Writer of fiction, poetry and essays.

No doubt everyone will be upset over this, (I am) but it ought to be remembered that the U.S. must get a huge number of warnings like this. And besides, who knows how many terrorists we arrest without anyone in the press ever finding out about their existence.

As someone once said: “In counter-terrorism, we rarely hear or remember the success stories, only their failures.” 

In my earlier post about charisma, I mentioned that fewer women seemed to have charisma than men. I can think of three charismatic women:

  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Sarah Palin
  • Margaret Thatcher 

I’m sure there are others but these are the only ones that spring readily to mind. (And Thatcher only came to mind because she’s on the Wikipedia list) In addition, one might claim numerous actresses and singers as charismatic, but I’m not going to include them because I suspect that such people are capable of “faking” charisma by carefully controlling the concerts they perform at, and the films in which they appear. Politicians and Royalty have no such luxuries.
Now, I offered one explanation for why women don’t seem to be, on average, as charismatic as men. The explanations of sexism is a good one, but there are several variants even on that one explanation:

  1. Women are not accepted by men in the role of leaders, even if they are charismatic. This might be true, but charisma has a way of overriding many other complaints one might make about a person. This is the reason charisma is such an asset. I fail to see why it shouldn’t also override gender roles.
  2. Physical attractiveness, an important element of charisma, is more rigidly defined for women than for men. In other words,  a woman must be prettier than the average woman to be charismatic than a man must be more handsome than the average man. The simplest way of phrasing this is: men, as a group, are shallow. 
  3. Charismatic tendencies are discouraged in girls from a young age. Related to first point.
  4. Biological differences. I can’t imagine what these would be, but I can’t rule out the possibility.

I’m sure there are other explanations. I encourage readers to post other explanations in the comments. Also, if anybody can provide examples of non-actress, non-singer women who are/were charismatic, I would appreciate it.

The Iraqis are responding to Iran seizing an oil field. 

The article says the two countries are “uneasy allies”, but notes the eight-year war they fought in the 1980’s. On the other hand, both have “Shiite-led governments.” I wonder which factor more heavily influences the people of the two countries.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry accused foreign media of trying to “disrupt good relations between Tehran and Baghdad.” This might make sense, except that the Iraqis are the ones complaining about the incursion. Generally, seizing other peoples’ stuff tends to disrupt good relations as well.


Why is it that every single issue and politician in the world must, at some point, get compared to Nazi Germany? Godwin’s Law predicts this sort of thing, but he was talking about online discussions; this is now happening with major political figures.

According to the wikipedia article on Reductio ad Hitlerum, Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and Obama, as well as McCain have all had this type of argument used against them. 

It seems to me that this is a fairly recent development. It’d be interesting to know who was the first President to be compared to Hitler while in office. However, another question this raises is: before the Nazis, what was the considered the most evil government ever, and did politicians constantly get accused of being like it?

I’ve read some books from the late 1800’s, and it seems like Napoleon was considered by the British to be an example of a dangerously ambitious leader, and a mad tyrant, but I don’t know if anyone in Britain was thought to be like that.

Part of this may be that the concept of human rights wasn’t as advanced then as it was immediately after WWII and continuing to the present day. Back in the days of extreme Nationalism, one might hate another nation’s leader for the same qualities one prized in one’s own. After the appalling acts of Nazi Germany, and the Nuremburg Trials, this was no longer the case.

Another point is that news of various atrocities did not spread nearly as far as it does today. This, I think, dulled much of the public perception of just what other governments were up to. Still, it is not unheard of, even in ancient times, to assume the worst about other nations, and even to make up myths of their barbarism.

The only thing that I can think of which bothered Western civilization so much in the pre-Nazi era is probably the Devil. It was not unheard of for people and programs to be said to be the work of the Devil, though this was declining by the end 1800’s. 

The Nazis are, of course, far more terrible than the Devil, mostly because an Atheist or an Agnostic need not fear the Devil. But the Nazis are all too real, their evil so well-known, that no one can deny the hideousness of what they did. 

And yet, it seems, just as Godwin predicted, that the sheer repetition of the accusations of Nazism has eroded the seriousness the claim ought to carry. Now, when seemingly all prominent politicians are compared to Hitler, when legislation on national security is compared to the Gestapo, when every media figure with an opinion is said to be the Goebbels of his side, I cannot help but think that soon these claims will cease to be even outrageous and, if they haven’t already, be merely “boilerplate”. This is not a good trend.

So, I was reading the following article:
And it set me thinking about something I’ve read and pondered a lot: The importance of charisma.

Frankly, I have no idea if any of what this person says about Guevara is true or not. But the point is, if he weren’t so damn charismatic, his picture wouldn’t be all over those t-shirts. Charisma seems to me to be a very big, if not the no. 1, factor that determines a person’s success in many fields.

Here’s the first essay I read on this subject, by a guy who is smarter than I am:

Graham’s essay has influenced my thinking on this issue, and, I think, gives an excellent assessment of charisma, though his conclusion about charisma canceling out doesn’t seem to be working. (See McCain v. Obama, 2008)

First of all, it seems like looks have a lot to do with charisma.  (Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, discussed the importance of superficial factors in determining the winner of Presidential elections. He pointed out that “the tall guy with the best hair usually wins.”) I think that part of it is that youthful vigor lends itself to charisma, part of it is that people are superficial, and tend to trust good-looking people more.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t explain how, for example, Ronald Reagan was able to defeat Carter and Mondale, as whatever created his charisma, it surely wasn’t youthfulness.

It might be good, at this point, to see what a totally unreliable internet source thinks are charismatic people:

This list does seem to match up fairly well with people who I would consider charismatic and who demonstrated great ability to mobilize people to do their bidding.

(As an aside, I note that there are way fewer women on the list than men. One possibility is that women simply weren’t allowed in positions of power until relatively recently, and so many charismatic women were passed over.)

It’s important to note, if we take this list to be true, that charisma appears to be completely independent of ideology or even morality. This is all the more important because some have argued that charisma is not something which can be learned; rather, it is innate. There is some supporting anecdotal evidence for this claim in such cases as Charles Manson’s cult, wherein an obviously insane individual was nonetheless able to use charisma to control his followers.

The best case I can think of for charisma being learned is probably Ronald Reagan. I suspect that being an actor helps you at that sort of thing. But people like Manson and Guevara seem to argue against this (Manson, particularly, seems unlikely to have learned anything.)

Another argument against it being a skill one can learn is the sad case of Hillary Clinton. She knew she had everything else required to beat Obama except charisma, she had a husband who had charisma, and she had more time to prepare to use it than Obama. And yet, she still couldn’t learn to do it, despite every opportunity.

 So, is charisma learned, or is it innate? And which would be worse?

Everyone in the world is currently whipped into a frenzy over either the undeniable truth of climate change or the obvious fallaciousness of it. 

Most major news outlets behave as if it is already an accepted fact. Except some are pretty sure it is either not happening, or else if it is happening it is part of a natural cycle of some kind and therefore is no cause for concern.

The people who dispute climate science have a wide variety of objections. They generally find some fault with the data itself, or else offer counter-evidence to the theory of global warming. After this, however, many proceed to draw conclusions like this:

“There are serious flaws in this Climate Science. These flaws are so widespread as to indicate that the entire thing is in fact a conspiracy to redistribute wealth and gain greater control over people. Global Warming/Climate Change is a kind of Reichstag Fire for anti-capitalist, totalitarian regimes.”

Of course, the counter-argument is that all of these ideas are being secretly funded by oil companies who are trying to prevent the loss of revenue. If that’s true, the best thing to do would be to encourage the Climate Change questioners to spend more and more effort on campaigning against oil company regulation, so that they will eventually run out of money and then this will all be a moot point.

Really, though, my point is that there’s no way for a layman to be sure about it. Yes, we’re told that an overwhelming consensus that there is man-made global warming exists, but the other side responds that any source which says this is biased in favor of the Socialist conspiracy. The response to this is that the skeptics are taking money from “Big Oil”.

So, how can I be sure? More importantly, how can any non-climatologist on either side be sure? 


Read all of that before you read this analysis. It’s a very good speech.

Most people, Republican or Democrat, seem to have liked the speech. Of course, the Democrats like anything Obama says, so that is not relevant. But when Republicans praise him, it means we must take notice.

Of course, most Republican praise has been explained by saying that it’s exactly the kind of thing President Bush would’ve said, so it is a vindication of his policies. This is true to some extent–though Bush could never have matched Obama in terms of the quality of the presentation–but it is also true that what Obama and Bush did was the same as what any wartime President has done: say that War is necessary to achieve Peace. He says: “I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.” (Italics mine)

Am I wrong, or did Obama just (a): subtly show everybody that pacifism is impractical and (b): do it front of the people who prize pacifism? 

While I would wholeheartedly agree, that is surely a helluva time and place to put down pacifism. 

An interesting blog post from one of my favorite bloggers:


While I understand Professor Mankiw’s argument about the market, I think what Leno is really saying is: These tickets are supposed to go to the people who would pay $800 to see his show, but simply do not have $800. While there are probably Leno fans who can and would pay $800 (or more)  to see him, and there are certainly people who would rather have $800 than see him, Leno is targeting the select group who would pay $800 but can’t. 

Therefore, this isn’t so much about creating an altruistic image for Leno as it is about rewarding his most loyal poor fans.

This isn’t particularly altruistic either. It is somewhat similar to a drug dealer giving a free injection/cigarette/whatever to someone who is broke, presumably in hopes of getting them hooked so they’ll come back when they get money. Leno knows that the people who would pay $800 to watch him will still be there for the soaking at future events. As he himself puts it: “You’re out of your mind to pay $800 to see me.”