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Thursday, October 20, 2016

What I learned in the third presidential debate

clinton knockout.jpg

In 1984, the philosopher Aaron Sloman invited scholars to describe ‘the space of possible minds’. Sloman’s phrase alludes to the fact that human minds, in all their variety, are not the only sorts of minds. There are, for example, the minds of other animals, such as chimpanzees, crows and octopuses. But the space of possibilities must also include the minds of life-forms that have evolved elsewhere in the Universe, minds that could be very different from any product of terrestrial biology. The map of possibilities includes such theoretical creatures even if we are alone in the Cosmos, just as it also includes life-forms that could have evolved on Earth under different conditions.

...But the octopus exemplifies the possibility of a creature that is cognitively sophisticated, that we are inclined to credit with a capacity for rich conscious experiences, but whose behaviour is hard for humans to understand. Taking this idea further, we can imagine conscious beings far more inscrutable than an octopus. Such beings would appear down there with the brick on the H-axis, but for very different reasons. To describe and explain the behaviour of a brick, the elaborate concepts we use to describe and explain human behaviour are unnecessary, since it exhibits none to speak of.

Murray Shanahan, “Conscious exotica: From algorithms to aliens, could humans ever understand minds that are radically unlike our own?:, October 19, 2016

The big Republican accomplishment is that they have detoxified their brand.

David Brooks, November, 2014, quoted at Driftglass.

My first thought: someone drugged Donald Trump.

He kept his shit together for sixteen minutes at the start of the debate last night. His sentences had subjects and objects, beginnings and ends.

He was calm and measured in his speech and manner. He displayed a normal orientation in space and time.

Of course, the first three topics: the Supreme Court and gun control and abortion rights, helped. Each requires carefully threading a series of rhetorical needles, bolting together code phrases and reciting them in the right order. He proved he could summon the focus to do that.

The blogger Driftglass shorthanded the discussion this way:

Clinton gives a coherent, sensible answer to "Whither the Supremes".

Trump: The Supreme Court hurt my fee fees.  Hillary will use her magic lady powers to eliminate the 2nd amendment.

Clinton: How about some reasonable restrictions on gun ownership?  And now I shall demonstrate my wonkpower!

Trump: Hillary is an angry lady.  Angry angry lady.  I am strong.  Strong like bull.

Trump: Rocket launchers for everyone!

Trump: Hell yes, I'll overturn Roe v Wade.  And then I'll arm the shit out of our precious fetus-Americans!

Trump: Hillary wants to kill babies.  She does.  Rip that baby out of there. She'll do it!  She's crazy!

Hillary wants the government out of your vagina.  Trump wants the gummint in there.  Waaay in there, grabbing, grabbing, grabbing just like Donald Trump.

The Supreme Court, Donald Trump mused. “It’s what it’s all about...I will uphold the second amendment, and all the amendments.”

Trump, who must be the best in all things, is what I call an Expansive Originalist. He will protect the Constitution, including bits that don’t exist. As fellow adulterer Congressman Mark Sanford (“Man, if Billy Bush had been MY wingman…”) told Newsmax last summer, after a Trump Q&A:

Noting that at one point, someone asked Trump what he would do to protect Article I powers, "I think his response was, 'I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,' going down the list," Sanford said. "There is no Article XII."

Trump also appeared, indirectly, to show some interest in President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 plan to pack the Supreme Court to get his way, telling debate moderator Chris Wallace, when it comes to future Supreme Court picks, “I’ve named twenty of them.”

(But under the Roosevelt plan- which allowed a new justice to be appointed for every sitting justice over 70, up to six- Trump would only get to appoint three. Given that the other five are in their fifties and sixties, it looks like Trump has been selling his Gang of Twenty a Trump University civics course.)

Trump kept his cool for sixteen minutes before his chest began heaving beneath his red necktie (the man has a factory in China, little Chinawomen churning out cravats for twenty cents a day. Because “her husband” signed the worst deal that has ever been signed by anyone, ever, in the history of the world, so he could give that little Chinawomen work. And still he only has, like, five neckties, and the red one he wears all the time. So sad).

His mouth started forming that goldfish “O” that presages a thought churning up from the magma cauldron, to be blurched out on the debate stage. Immigration triggered a massive pyroclastic flow:

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama personally mule smack into New Hampshire.  Sniff!  They do it!  Sniff!  Mmmm. Sniff!  Delicious heroin.

Bad hombre?  Really?  We're going there?  Of course we're going there.   

Trump: Believe me.  Sniff. Believe me.  Sniff.  Believe me.  Sniff.  Believe me.  Sniff.  Believe me.  Sniff.  Believe me...

Clinton: Donald hates illegal immigrants so much that he hires them to build his shitty buildings.

I relaxed. Old Donald- the Zaphod Beeblebrox of politics- was back, his second head burst out to take control of tossing the word salads for the next 66 minutes. It was 9.25 pm.

He started demanding a right of response to Hillary Clinton’s answers. Them he just started interrupting. With only one moderator- after twenty years, Fox News finally got into the club)- Trump skipped his “ganging up on me” plaints from last time and went straight to Michael Korda’s and Robert Ringer’s business-as-bullying books from his Wharton days. He even thanked Wallace when he felt the moderator was carrying his water by asking the right things: “Good question.” “Correct.”

The Donald motormouthed his way through the next half hour (“On Wikileaks, On Putin, On Syria, and Nafta! I’m skipping details 'cause I’m Trump, I don’t hafta!”) before completely losing it around 10.00.

I thought, watching his Twitter feed during the debate, he was getting overheated multitasking: during the 90-minute event, he posted 51 tweets. Then I scrolled down to the first, where he advised he was turning over his account to “my team of deplorables.”

Now we know the truth of the 3 a.m. tweets. Either’s he’s got the concierge desk at the empty Trumpotel in DC posting on the overnight shift, or someone on the campaign staff has discovered Buffer. Either way, he declared himself the debate winner at 3.14 am today.

You might have thought the abortion discussion would have exhausted the possible combinations of “Trump” “vagina” and “grab.”

You’d be wrong. Wallace brought up The Women:

Trump: Everything has been debunked.  Sniff!  Obama hired thugs!  Sniff!  Watch James O'Keefe's bigly video! I never met anyone, I never knew anyone.  Sniiiiiff!

Trump: Hillary hired all of these horrible women who accused me of that stuff.  They have all been debunked .  Everything is a lie.  I'm sure of it, just as I'm sure Obama is a Kenyan Commie from space!

They're not laughing with you, Donald.  They're laughing at you.

Trump:  I'm going to -- Sniff! -- change the subject now --  Sniff!  -- because I'm looking like  -- Sniff!  --  like a lying pervert  --  Sniff!

Trump: Quit talking about my creepy, deviant business, Chris.  I've broken bigger men than you and I'll tell you what questions you should be asking me!

I learned that Donald Trump knows all about the plight of Haiti because he was in Little Haiti in Florida and boy do they hate the Clintons. I can remember when, back in the 1980s, Haitians were at the bottom of America’s immigrant shit list. Not only were they black and foreign, they spoke French, which explained why they were drug-addled voodoo zombies rogering each other to death in the AIDS-petri dish of an island until the word came to board legions of leaky boats and set forth to infect America. Good times. When that lot came ashore, we just clapped them in federal prison and forgot ‘em.

I also learned something that should give some pause to Trump Troofers, but won’t: he considers he can do anything he likes until someone passes a law to make him stop. I don’t pay taxes. Hillary, why didn’t you pass a law to make me pay some? I built my buildings with loss-leader Chinese steel. Why didn’t you pass a law to make me stop doing that, Hillary? I don’t feel like following the Constitution any more, Congress. Why don’t you pass a law to make me comply with it?

Knowing the kids were safely tucked in bed across America, Trump After Ten was the alpha baboon, his flaming, technicolor ass in full display (and man oh man, if you saw any side shots of him behind the podium, catch those side vents on his suit jacket bulging out. That man got boo-tay! He’s positively steatopygic!). For once with such tiny, pussy-clutchin' paws, that man can fling his poo!

That’s when he went after the Clinton Foundation: Hillary Clinton is so base, she even took money from nations where they throw the gays off of businesses! I mean, “buildings.” She took incredible sums of money from governments that treat the women so badly. What a nasty woman. No one respects women more than I do.

Aunt Hillary was ready. I’ll be happy to compare the Clinton Foundation to the Trump Foundation, she purred. I could take the rest of the debate to talk about the good the Clinton Foundation does. In fact, I think I will!

Once Chris Wallace finally wrested control back from Mrs Clinton, she produced her shiv and concluded, “The Trump Foundation takes other people’s money, and uses it to buy six-foot portraits of Donald. What kind of foundation does that?”

Then he looped back around to Syria, which he, until his ten-year-old son explained it, thought was a breakfast food. Mosul? Muesli? Sounds the same to him.

Anyway, ISIS, they’re gone. They hired charter buses and got the hell out of Dodge. But because they are so crafty and clever, we are gonna spend months, and “many, many lives” conquering enemy long gone (I had expected him to cite the legendary Battle of Rock Ridge, lovingly recreated in Blazing Saddles. Saving Private Ryan’s Normandy invasion scenes had nothing on the fake Rock Ridgeites being blown into the air).

Mr Trump revels in death. He keeps score with the bodies of others. The more there are, the more right he was that others were wrong.

In this case, he revealed he imagined ISIS got away because America has been saying, for ages, “We’re a-comin’ to get ya’ll, ISIS!” “Where is the element of surprise?” he pleaded, exhuming Generals MacArthur and Patton again. Driftglass said,

Trump thinks a massive army can prep for a major battle, sneak up on Mosul and attack during reruns of the "The Apprentice".

America then detoured with Donald through the emails again, and the national debt. Mr Trump talks a lot, but in a context-free manner that left 55 million viewers wondering, “Who the f**k is John Podesta?”

Mr Trump’s big finish was, of course, his announcement that the election is a TV series with a season-ending cliffhanger. Will he concede the election he veered between being rigged against him already and “If she wins, and I don’t for a moment think. that. will. happen”?

The rigged election gambit is a risky one. Mr Trump has framed it in populist terms: the screwees on his side vs the screwers of the business/media/political establishment. It is not so long since he declared himself “unshackled” from his own party’s fetters.

Already we see the vise tightening on Republican officeholders torn between principle and tenure in office. If they distance themselves from their nominee for president, the pitchforks and torches crowd summoned by an angry black man with a gun (Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke) will turn on them. If they continue hashtagging #ButISupporttheNomineeofMyParty, the squishy, educated middle of the GOP will bolt.

But on November 9, there will be others who have won besides Hillary Clinton (if she loses, what happens to the rigging narrative? Just a jape, or did the riggers rat on the old establishment for space at the gold-plated trough of the new?). Will the unshaken Republican control of the North Carolina General Assembly be the result of rigging, given the party’s iron rule over district boundaries, voter restrictions, and the hours and days and places we can vote?

Our troubles will end November 9. They will just be warming up.

Oh, yes- Mrs Clinton was at the debate, too. All she proved is that she is not a lunatic. That was enough for me.

Gennifer Flowers did not attend last night’s debate, either.

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