We're on our way back to our sprawling campus!

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

In the meantime, do trees exist?:
Last Friday, we found Paul Krugman's column semi-discouraging. He ended the piece like this:
KRUGMAN (5/19/17): In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point—his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he's evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes.

The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we'd be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.
"Think of what it has taken to get us to this point," Krugman said. His chronology took us all the way back to maybe last week.

It has taken a lot more than Trumpistry and its discontents to get us to this point. For one example of what we mean, consider this timely news report from the next day's Times.

The Times was reporting a recent firestorm within the realm of academic philosophy. The firestorm surrounds a little-read paper about a touchy topic by Assistant Professor Tuvel.

The basic question raised by Tuvel was poorly explained by the Times. That said, our idealistic young analysts all howled in pain at this point:
SCHUESSLER (5/20/17): [U]nderneath the hyper-charged war of words lies a wonkier but no less significant battle over philosophical method.

''In terms of quality, it's a very normal paper,'' Justin Weinberg, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina and the editor of Daily Nous, a philosophy news website, said in an interview. ''But some people will say that's part of the problem.''

[...]

Ms. Tuvel's paper is squarely in the tradition of analytic philosophy, an approach that focuses on clarifying concepts and that relies on blunt logical analysis and sometimes outlandish-seeming hypotheticals and analogies. (Do justifications for eating meat also support cannibalism? Are unwanted fetuses akin to rapists?) But it's an approach, some of her detractors say, that is unsuited to the subject at hand.

''That's fine when you are looking at abstract metaphysical questions,'' like ''whether trees exist, or things that exist in the past exist in the present,'' said one of the signers of the open letter, Talia Mae Bettcher, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. ''But when you start philosophizing about racial oppression or trans oppression or other contemporary social issues, different methodologies need to be employed.''
According to Professor Bettcher, normal procedure is fine when you consider normal philosophical questions. But not for something like this!

Sad. According to Professor Bettcher, a normal philosophical question might go something like this:
Normal philosophical questions:
1) Do trees exist?
2) Do things that exist [sic] in the past exist in the present?
Maybe Professor Bettcher was kidding. More probably, she wasn't. Assistant Professor Tuvel's approach would be fine when examining questions like that!

Readers, do trees exist? As our academic elites have been pondering such questions, the society which hands them their sacks of money each month has spent the past thirty years slouching toward Trumplehem.

The intellectual/journalistic descent started long before Trump. As this headlong descent occurred, the professors were asking if trees exist.

Krugman wrote as if our current situation started with Trump. Increasingly, our long-time unquestioned MVP has been sliding toward the only dumbness large enough to match the dumbness of Trumpism itself. We refer to the disabling dumbness of Trump hate, which is the latest way we liberals, and our failed elites, have arranged to malfunction.

We're on our way back to our sprawling campus. Full services resume tomorrow. At some point, we expect to return to this topic, and to Jim Holt's book from 2012, one of that year's ten best.

Meanwhile, do trees exist? Three decades after Rush went national, the professors still aren't sure.

For that reason, they haven't moved on. Such roads have all led to Trump.

Just for the record: "Things that exist in the past?" We're assuming that wasn't a typo.

It happens during newspapers wars!

SATURDAY, MAY 20, 2017

And when a chase is on:
It's a fascinating time to be a press corps watcher.

Also, a time of frustration. A great deal of conduct is occurring all at once. We'll return to full services at the start of the week.

Today, we'll note a few trends:

1) A chase is on: Within the mainstream press, there's hasn't been such a uniform chase since the two years of Campaign 2000.

At that time, the mainstream press was chasing the vile Candidate Gore. Today, they're chasing Donald J. Trump.

In terms of the press corps' selection of targets, we note a slight imbalance.

2) Judgment may disappear: When the mainstream press corps stages a chase, all judgment disappears. Every claim will be credited and bruited, no matter how silly or far-fetched.

Next week, we'll review the way major figures and major news orgs ran with the Washington Post's thrilling report about the way the House majority leader said that Donald J. Trump was in the pay of the Russians. For today, we'll only say this:

Sad.

(Sad, but typical during a chase. During a chase, all negative-sounding reports are created equal. Normal journalistic practices can be completely ignored.)

3) A "newspaper war" is on: Many pundits are applauding the fact that a "newspaper war" is under way between the Post and the New York Times. In theory, a newspaper war can have beneficial results. In practice, such wars can also lead newspapers to run with exciting pseudo-reports whose contents have been vastly embellished or constitute sheer speculation.

At this time, there's an enormous amount of filler going around.

4) Reinstatement of Comey the God: At exciting times like these, group novels will be adopted, filled with clear-cut character portraits. At present, we invite you to note one major example: the rehabilitation of James B. Comey—Comey the God—as the latest iteration of a press corps perennial, The World's Most Upright Person.

In recent decades, The World's Most Upright Person has almost always been a Republican. "Judge Starr" got his start as The World's Most Upright Person; Paul Ryan is still widely cast in that role. People who get cast in this role almost always take advantage.

Truth to tell, James B. Comey probably isn't The World's Most Upright Person. (Very few people are.) That said, he's very good at selling the car, and he has a lot of friends. Beyond that, he's now being defined in opposition to Donald J. Trump, against whom a chase is on.

For this reason, his godlike status is being restored. This represents our modern "press corps" at its least impressive.

Summarizing, other people focus on Trump. Our focus here is on the press corps.

In itself, Donald J. Trump's apparent craziness tells us nothing about the press. The corps' behavior must speak for itself. Right now, a great deal of that behavior strikes us as underwhelming.

Coming next week: What is a "foreign agent?"

It happens during stampedes: Shortly before he was fired, did Comey ask Rod Rosenstein for additional resources for the FBI's Russia probe?

Not long ago, this "revelation" drove a banner headline atop the front page of the Washington Post. Over the next two days, the Post seemed to walk its revelation back.

Today, the Post says this, at the very end of a news report:
HORWITZ, DEMIRJIAN AND VIEBECK (5/20/17): Rosenstein also told the lawmakers that he is “not aware” of any request by the FBI for additional resources for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Moreover,” he said, “I consulted my staff and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, and none of them recalls such a request.”
The fact that Rosenstein said this doesn't prove that it's true. That said, the Post's initial "revelation" was based on third- and fourth-hand sources.

Did the Post ever know its "revelation" was true? Quite possibly not.

On the brighter side, the Post's "revelation" met that day's excitement quota. Cable pundits yakked about it for hours the night before.

This sort of thing occurs at times of newspaper wars, and when a great chase is on.

A mission of national import!

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2017

Lack of fish today:
We're off on a mission of national import. We'll have no fish today.