That graph above dominates the New York Times front page this morning, but not in a normal way. The graph is at the bottom of the page and covers its entire width. The long bar representing current unemployment page runs up the entire right margin; it’s a full 18 inches. This wasn’t necessary to convey the information. It was necessary to alarm readers as much as possible. The Times publisher and editors are assholes.
I have been criticized for using that vulgar word here. I think the first time I used it, ironically enough, was to describe Donald Trump when he first said he was running for President in 2012. I used the word to describe the Christian minister who announced that he was going to burn the Koran at a time when Muslim crazies were murdering Christians in retribution for every perceived insult to their religion. I don’t use the word lightly. I use it when more socially acceptable descriptors like “jerk” are obviously inadequate.
An asshole is a person who willfully and often gleefully defies positive social norms for personal gain or just because he or she can, indulging the basest human motivations and non-ethical considerations to the detriment of society. Jerks can reform; usually assholes cannot. When someone acts like an asshole but is not one, often the simple device of calling them what they are acting like will shock them back into more responsible behavior. This is why the word must remain among our ethics enforcement tools, like a gun, usually holstered, but still available when needed.
It is needed a lot right now.
As I keep reminding readers, in 2015 I wrote a post declaring that if Donald Trump were elected President, he would turn America into a nation of assholes. I was right about that, but completely mistaken about the process. I thought that Trump’s reflexive lack of ethics and civility would poison the young, who typically adopt the values and manners of prominent role models in the culture, and historically no individual exercises more powerful influence over our culture than the President. However, what we have witnessed over the past three years is an epidemic of asshole conduct by those who oppose President Trump, who actually despise him. I didn’t see that coming. The Wuhan virus emergency has especially brought their assholism (“assholery?” “assholicity?” ) into focus.
Ann Althouse said it nicely (without using the word) reacting to Joe Biden’s current strategy of tossing off incoherent insults and second-guessing regarding the President’s handling of the epidemic. She wrote in part…
I’ll say to Joe Biden what I’ve been saying to everyone: Before you do anything, ask yourself: Am I helping? And I don’t mean Am I helping myself get elected? or Am I helping my party gain power? I mean Am I helping us get through this crisis? If the answer is not yes, then do nothing. Stay home and keep to yourself. It’s a relatively simple challenge. You don’t have to do more. In this situation more is less. Unless you’re helping. With the crisis….We only have one President at a time, and Trump is President, whether you love it or hate it, and even if you’re supposed to be the one person with the job of changing it. If you make his job harder, if you needlessly complicate it, you are displaying a failure to grasp or respect the onerous responsibilities of the President.
Her last sentence summarizes what I’ve been saying on Ethics Alarms since early 2017, well before Ann figured it out. A good citizen’s job, as well as the duty of the news media, is to help the President, not make his job harder, because nations need leaders. That doesn’t mean supporting every policy position or standing mute when he says or tweets things Presidents shouldn’t express. Responsible, fair criticism makes leaders better, if it’s perceived as honest and based on facts rather than emotion. During Barack Obama’s long, lazy, mediocre tenure in the White Hous, Ethics Alarms pointed out that the fawning news media betrayed him by not doing its job and delivering tough criticism when he deserved it, which was often. However, simply harping and bitching and filing reflex insults every day about this President’s every word or action no matter how important or trivial does not help. It weakens the country, promotes division, encourages the worst instincts in the opposition party, and causes the nation’s leader to become distrustful, paranoid and insular. In short, it doesn’t help, it hurts, and those who continue to do it anyway, not just during the Wuhan virus crisis but at every other opportunity are assholes. There’s no other word for it.
This post started out as the intro to the Morning Warm Up, and to launch the asshole theme, I had intended to relate the story of one George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, New Jersey. He was shopping for groceries at a Wegmans store a few days ago, and an employee asked him to move further away from her and a food display. Falcone leaned in close to the worker and coughed on her, laughed, and told her that he was infected with the virus. He was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat in the third degree, and fourth-degree obstruction of the administration of law. The main thing is, however, that he proved he was an asshole.
Crises don’t make people into assholes, but they sure expose them when they were assholes to begin with. Bill de Blasio, whose assholery should have been obvious to all (but New York City has elected him mayor twice), put a neon “ASSHOLE” sign on his head when he attacked the President for not acting quickly enough regarding the virus. It was de Blasio who, on March 2, after Trump had closed down flights from China and issued travel warnings against South Korea and Italy, told his city in a tweet,
The multifarious assholes who make up the Times op-ed pages file screeds daily that do no more than reiterate their contempt for the President, telling us that he has “met his Katrina,” that the pandemic is his fault, that he we are doomed because he is President, that the Republican Senators have blood on their hands because they didn’t impeach him when they had a chance. Other analysts for the Washington Post, The Atlantic and many more publications are doing the same thing, because they can and they want to, and because other assholes like the Facebook users on my feed will dutifully post every one of these vicious and repetitious pieces as appeals to authority because they cannot mount a persuasive argument supporting their anger and hate themselves (as they prove every time I stoop to calling out their ignorance and the best they can muster is “He called the virus a hoax!” or equivalent nonsense). Let’s find another, the first one that pops up..bear with me, it will only take a second—AH! Here, on Politico, is a pundit attacking Trump for not being enough of an autocrat, when his being a skulking, opportunistic autocrat/dictator/Hitler just waiting to destroy our democracy has been a theme of “the resistance,” of which this hack is a member.
This has been going on for more than three long years, long enough for many once decent, fair, ethical people who were initially only acting like assholes to become assholes because other assholes—there are so many of them!—provided so much positive reinforcement on social media and elsewhere
Well, we still have to call them what they are, or at least I do. Some may not be lost entirely. Some may, like Michael Douglas’s character in “Falling Down,” who at the last moment realizes that he’s the bad guy, will suddenly snap into realization and think..”Wait…I’m the asshole?”
33 thoughts on “I’ve Looked And I’ve Tried And I Believe In Civility, But The Only Fair Descriptive Word For These People Is “Asshole””
Some may, like Michael Douglas’s character in “Falling Down,” who at the last moment realizes that he’s the bad guy, will suddenly snap into realization and think..”Wait…I’m the asshole?”
Not holding my breath on that last part. Otherwise, a superb post.
Sidebar: The other day, I engaged a TDS-infected acquaintance who was trumpeting the “Trump-is-responsible-fof-the-death-of-an-idiot-who-ate-fish-tank-cleaner” theory. I pointed out that although I personally did not LIKE Trump, I didn’t hate him, either. He responded that he DID hate Trump. I responded that was a pity, because when we hate something, we lose our objectivity and out ability to see things clearly.
Needless to say, he responded with….
…cue the crickets.
This has been a source of depression and amazement for me. I enjoy honest discourse. The deranged don’t want honest debate, and worse, they are incapable of it. After I sent that rebuke I quoted yesterday to unsolicited email refering to the President calling the virus a “hoax,” the first reply I got was one that said, “OK but he also said he wasn’t “responsible” for the response”…which both ducked the issue and injected another misleading narrative.
The thing that I get tired of hearing the President say more than any other is “I inherited a broken system”.
If you inherited a broken system, Mr. President, why have you done little to fix it in your more than three years in office? If you want to take credit for the economic growth in the last three years, then you have to take blame for not fixing the system that was broken.
It is not as if there were not many experts such as Dr. Fauci who knew that a pandemic was likely to happen within another few decades. They would have been able to tell you that a real pandemic would inevitably have a drastic effect upon the economy and the health care system.
This entire sequence of events is illustrative of the way that we have tended to do business (public and private) in this country for decades: maximize our benefit today; let tomorrow worry about itself.
The problem is, of course, that there are dozens of broken systems. Dozens. It’s impossible to fix them all in 3 or 10 years. So you gamble, which ever course you pick. Trump picked foreign trade, immigration, the judiciary, over-regulation, international organizations, job creation. It’s Russian Roulette by any measure—and it doesn’t help when you have to fight coup attempts all the time. Yes, he’s responsible for fixing everything, including all the cans that have been kicked down the road. It’s literally luck which one of the cans turns on him. A pandemic was not one of the most likely in this period, but it was one that could hurt most.
Great response, Jack. Comment of the day. Trump may be an asshole but he’s our asshole. And has a lot of very good things. I don’t remember HRC having a more respirators plank in her platform.
Well, of course. The best reason for Trump is that he is not HRC. I would never argue against that.
You have to do a little calculation: multiply the likelihood of failure in an area times the anticipated cost of failure in that area. (Sounds like Fight Club.) I am not so sure that preparedness for a pandemic should not be high in the list because the potential cost can be catastrophic.
I guess you have to look at his trying to do what he said on the campaign trail what he wanted to do. But it still gets tiresome hearing the same excuse every day.
“You have to do a little calculation: multiply the likelihood of failure in an area times the anticipated cost of failure in that area.”
To establish priorities using expected value analysis you must have reasonably reliable values for the probability of an event to occur and the expected cost of the event. At best, without any information indicating precipitating factors of a future event we can only estimate probabilities of such occurrences. we know that there is a 1 in 6 chance of a number from 1 – 6 showing up when rolling a die or a 1 in 54 chance of pulling the king of hearts out of a new deck of cards.
When we start attempting to calculate probabilities the chances get geometrically smaller when we start conditioning them on other events. For example: roll a 3 using one die and pulling the 5 of clubs out of the deck gives us a probability of occurrence of 3 chances in a 1000. Now when we start factoring in global events, such that amounts to playing 3D chess the ability to place an accurate value on potential occurrence is low unless you have the ability to track leading factors that historically culminate in the occurrence of the event in question.
If the probability of a pandemic of this magnitude occurring is .0000001 (1 in a million) and the expected cost =2 trillion the maximum amount of money expended to deal with it is 2 million dollars. Knowing the federal government that amount is probably a thousand times less than they spent.
What exactly is the probability of the Chinese seeking to steal intellectual property in order to create knock off products using slave labor to dominate global manufacturing? What is the cost if they succeed.
What is the probability that human traffickers will continue to exploit our porous southern border for profit. What is the cost to the taxpayer to pay for the interdiction of drugs, weapons, contraband and human beings. What is the TOTAL cost to pay for social services and medical services for those who live in the shadows because they are not supposed to be here?
Let me end with if the highest cost of getting into your car and going for a ride is death then we must all be calculating the probability of that activity to be infinitesimally small. You cannot claim that a calculation was not made simply because the probability you estimated was not accurate.
You just have to look at human history to know that the likelihood of a pandemic is a lot less than one in a million. For a President who expects to spend eight years in office, the likelihood of a pandemic in the time in office is around one in four. Pandemics happen about three times per century according to C.I.D.R.A.P. From experience, we can see that is reasonable.
The Spanish Flu happened in 1918. The Pandemics in the 1950s and 1960s each killed more than 100,000 Americans. The H1N1 flu killed over 12,000 in America. Even if one discounts the H1N1 pandemic, because it killed far fewer Americans than the others, that’s still three pandemics in the last 101 years before this pandemic occurred.
Even something like the Black Death has a far greater chance of re-occurring than one in a million. You are obscuring an important point in useless (for this discussion) details about probability. Having that knowledge about probability is pointless when you intentionally set the probability of an event ridiculously low.
If you are going to take this to extremes, you are also going to have to estimate the probability of success in a given endeavor and the likely degree of success in that endeavor. The probability of a good degree of success at minimizing the effects of a pandemic is high if you just plan and prepare for it.
The President would not have had to spend a great deal of his own time on pandemic preparation. He should have delegated that responsibility, perhaps to Mr. Pence, or to someone else that he trusted. A leader has to delegate responsibility or important things are not going to be handled. This current pandemic is an example of that. With proper delegation, I do not believe that any of the important matters needed to be neglected.
My point is that there are far more likely events than pandemics with far greater costs. What is the long term cost of having most of your manufacturing capacity eliminated by another nation that wishes to be the dominate global manufacturer. What is the expected cost if we can no longer service our aircraft, produce pharmaceuticals, or other strategic goods if China decides to embargo them and then decides to begin a campaign to envelope all of Asia? What is the cost of human trafficking and drug smuggling on our southern border? Given that former is currently in process of becoming a real potentiality and the latter has a 100% chance of occurring because it has not been stopped, how much more money should we expend to equate the expected value of ending the problem with the outlays to actually end the problem?
Explain to me how much money Congress specifically earmarked for pandemic response and how much money Trump should have demanded for exactly this level of pandemic response. Assuming that the budget is at its cap, what exactly should have been cut to provide adequate funds for pandemic response. Does pandemic response trump providing housing subsidies or providing funds for college loans?
My use of one in a million was to demonstrate expected value analysis using actual numbers rather than a reference to a pop culture movie. I have no more ability to assess probability of a given global pandemic than you, let alone estimate the cost of a type two error.
Lets use the one in four chance that you claim for a pandemic. What then is the probability that the pandemic will cause 12,000 deaths or 120,000 deaths.
Sure we might see a 1 in 4 chance of a pandemic but we do not necessarily know the probability of mortality rates until we know what it does and how it spreads.
If the probability of under 10,000 deaths in the US is 90% and 120,000 deaths in the US is 10% then the expected mortality is 10,200 if the event occurs, and only 2,550 deaths from a pandemic that might occur.
The more conditions we put on a given event the less likely they will occur and the expected value or cost declines.
We could flip the probabilities around and show much higher death rates but I should point out that history will also show that death rates are declining during pandemics as well. Evaluating the whether the response was adequate requires that we have a known benchmark by which we can measure. We do not.
Your premise was that Trump failed to address the issue of a pandemic of heretofore unknown virus (hence the term NOVEL covid-19 ) of rural Chinese origin, transmitted from a speculative but still unknown vector through a not thoroughly understood method to humans, by not ensuring that states, who had had the opportunity but chose not to purchase, the assets in place to combat such a pandemic.
I would love to meet the person who had all the answers – but not yet.
I don’t know why but I cannot reply below your following comment; so I am replying before it.
I can analyze the situation; don’t lump me in with those of you who apparently never studied statistics and probability; it is you who cannot analyze anything. I have shown a rationale for analyzing it. I never asked for a huge budget item for pandemics; that would have been something to be returned after a thorough study of potentialities. That study would have been done by delegation rather than consuming Mr. Trump’s time. We are all paying the price of not having developed a pro-active strategy to deal with a pandemic. Oh, there’s another thing I studied, strategic thinking. Anyone ever heard of that?
As for other items having a greater cost… you are seeing that is not true this week. The tremendous bailout that has happened this week proves how dire a pandemic situation could become. The stock market volatility proves how bad the situation could become during a pandemic. Keep in mind that this pandemic has been mild to date; a really bad pandemic would be much worse.
Why are you worried about some foreign country stealing our jobs now when the Republicans and Clinton joined hands to give all of those jobs away a quarter of a century ago? I commend Mr. Trump for trying to bring jobs back but that does not mean we have the manufacturing base that we had before N.A.F.T.A. and G.A.T.T. We have very little of that base compared to what we had in the last century. China IS the dominant manufacturer on the planet today. This is one of the circumstances that those of us who fought N.A.F.T.A. and G.A.T.T. foresaw. Most of us thought that we would eventually have to fight China on a battlefield rather than fight a virus but this proves that the concern was well-founded.
Your statements about the number of deaths possible are ludicrous. Nobody knows. Shutting down the country has certainly decreased the number of deaths but it also has a tremendous economic cost.
Planning is exactly that… planning. Planning helps to meet the need when it happens. Planning avoids being caught with your pants down. Planning could have avoided much of the pain we are experiencing and will continue to experience for coming months.
I was going to continue this argument, but a thunderstorm has gone through and cooled my brow. I apologize for being too harsh in my previous comment. The real issue here is that I believe you are severely underestimating the potential costs of pandemics in terms of human lives and economic consequences. A severe pandemic could have a total cost greater than every other item that you mentioned COMBINED. (That is a severe pandemic. I do not believe the current one will approach that level.)
With that, I bid you a pleasant evening and good health for you and your family through the coming days and years.
Fair enough Tom.
I do not discount the need to plan or your rationale for planning in your earlier comments. Prior to my retirement I did a great deal of strategic planning in my career. That was not, however, the premise that I originally began with. I took issue with the problems with establishing the expected values for a pandemic. Assigning expected costs is a educated crapshoot at best. As such, I don’t find any value in criticizing a good faith estimate as to expected values. Global pandemics of recent years have been relatively benign compared to the plagues of the early 20th century. Even if the probability of the Black Death tripled since the middle ages our ability to treat Yersinia Pestis has caused the expected costs to drop exponentially.
As with any strategic plan one identifies the desired future and the most costly or valuable potentialities that could affect that desired future. Those negative costs and positive values are evaluated with respect to their likelihood or probability of occurrence. Plans are constructed to achieve the desired future based on what is known at the time the plan is created. Contingency plans are incorporated in the event that the expected X factor does not occur but an event with a lesser probability does occur.
Operationally however, all strategic plans are subject to interim evaluation and adjustment based on the realized conditions on the ground; probabilities change, new information becomes available, some personnel will resist while others don’t, resources get reallocated and the game plan changes to strive to achieve the desired future.
You mentioned the volatility in the stock market. On the surface it looks like many lost a great deal. But, would they have realized a loss had they not sold? Had they not sold, the rush to sell would have been mitigated because the limit orders might have been stayed. How many people made fortunes selling short and taking advantage of the panic engendered by some. The stock market does not measure wealth transfers only the value of the wealth associated with holding stocks. Furthermore, if I bought into the S&P 500 in 2010 and simply let it ride did I truly lose any money if I sold yesterday. The answer is no because I never realized the value when it was at 29,000. I will still be subject to capital gains on the lesser appreciation. My book value wealth went down but the stock is still worth more today in real terms than what I paid.
The pandemic panic fueled the rush but not all of the decline can be attributed to expected profit losses due to shutdowns and supply chain interruptions. A great deal was fueled by the same herd instincts Keynes spoke of in 1934 (FOMO or fear of missing out). That is what caused the great TP shortage of 2020. In hindsight, the President could have declared a trading holiday like FDR’s bank shutdown in 1929. By preventing any trading during the initial panic that was propagated by the media the volatility and market losses would have been minimized. But, what might have been the upshot of such a decision? If we are honest, this costs of this pandemic may be being exacerbated by those profiting from it.
Without having access to the HHS’s pandemic plan I don’t think either of us can determine if they failed to adequately estimate anything. We are only guessing. Only after the event is over can we deconstruct what we did right and what we did wrong. More importantly, only then can we assign responsibility given that each state’s governor has responsibilities for its citizens. A good example is Flint Michigan’s water problems or Cuomo’s declination of ventilators in 2015.
In this case, short of having, at best, a vaccine ready to go or, at worst, 300 million testing kits for a heretofore unknown virus seems to be proof of inadequate planning on the part of HHS. I am just not willing to go that far at this time.
I think we know by the fact (assuming we can believe the reports) that we are already running short on masks, gloves, and gowns, that there was a lack of planning or a lack of communication somewhere. Those things are cheap, so there is little excuse for not having plenty in inventory. Maybe it should have been a local responsibility but we live in a time where local officials have to be told to flush the toilet. We live in a time of amazing technology. Who is to say that it would not be possible to program a nanobot that could target any specific virus? Is that impossible today? Is it at least worth investigating? Unless we end ourselves, that will someday be possible.
Perhaps if did not need to spend so much time dealing with those working to undermine his presidency he could have attended to more things.
The entire Federal government has proven that there are serious deficiencies in most agencies.
In three years he has accomplished more than some of his predasessors accomplished during 8 years.
The guy that ate the fish food ingested chlorquinine phosphate not the medication hydrachloraquinine.
The media loves to talk about scientific facts but cannot see that the chemical makeup of the two are vastly different.
Based on their perspectice a Clorox bleach and tonic (quinine) water cocktail would be an anti malarial protocol. Morons all
Use this, it stops them dead:
<b<“Hate is a subjective form of attachment by which we are bound to the hated object.”
Trump has acted and continues to act too frequently as an asshole. It is a part of his loathsome personality. It is unbecoming of his office and role nationally and globally to represent us so poorly as a people. He did not, however, make others into assholes.
He has done very little as President to earn the assholery he and those supporting his policies have so roundly received by the woke resistance and its vile putrid allies in the media.
A biased media and an opposing political party devoid of facts, intent on overturning an election, is not to be trusted by anyone with anything ever. Their exposed assholery is just a symptom of something much worse than being assholes; they have chosen to be the enemies of our civilization.
The assholery of his opposition can be traced to the Great Awokening.
These woke people called various things- from the Gadsden flag, to the Betsy Ross flag, to the Okay symbol, to criminal background checks, racist.
and the Democrats promoted this Great Awokening.
Here’s the question for the Trump-baiters vis-a-vis the corona virus: WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
Trump and any other president in a crisis needs IDEAS, OPTIONS. Any president would welcome them.
Criticisms without other options are useless. THINK! If you can’t, then shut the hell up.
So far their “what would you do differently” seems to be resounding praise for the entire Chinese Communist societal structure.
That is fascinating, isn’t it? The Left has demonstrated its totalitarian leaning by embracing that Chinese Government’s line by criticizing Trump when he called this virus the Wuhan Flu. The amount of garment rending, gnashing of teeth, and apoplexy and breath-holding hurled at him and his administration is amazing. Yet, Rachel Maddow, that objective, erudite, and demonstrably better-than-us has declared that she thinks the MSM should stop showing Trump’s Pandemic New Conferences. She thinks they are simply unregulated campaign stops. What a jerk. From what Drs. Fauci and Birx are saying that, in meetings, Trump comes in with ideas, listens to the team, and never overrules their decisions/expertise. That seems like the mark of a good leader, no? He listens to the experts and allows them to do what they think is best. He may be an asshole but there may be a limit to his assholery.
It’s almost like the media and the democrats (but I repeat myself) never even gave him a chance but immediately started focusing on the ways they knew he’d react negatively.
I teach this to students all the time. No complaints without alternative solutions in mind. In short, stop bitching and think about better ways forward. All the time and energy spent complaining and blaming is time and energy not spent on solutions.
I even use this at home to some positive effect: Don’t tell me what you don’t want; tell me what you do want.
Mayor De Blasio would have left the city open for business. That is… different.
As a mentor of mine said “Once an asshole always an ass hole. Everybody has the propensity to be an asshole!”
If we are to use their method of statistical comparisons then there is no pandemic because no one in my house has tested positively.
In all those other values how many included periods in which the government issued executive orders to shut down.
Why dont we use UE stats to measure how well Cuomo, DiBlasio and Newsome are handling their economies and compare their UE stats to say the Dakotas, Kansas or Wyoming.. Seems to me that those areas are the problem areas. What do these statistucs say about their state and local economic policies?
The worst part is those are not UE stats. They are applications for unemployment insurance payments. The distinction is my wife’s employer (asshole corporation) laid her off and encouraged her to apply for unemployment insurance payments as as way to protect their bottom line. At the same time, she is being updated via email, be tasked with work items (not doing them), and expected to return to work at the snap of their fat greedy fingers.
If we didn’t want to retire early, I tell them to stuff jagged broken glass where the sun doesn’t shine.
Sweden’s response is scientific. Apparently.
Although the Left wants us to copy Sweden in every way, their response to this issue doesn’t seem like the Sky is Falling mentality being encouraged by the Left to the point where they don’t even want the POTUS to offer hope to the American people. In fact, I would imagine that, if Trump’s response mimicked Sweden’s response, there’d be calls for another impeachment hearing.
It will be fascinating to see how that works out for Sweden. I am hopeful that at least some of our states will adopt a similar approach.
We cannot keep this from our country, but I think we can do best by trying not to trash the whole country just to save some indeterminate number of lives. But my opinions are not what people are listening to right now.
Here’s this for a headline if someone needs it: “Government tells entire economy to close. Millions of people no longer employed.”
A very close real world friend (a Canadian, eh?) sent me an Instagram of a guy imitating Donald Trump mocking his desire to re-open the economy by Easter. The friend said, “Great Impersonation.” To which I responded, after some thought, “Fuck you.” To which she responded, “Seriously?” To which I responded “Fuckin A right.”
This smug, relentless BS and assholery has finally pushed me over the edge.
I nominate Benjamin Wittes (appropriately, near the bottom of this compilation) as today’s winner of that moniker. Although there are plenty of other worthy candidates on the way down to his contribution.