field, and deserves immense credit for having been the first to define sociopathy.