BREAKING: Donald J. Trump misspeaks a great deal!

TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2018

Is Donald J. Trump impaired:
Did Donald J. Trump misspeak yesterday? Did he mean to say what's shown below when the AP's Jonathan Lemire put him on the spot?
LEMIRE (7/16/18): My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin—would you denounce what happened in 2016? And would you warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I've been wondering that. I've been asking that for months and months, and I've been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server? And what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me—Dan Coats came to me and some others—they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia.

I will say this: I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be [Russia]...
"I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be [Russia]?" Is that what he meant to say? To review the full transcript, click here.

Is that what Donald J. Trump meant to say? As always, everything's possible! That said, if you read the commander's full statement to Lemire, his statement makes a lot more sense if you assume that he said what he actually meant.

(As a basic courtesy, avert your gaze from his rambling comments about the server. More on that tendency below.)

Trump's full statement makes much more sense if you assume that he didn't misspeak. On the other hand...

On the other hand, here's the commander's first Q-and-A, including his response to Jeff Mason's open-ended question. By normal standards, this answer might seem to suggest that Donald J. Trump did believe that the Russkies interfered in the 2016 election:
MASON (7/16/18): Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you consider them—that they are responsible for?

TRUMP: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago—a long time, frankly, before I got to office. And I think we're all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia. And we're getting together. And we have a chance to do some great things, whether it's nuclear proliferation, in terms of stopping—because we have to do it. Ultimately, that's probably the most important thing that we can be working on.

But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore—so far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they're going to have try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And frankly, we beat her—and I'm not even saying from the standpoint—we won that race. And it's a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it...
By normal standards, Trump almost seems to be saying, in the highlighted passage, that interference did occur, but with "virtually none of it related to the campaign." In this answer, it almost sounds like Trump believes that the Russkies did interfere, but he doesn't really care all that much beyond the insistence that there was no collusion.

What did Donald J. Trump actually think or mean? In one circumstance after another, dating back to his announcement speech, it has been extremely hard to say.

By light-years, he seems to be the most mentally muddled individual who ever sat in the Oval. This leads us again to a type of question which really ought to be asked:

Among other possible sources of chaos, is it possible that Donald J. Trump is mentally impaired in some way? Along with the possibility that he's being blackmailed or bribed, is it possible that he is suffering from some form of early onset dementia? Are we currently being led by a King Lear with nuclear codes?

As of today, many more pundits are openly asking if Donald J. Trump is being blackmailed. That strikes us as a very good question. So do questions about his mental health and his intellectual competence.

Final point:

He simply can't stop rambling on about Hillary Clinton. King Lear was a lot like that. Among other possible sources of chaos, is it possible that Donald J. Trump is impaired?

TRIBAL SNAPSHOTS: Long-standing disdain!

TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2018

Part 2—The basket of self-defeat:
We would assume that Peter Strzok is a perfectly decent person.

Beyond that, we would assume that he, like everyone else, has imperfections and flaws. Some of these imperfections may reflect characteristic tendencies of his sociological tribe.

As a general matter, we humans don't like to acknowledge our imperfections. That's especially true of those imperfections which may be especially embarrassing.

So it was that Agent Strzok offered a silly explanation last week for a couple of things he once said:
GOODLATTE (7/12/18): Let's discuss a text that hits home for me. On August 26, 2016, you texted Ms. Page, quote, "Just went to a Southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support." And "smell" is in capital letters, all capital letters. What does Trump support smell like, Mr. Strzok?

STRZOK: Sir, that's a expression of speech. I clearly wasn't smelling one thing or the other...What I meant by that was, living in Northern Virginia, having traveled 100, 150 miles south within the same state, I was struck by the extraordinary difference in the expression of political opinion and belief amongst the community there from where I live.

GOODLATTE: And you describe that as "smell," in capital letters?

STRZOK: Sir, that was a choice—the quick choice of words in a text.

GOODLATTE: Well, OK. So earlier, you had texted Ms. Page that another part of Virginia—Loudoun County, which is, I think, in Northern Virginia—is quote, "still ignorant hillbillies," end quote.

Is that what you meant? That you consider Trump supporters to be ignorant hillbillies?


STRZOK: No, sir. Not at all.

GOODLATTE: What did you mean by that?

STRZOK: Well, sir, the first thing I'd tell you as a—as a proud Fairfax County resident, there's a healthy, sort of, competition between Fairfax and Loudoun [Counties]. Second thing I would tell you is that in no way did I or do I believe any resident of Loudoun County, or Southern Virginia or anywhere else in the nation, is—are any of those things. That was a flippant text.
When he said his neighbors were "ignorant hillbillies," that was part of the "healthy competition" which exists between those two neighboring counties!

As we showed you yesterday, Strzok was challenged at other points in his day-long water-boarding about these "flippant text[s]." As we showed you, he stuck to his overall story about those unfortunate statements.

According to Strzok, he hadn't actually meant what he said in those texts. It was like the way people in Wisconsin might speak about Minnesotans!

Surely, no one believes that explanation for those unfortunate texts. During last Thursday's hearing, it was obvious that Republican congressmen weren't buying this explanation.

Later, conservative pundits urged tribal members to see Strzok's explanation as disingenuous, dishonest—as swampishly too cute by half. That' s what conservatives said about Strzok's explanation.

Presumably, though, no one in our liberal tribe will fail to know that Strzok was being a bit disingenuous—was failing to cop to a fairly obvious state of affairs.

To what was Agent Strzok failing to cop? He was failing to acknowledge an obvious fact—his comments reflect a widespread, long-standing disdain within the liberal world for the subhumans found Over There.

The liberal world crawls with this tribal disdain. Indeed, our world has crawled with this tribal disdain for a very long time.

At present, comment threads at liberal sites crawl with familiar variants of this tribal disdain. Beyond that, Strzok's claim that he could SMELL the Trump voters at the Walmart in southern Virginia echo an iconic statement famously made long ago:
KAEL (12/28/72): I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.
That was film critic Pauline Kael, as quoted in her own New York Times, from a speech she gave on the date we've cited. Where Strzok could smell the Trump voters in southern Virginia, Kael was somehow able to feel their forebears in a darkened room.

Expressions like these are unlovely. Around the world, through the course of time, they're tied to horrible relatives in gruesome family trees.

Almost surely, this explains why Strzok was slow to acknowledge a fairly obvious fact. This is the way we liberals routinely speak, and think, about Those People, the cucarachas found Over There.

As a matter of theory, we all know better than to generalize about people in these unflattering ways. Indeed, when we say we can smell or feel Those People, we're moving rather directly toward the realm of dehumanization—a realm we all know we should avoid, at least as a matter of theory.

That said, the liberal world has run on the fuel of this tribal disdain for a rather long time. In the past few years, the rise of Trump has heightened this instinct, which occasionally gets expressed in ways which live in infamy and can be highly self-destructive:
CLINTON (9/9/16): I know there are only 60 days left to make our case—and don't get complacent. Don't see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, "Well, he's done this time."

We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

(LAUGHTER/APPLAUSE)

Right?

(LAUGHTER/APPLAUSE)

They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic—Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric.

Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America. But the "other" basket—the other basket—and I know, because I look at this crowd, I see friends from all over America here: I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas and—as well as, you know, New York and California—but that "other" basket of people are people who feel the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures; and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but—he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
Oof! Complaining about Trump's "offensive comments," Clinton uncorked one herself! Complaining about "mean-spirited rhetoric," she took a trip down the same road.

You can see that Clinton knew better than to make such sweeping statements. You can see that in the very first thing she said:

"You know, to just be grossly generalistic..."

You can see that she knew better. But then, she went there anyway, scoring a brutal own goal.

Jut like that, she was expressing the deepest kind of disdain for exactly half of Trump's voters. "Unfortunately," these people exist, she amazingly said. She somehow knew that half Those People were "irredeemable," not fit for life on this earth.

By now, she was light years over her skis, heading down the slope of defeat. Given the way it was put to use, it isn't clear that this one statement didn't decide the campaign.

Today, the liberal world is wondering what we can do about Commander Trump, who's crazily moving us toward the onset of His Future Dispositive War. Occasionally, an obvious fact swims into view, even for people as clueless as we are:

This whole problem turns on the fact that we haven't been able to persuade enough of the voters who were insulted by Clinton and Strzok. For whatever reason, we haven't been able to persuade Those People that they made a bad choice with Herr Trump.

Comments like Strzok's make conversion harder. Decades of comments like that help explain where we are today.

Secretly, Agent Strzok understood that his remarks came from a dark place. It's hard to apologize for such arrogance and such disdain. That's why he dissembled, making matters worse.

These are snapshots of a highly fallible tribe. They help explain how we got to this ludicrous place.

Tomorrow: Dropping dick jokes on their heads

Thursday: Last Sunday's Sunday Review

BREAKING: One scared journalist, plus two frameworks!

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2018

Discussing the madness of Trump:
Jeff Mason, the man from Reuters, seemed to be badly scared.

Over in Helsinki today, it fell to him to ask the first question of Commander Trump. Swallowing hard, he said this:
MASON (7/16/18): Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia.

Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you— What would you consider them, that they are responsible for?
Poor Mason! Trembling hard, he didn't dare articulate the obvious question at hand. Instead, he threw an open-ended question at our commander-in-chief.

Later, the AP's Jonathan Lemire wasn't timid at all. But Mason really failed to perform. He just flat seemed to be scared.

Still! When the Trumpster responded to Mason's lob, he took a standard route. "There was no collusion at all," he said. "Everybody knows it."

Did the Trump campaign collude with the Russkies? So far, no such charge has been lodged by the Mueller probe.

Still, journalists have struggled today to define the problems with what Trump said. We offer you two basic frameworks for ongoing discussion.

Concerning what may have occurred:

Robert Mueller is exploring two basic questions: 1) Did the Russkies interfere with the 2016 election? 2) Did the Trump campaign collude?

Note to journalists: The Trumpster likes to skip right past that first question. He prefers to address the second question, swearing that no one did. That's what he did today in his response to Mason.

Journalists, go ahead! Articulate each of these two different questions when you discuss what Trump said. Articulate what Trump did and didn't say with respect to each one.

For the most part, Trump took a dive on the first, basic question. Go ahead! You can say that right out loud!

Concerning possible reasons for Trump's bizarre behavior:

Has it ever been more clear? There are two basic possible reasons for Trump's bizarre behavior. Either or both could be true:

Either 1) he's being blackmailed or bribed by Putin, or 2) he's intellectually or psychologically incompetent. Either or both could be true.

Has this man ever appeared less competent than he did today? Sadly, though, the New York Times declared, in January, that we mustn't discuss the possibility that something is wrong with Donald J. Trump's mental health. And sure enough! From that point on, everyone has agreed to avoid any mention of this obvious possibility.

As we watched cable today, pundits struggled to define the two basic questions confronting Trump. Beyond that, they're still refusing to discuss the possibility that his intellect, or his mental health, could be severely impaired.

Mason pulled his punches first. Others soon followed suit.

No deference to Putin: As you can see in the transcript, Mason didn't defer to Putin. He only rolled over for Trump!

BREAKING: David Leonhardt handles the gaps!

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2018

The gaps and rank indifference:
In this morning's New York Times, David Leonhardt handles the gaps.

Rather, he praises New Orleans for the way it has handled the gaps. In the wake of Katrina, the city turned to charter schools. Leonhardt tells us how that has turned out—and he makes a gross misstatement:
LEONHARDT (7/16/18): New Orleans is a great case study partly because it avoids many of the ambiguities of other education reform efforts. The charters here educate almost all public-school students, so they can’t cherry pick. And the students are overwhelmingly black and low-income—even lower-income than before Katrina—so gentrification isn’t a factor.

Yet the academic progress has been remarkable.

Performance on every kind of standardized test has surged.
Before the storm, New Orleans students scored far below the Louisiana average on reading, math, science and social studies. Today, they hover near the state average.
That's the way the text appears in today's hard-copy Times. Tomorrow, we'll cite an additional claim made in the column online.

We support the sensible use of charters. We even support the sensible widespread use of charters, where such widespread use can be done in a sensible manner.

That said, what has happened in New Orleans? Like Leonhardt, we aren't sure.

In large part, that's because the New Orleans schools haven't surged "on every kind of standardized test." More specifically, New Orleans hasn't surged on our one reliable testing program, because it hasn't chosen to participate in those tests.

We refer, of course, to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the widely-hailed "gold standard" of domestic educational testing.

As of 2017, twenty-two urban districts were participating in the Naep's Trial Urban District Program (the Tuda). The Tuda records the achievement and the progress of those urban systems.

New York City participates in the Tuda. So do Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and fifteen other city systems.

New Orleans has never participated. Because we read the New York Times, we have no idea why.

Has Leonhardt ever heard of the Naep? Has he ever heard of the Tuda? Because he lounges about at the Times, you shouldn't assume that he has.

Do you have to be mired in rank indifference to publish columns like this? We can't answer your thoughtful question, but the foppish Times has played it this way for roughly the past million years.

Tomorrow: A profile of rank indifference

TRIBAL SNAPSHOTS: Our sense of smell!

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2018

Part 1—What others saw:
Last Thursday's hearing involving Peter Strzok was frequently unattractive.

Frequently, the hearing showed our floundering species, Homo sapiens, at its unattractive less-than-worst. Cable stars played tape of such moments. If you're a resident of liberal cable, you've frequently seen this:
GOHMERT (7/12/18): I've talked to FBI just around the country. You've embarrassed them. You've embarrassed yourself. And I can't help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lied to her about Lisa Page—

UNKNOWN: Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous!

GOHMERT: Credibility of a witness is always an issue, and you—

UNKNOWN: Shame on you!

UNKNOWN: Mr. Chairman, this is intolerable! Harassment of the witness!

UNKNOWN: What is wrong with you? You need your medication!

GOODLATTE: The gentleman controls the time.

GOHMERT: Thank you.
We liberals have frequently seen that latest moment from Gentleman Gohmert. We've also seen tape of the snarling Rep. Jordan, who specializes in ugly parodies of the time-honored Q-and-A process.

We liberals were shown lots of tape of people like Gohmert and Jordan. It helps us remember that we are the folk who are decent and good, unlike those in the other tribe.

Those in the other tribe saw other things during that hearing. Here's an excerpt which hasn't been played for we who watch MSNBC:
GOODLATTE: Let's discuss a text that hits home for me. On August 26, 2016, you texted Ms. Page, quote, "Just went to a Southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support." And "smell" is in capital letters, all capital letters. What does Trump support smell like, Mr. Strzok?

STRZOK: Sir, that's a expression of speech. I clearly wasn't smelling one thing or the other. What I was commenting on is living in Northern Virginia, driving—

GOODLATTE: Well, what does that mean?

STRZOK: What I meant by that was living in Northern Virginia, having traveled 100, 150 miles south within the same state, I was struck by the extraordinary difference in the expression of political opinion and belief amongst the community there from where I live.

GOODLATTE: And you describe that as "smell," in capital letters?

STRZOK: Sir, that was a choice—the quick choice of words in a text.
That exchange wasn't replayed for us the liberal tribals. Neither was this, which followed:
GOODLATTE (continuing directly): Well, OK. So earlier, you had texted Ms. Page that another part of Virginia—Loudoun County, which is, I think, in Northern Virginia—is quote, "still ignorant hillbillies." end quote.

Is that what you meant? That you consider Trump supporters to be ignorant hillbillies?

STRZOK: No, sir. Not at all.

GOODLATTE: What did you mean by that?

STRZOK: Well, sir, the first thing I'd tell you as a—as a proud Fairfax County resident, there's a healthy, sort of, competition between Fairfax and Loudoun. Second thing I would tell you is that in no way did I or do I believe any resident of Loudoun County, or Southern Virginia or anywhere else in the nation, is—are any of those things. That was a flippant text—

GOODLATTE: So do you understand the implications of this text when my constituents in Virginia read it?

STRZOK: I do, sir. And I would ask you to tell them that that was a—in some cases, certainly, unfortunate use of words that in no way do I believe that those things are what—
When he said his neighbors were ignorant hillbillies, that was just an expression of the healthy competition between two neighboring counties!

Can you smell Trump supporters when you go to a Walmart? Are the people of Loudoun County really just ignorant hillbillies?

Strzok was asked such questions at various times during his long day's journey into Mister Trump's Coming War. Queried by Rep. Grothman, he returned to the "friendly rivals" hook:
GROTHMAN: You refer to people who live in a county just beyond Washington, D.C.—a little bit more normal, still a Democratic county—you refer to them as this county, Loudoun County, as being gentrified but is "still largely ignorant hillbillies." I don't mean to embarrass you in that, because it doesn't surprise me that people in the swamp would refer to people once you get a couple of hours away from Washington as ignorant hillbillies.

[...]

STRZOK: ...You may not have been here this morning. I certainly, I do not view the people of Loudoun County as ignorant hillbillies. I live in an adjacent county and much like, in Wisconsin, you might let folks in Minnesota, with a sense of rivalry—

GROTHMAN: Well, no.
Grothman knew Strzok was using the argot of those inside The Swamp. For his part, Strzok suggested that Grothman probably speaks in that same playful way manner the people one state away from his Wisconsin abode.

On liberal cable, we the people weren't encouraged to think about these exchanges. Instead, we were encouraged to watch the tape which showed The Others at their dumbest, most venal and worst.

In conservative circles, they the others were encouraged to view moments like these as examples of Agent Strzok's arrogance, of his being too smart by half. This is the way our discourse now works in the era of for-profit Internet/cable.

We liberals are inclined to see Jordan's snarling bully-boy persona as the deep truth about Them. The others are inclined to see Agent Strzok's healthy if unfortunate banter as displaying deep truth about Us.

How do The Others view such banter? At one point, Rep. Comer went ahead and said this:
COMER: With respect to the clear bias against Donald Trump in your text messages, and your clear prejudice against the Trump voters—and by the way, I'm one of those smelly hillbillies from Appalachia that you've referenced in your texts—you were in a supervisory role at the FBI. What would you do if you found texts from a subordinate of yours that exhibited the same type of bias that you had towards a group of people that were key witnesses or key whatever to the investigation? How would you handle that scenario?
Comer represents Kentucky's first congressional district. He was born in Carthage, Tennessee. (Hey wait! That's Al Gore's home town!)

Comer pretended to take Strzok's playful banter in a personal way. Or who knows? Maybe the fellow's just so dense that he couldn't see the friendly nature of the statements Strzok had playfully texted.

Members of our warring tribes saw different things last Thursday. People paid by corporate cable encouraged them to do so.

"Both [parties] read the same Bible and pray to the same God." Abraham Lincoln said that!

Tomorrow: Another snapshot

WHAT WE DID: Vacation's end!

SATURDAY, JULY 14, 2018

Conclusion—Homo sapiens' folly:
In the end, which is it?

Does time pass slowly up there in the mountains, as Bob Dylan once insisted?

Or it there really "less time" by the shore, as Professor Rovelli now claims? Does time actually pass more slowly down there?

In this theoretical dispute, Dylan's claim holds one large advantage. As a general matter, people knew what he was talking about when he made his famous assertion.

Rovelli's theoretics don't rise to that level. Let's return to the start of Part 1 in The Order of Times, his impossibly easy-to-understand and also poetic new book.

Rovelli's Part 1 begins on page 9, beneath a selection from Horace's Odes. By page 10, the poetical professor is saying that Dylan was actually aging faster when he lived up in the mountains.

According to Rovelli, times passes more slowly down there by the sea! There's actually "less time" by the shore, where the waves crash and drag, Rovelli unclearly says.

The physical process of "aging faster" is perfectly easy to picture. In the context of Rovelli's page 10, the notion of "less time" pretty much isn't. No matter how many times we quote Rilke or Horace, the concept is murky, unclear.

At this point, as he reads page 10, the reader may make an assumption. Rovelli will clarify his claims as he proceeds, the hopeful reader may assume.

Soon, though, that reader will reach the passage shown below. At this point, we'd have to say that the basic "At What Page?" question has perhaps been answered.

At what page might a sensible reader judge that all hope for clarity is lost? As he or she tiptoes onto page 12, the reader is offered this as Rovelli explains, or pretends to explain, the basic way gravity works.

We highlight the final hope-killer:
ROVELLI (pages 11-12): Einstein asked himself a question that has perhaps puzzled many of us when studying the force of gravity: how can the sun and the Earth "attract" each other without touching anything between them?

He looked for a plausible explanation and found one by imagining that the sun and the Earth do not attract each other directly but that each of the two gradually acts on that which is between them. And since what lies between them is only space and time, he imagined that the sun and the Earth each modified the space and time that surrounded them, just as a body immersed in water displaces the water around it...
In that passage, Rovelli begins to discuss Einstein's explanation of the way the sun and the Earth attract each other. That said:

In response to our request, an international panel of experts has offered a basic assessment. According to these well-known figures, a sensible reader can reasonably quit on Rovelli's book by the part of the passage we've highlighted in the excerpt above.

Others may continue to read, assuming that Rovelli will straighten things out as he proceeds. But a sensible reader is justified in quitting right there, on page 12!

Why did our panel of experts so rule? Consider what Rovelli says in that highlighted passage:

In that excerpt about Einstein's explanation of gravity, Rovelli says that two things lie between the sun and the Earth. Those two things are space and time, Rovelli says.

Most readers will feel comfortable with the first part of that statement. As a general matter, we've all been told that the sun lies roughly 93 million miles from the Earth.

Even a trip from the Earth to the nearby moon is typically described as a trip "into space." Few readers will balk at the general idea that there's a lot of "space" between the sun and the Earth.

(That said, the general reader may generally think of this as empty space. This creates a basic problem for what's coming next.)

Does space lie between the Earth and the sun? Few readers will balk at that notion. But what about the second part of the highlighted statement? What about the claim that the sun and the Earth are also separated "by time?"

According to our international panel, all of whom have read Oedipus Rex, the average reader will have no idea what that puzzling claim means. All the dancing shivas on Earth—all the dancing figures Matisse ever painted; every line in Rilke's Elegy—won't help the average reader decipher that claim, our expert panel has assessed.

Given the general incoherence of his earlier statements, a sensible reader is thereby justified in dumping Rovelli's book right there, our expert panel has judged. According to our Coherence Bureau, a reader can sensibly quit Rovelli right there, on page 12, after maybe two thousand words.

The sensible reader might quit right there, that fast! That said, we thought you might want to see where Rovelli's easy-to-understand page 12 goes from there. First, one small bit of backtracking. Consider:

In the excerpt we've posted, the reader is told that time somehow lies between the sun and the Earth. As noted, the general reader will almost surely have no idea what that claim is supposed to mean. Nor does Rovelli ever attempt to explain.

Beyond that, the reader is also told, in that passage, that the sun and the Earth each "modify the space which surrounds them." The reader has likely accepted the idea that the sun and the Earth are surrounded and separated by space, but he's likely to have no idea what it means to say that this space, which he likely thinks of as empty, gets "modified" by these bodies.

Alas! Even by page 12, this master of explication has left the general reader far behind. As he does, journalists swear on a stack of pay-stubs that they've understood every word of his easy-to-understand text.

(Nineteen years earlier, their colleagues swore on a similar stack that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Can you see where this willingness to swear to fictions can lead?)

Back to Rovelli's page 12:

Already, the alert reader may understand that he is hopelessly lost. That said, the murky concept of "modifying space" will play no role as Rovelli pretends to explain the way gravity works.

What did Einstein conclude about gravity? As it turns out, the whole thing turns on the concept of "modifying time," which turns out to mean the way time passes slowly away from the mountains, the puzzling concept which didn't exactly get explained on Rovelli's page 10.

In standard Einstein-made-easy texts, one incoherent point gets stacked upon many others. (It's turkeys all the way down!) Before Rovelli exits page 12, we find him offering this:
ROVELLI (pages 12-13): If things fall, it is due to this slowing down of time. Where time passes uniformly, in interplanetary space, things do not fall. They float, without falling. Here on the surface of our planet, on the other hand, the movement of things inclines naturally towards where time passes more slowly, as when we run down the beach into the sea and the resistance of the water on our legs makes us fall headfirst into the waves. Things fall downwards because, down there, time is slowed by the Earth.
Interesting! Here on our planet, the movement of things inclines naturally towards where time passes more slowly!

In fairness to rote learning, everyone can learn to repeat such words. After such a recitation, the reader can also say that the idea is easy to understand.

That said, what makes that natural inclinations occur? Why does "the movement of things incline naturally towards where time passes more slowly?" Why doesn't the movement of things incline towards where time passes faster?

Rovelli is apparently saving that explanation for his next easy book. In his current amazingly simple text, we're simply told that this "naturally" occurs, full stop, with reviewers rushing to say they understand. Why not say that things "naturally" fall toward the Earth? How much have we gained at this point?

According to a panel of experts, a reader is justified in quitting this book as early as page 12. For ourselves, we kept going all the way to the end of Part 2, on page 36.

The subsections called HEAT and BLUR may be as incoherent as any work we've ever encountered. Still, reviewers repeat the script. This book is so easy, they say.

According to Professor Harari, this nonsense started 70,000 years ago. At that time, our currently floundering, lightly-skilled species developed two new abilities—the ability to gossip, and the ability to invent and affirm wide-ranging group fictions.

According to numerous studies, this helped our species, Homo sapiens, wipe out other human species and take control of the Earth. According to Professor Harari, the tendency to invent and affirm absurd group fictions was a boon to our species back then.

This short time later, our journalists largely work from group fictions today. One such fiction involves the blatantly ludicrous claim that people like Rovelli are easy to understand. This one group fiction provides comic relief, even as many other tribal fictions lie at the heart of our discourse.

At one time, the ability to affirm nonsense as a group gave us control of the planet. Pleasures of comic relief to the side, this tendency to repeat Fictive Group Tales seems much less adaptive today—or so it very much seemed to us on our summer vacation.