Psychopaths constitute only a tiny percentage of humans but disproportionately occupy positions of political and financial power. For that stunning and I’m sure hard-won insight, this book (“The Psychopath Test,” by Jon Ronson) wins the 2011 Statement of Obvious Banality award. But the book does raise an interesting question: Is there a way to require or pressure major federal and state political candidates — for president, Congress, governor, etc. — to take a personality inventory that would reveal psychopath/sociopath tendencies? I realize the mere suggestion of such a requirement has all sorts of civil liberties implications, and the political hurdles may be all but insurmountable. (I’d love to see the congressional debate about such a bill on CSPAN, though.) But those difficulties are part of the reason I find the question/suggestion interesting. Society has a clear interest in not electing a true psychopath president; presidential candidates, on the other hand, don’t lose all privacy rights, just for wanting the world’s most powerful position and 24/7 access to the football that could launch thermonuclear Armageddon. But do they retain the right to conceal psychopathy, an almost total lack of empathy manifested by the absence of what most people call a conscience, often hidden by high intelligence and a winning personality? This thought experiment is now in your court.
Category Archives: politics
Whenever you have a very scary 1970ish video of Dianne Feinstein inveighing against pornography, you go with it. Yes, you do. (h/t to the SFist’s brilliant Brock Keeling.)
I just thought I’d horrify my friends on the East and West coasts with this inspiring little report from the “Third Coast,” in which Texas Gov. Rick “Good Hair” Perry has, as the Houston Chronicle‘s Austin bureau puts it, “invited the country’s other 49 governors and evangelical leaders for a ‘non-political’ event to pray for the nation.” Of course, the non-political event actually appears to be another step in Perry’s nascent campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Or, as the Chron puts it:
Such an event would allow Perry to build his profile with Christian conservatives, a group that play a key role in Republican primary politics, especially in the South and the Midwest. The playbill for the call to prayer hits all of the notes that a candidate seeking the GOP nomination would be expected to hit (see: debasement of society). And the venue selection— Reliant Stadium (a football stadium) — indicates that organizers are aiming to make a splash with the event.
Beyond horrifying with words, this post hopes to cause widespread cursing at coastal computer screens via the picture, provided courtesy of the Texas Tribune, of Gov. Perry, praying to the heavens. Good afternoon, elite thought leaders. And you’re welcome.
There’s a California-ism that my 13-year-old son uses — powned* — that has something to do with beating someone so badly in a competition that you didn’t just own him, you poned him. I don’t know where the starting p came from, but being poned by your son in basketball is definitely worse than merely being owned. And if you want to see the definition of someone poning a member of Congress, watch what one of my heroes, Elizabeth Warren, does to Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry in this video. (h/t to Gawker.)
* as noted in a comment by the esteemed Shameless Pedant, I had no idea where “pown” came from or even how it was spelled when I wrote this post. As explained below, pown or pwn is an acceptable spelling, but “pone” is not. My apologies to the powning world.
My support for the idea of Israel — as the permanent home the world owes to the Jewish people — is deep, and I understand the fears Israelis have of Arab populations that appear to hate them and Arab governments that still, overtly or covertly, hope to erase the Jewish state from the map of the Middle East. (I saw this directly during the Persian Gulf War, while I was reporting from Saudi Arabia. When Iraq lobbed Scud missiles into Israel night after night in an attempt to draw it into the war, The Arab News, the official English language paper in Saudi Arabia, barely mentioned what was the lead story in most western news outlets. Every day, Scuds landing in Jewish cities were noted at the very bottom of the jump of a story on the course of the war. And when the newspaper deigned to show readers where these Scuds were falling, it was on a map that had Israel, the West Bank and Gaza melded into one entity called “Palestine.”) I also understand the reluctance to negotiate with Hamas, which is a terrorist organization by any stretch of the definition. But I absolutely do not understand why Israeli voters see Benjamin Netanyahu as a credible person to represent their country and keep it safe. There is plenty of testimony from the Clinton and Obama administrations that Bibi is unreliable, untrustworthy and uninterested beyond measure in reaching a peace accord that creates a Palestinian state. Beyond that, he is a public relations nightmare that his supporters apparently sleep too deeply ever to experience. Watch the video of his performance at a joint session of Congress today with a fresh eye. Would you buy a used car from this prime minister? His is a jowly, sneering schtick, full of trite catch phrases, planned off-the-cuff remarks and truculent insistence that Israel, the strongest military power in the region, never misuses its power. The performance — both today and last night at an AIPAC dinner — seemed not just unconvincing to me, but insincere and condescending. And I don’t think condescending insincerity is the best path toward persuading those who do not already sing in your choir that your melody is pure.
Mostly I’m off the Daily Kos because so much of it is stretched-to-the-breaking-point rhetoric and sneering nastiness. But every once in a while, the site gets the back to the mix that once made it so fun and readable — facts presented in a wry deadpan — and that keeps me from deleting it from my RSS reader. “George W. Bush saved capitalism. And he got bin Laden too.” is one of those posts. Enjoy.
The August issue of Miller-McCune magazine is on the Web site (www.miller-mccune.com) and sailing through the postal system to 92,000+ smart people. A few highlights:
- Duquesne University’s Mark Haas explains why an unprecedented era of aging in major countries around the world makes it likely the 21st century will once again be American. (If link doesn’t work: http://www.miller-mccune.com/article/497).
- The University of Naples’ Bruno Siciliano explains why the world needs a complete book of robots. (If link doesn’t work: http://www.miller-mccune.com/article/483).
- Syracuse University’s Mark Obbie explains why an engaged Congress is needed to put U.S. anti-terror policy on sound legal footing. (If link doesn’t work: http://www.miller-mccune.com/article/485).
- James L. Gibson of Washington University in St. Louis explains why encouraging judges to act like politicians is good. (If link doesn’t work: http://www.miller-mccune.com/article/495).
- And I explain why John McCain and Barack Obama should both support a truth commission on the human rights abuses of the war on terror. (If link doesn’t work: http://www.miller-mccune.com/article/487).
All that, and: why Oprah caused the downfall of American society; how environmental contaminants become hereditary illness; problem-solving courts that work; managing water, carbon and energy together in a time of climate change; biophilic design that brings the outside in; and an innovative whale warning system.