The Law of Cause and Effect, Illustrated Graphically

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The Immediate Past

The more trouble he gets himself in, the more he lies.

The more he lies, the fewer people believe his lies.

The Near Term Future

His troubles are growing ever larger.

Accordingly, the velocity of lies will increase even further.

There will come a day when so few people believe him—even among the most deplorable of the Deplorables—that Republican politicians will stop fearing the “Trump base.”

Having ceased to fear the Trump base, Republican politicians will implore Democrats to join in enthroning President Pence.

The Big Decision

Democrats will have an interesting choice to make: impeach Trump, or just let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind?

lachrymose Trump

Lies, Damned Lies, and Tweets

Sessions

Continuing to explore an issue I have addressed with morbid fascination these past months, Dana Milbank writes, Trump’s not a liar. He’s a madman.

I find Milbank’s conclusion curious. It seems to me that evidence is mounting that Trump’s lies are often conscious and strategic. Recent examples: the claim that the Democrats are responsible for separating children from parents at the border, and the assertion that there was an FBI “spy” in his campaign.

People who are actually successful have a number of techniques at their disposal, but Trump has only four: smarmy flattery, insults, threats, and lies. If you are the type of person whose behavior can be influenced by these techniques, then Trump has your number. If you are not affected by obviously insincere flattery, by verbal abuse, or by intimidation, and if you do not believe his lies, then Trump is flat out of luck, because that’s all he knows how to do.

Milbank cites evidence that the velocity of Trump’s lies is increasing at a dizzying rate. But the mere fact of lying is not in itself evidence of madness. It is instead evidence of desperation.

In addition, it seems that the lies are becoming so ludicrous that it’s like he’s just phoning it in.

As the dying cobra makes a last effort to defend itself from the mongoose by injecting more venom, it’s not crazy. It’s just ineffectual. ‘Cause the cobra has become immune to the venom.

Something like Shep Smith reacting to Trump’s venomous lies.

Is it a Lie if You Believe it to be True? Oh, Wait, Maybe There’s a Better Term than “Lie.” And I Don’t Mean “Alternative Fact.”

delusion

The New York Times headlines Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers, and describes his claim that “illegal aliens had cost him the popular vote” as “false.”

This on a day when he was taking lots of presidential looking actions–and might logically to have wanted the press to cover him looking presidential. Why, then, step on your own story, as Morning Joe and his merry band asked this morning?

It’s not a lie, folks, it’s a delusion.

We don’t believe things that go to our fundamental notion of ourselves. And the more such facts are repeated, the less we believe them. If you are white, and if a fundamental part of your identify is believe you are superior to black people, then you won’t believe that a black person has become President. The more proof of his Hawaiian birth you see, the more intense will be your belief that he was born in Kenya.

From the Washington Post this morning:

 President Trump had just returned to the White House on Saturday from his final inauguration event, a tranquil interfaith prayer service, when the flashes of anger began to build.

Trump turned on the television to see a jarring juxtaposition — massive demonstrations around the globe protesting his day-old presidency and footage of the sparser crowd at his inauguration, with large patches of white empty space on the Mall.

As his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was still unpacking boxes in his spacious new West Wing office, Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged.

Pundits were dissing his turnout. The National Park Service had retweeted a photo unfavorably comparing the size of his inauguration crowd with the one that attended Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony in 2009. A journalist had misreported that Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. And celebrities at the protests were denouncing the new commander in chief …

Over the objections of his aides and advisers — who urged him to focus on policy and the broader goals of his presidency — the new president issued a decree: He wanted a fiery public response, and he wanted it to come from his press secretary.

The Post goes on to elaborate on “turbulence and competing factions” as a source of the misstep, but observes, “At the center, as always, is Trump himself, whose ascent to the White House seems to have only highlighted his acute sensitivity to criticism.”

But is “acute sensitivity to criticism” the explanation that best fits the facts?

Aardvark is overweight, and is acutely sensitive to criticism of his obesity. But when Aardvark went to the doctor this afternoon and they weighed him in, he did not go into a hissy fit screaming that the scales must be at least 50 pounds off.

As I finish this post on the evening of January 24, 1984 is among the top 5 in book sales on amazon.

humpty-dumpty

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

twilight-zone

This from the Washington Post: Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3-5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote:

Two people familiar with the meeting [with congressional leaders on Jan. 23] said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the top of the gathering with Republican and Democratic lawmakers rehashing the campaign. Trump also told them that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.

The discussion about Trump’s election victory and his claim that he would have won the popular vote was confirmed by a third person familiar with the meeting.

The claim is not supported by any verifiable facts, and analyses of the election found virtually no confirmed cases of voter fraud, let alone millions.

Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes.

Think about it. If Trump were just cynically trying to manipulate a gullible base. a closed forum with congressional leaders is not the place he would choose to make the claim. He said it where and when he said it because he actually believes it.

Pontius Pilate, Mr. What is Truth? No. Don Quixote? Yes

Trump is rapidly becoming the crazy uncle in the back bedroom.

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Show Biz, Spicy Facts, and Shooting the Messenger

Joining Ms. Conway as a national joke is Sean Spicer. The Huffington Post has collected these jewels, among many others.

spicy-facts

Morning Joe joins the chorus of those calling for Trump’s good advisors to throw out his bad advisers, and fulminates over lack of experience. But then Joe lets slip the truth that a fish rots from the head down. And therein, of course, lies the problem, because good advisors might possibly put the fish in the freezer and slow down the rot, but they can’t undo the decay.

Paul Krugman wonders whether, when bad news comes, as it inevitably will, Trump will shoot the messenger. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports rising unemployment, will The Donald denounce the statisticians for joining the conspiracy against him?

Of course he will. Because he’s delusional. He really did see those thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the twin towers.

fish

An Update: Pontius Pilate Tries to Clean Up the Mess after Don Quixote Orders Baghdad Bob to Lie about Easily Verifiable Facts

poorly-educated

Lies, Damn Lies, and Alternative Facts

In a prior post Aardvark pondered whether The Donald most closely resembles (a) Pontius Pilate, who was cynical about the truth, or (b) Don Quixote, who looked at windmills and saw dark knights. I concluded that the better answer is (b) Don Quixote.

I carry the discussion forward in this post. It may suffer from confirmation bias. But, like Don Trump and Don Quixote, Aardvark sees what he sees.*

I refer to the hilarious Meet the Press transcript, where Chuck Todd asked Kellyanne Conway why the new press secretary so adamantly shouted lies about inauguration crowd size and berated the press for printing accurate information. Ms. Conway responded by filibustering manfully, persistently, and tenaciously. Serving up great, heaping portions of word salad, she refused to defend Mr. Spicer’s lies of yesterday, or to deny that they were lies. But she was deeply, deeply offended that Chuck Todd asked the question. That he persisted in demanding an answer she took as a grave attack on her character, and indeed on all that is holy.

To Ms. Conway’s credit, however, she did add the term “alternative facts” to the English lexicon, as a synonym for “lies.”

What the hell is going on here? Here is the explanation that, IMHO, best fits the facts.

I think that Delusional Donald looked over his inaugural crowd and saw, through his mental rose colored glasses, the most stupendous crowd in the history of the galaxy. When newspapers reported otherwise, he became incensed. I suspect his anger was real, not feigned—of a piece with how Don Quixote would have felt if he read in the Washington Post that he was tilting at windmills.

I think that, in a rage, Delusional Donald ordered his press secretary to go into the press room and dish out some unmitigated hell. I have no basis for speculating on what was or was not said in response, but in the end Sancho Panza did as he was told to do.

The next day, when the result was not good, the Pontius Pilates who surround Delusional Donald seem to have taken thought about what to do. I believe their thinking may be reverse engineered much along these lines.

Point A. Our great strategy—as our man laid out in his inaugural speech—is to insult, bully, and bluster the 535 empty suits in Congress.

Point B. The empty suits may resist our insults and bluster on occasion, at least at first, and in a limp wristed way. When they do resist, we will call on our cult followers to rise up and echo our bluster and bullying, which will scare the holy crap out of the 535 empty suits.

Point C. To effectuate this strategy, we must keep our cult followers in a constant state of high dudgeon. (If not, having no friends at all in Congress, we will be run out of town on a rail, and the luckier among us may escape with fairly light sentences.)

Point D. A tried and true method of bringing about this constant state of high dudgeon is to claim victimization by the dishonest press—a theme the cult followers are inherently inclined to believe.

Point E. Unfortunately, whatever else may be said about the mental faculties of our cult followers, they do have eyes. It follows that if we tell lies about something they can literally see for themselves, we will begin to lose them. In fact, some of them are already on the way out the exit, which is why our crowd wasn’t any bigger, which is where this vicious circle started.

Point F. It follows as the night the day that we need to clean this thing up, or at least keep it from getting worse. So, when we are on the talk shows on Sunday, let us respond to any and all questions about crowd size by being shocked, surprised, and deeply saddened that someone would make inquiry on the topic. That’s our story, and we are sticking to it.

I doubt whether they also consciously planned to bring a whole country’s ridicule down on their heads by inventing a new term for lies, “alternative facts.”

As my dear departed Grandma Aardvark used to tell my young self, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

* The invaluable Vasari has called my attention to this article, written by someone who is actually qualified professionally to speak on this issue: The Mind of Donald Trump: Narcissism, disagreeableness, gradiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.