Monthly Archives: November 2012

Are you mad, sir?

Even if you haven’t heard of Jon Ronson, you have probably heard of one of his books. He wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats, which has been made into a film starring George Clooney. I have just finished reading a more recent, if lesser known book by Ronson: The Psychopath Test. It is an intriguing, anecdotal exploration of the nature of madness, with a particular focus on psychopathy.

The book is loosely centred on the psychopath test of the title, better known as the Hare Psychopath Checklist in honor of its creator, Canadian psychologist Robert Hare or, more simply, PCL-R (“Psychopath Checklist – Revised”). On his journey towards a better understanding of anti-social madness, Ronson attended a training course in the use of the PCL-R led by Hare himself. Armed with this qualification, Ronson found his new ability to expertly identify psychopaths out in the wild gave him an exciting sense of power. It is a sense of power that readers such as myself can readily share: it wasn’t long before I was attempting to spot corporate psychopaths in the upper echelons of my own place of work.

Here is how the test works: through a more rigorous interview process than I have had the opportunity to perform, your potential psychopath is scored on a scale of 0 to 2 on each of the categories below.

  1. Glibness/superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. Pathological lying
  4. Cunning/manipulative
  5. Lack of remorse or guilt
  6. Shallow affect
  7. Callousness, lack of empathy
  8. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  9. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  10. Parasitic lifestyle
  11. Poor behavioural control
  12. Lack of realistic long-term goals
  13. Impulsivity
  14. Irresponsibility
  15. Juvenile delinquency
  16. Early behaviour problems
  17. Revocation of conditional release
  18. Promiscuous sexual behaviour
  19. Many short-term (marital) relationships
  20. Criminal versatility

Roughly speaking, a score of 30 or more suggests you have a psychopath on your hands. Reading Ronson’s book, I got the impression that there are currently few treatment options for a psychopath and those that veer towards criminality rather than high-flying success in the corporate world tend to be locked up for a very long time.

Over a sherry at a recently opened Spanish bar in Sydney, with the help of a colleague, I attempted an analysis of the executive at my firm I considered to be the best prospect for a high score on the PCL-R. Sadly, we only managed to chalk up 20 points. Apparently not a psychopath after all and, while that score is still reasonably high, I have to further concede that there may have been some overly-enthusiastic interpretations of the checklist involved in the assessment.

My own attempt at psychopath diagnosis brought me to sympathise further with Ronson, who found that the thrill of power was, after a while, replaced by doubt. Perhaps things are actually a bit more complicated after all. Even an interview with Al Dunlap, initially a slam-dunk candidate for the label of corporate psychopath, particularly given his extensive collection of statues of animals of prey (psychopaths apparently tend to see the world in terms of predators and prey), left Ronson uncertain of the appropriateness of the label of madness.

The lesson then is that I should use my new-found knowledge of PCL-R with care. As should you. Even so, I will not delete the list from this post as a precaution. After all, you could easily find it on Wikipedia; such is the power and the peril of the internet.

Mixed prediction results: Cup 0, RBA 1

With Green Moon winning the Melbourne Cup, Fiorente in second place and Jakkalberry in third, none of the Mule’s tips even rated a place. That leaves a tipping record of one for three, and I am sure it will only get worse if I keep up this “analysis” in years to come. Fortunately, many of my readers are kind enough only to remember my success in tipping Shocking back in 2009.

The Stubborn Mule RBA poll fared somewhat better. The poll results were close, with 55% expecting no change in the cash rate and 45% looking for a 0.25% cut. As it turned out, Reserve Bank kept rates on hold, preferring to wait to see the effect of their October cut:

Further effects of actions already taken to ease monetary policy can be expected over time. The Board will continue to monitor those effects, together with information about the various other factors affecting the outlook for growth and inflation. At today’s meeting, with prices data slightly higher than expected and recent information on the world economy slightly more positive, the Board judged that the stance of monetary policy was appropriate for the time being.

By my count, this makes four correct predictions of the RBA decision from the last four Stubborn Mule polls. The moral of the story: ignore anything you read here about horses, but there might be something useful to learn about interest rates.

Mule bites horse

The Melbourne Cup is almost here again, which means that it is time for the Mule to perform some utterly bogus analysis with which to predict a winner. So here goes.

Once again, I will look to past winners as a guide. Picking on those characteristics readily available from a Google search, I have focused on handicap weight, sex and age. Starting with handicap weight, here is a chart of the distribution of weights broken down by decade.

Cup 2012 by Decade

In the early years, handicaps were typically much lower, but things have changed in recent years. On this basis, I will focus on handicap weights from 1980 onwards.

Cup 2012 Weight

The peak of this distribution is around 54kg, so this is where I will focus my attention. There are four horses in the 2012 field which are to carry 54kg: Cavalryman, Mount Athos, Sanagas and Ethopia. To narrow this list, we turn to sex and age. The chart below suggests favouring a gelding between 4 and 6 years old or a horse (stallion) around 4 or 5 years old, perhaps even 6.

Cup 2012 Sex and Age

Cavalryman and Sanagas are both 7 year old stallions: too old, although Sanagas is trained by Bart Cummings who has 12 wins under his belt. Mount Athos is a 6 year old gelding, while Ethiopia is a 4 year old gelding, either side of the 5 year peak in the distribution. Since 6 year old geldings have a slight edge, my tips are as follows:

First Choice: Mount Athos

Second Choice: Ethiopia.

Honorable Mention: Sanagas

I should point out that, despite tipping Shocking in 2009, the Mule’s track record has been terrible. You have been warned!

UPDATE: it has been pointed out that Ethopia is in fact to carry 53.5kg not 54kg. While that may not seem much of a difference, there are another nine horses carrying that weight. While one school of thought would be to scratch Ethopia from the tip list, I would prefer to think that being the only one of the ten in that weight category to slip though, it must be lucky! On that highly scientific basis, Ethiopia stays.

Now Tuesday is not just about horses, there is also a Reserve Bank meeting. So, while contemplating a flutter based on spurious tips, you can also vote in a poll on whether there will be any change in the cash rate.

Once you have voted, you will be able to see the poll results.