The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Beliefs? We don't need no stinkin' beliefs

David Roberts, writing for Vox, says that trying to understand what Donald Trump really believes is a category error:

The question presumes that Trump has beliefs, "views" that reflect his assessment of the facts, "positions" that remain stable over time, woven into some sort of coherent worldview. There is no evidence that Trump has such things. That is not how he uses language.

When he utters words, his primary intent is not to say something, to describe a set of facts in the world; his primary intent is to do something, i.e., to position himself in a social hierarchy. This essential distinction explains why Trump has so flummoxed the media and its fact-checkers; it’s as though they are critiquing the color choices of someone who is colorblind.

What he’s doing is trying to establish dominance — to win, in his words. That’s what he uses words for. That’s how he sees every interaction in which he is involved. He is attuned only to what the words are doing, whether they are winning or losing, not to what they mean.

This point helps explain why Trump cannot ever admit a mistake or an error. He can only process accusations — of dishonesty, of cruelty — as social gambits, not as factual claims. To him, the demand that he apologize or admit error is nothing more than a dominance play. Apologizing is losing.

That the party of Lincoln nominated this person for president will go down in history as the turning point in American civilization, I think.

Starting my day

I took a personal day yesterday to get my teeth cleaned (still no cavities, ever!) and to fork over a ton of cash to Parker's vet (five shots, three routine tests, heartworm pills, one biopsy, $843.49). That and other distractions made it a full personal day.

So as I start another work day with the half-day of stuff I planned to do yesterday right in front of me, I'm queuing up some articles again:

OK, my day is officially begun. To the mines!

Muting the debate

New York Times reporter Jonathan Mahler watched the debate with the sound off. He still had no doubts who won:

It was a little shimmy of her shoulders — cheeky, insouciant — accompanied by a big, toothy grin. Her opponent smirked.

She looked as if she was having fun. He, not so much.

Visually, anyway, there was a discernible arc to the event, with Mr. Trump growing more agitated as the night wore on, and Mrs. Clinton becoming almost giddy with what felt increasingly like genuine pleasure.

Which brings us back to the shimmy. Absent words, it felt like the most telling moment of the evening, a memorable, instinctive reaction to what I imagined must have been a Trump howler.

In that instant, it was clear that the debate had produced a winner, at least to those of us who hadn’t actually heard a word of what the candidates had said: Mrs. Clinton. He had vibrated with anxiety; she had radiated cool confidence. He had seemed to be crawling out of his own skin; she had looked uncharacteristically comfortable in hers.

Meanwhile, attempts to discern from the written transcript what Trump was talking about continue to produce little usable data, NSA and FBI sources tell The Daily Parker.

Manifestly unfit for public office

Not even a full day after the debate and the reactions I'm seeing are across-the-board horrible for Trump. First, the usual suspects:

But the other side of the aisle doesn't seem happy either. Check out:

Of course, it's not Trump's fault he tanked after 15 minutes of inane bluster. It's never his fault when shit goes south.

As Hillary said, "Woo! Okay!"

And finally, looking at Hofstra's photos brings back a lot. My dorm features in a lot of them, having been used as Fox News's backdrop.

Update, 13:49 CDT: I found one guy who thinks Trump did well, Chicago's own John Kass. Kass doesn't think Trump won, mind you; he just thinks Trump didn't get his spine ripped out by Clinton.

Debate live-blogging

The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is about to begin. I'll be sipping on one or more martinis and making snarky comments. For real live-blogging check out Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan. Oh, and the Times.

I was going to watch PBS, but apparently Bloomberg will be fact-checking in real time.

Let the games begin...

21:04 EDT: Oh, can't do Bloomberg. Moved back to PBS with Gwen Ifill, Mark Shields, David Gergen, and a few other sane people.

21:06: Bad timing! My big New York-style pizza (in honor of my alma mater, Hofstra) just arrived.

21:10: First big lie on his first sentence. Routine opening from Clinton. Trump is pitching directly to people who have been left behind by change.

21:12: "We just have a different view." And "he really believes that the more you help wealthy people, the better off we'll be."

21:15: "I want you to be happy, it's very important to me." WTF?

21:17: "That's called business, by the way." She's already getting to him.

21:20: The Times already has one of his tweets up (about China and climate change).

21:23: "I know you're living in your own reality."

21:30: The Times' Nick Confessore: "This is a moment when Trump’s ideas are conflicted. He is now defending companies that offshore their profits and stick them in places like Ireland, and blaming Clinton and other politicians for not letting them bring the money back tax free."

21:32: Ah, tax returns. Coming right after a pile of nonsense on how the Federal Reserve works. And a lie about the audit.

21:36: "Maybe he doesn't want you to know...he hasn't paid any taxes. ... There's something he's hiding. Who does he owe money to?" Well, yeah.

21:39: Well, maybe if you paid your taxes we could have better roads, Donald?

21:42: "Maybe he didn't do a good job." "Maybe you should apologize?" Because, it turns out, he stiffs people all the time. "You call yourself the king of debt."

21:43: One of my Facebook friends just now: "I'll release my tax returns when you release the Kraken." Same friend a moment later: "I can't tell who's winning, rubber or glue."

21:48: "Law and order." Welcome back, 1968.

21:50: Andrew Sullivan: "It’s clear that Trump has no idea what a debate is and has never actually debated an equal. He rants and then shouts over and interrupts his debate partner. This is the performance of a tyrant – someone utterly unsuited to the give and take and reasoned debate that’s integral – essential– to a liberal democracy."

Meanwhile, he's talking about bad people and an against-police judge. Is he six?

21:52: A friend whose opinion I trust just sent me a message that Clinton calling Trump "Donald" seems disrespectful against him calling her "Secretary." Leaving out that she's no longer entitled to that title (so to speak), I'm not sure whether this is a net gain or loss for her. I will ponder this.

21:57: Another friend on Facebook: "You don't learn that much from tax returns?! Um, if that's the case, bro, just turn them over."

21:58: Sullivan again (on the race question): "What he has just said in a presidential debate is indistinguishable from what a drunk at a bar might say before he is thrown out. It’s incredible to me that this ranting, incoherent bigot is actually a nominee of a major party in the U.S."

22:06: Confessore again: "Let’s not skip over this moment, colleagues. Has a presidential candidate ever accused the other of being racist on a debate stage?"

22:07: "I settled that lawsuit with no admission of guilt." My god, talk about being lawyerly.

22:09: And now we come around to Russia. She's almost...almost...linking him to Putin.

22:13: "We need to do cyber better." This from the guy who wants to date his daughter. Urban Dictionary much, Mr. Trump?

22:14: Martini #1 was with a London dry gin from the UK, in honor of the country I hope takes me in if this guy gets elected. Martini #2 is with Death's Door gin, for reasons I trust the reader will infer.

22:16: Not wrong, Donald. Do you not understand how the Internet works? You supported the Iraq war.

22:18: Andrew Borowitz: "The most coherent moments for Trump at this debate were the sniffs."

22:20: So, other than throwing themselves in front of Russian tanks, what has NATO ever done for us?

22:23: "I have a winning temperament." "Woo! Okay!" Snorts and literal rolling on the floor over at IDTWHQ.

22:26: "A man who can be provoked with a tweet should not have his finger anywhere near the button...."

22:28: Sullivan again: "He’s actually doubling down on the war crime of “taking the oil”. Again: no American presidential candidate has ever advocated plunder as a goal in foreign policy. No Western leader has supported such a thing in modern times. The fact that he is still repeating the need for such a war crime is all by itself disqualifying for a Western leader."

22:30: I think Sioux Nation might disagree that the Iran treaty is "the worst deal ever made." Also Poland (1938), Germany (1919), and Lando Calrissian (a long time ago).

22:35: Sometimes a stamina is just a stamina. This time, however, I think he means "penis."

22:38: Awww...it's not nice. Poor Donald.

22:39: Jeffrey Goldberg earlier: "Trump is admitting here that he would open fire on Iranian ships and then see what happens."

22:40: So...any answer other than "yes, I will absolutely respect the results of this election" is just bizarre.

OK. Time to finish my second martini. And then sleep, fitfully...

End of the week

Tonight I've gotten invited to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda speak at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and after that, a masquerade. Then tomorrow is Chicago Gourmet. Then Sunday I'll either plotz or walk 30 kilometers. (Though in truth I'll probably be fine as my cold, tapering though it is, makes me not want to indulge too much.)

Meanwhile, here are some articles that I may read in the next few hours:

If possible, I'll post some photos from Gourmet.

Is our Constitution ill?

Garrett Epps, writing for The Atlantic, warns that the advent of Trumpism comes mainly from an erosion of our collective understanding of and belief in the reasons our Constitution was written in the first place:

Trumpism is the symptom, not the cause, of the malaise. I think we have for some time been living in the post-Constitution era. America’s fundamental law remains and will remain important as a source of litigation. But the nation seems to have turned away from a search of values in the Constitution, regarding it instead as a set of annoying rules.

But even if America is spared President Trump, will the pathologies of the last year simply dissipate in a burst of national good feeling? Hardly. Trump was not a meteorite who has unexpectedly plunged to earth out of the uncharted depths of space; he is the predictable product of a sick system.

The corrosive attack on constitutional values has come, and continues to come, from the right. It first broke into the open in 1998, when a repudiated House majority tried to remove President Bill Clinton for minor offenses. It deepened in 2000, when the Supreme Court, by an exercise of lawless power, installed the President of their choice. It accelerated when the inadequate young president they installed responded to crisis with systematic lawlessness––detention without trial, a secret warrantless eavesdropping program, and institutionalized torture.

Whatever is taught in school, the Constitution never was (in James Russell Lowell’s phrase), “a machine that would go of itself;” what has made it work is a daily societal decision that we wish to live in a constitutional democracy. In 1942, Judge Learned Hand warned that “a society so riven that the spirit of moderation is gone, no court can save; that a society where that spirit flourishes, no court need save.”

And as if on cue, yesterday the Man Himself made another broadside against the 6th and 5th amendments (without, one assumes, knowing that he did):

In a speech on Monday, Donald Trump expressed his displeasure that Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the recent New York City bombings, will receive the full legal protections afforded to him by the federal Constitution. Trump specifically zeroed in on the fact that Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen, will presumably be provided a lawyer, as the Constitution requires. “He will be represented by an outstanding lawyer,” Trump complained with palpable chagrin. “His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation. We must have speedy but fair trials and we must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people.”

Slate's Mark Stern goes on to remind readers that John Adams and James Madison made the 6th Amendment right to counsel a bedrock of American jurisprudence for some pretty good reasons. But neither Trump nor his supporters really care about those reasons, because in their limited imaginations, they can't see how taking away those rights for some people will almost certainly result in taking away those rights for them as well.

Complex, likable Hillary

Via Deeply Trivial, BoingBoing's Caroline Seide posits the radical notion that Hillary Clinton's likability challenges may be simply because she's a complex woman:

Hillary Clinton is on one hand the most qualified human being to ever run for president of the United States, and, on the other, one of the most disliked presidential candidates of all time. In fact, Donald Trump is the only candidate who is more disliked than Clinton. And he’s not onlyovertly racist, sexist, and Islamophobic, but also unfit and unprepared for office. How can these two fundamentally dissimilar politicians possibly be considered bedfellows when it comes to popular opinion?

I would argue it’s because we don’t yet have cultural touchstones for flawed but sympathetic women. We can recognize Sanders as a fiery activist, Biden as a truth teller, and Kaine as an earnest goof, but we just don’t have an archetype—fictional or otherwise—through which to understand Clinton. As the first female nominee of a major political party, her campaign is in uncharted waters. As Clinton explains in a recent post for Humans Of New York:

It’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens.

And our entertainment doesn’t help us understand Clinton either. Our movies, books, and TV shows are filled with attractive female love interests, badass female warriors, hissable female villains, and bumbling female leads. But we don’t have very many female protagonists who are allowed to be flawed in ways that are messily realistic not just charmingly endearing. We haven’t been taught to empathize with flawed women the way we have with flawed men.

Maybe because I enjoy stories with complex women (e.g., Orphan Black, which I'd argue has dozens of interesting, complex women, all played by a woman who finally got her Emmy for playing them), I've always liked Hillary. And the subtle, pervasive sexism she faces in this election is absolutely maddening.

Who will win the debates?

James Fallows has a long article in the upcoming Atlantic attempting to answer this question:

The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.  

The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heardKennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.  

Historians who have followed up on this story haven’t found data to back up White’s sight-versus-sound discovery. But from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey.

Never has the dominance of the image over the word seemed more significant than this year, as the parties and the public prepare for the three general-election debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that are scheduled to begin September 26 (as it happens, the anniversary of that first Kennedy-Nixon debate) and the one vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, scheduled for October 4.

The whole thing is worth a read. I'm frustrated that I'll be in a rehearsal during the first debate, but I may stay up late after watching it.

The day's posts

So far today, the following have crossed my browser:

Back to the mines...