Make It Go Away

The second debate in a nutshell.

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Donald Trump Assaults Nonconsenting Debate Chair

The image that sums up the second debate.

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Donald Trump, Full Metal Jacket, And Taking Life Too Seriously

Make America Grope Again. Where are we after the second debate? I’d say, film-wise, at Full Metal Jacket. Donald Trump is now akin to the soldier in the film who fails at basic training and begins to take life’s humiliations and ups-and-downs far too personally and seriously. He has ceased to deal with life with a light touch, and this makes him psychologically dark, at once a danger to himself and others.

In Kubrick’s film, at the end of basic training, the soldier goes out by killing himself and his sergeant. In the below clip, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek wonderfully rehearses the soldier’s psychological dynamic, and it quite obviously mirrors Trump’s. In the off-chance Trump actually still wins this, his authoritarian and vendetta nature is going to pose an enormous threat to both domestic and global stability–at minimum lurching us into a Constitutional crisis, and perhaps even, in foreign policy, toward a global extinction-level event. Can you imagine Donald Trump, for instance, as president during the Cuban Missile Crisis? We can get off this very, very dangerous ride in one month.

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Donald P. Grabber Is No Laughing Matter

Politico this morning: “[W]ithin Trump’s own campaign, there was an overriding sense of doom. One aide expressed doubt that the GOP nominee, who has successfully weathered a number of scandals, would be able to ride the current firestorm.”

After making sexually aggressive comments, Trump faces crisis inside campaign and within his party.
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Danielle Allen on Donald Trump’s Groping

Gilgamesh, Plato, the tyrannical soul, and Donald P. Groper. The most illuminating opinion article I’ve run across on what Trump’s predatory sexual behavior means.

This election has moved to questions of the fundamental elements of the human condition that we can find recorded in the earliest human texts.
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Donald Trump: Political Death (Finally) By A Thousand Tic Tacs?

Wave two. Trump’s Tic Tacs are becoming drip-drops and tick-tocks. Reports of behavior that accord with what he said on the tape–right down to the Tic Tacs–are coming in. From groping to assault. This is in Politico this morning:

Late Friday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof detailed another case of what he called “groping” by Trump, reporting that the developer had laid hands on a dinner party guest in the presence of her husband in 1992. “I didn’t know how to handle it,” the woman told Kristof. “I would go away from him and say I have to go to the restroom. It was the escape route.” CNN’s Erin Burnett related a more recent example of purported lechery: In 2010, Trump invited a friend of hers into his Trump Tower office and made an unwelcome, unexpected pass. “That’s exactly what Trump did to me,” she told Burnett. “Trump took Tic Tacs, suggested that I take them also. He then leaned in … catching me off guard and kissed me almost on the lips. I was really freaked out.”

The Republican nominee’s talk of sexually preying on women makes Romney’s ’47 percent’ tape seem like a high-minded Great Courses lecture.
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First Debate: Hillary Healthy, Trump Not-So-Much (Either Physically Or Mentally)

I woke up feeling good about Hillary’s debate performance last night, and in frank admiration at her ability, as a 68 year old woman, for keeping so many facts and narratives straight in her head and being such an adept slicer-and-dicer of Trump meat. She looks well, she was vigorous throughout, she was coherent–and obviously the arteries pumping blood to her brain are clean as a whistle.

Not so sure about Trump. If dementia comes to either of these candidates while in office, it will be Trump. Trump may already be trending in that direction. He shows no evidence of having a sharp or well-oiled mind for so rigorous and demanding a job. Seven decades of Kentucky Fried Chicken have not been kind to him. Such habits of eating have perhaps finally caught up with him in his 70th year, addling him. He was very erratic last night, showing his age, and he seemed especially scattered and tired in the second half of the debate. His attention span is obviously zilch, and his sound track narrow in range–and wearing very, very thin.

And he was so irritable and short with Clinton. And loud. He’s obviously a cranky, hyper-sensitive, emotion-driven man. I just don’t think you want this sort of person in the White House–especially when combined with mental confusion! His temperament is akin to a wolf trying to chew its leg out of a trap. He’s obviously in a lot of private pain, prone to lashing out, and so giving nuclear codes to someone like this is very near to a death wish.



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First Debate: Hillary Owns Mr. KFC-for-Brains

62%-27%. A decisive majority of those who actually viewed last night’s debate thought Clinton killed it–which means that even partisan Republicans could see that Trump was addled (unable to think clearly; Kentucky Fried Chicken meat for brains).

Trump reminds me of that Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in the streets of Saigon during the Vietnam War. But every time Trump lights himself up like this publicly, and you think you’re done with him, phoenix-like he rises from the ashes. We’ll see if Hillary can at last open up a poll lead on Mr. KFC-for-Brains that actually sticks.


Hillary Clinton was deemed the winner of Monday night’s debate by 62% of voters who tuned in to watch, while just 27% said they thought Donald Trump had the better night, according to a CNN/ORC Poll of voters who watched the debate. That…
Buddhist monk image source: By Malcolm Browne, Fair use,
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The Double Helix of Your Nightmares

An interesting floor mosaic at the University of Notre Dame memorializing the evolutionary biologist who coined the familiar saying, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” The image of the double helix of DNA recalls the yin-yang symbol in Taoism, Jacob’s ladder, and the snake-entwined rod of Asclepius associated with medicine. And the background–perhaps representing stars–gives it the oddly impervious and silent aura of Stanley Kubrick’s monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So it has, in its mystery, an imposing and sublime Ozymandias quality: “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” It’s as if the Dobzhansky quote that encircles it is incomplete without the menacing and impersonal image of that Double Helix before a background of stars. (And that Double Helix is in need of capitalizing.) Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution–and evolutionary time is inhuman and imperturbable. Its ways are not your ways. Its thoughts are not your thoughts. It is wholly other, governed by a logic that is wholly other.

You’ve got your work cut out for you, all ye who enter here. Evolutionary space-time’s pervasiveness and fecundity “make up a heaven of our misery” (Blake); they are the marriage of heaven and hell, unfathomable and inescapable, except in death. Except in death. The double helix that can be named is not this eternal Double Helix; this yin-yang snake tangling and disentangling in endless rounds of trial and error, hit and miss, forever and ever, worlds without end. The Double Helix of your nightmares.



“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” is a 1973 essay by the evolutionary…
Image source: By SteveMcCluskey – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
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Adam and Eve’s Non-Existence Confirmed: Science 1, the Bible 0

This is in The New York Times today. A new survey of human DNA conducted by three research teams, all working separately to see if they would arrive at the same conclusion, indeed did so: every non-African on the planet can be traced to a single exodus of a group of Africans from Africa–not a single couple, but a group–just 50,000-80,000 years ago. Regardless of where we live on the planet, our shared ancestors aren’t from Mesopotamia (i.e. Adam and Eve, who, according to the myth in Genesis, were located in the Garden of Eden between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), but from Africa. Africa.

So here’s the bottom line: (1) our species has never bottlenecked at two people; and (2) our species evolved in Africa, not Mesopotamia.

Time to lose those racist depictions of Adam and Eve as white, mmm-kay.


Unprecedented DNA analyses of people in indigenous populations suggest that almost all non-Africans trace their roots to one migration from the continent.
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Elizabeth Warren vs. Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf

In the video below, Elizabeth Warren (blessed be she) rips Mr. Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo, a new asshole. Beautiful.

But what’s not so beautiful is that Mr. Stumpf then gets to stand up, leave the room without being arrested, and laugh all the way to the bank.


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Trump’s Birtherism: Will Americans Finally Snap Awake As To Who This Man Is Who Wants To Be President?

Birtherism comes from a dark, dark place in the white racist’s heart, and Trump led it. He led it. For years. And today, he didn’t apologize for the damage, racist debasement, coarsening, and poisoning of public discourse his birtherist movement caused.

Remember, he entered politics on birtherism, and he rode it to victory in the Republican primaries. His street cred as the true alt-right candidate in the race came from his birtherism.

And now it’s finally hurting him politically (only two days ago, he refused to say that Obama was born in this country). So all he did today was to tersely and without elaboration admit the obvious to stop his political bleeding: Obama, obviously, was born in the United States. No apology for the defamation. No apology to the African American community. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

That this is coming up now, and how he handled it today (again, not a single word of apology), ought to be a bracing reminder of what’s at stake in this election. This man has repeatedly broken the social contract with groups of Americans–and should never, ever be rewarded for his evil behavior with the White House.

Make no mistake, birtherism is an evil. And Trump led it. He led it. Birtherism is a deliberate and grotesque evil visited upon African Americans, not just President Obama, tapping into the worst aspects of white racist attitudes toward the status of blacks in America. It seems to me unthinkable that a man who could do this could also get a majority of Americans to elect him as President. Maybe this has come up at just the right moment to wake up Americans as to who this man is.

Mr. Trump said he would like to move on from the conspiracy theory that said the president was not born in the United States, which he has been clinging to for years.
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A Stairway to Nowhere in NYC

Hmm. Moloch? A face mask without a self? Ever bigger guys pressing down on the littlest guy? There’s something Kafkaesque about this “stairway to nowhere.” An Escher painting catching real humans? It recalls a trilobite or exoskeleton–or perhaps an ant farm. It catches light and the eye (and “the light of the body is the eye”), and yet it seems to be a metaphor for something alienating and dark: perhaps the breastplate of Achilles pushing through a grove of trees, heading for war. Perhaps the silent monolith from Kubrick’s 2001. Who will inquire of this Sphinx? And now I see an orgy of giant tarantulas back to back to back. Where are we going? Is this the herald of the death of God?


Stephen M. Ross, who is developing Hudson Yards, has a nickname for Thomas Heatherwick’s 15-story structure on the plaza: “the social climber.”
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Evolution Lowdown: Earth is a Big Blue Petri Dish in Space


In the video above, from Harvard Medical School, bacterial evolution is on display in real time. At the end of the video, there’s even an overlay of the the branching family trees that developed in the experiment.

That’s the best part from my vantage. Darwin would have been delighted to see those branching trees, as they look like the famous one he sketched in his notebook when first formulating his theory of evolution by natural selection.

And here’s the trippy part: we got here the way the bacteria above did. In other words, our ancestors adapted to a succession of environments that have reached the environment we inhabit now. The variations we inherited from our parents make us more or less well adapted to this early 21st century environment (thanks, mom and dad!), and if we leave offspring, they will in turn inhabit different mid-to-late 21st century environments in which they’ll thrive to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the variations they inherited from us.

And of course, our children’s offspring will be exposed to 22nd century environments to which some will be well adapted and others not. Just like the bacteria in Harvard’s giant Petri dish, as living organisms we too are competing and evolving all along the way, and being–yikes!–plowed under and to the sidelines if we’re not as well adapted to our environment as the organisms around us. Not a pleasant thought, but that’s the world we’re in. Our planet is a very large, very old, and very blue Petri dish in space.


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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: Two Saturns Eating Their Children

Two Saturns eating their children. That’s what this election has become. Both Trump and Hillary boxed out young people to reach this point, and now here we are: one has pneumonia, the other eats Kentucky Fried Chicken on his private jumbo jet with a fork.

Hillary should leave the race to Tim Kaine to defeat the Republican Saturn, otherwise, the most likely outcome of this election cycle is…President Trump–which means untold numbers of young people (and old) cast into the jaws of his dangerous politics.

But she won’t do it, will she?

If Hillary now fails to leave the race to a generic Democrat like Tim Kaine (someone who can actually defeat Trump decisively), the country is likely to spend literally decades undoing Trump’s damage–presuming of course that the planet itself survives a nuclear-weaponized Donald Trump.

So this is a tragic moment for our country–and the planet. (Recall that Trump, in addition to being nuke-curious, doesn’t believe the warnings of climate scientists concerning global warming.)

I’d love to see the first woman President–and I’d be happy for Hillary on a personal level if she reached the White House. But her (let’s be honest, frail) balloon is losing altitude rapidly now, and this could fall out of reach of any Democrat if she isn’t decisive on leaving the race immediately.

I’ll vote for her, I’ll vote for her. If she stays to the bitter end, I’ll vote for her. But as the cliche goes, if this isn’t a mess, it will do till the mess gets here. This has become a hostage crisis. We’ve got two stubborn baby boomers who are temperamentally incapable of releasing the world to the young; who think the world actually needs them personally. It doesn’t. They need to go now. And to get rid of both of them, unfortunately, it’s growing increasingly apparent that Hillary needs to go first.


Saturn Devouring His Son is the name given to a painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. According to the traditional interpretation, it depicts the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus (in the title Romanized to Saturn), who, fearing that he would be overthrown by one of his children,…
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Clit Rubbing Bonobos: A Clue to the Evolutionary Origin of Human Homosexuality?

Not to be crude, but gays and lesbians may function in humans as akin to the large clitorises in bonobos.

In the bonobo female, the clitoris is unusually large, and it’s used to bond socially with other females. They rub their large clitorises on each other. Sexual bonding gives the females an enhanced solidarity with one another against the males. By displaying this behavioral preference, it has put selective pressure on the bonobo clitoris to enlarge over time–and so it must be conferring a benefit to the species as a whole (for females to gather collective power against the males).

But to what evolutionary benefit, exactly?

Perhaps females that are tightly bonded and share greater power with males constitute a successful evolutionary group strategy in primates (or at least an alternative strategy to the male dominated sort).

Now apply this to humans. Have you noticed the coalition of gays and lesbians with feminists and liberals in our species? What if homosexuality lingers in the human population as a function of equalizing, to some degree, group dynamics between males and females?

Perhaps liberal vs. authoritarian in our politics reflects our evolution: the tensions between bonobo vs. chimp in terms of evolutionary strategy (in their social relations, bonobos being a more hippie-like species, chimps being more male dominated).

Of course, to consider this idea of women’s bodies producing at least some gays and lesbians in the population so as to nudge the species’ gender relations in a gentler direction, one would also have to accept the controversial proposal of group selection in evolution.

In any case, I’ve never heard or read of what I’m proposing before, but it occurred to me, and so I’m putting it out here. Maybe a biologist will notice the post, and set me straight–or find it intriguing (or point to where it has already been proposed somewhere else before).


UPDATE. I’d also like to put forward something a bit provocative in this context. What if religion functions in part as a patriarchal counter-balance to the evolution of homosexuality in our species? Traditionally, who ends up in large numbers (per capita) among the clergy? And what do patriarchal religions tend to promote surrounding sex and the naturalness of male rule?

You can see where I’m going here. Perhaps male-dominated religion functions in part as a way to defang the coalitional strength of heterosexual women aligned with gays and lesbians. By diverting gay men into the clergy, an alliance of males against females is forged, and the evolutionary nudge toward bonobo-like behavior that homosexuality represents in the ongoing evolution of our species is hijacked.

But perhaps with the ongoing decline of religion in the 21st century, it will prove ever more difficult for authoritarian males to counter the evolution-generated alliance of females with gays and lesbians. Maybe, in place of religion, they’ll come up with a different strategy?

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Clinton vs. Trump: It’s Late In The Game, Yet Still Close. How Can This Be?

Hmm. I simply don’t understand how this election is still so close. Why aren’t women 70/30 for Hillary in polls? (Hillary is actually losing in polls among married women, for instance.)

And why aren’t Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans more obviously galvanized and motivated to vote against Trump in record numbers? How is it that “likely voters” are keeping the polls so close? Shouldn’t Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans be among the most likely of “likely voters” in this election cycle? If polls among “likely voters” are close, it probably means that there’s no unusual enthusiasm to vote being registered among, say, Hispanics.

But how could this be? Hillary’s got all the money in the world right now to get her voters registered and to the polls in November–so what does this mean that she’s in a dead heat among likely voters in places like Nevada?

I can see Trump getting 55% of the white vote–but 60% or 65%? Again, how can that be?

I quite obviously don’t understand the majority of my fellow Americans at all (what motivates them; how they think, etc.). How, for instance, does anyone with a college degree, after learning Trump rejects the science on global warming, vote for him anyway?

Shouldn’t that be a veto right there?

If a seventy year old man was in a job interview with you, and he couldn’t follow the science on global warming coherently, and confessed to distrusting scientific consensus, would you give him a position of serious responsibility–or nuclear codes?

But nothing seems to veto Trump with the electorate. He has yet to sufficiently alarm a clear majority of voters. He’s still competitive as we speak. There’s even a possibility that Hillary could collapse in the polls here in the stretch (much like she did against Bernie in certain states). Despite his disorganization, Trump could literally run away with this–exactly as he did in the Republican primary.

I’m feeling helpless and hopeless. I feel like I want to drive out to Nevada and hand out voter registration cards at Walmart–but why am I begging people to vote? If Hillary’s voters haven’t registered already, what is wrong with them? What is wrong with me? What is wrong with Hillary?

To echo Trump in another context, What the hell is going on?

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The Eagle Has (Crash) Landed

Chaos, zig-zag, and scatter. With just ten weeks remaining, Donald Trump still has not settled on a path to 270, nor on a strategy for executing it. Imagine him as President–and with access to nuclear codes–flailing and winging-it 24/7. A mercurial and disorganized authoritarian at the wheel. Genuinely scary.

Three weeks until early voting, the campaign scrambles to pick a path and stay on it.
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Fox News Is A Safe Space For Donald Trump–But Not Andrea Tantaros And Gretchen Carlson?



What gives?

Fox News is Herr Trump’s safe space. He is treated with the utmost respect there. But if Gretchen Carlson–and now Andrea Tantaros, in a separate lawsuit, are to be believed, it appears the same respect is not extended to women who work at the network. Believe these two conservative women?


After complaining, a former Fox News host was banned from his show.
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Trump’s Racialism

As reported in The Washington Post article below, Donald Trump is going for broke with the racialist vote:

When Trump made Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon his campaign’s chief executive last week, [racialist Jared] Taylor found reasons to celebrate. It was the latest sign for white nationalists, once dismissed as fringe, that their worldview was gaining popularity and that the old Republican Party was coming to an end. The rise of the alt-right — named for the Alternative Right website that the ‘identitarian’ nationalist Richard Spencer set up in 2010 and adopted by those opposed to multiculturalism and mass immigration — has come to define how many of its adherents see Trump. There’s less talk now about a ‘pivot,’ or a moment when Trump will adopt the ideas of people that he conquered. His strategy now resembles the alt-right dream of maximizing the white vote — even as polling shows his standing with white voters falls short of Mitt Romney’s in 2012.

Racialism, it appears, means never having to say you’re racist.
White nationalists see their worldview as ascendant within the GOP.
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