Correlation, Causation, and the Philosophical Essence of the Inner Asshole


Greg Sargent, Want Trump removed? New data shows Fox News is a huge obstacle.

Jonathan Chait, Why Congress Might Impeach Trump and Actually Remove Him from Office

The two posts are contradictory in their tenor, but both, I believe, make the same mistake with regard to the direction of causality.

I do not believe that Trump supporters have embraced their inner asshole because they watch Fox News.

I believe they watch Fox News because they have embraced their inner asshole.

Bonnie Mann, The Toxic Masculinity of the Trump Administration: It took a woman to break the spell that appeared to put the president above the law.

Dr. Mann, who is professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon, gives a fascinating take on the philosophical nature of the kind of inner assholery embraced by the Trump base.


Greetings to today’s readers (so far), who come from Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Dear friends from afar, I am sure that some of you are wondering whether the United States is currently a reliable ally. It grieves me to say the answer is no. But we may get through this yet.

Tribalism or Gaslighting? Logic, Advocacy, and the Blinding Insight of the Very Stable Genius


Trump’s Two Remaining Defenses

The Gaslighting Defense

Proposition One: Military aid to Ukraine was not dangled as a quid pro quo in exchange for their investigating Democrats. If you think you see evidence of a quid pro quo, then you are mistaken. If you think my coconspirators and I ever said there was a quid pro quo, then you’re wrong. And you did not hear me when I just admitted there was a quid pro quo.

The Pure Tribalism Defense

Proposition Two: Of course there was a quid pro quo, you fool. Get over it.

Logic—and the Logic of Advocacy

The gaslighting defense is factually indefensible.

The pure tribalism defense, however, is not factually indefensible at all.

On the contrary, it relies on the fact—proven beyond peradventureof doubt—that 29 percent of us have unleashed our inner assholes and will support Trump to the end, because he sneers at the people we love to sneer at.

Because the gaslighting defense is factually indefensible, but the pure tribalism defense rests not on facts, but on irresistible compulsion, the logic of advocacy would tell Trump and his minions to abandon gaslighting, go with pure tribalism, and just hope for the best.

The logic of advocacy would tell Trump to rely on pure tribalism to shield his retreat as he cuts and runs, negotiating the best exit deal he can negotiate.

That may yet happen. Who knows?

But interestingly, and somewhat counterintuitively, the Very Stable Genius seems to have had a blinding insight.

The Blinding Insight of the Very Stable Genius

It is that both gaslighting and pure tribalism will work just fine and dandy with his 29 percent hard core.

But pure tribal appeal will only work with about 29 percent. To get beyond that, he’s got to gaslight, gaslight, and then gaslight some more.

A competent defense counsel would tell him that dog won’t hunt.

A competent defense counsel would tell him that he’s using his shovel just to dig a deeper and deeper hole for himself.

And, by the way, a competent defense counsel would tell him it’s not a stroke of genius to withhold from the grand jury all the witnesses who might testify in your favor, while the hostile witnesses keep on trooping into the courthouse to give their testimony and to douse the gaslight.

But Trump is appearing pro se in his defense, thus denying himself the effective assistance of counsel.

And a Concluding Observation

No, ladies and germs, when the gaslighting collapses, as it inevitably will, probably most of the Republican senators will still vote too acquit. But by them, we will have established beyond argument that their votes are based on pure tribalism.

Well, rooty toot toot for them–if they hail from states where the 29 percent of the U.S. population make up 51 percent or more of the folks in their state.

But if the come from states where the hard core base is only say, 42 percent, then they are in a spot of bother.

O Tempora! O Mores! The Zeitgeist and the Liberation of Our Inner Assholes

O tempora, o mores!Senatus haec intellegit, Consul videt; hic tamen vivit. vivit? immo vero etiam in Senatum venit, fit publici consili particeps, notat et designat oculis ad caedem unum quemque nostrum!

O times! O morals! The Senate understands these things, the Consul sees them; yet this man still lives. He lives? Indeed, he even comes into the Senate, he takes part in public debate, he notes and marks out with his eyes each one of us for slaughter!

Emma Green, Nothing Will Persuade White Evangelicals to Support Impeachment: New polling suggests that Trump’s base is totally unified behind the president, no matter what investigations might reveal:

A significant portion of Trump’s Republican supporters are open about their belief in his infallibility: 42 percent of Republicans said there is virtually nothing the president could do to lose their approval. Among Republicans who cited Fox News as their primary news source, this number was even higher, at 55 percent. And Trump’s most steadfast supporters are also most likely to condone his behavior: Nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals said Trump has not hurt the dignity of the presidency. By contrast, majorities of all other religious groups said Trump has damaged the image of the office.

These numbers reinforce the idea that some of Trump’s supporters have come to see American politics as an all-out war. Whatever reservations they may have had about Trump when he first ran for office have apparently been soothed, either by his full-throated defense of his supporters’ priorities or because these voters resent what they see as unrelenting attacks against him and his administration.  …

Hard-core Trump supporters are not representative of America, and they’re not the only voters who have hardened their political position in the past few years. Only 29 percent of registered voters told PRRI that they would vote for Trump in the 2020 election, no matter who becomes the Democratic nominee. By comparison, 40 percent of registered voters said they would support the Democratic candidate no matter who it is, while 29 percent said their ballot remains up for the taking.

Regardless of how impeachment plays out in the coming months, the proceedings are not likely to bring any semblance of political unity or compel committed Trump supporters to change their mind. Even if the president goes down, some Americans have apparently decided that they’re willing to go down with him.

Plus ça Change, Plus c’est la Même Chose

Let’s give some historical context. Back when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties—back when I was knee high to a grasshopper—Al Gore had not yet invented the internet, but, still, we knew all about FAKE NEWS!

We slapped our knees to the witticism that Life is the magazine for people who can’t read. And not only that: Time is the magazine for people who can’t think.

And what, pray tell, was the nature of the FAKE NEWS being conveyed by Life and Time magazines?

The utterly false story they were trying to peddle was the claim that black people and white people are morally equivalent and ought to receive equal treatment under the law.

What a joke!

What a hoot!

paper curtain

As I said, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Plus ça Change, Plus ce n’est pas la Même Chose

I now wish to make an observation that many will find seriously offensive and unsettling. (Thank the Lord Buddha that I’m hiding behind a pseudonym.)

The racism—and the sneer of contempt for education, learning, science, and moral progress—have been with us a long, long time. Whathas changed is that, as we have become accustomed to using the internet, many of us have learned to unleash our inner asshole.

The inner asshole was always there, mind you, and not everyone has unleashed it, but lots of us have done so. Some examples:

N.Y. Times, The Internet is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse

Forbes, The Internet, Hate Speech and Politics

Washington Post, Feminists were right: Ignoring online misogyny has deadly consequences

Let Me Be Clear

In no way, shape, or form do I claim that internet abuse is confined to the right side of the political spectrum. Our inner assholes come in many varieties. I am sure that moderates and progressives have themselves unleashed their inner assholes quite frequently as well.

I do not claim, for example, that Trump supporters are likely to be pornographers nor that pornographers are likely to be Trump supporters.

My claim is that there has been a general movement in the direction of unleashing and then reveling in that which we would have previously hidden deep within.

And my claim is that that general movement has had a specific effect on the most politically backward among us.

And Just How Big is that Hard Core Trump Base?

Well, read the quote above from Emma Green’s post. Better still, click on the link above and read the whole thing.

29 percent will vote for Trump (if he’s on the ballot), no matter what, no matter what.

29 percent.

Have you heard that number before? Yes, you have. And I fearlessly predict that you will hear it again. Over and over.

Those are the people who have fallen in love with The Donald just because he loves to sneer at the things they love to sneer at.

Being well beyond reason, they will not be moved by reason.

Reasoning with them is a fool’s errand. But here is what is not a fool’s errand: doing everything we can to help The Donald keep on driving a deep and unmovable wedge between the 29 percent and everyone else.

All the Lonely People

Meghan Markle

An old and dear friend, tongue planted firmly in cheek, writes that Aardvark needs to pay attention to the REAL news, to wit, the unhappiness of the Duchess of Sussex. I feel her pain. I was moved by her marriage, moved by the love between her and Prince Harry, and moved by Archie’s birth. She is the best thing that has happened to the British monarchy in a long time. I hope she sticks it out.

But in the end, the Duchess of Sussex has got to do what the Duchess of Sussex has got to do.

God willing, may she find her way to peace and happiness.

The Donald

Tonight’s news is that the poor man thinks that his Secretary of Defense is Mike Esperanto, not Mike Esper.

I can see why Nancy Pelosi prays for him.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: it must really suck to be Donald Trump.

Shitcanning Mick?


The Atlantic, Elaina Plott and Peter Nicholas, Why Firing Mick Mulvaney Is Riskier Than Keeping Him: President Trump’s third chief of staff seemed destined for the door until impeachment came along.

So, here is a common situation we see in the defense bar. An employee has screwed up badly—so badly that the company is in deep legal doodoo. Management’s impulse is to fire the employee. Wise defense counsel says: “Wait just a minute. If you fire her, number one, she’s going to be really pissed off and motivated to spew really bad evidence against the company; plus, number two, if you fire her, you can’t control her any longer.”

Ms. Plott and Mr. Nicholas adduce these considerations and argue that the Mickster’s major screwup has earned him a mandatory pass from the Trumpster.

I disagree. There comes a time when any rule of thumb needs to be broken.

See my previous post on A or not-A. If Trump wishes to continue with the no-quid-pro-quo fantasy, then Plott and Nicholas are right: keep Mick.

But if Trump wants to admit there was indeed a quid pro quo, then he badly, badly needs some fallguys. Beginning with Mulvaney. Sean Hannity, who is evil but not stupid, has figured this out.