A Checkup from the Neck Up


Very good article this morning by a social psychologist who studies lying—a lyologist?—titled I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.

Turns out that normal people lie, on average, once or twice a day (though the average figure is a little misleading, because some lie a lot more than others).

For Trump it’s at least six times a day, and increasing in frequency with each passing day.

Normal people sometimes lie to be kind. More often, they lie to gain some advantage—e.g., when a sales person lies to make a sale. Occasionally they lie just to entertain. In a very small percentage of cases—two percent or fewer of their lies—normal people lie to be cruel.

Trump occasionally lies to be kind, but his self-serving lies exceed his kind lies by 660 percent.  But

the most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging.

As another recent article indicates, Trump views his goal is to win each day’s news cycle by defeating an enemy in the reality TV show that plays out in his mind.

And are Trump’s lies believed?

It turns out that we humans have a bias toward believing others, even when we shouldn’t. But

by telling so many lies, and so many that are mean-spirited, Trump is violating some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and human decency. Many of the rest of us, in turn, have abandoned a norm of our own — we no longer give Trump the benefit of the doubt that we usually give so readily.

When a liar thinks that his lies are self-serving but he lies so frequently and so blatantly that the lies defeat their purpose, that liar badly needs a check up from the neck up.

Which Way is the Wind Blowing: The Limits of Gullibility and Tribalism


Aardvark does not enumerate unhatched chickens, but please check out Roy Moore and the Invisible Religious Right:

Last month, after several women had credibly accused her husband, Roy Moore, of trying to seduce them when he was in his thirties and they were in their teens, Kayla Moore published on her Facebook page an open letter, signed by about fifty Alabama pastors, supporting her husband’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. …   The letter was a sham. …

Once you got beyond the ghosts and the real-estate agents, what was most notable about the pastors on Moore’s list was their obscurity. I found a list of the pastors of the thirty-six largest churches in Alabama, assembled this summer by the Web site of the Birmingham News; no pastor on that list appeared on Moore’s. I called leaders within the deeply conservative Southern Baptist Church—the largest denomination in Alabama and, for decades, the core of the religious right—and was told that not a single affiliated Southern Baptist pastor in the state was openly allied with Moore. …

Many evangelical leaders experienced Donald Trump’s ascendance as a personal emergency. Some pastors watched, with dismay and confusion, as members of their congregations defended the moral character of a flamboyantly immoral casino mogul turned politician. During the primaries, the major evangelical pastors were generally allied with other candidates (polls tended to find that they preferred Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz), but, as the campaign developed, and as polls continued to find that evangelical voters held a strong preference for Trump, that general resistance began to weaken. Some pastors talked themselves into Donald Trump, while others remained horrified but kept quiet. “I was flabbergasted that pastors would get up and talk about the goodness of Donald Trump,” John Thweatt, who is the president of the conservative Alabama Baptist Convention, told me this week. “I was really flabbergasted that we were going to throw away Biblical values and dictates because he’s going to fit our party line.”

And now this:

The Oppression of Red State America

schoolhouse door

In a piece entitled Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears, Thomas B. Edsall has a lot of useful thoughts on the reasons why Red State America is mad as hell. Mad enough to elect a delusional incompetent. Mad enough to join with the Party of Plutocracy in attempting to impose a sort of dictatorship over Blue America—to counter the dictatorship they believe Blue America has imposed on them.

Lots of good stuff about normative threats, authoritarian mindsets, economic injury from “larger economic forces,” and so on and so on.

As I say, lots of good stuff, but nothing about race. Mr. Edsall needs to clean the wax from his own ears and hear how George Wallace framed the matter as he stood in the schoolhouse door back in in 1973:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice.

So therein lies the problem. We Blue Staters either oppress the Red Staters by forcing them to let black folks attend their universities, or we lighten our oppression and let them oppress black people instead. We either oppress them by forcing them against their will to recognize the rights of gay people, or we don’t, and instead let them go on treating gay folks badly.

No, Mr. Edsall, Aardvark’s fingers are not stuffed up his ears. For decades Aardvark has heard, loud and clear, the pleas of his cousins and high school classmates to be free of Yankee oppression—an oppression made all the more onerous by being forced to accept a black man as the legitimate President of the United States.

I hear their cries of anguish and desperation. I understand that their pain is so intense as virtually to destroy reason. I fully grasp that, in their minds, the only way effectively to counteract this racial, cultural, and economic oppression is to unite with the Party of Plutocracy to impose a counter-oppression on Blue State America.

I feel their pain.

What Al Franken Didn’t Say


One, he didn’t say what he regards as appropriate touching behavior.

Two, he didn’t say whether he always abided by whatever he believes appropriate behavior requires.

Three, he didn’t say which claims against him were true and which were not.

Four, he didn’t say whether he had anything to apologize for. Nor did he apologize for anything.

If he had what he thought were appropriate behavior standards and he thought he always, or almost always, abided by those standards, then he should have told his colleagues to take a flying leap, and he should have gone through the ethics investigation. But that is apparently not the case.

Yes, some unacceptable behaviors are worse than other unacceptable behaviors. Robbery at gunpoint is worse than stealing a piece of candy from an obese child. But I don’t want people in congress who think it’s OK for them to steal candy.                 s