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.




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!


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.

WHAT WE DID: Gossip, group fiction and comic relief!

FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2018

[w]Interlude—A well-chosen pair of books:
We got lucky in the books we chose to take on our summer vacation. Or so it seems to us.

Last Wednesday, we reread the depressing classic, 36 Children, as our hurtling train headed north. But once we reached our sprawling family estate, we turned to a wonderfully well-matched pair of books:

We turned to Professor Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It was matched with Professor Rovelli's The Order of Time, and serendipity ruled!

As we've watched our floundering species sift the world's events this week, we've been struck by the way Harari's book equips us to see what's occurring. We especially think of the early passage where Harari claims that the rise of the language of our species was mainly useful because it allowed us to gossip, and to create group fictions.

According to Professor Harari, these abilities let our early ancestors work in substantially larger groups. Let's start with the role of gossip.

In some ways, this passage rings painfully true. Is Harari permitted to say this?
HARARI (page 24): The new linguistic skills the modern Sapiens acquired about seventy millennia ago enabled them to gossip for hours on end. Reliable information about who could be trusted meant that smaller bands could expand into larger bands, and Sapiens could develop tighter and more sophisticated types of cooperation.

The gossip theory might sound like a joke, but numerous studies support it. Even today the vast majority of human communication—whether in the form of emails, phone calls or newspaper columns—is gossip. It comes so naturally to us that it seems as if our language evolved for this very purpose. Do you think that history professors chat about the reasons for World War One when they meet for lunch, or that nuclear physicists spend their coffee breaks at scientific conferences talking about quarks? Sometimes. But more often, they gossip about the professor who caught her husband cheating, or the quarrel between the head of the department and the dean, or the rumours that a colleague used his research funds to buy a Lexus. Gossip usually focuses on wrongdoings. Rumour-mongers are the original fourth estate, journalists who inform society about and thus protect it from cheats and freeloaders.
Do "numerous studies" support this theory? We have no idea.

Meanwhile, is Harari permitted to say that? Is he allowed to say that the vast majority of communication in newspaper columns is actually gossip?

Is he allowed to lump journalists in with rumor-mongers, even in puckish fashion?

Whatever! As he continues, Harari says that the our evolving language next allowed us to construct sweeping group "fictions"—religious and/or national myths that permitted us to cooperate in vastly larger groups. According to Professor Harari, these abilities—the ability to gossip and the ability to create sweeping group fictions—were highly adaptive traits early on.

Last evening, then this morning, we watched the shamans of our two tribes create their equal-but-opposite claims about yesterday's hearing in the House. As this drive toward dueling Group Stories continues, we continue to plunge toward Mister Trump's Dispositive War—which, we're now reliably told, future anthropologists will also call "The War of The Trump Against All."

(We're reliably told that the war will start during Ivanka's one truncated term.)

Gossip and sweeping tribal "fictions" were once adaptive skills? So says Professor Harari. Today, these practices continue to dominate the maladaptive way our tribal leaders unite us rubes. Indeed, this is the point we've been making, at this site, for the past twenty years!

On MSNBC, Mika and a string of like-mindeds insist that Peter Strzok slew the dragon during yesterday's hearing. On Fox, Laura Ingraham and the others swear that Strzok badly embarrassed himself.

Our tribe wasn't told what the other tribe saw. Instead, we were handed our instant group "fiction," building the bond which has always served the move toward disastrous war.

Harari's text—it's blurbed by Bill Gates and by Obama!—builds a framework around what we saw. The comic relief is supplied by Rovelli's text, and by pundit reaction to same, with reviewers standing in line to swear that they understood every easy-to-understand word.

With these claims, our liberal tribe constructs its post-deity gods. Having moved away from religious unity tales, we swoon about cosmic claims concerning neutrinos, as found in today's New York Times.

No one has the slightest idea what these science reporters are talking about, but as reviewers help us pretend, tribal bonds are formed. This brings us back to the basic "At What Page?" question:

At what page should a sensible reader quit on Rovelli's new book? At what page should the voice of reason tell the reader to put Rovelli's book down and move slowly away from her desk?

At what page is all hope gone? Upon review, we break it down like this:
Milestones in The Order of Time:
Page 34: Based upon markings in our book, that's the point where we finally stopped reading. We finally stopped at the end of Part 2, with Rovelli's third Rilke citation.

Pages 22-32: These are the pages where we saw the end drawing near. Especially hopeless are the subsections HEAT and BLUR. Rovelli's attempt to discuss entropy starts on page 25 and works to destroy the will.

Page 12: In our view, this is where a reader could first sensibly claim that the "At What Page?" question has been answered. Doggedly, we read 22 more pages before accepting the truth.
Tomorrow, we promise to show you why page 12 might answer the "At What Page?" question. For today, let's expand on one key word from yesterday's post. That one key word is "small."

As we showed you yesterday, Rovelli makes an interesting claim on page 9 of his easy-to-understand book. One part of his presentation is actually coherent:
ROVELLI (pages 9-10): Let’s begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.

The difference is small
but can be measured with precision timepieces that can be bought today on the internet for a few thousand dollars. With practice, anyone can witness the slowing down of time. With the timepieces of specialized laboratories, this slowing down of time can be detected between levels just a few centimeters apart: a clock placed on the floor runs a little more slowly than one on a table.

It is not just the clocks that slow down: lower down, all processes are slower. Two friends separate, with one of them living in the plains and the other going to live in the mountains. They meet up again years later: the one who has stayed down has lived less, aged less, the mechanism of his cuckoo clock has oscillated fewer times. He has had less time to do things, his plants have grown less, his thoughts have had less time to unfold. Lower down, there is simply less time than at altitude.
Interesting! Good Friend A, who lives by the sea, will "age less" (will age more slowly) than Good Friend B, who lives on a mountaintop.

So says Professor Rovelli. We'll assume that this particular claim is accurate.

Left on its own, that particular claim comes close to being coherent. Unfortunately, "the difference is small," Rovelli says. By this he means the difference in aging, here in our world, is so tiny that it will be completely impossible to notice, discern or observe.

Just to get clear on what Rovelli seems to be saying, let's imagine a somewhat changed planet Earth:

Our new Earth will still circle the sun in a regular way. This journey around the sun will still be called a "year."

Our new Earth will still spin on its axis (roughly) 365 times in the course of each year. These discrete parts of the year will still be called "days."

Here's the difference:

Our new Earth will have mountains which are amazingly high, along with a massive supply of air. On this reinvented Earth, Good Friend B goes amazingly high when he moves to his mountaintop lair. Let's say he does this when both friends have lived ten years at sea level.

After twenty more trips around the sun, Good Friend B comes back down to sea level. But uh-oh! According to Rovelli, he will have aged much faster than Good Friend A, due to the enormous height at which he has lived.

Good Friend A will have aged much less. Good Friend A will look the way a person currently looks when he's 30 years old. But Good Friend B will have aged much faster. He may look like people currently look when they're 90 years old!

It's easy to picture this state of affairs, which can't happen here on our Earth. This seems to be a logical extension of what Rovelli says in his easy-to-understand passage.

On this different Earth, will Good Friend B look like he's 90 years old when Good Friend A looks 30? That seems to be what Rovelli has said. That said, please notice this point:

Each friend has circled the sun the same twenty times since their last time together. Granted, Good Friend B has aged much more. But in the most obvious straightforward sense, each fellow has lived twenty years since their previous meeting.

Each fellow has lived that twenty years. With that in mind, in what sense would you say that Good Friend A has actually lived "less time?" Has Rovelli really explained that point, made it easy to understand? Or has he simply said that this is how we the people should talk if we want to sound just like Teechur?

A change in the speed of aging at different altitudes? Conceptually, that seems quite straightforward. But alas! All that talk about "less time" and "time moving faster" is not.

That said, reviewers will stand in line, as they always do, to say that The Order of Time is amazingly easy-to-understand. It's one of our liberal tribe's current group fictions! Following Arsenio Hall, it's one of those "things that make you go ooooh."

In truth, our badly floundering species just isn't amazingly sharp. We do in fact like to gossip a lot. We do fall in line behind Official Approved Tribal Stories.

According to Professor Harari, these traits were once highly adaptive. "Numerous studies" support this view.

Were these traits once highly adaptive? As we wait for Mister Trump's War, they don't seem that way now.

Tomorrow: Live and direct from page 12, what Rovelli says Einstein said!

WHAT WE DID: Time passes quickly up there in the mountains?


Part 4—Bob Dylan, turned on his ear:
"Times passes slowly up here in the mountains."

So Bob Dylan improbably claimed in the song, Times Passes Slowly, on his 1970 album, New Morning.

In our view, the album describes the unexpected discovery of personal happiness in married life and fatherhood. In the song Day of the Locusts, Dylan seems to describe an escape from an earlier crabbed, crowded world:
I put down my robe, picked up my diploma
Took ahold of my sweetheart and away we did drive
Straight for the hills, the black hills of Dakota
Sure was glad to get out of there alive
It's one of our favorite lyrics. That said, The album crawls with imagery of personal contentment in the uncrowded west.

When Dylan said that "time passes slowly," he seemed to be saying that he had left a type of rat race in favor of a different and better subjective experience. In Sign on the Window, he borrowed from the folk tradition as he described this new/improved state of affairs:
Build me a cabin in Utah
Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout
Have a bunch of kids who call me "Pa"
That must be what it's all about,
That must be what it's all about.
"One named Paul and one named Davy?" Dylan was working directly from the tradition—and he claimed that time was passing slowly, in a deeply agreeable way.

Presumably, everyone knew, in a general way, what Dylan meant by his claim. That's fortunate because, as it turns out, the gentleman—a college dropout—may have been technically wrong.

Does time pass slowly up there in the mountains? In his new book, The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli says no.

His claim comes right at the start of his short book's Part 1, in a sub-section called THE SLOWING DOWN OF TIME. Beneath a citation from Horace's Odes, the great simplifier says this:

Let's begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.
Rovelli has always resented Dylan! one of the analysts angrily cried. We talked her down from her limited view, then returned to Rovelli's text.

Stating the obvious, the "simple fact" Rovelli describes is highly counterintuitive. More accurately, it isn't clear, at least at this point, what Rovelli actually means by this puzzling statement at all.

At least in a general way, everyone knew what Dylan meant by his (poetical) statement. He seemed to mean that he had escaped a hurly-burly when he went, with his wife and his children, into the mountains to live a simpler life.

That was poetic, but Rovelli's a physicist. What the heck does Rovelli mean when he says that time passes faster up there in the hills?

Basically, this passage constitutes his full explanation. These are the first two pages of Part 1 of his short, allegedly very clear book:
ROVELLI (pages 9-10): Let’s begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.

The difference is small but can be measured with precision timepieces
that can be bought today on the internet for a few thousand dollars. With practice, anyone can witness the slowing down of time. With the timepieces of specialized laboratories, this slowing down of time can be detected between levels just a few centimeters apart: a clock placed on the floor runs a little more slowly than one on a table.

It is not just the clocks that slow down: lower down, all processes are slower.
Two friends separate, with one of them living in the plains and the other going to live in the mountains. They meet up again years later: the one who has stayed down has lived less, aged less, the mechanism of his cuckoo clock has oscillated fewer times. He has had less time to do things, his plants have grown less, his thoughts have had less time to unfold. Lower down, there is simply less time than at altitude.

Is this surprising? Perhaps it is. But this is how the world works. Time passes more slowly in some places, more rapidly in others.
Say what? "There is simply less time" at sea level? Set side your views on Dylan's work. Based upon that brief explanation, do you feel you understand what Rovelli's statement means?

Truthfully, we do not. We were puzzled when we first read that passage. We're still puzzled today.

According to Rovelli, clocks run slower at sea level. Assuming that statement is accurate, why couldn't that be an artifact of gravity's effect on a clock?

Rovelli also says this: "all processes are slower" at sea level, including the aging process. Why couldn't that simply be a statement about the effect of gravity upon physical processes, including those of the human body?

Clocks run slower at sea level? Human bodies age more slowly? What turns these straightforward claims about clocks and bodies into a murky statement about time, indeed about "less time?"

Why does "time" have to come into play here at all? What turns a bunch of straightforward statements about physical processes into a puzzling statement about "time"—indeed, about the amount of time available in different places?

"Lower down, there is simply less time?" We're not real clear about what that means. Consider:

The friend who has lived at sea level has revolved around the sun the same number of times as the friend in the mountains. In what sense has he experienced "less time" when they meet again?

Why hasn't he simply "aged less" in the same amount of time? Are you sure you're clear about that? Unless we simply agree to repeat the things authorities tell us to say, it seems to us that this "explanation" is perhaps a bit undercooked.

"Times passes slowly up here in the mountains?" Dylan was speaking poetically about a subjective experience. Speaking as a physicist, Rovelli flips Dylan's tale on its head.

Time passes faster up there in the mountains, Rovelli says. Making his brief even less clear, he even says that there is less time at sea level.

Please understand! We're not saying Rovelli is wrong; we're saying his claims are unclear. And until you can make a statement that's clear, your statement doesn't rise to the level of being wrong.

From (slightly) slower clocks and (slightly) slower aging, we've moved somehow to "less time." This move didn't seem real clear to us.

Heroically, we continued reading. Did Rovelli, the great clarifier, ever straighten this out?

Tomorrow: Various places to quit

WHAT WE DID: Reviewers sell a silly Group Story!


Part 3—For decades, we've purchased such tales:
On the back of The Order of Time, the reader is assailed, indeed propagandized, by the standard encomia.

First up is The Financial Times. Under the heading PRAISE FOR CARLO ROVELLI, we're told that the Financial Times once said this about that:
"The physicist known for making complex science intelligible."
On that same back cover, four others recite the same story. The Scientific American is said to have once said this:
"His concise and comprehensible writing makes sense of intricate notions..."
Reviewers always stand in line to say such things about those who, by the assessment of the guilds, are judged to have made-Einstein-easy.

There's little hope for these willing reviewers. Accepting this unfortunate fact, we issue our challenge to the general citizen reader:

Rovelli's concise and comprehensible writing makes complex science intelligible? Dear citizens! If you're willing to buy a story like that, what story won't you purchase?

If you can swallow that Standard Tale, which Standard Tale will you question, doubt, wonder about, even be drawn to challenge?

Which claim won't you purchase? Will you buy the claim that Al Gore said he invented the Internet? Will you accept the claim that he hired a woman to teach him to be man?

When Susan Rice discusses Benghzi, will you buy John McCain's instant account of what she said? Or will you look at the actual transcript, to see what she actually said?

When creeps on The Rachel Maddow Show side with James Comey in July 2016, will it occur to you that you are perhaps being handed the latest Loaded Tale? Will it cross your mind that an exhibitionist clown like Maddow can't necessarily be trusted?

Will it ever occur to you that you can't necessarily believe the things you're told by the people who pose as your cable news friends? That you can't necessarily believe the things you're told by groups of people jostling to maintain careers?

Along the way to the present day, will you buy the claim that Comey ("Comey the God") is the world's most upright person? Will you buy that claim when it's made, in Standard Group Fashion, about Paul Ryan, and John McCain, and even Judge Starr, before him?

Will you buy the claim that Bill Clinton is slippery, slick and "Clintonesque" in a way that others aren't? Concerning Hillary Clinton, when Chris Matthews tells you the sorts of things which are shown below, will you fail to let yourself think that something seems to be wrong inside this strange person's head?

Hillary Clinton was going to run for the Senate. Matthews was very upset:
MATTHEWS (12/6/99): I'm Chris Matthews in San Francisco. Let's play Hardball!

Well, joining us right now from Washington, D. C. is author and journalist Gail Sheehy. She's got a new book, it's called Hillary's Choice. We'll get to the meaning of that.


MATTHEWS: You talk in a nice way about how Hillary never wanted to learn to ski. Now, I learned to ski at a relatively late age, and I love it. But it does involve falling. And you point out in your book that she doesn't like to fall. And therefore—

I mean, just falling, the physical act of falling in front of other people, where they see you fall. Yet she was willing to take on a seventh of the American economy with no economics training, and say that she was going to personally redefine the economic system with regard to health. How can she be afraid to fall on her butt on the bunny slope, and yet willing to jeopardize the health security of the American people without a blink?

SHEEHY: Well, I think she thought she knew what she was doing, and she thought Ira Magaziner would be—

MATTHEWS: The guy with the propeller on his head!

SHEEHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, why did she hang around with that clack? Those guys have never been elected to anything, they've never run for anything. Why does she trust those kinds of guys?

SHEEHY: Well, she—

MATTHEWS: They're all lefties and propeller heads! They're worse than she is!

SHEEHY: Wait a second! Let me just ask you one thing. I know you don't like Hillary Clinton—

MATTHEWS: No, that's not true. That's not the relevant point. I'm asking you why did she— Why was she afraid to fall on soft snow on a bunny slope, but wasn't afraid of bringing down the health security of 260 million Americans? That's what I don't understand.
She didn't want to fall on the bunny slope! As he continued to rant, Matthews explained the thinking behind the health care plan which Clinton had helped devise during her husband's first term:
MATTHEWS: She said, “I'm going to give you universal coverage. I want to give every man who gets into this country, legally or illegally, free health care, and they're going to have to thank me for it, and bring flowers to me like I'm Evita.”...She wanted to sell it as socialism, because then she could get credit for it. She and the government, like Eleanor Roosevelt, her hero.
He would call her "Evita" for years. Later in that interview, as Sheehy worried about her own personal safety, the Doctor was very much IN:
MATTHEWS: Here's the weird thing about this dysfunctional relationship, and you've been sorting this out as an author for so many months. You have one partner on the team that thinks they're always right. They think they're better than us morally, politically, culturally, and intellectually and every other way. The other person believes they've never done anything wrong. If you have one who's a born cover-up artist who can't even turn in an honest golf score, and the other one who thinks she's always right about everything, God help us! As you say, Hillary's choice is the choice to be blind-sided or to be blind about the truth. What an amazing credential to be United States senator for New York!


I get the feeling she's got this moral superiority that somehow he [Bill Clinton] was lucky to have her, but she wasn't lucky to have him, like she could have gotten there with any guy—as that little story you tell in the book goes, any guy she could have dragged into the presidency—because she was the superior moral, intellectual and cultural and political force, and he was just some bumpkin she picked up and dragged along like a barnacle behind her rear end.
Bill Clinton couldn't record an honest golf score. Hillary Clinton had a weird approach to skiing.

She thought he was some bumpkin she dragged along like a barnacle behind her rear end! Our upper-end, elite "journalism" would be like this for many years, right through 2016.


Were you able to watch such rants without thinking that something seemed to be wrong with this very strange cable news star? When a web site spent twenty years detailing this endless insanity, were you able to wonder why a person like that retained his status within our floundering nation's journalistic elite?

Were you able to wonder why no one within that alleged elite ever raised these points about the very strange behavior of this very strange person? Did you ever wonder why Your Darling Rachel went out of her way to say so many nice things about him a bit later on?

(Why she vouched so hard for Greta, her drinking buddy, who had served for years as The Birther King's prime enabler on Fox?)

We're skipping lightly over the roads which sent Mr. Trump to the White House. We're asking you to consider the various Approved Group Stories which were aggressively sold, and willingly purchased, as that highway was laid.

We're asking you to wonder why so many Group Stories were purchased Over Here, within the tents of our own self-impressed liberal tribe. As of November 2016, the weight of twenty-five years of these ludicrous stories sent Donald J. Trump to the White House. We're asking why this endless array of Clownish Group Stories were endlessly tolerated and bought.

Those Official Approved Group Stories have turned out to be profoundly destructive. Even today, the corporate journalists we liberals most love still refuse to discuss this topic on their precious air or in their well-known newspapers.

Now for a bit of a contrast:

The claim that Professor Rovelli is comprehensible isn't deeply destructive.

It's part of entertainment culture, full stop. It won't lead us to Mr. Trump's War, which is apparently destined to start during Ivanka's one truncated term.

(Reportedly, she appoints her father Secretary of Dispositive Global War. He starts by sending Thai divers to seize the children of Canada's PM. Reportedly, the New York Times continues to say that we mustn't discuss any possible mental illness.)

The claim that Rovelli is clear and concise won't lead to this global war. That said, it's one of the silliest stories ever told. Despite this rather obvious fact, elite reviewers stand in line to recite it. This makes the story a good example of the way our species functions.

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Professor Harari says the invention of human language gave us two essential tools. He says it allowed our species to "gossip" and to sell group "fictions." He says these capabilities allowed our species to conquer the world.

We think the professor is right on point! Even today, it's amazingly easy to gossip and sell those group fictions.

Tomorrow, we'll return to the fiction which won't start that war. Acknowledging that it's all good fun, we'll offer more examples of the "comprehensible" things Rovelli has said.

Tomorrow: We return to the-text-in-itself!

Just for the record: When Matthews ranted about Candidate Gore and Candidate Clinton, his owner was conservative near-billionaire Jack Welch. According to press reports, his salary went from $1.6 million to $5 million as he staged these endless ludicrous rants.

We can't vouch for those reports. By the rules of the game, we aren't allowed to know how much our favorites get paid for their journalistic services.

They rail about chump change for everyone else. Their own bloated salary figures stay hidden. As they rail, they're selling a story.

Gratefully, we gulp it down. What Harari said!

WHAT WE DID: Why can't you remember the future?

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018

Part 2—And other extremely deep thoughts:
Can it really be true? Is Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time the worst book ever written?

For us down here on this darkling plain, such judgments may seem overwrought, perhaps even hard to justify. Still, we're told that in the future caves where future anthropologists were forced to huddle in the wake of Mr. Trump's War, Rovelli's book is widely described as "fascinatingly awful," indeed as instructively so.

(We've recently learned that Mr. Trump's War is also described, in this future realm, as The War of Vast Liberal Indifference. In this formulation, "liberal" is a shortened form of "pseudoliberal," a reference to the tribe which came to exhibit vast complete and total disdain toward all who were seen as lesser. We're now told that this future war actually occurred in the first year of Ivanka Trump's brief tenure as her father's appointed successor, during which time the former president was able to focus on his new role as Secretary of Endless and Fully Dispositive War.)

Setting future history aside, let's return to the worst story ever told.

Alas! Playing by the rules of the game, The Guardian has offered these prefab remarks about Rovelli's new book:
THOMSON (4/24/18): Nobody said that relativity theory was easy. Einstein’s notion that time and space are essentially one (the concept of curved “spacetime”) is the stuff of abstract poetry. Fortunately, the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli writes of “warped time” and other tentative physics with incisive clarity. Known for his work on loop quantum gravity theory and the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander, Rovelli is one of our great scientific explicators. His poetic essay collection Seven Brief Lessons on Physics sold more than a million copies in English translation in 2017 and remains one of the fastest-selling science books ever.

The Order of Time, a deeper, more abstruse meditation, elucidates some of the key developments in the philosophy and physics of time. Fortified with quotations from Proust, Anaximander and the Grateful Dead (Rovelli has a hippyish past), the book continues a tradition of jargon-free scientific writing from Galileo to Darwin that disappeared in the academic specialisation of the last century.
In this way, Guardian readers were told that Rovelli's "jargon-free" book exhibits "incisive clarity" while being deep, abstruse, poetic. When such breakdowns in acuity spread across the wider world of journalism, the path was laid which eventually let Donald J. Trump take power.

Whatever! In yesterday's report, we told you that the "At What Page" question yields this answer: page 12. At that page, it can reliably be said that, despite Rovelli's incisive clarity, no reader has the slightest idea what The Great Explicator is actually talking about.

By that point, an early-round knockout has occurred. After page 12, there's no real reason to extend the pretense of reading this book.

Warning signs come earlier. On pages 1-6, Rovelli presents the part of the book which precedes Part 1.

The pomposity is general. On page 3, when readers encounter this passage, the gods on Olympus roar:
ROVELLI (page 3): Wonder is the source of our desire for knowledge, and the discovery that time is not what we thought it was opens up a thousand questions. The nature of time has been at the center of my life’s work in theoretical physics. In the following pages, I give an account of what we have understood about time and the paths that are being followed in our search to understand it better, as well as an account of what we have yet to understand and what it seems to me that we are just beginning to glimpse.

Why do we remember the past and not the future? Do we exist in time, or does time exist in us? What does it really mean to say that time “passes”? What ties time to our nature as persons, to our subjectivity?

What am I listening to when I listen to the passing of time?
"Wonder is the source of our desire for knowledge?"

Peculiarly, this statement, found at the top of page 3, is adorned with the citation of an endnote. Impossibly, the endnote sources this air-filled claim to Aristotle's Metaphysics I.2.982—and no, we aren't making that up!

Surely, the gods on Olympus roar when mortals read that endnote. We'll guess that, in their future caves, future anthropologists default to sullen thousand-yard stares.

So these others react. But what are we supposed to make of the questions we've highlighted from that passage? Right there, on page 3, the reader is confronted by this:
Why do we remember the past and not the future?
Why do we remember the past and not the future! As the gods on Olympus roar, the rare pre-survivor on modern earth may politely answer this question with one of his or her own:
Because the past has already happened and the future hasn't?
Already, such readers may have a sense of the chaos to come. Others, observing the rules of the game, will agree to imagine that this deep question comes from the realm of Deep Thought.

It doesn't! Meanwhile, what should readers make of this subsequent question?
What am I listening to when I listen to the passing of time?
People who haven't been led astray may balk at that pseudo-question. It will perhaps occur to them that they have a rough idea what someone means when he says he "listened to a passing train," but they've never heard anyone claim to "listen to the passing of time."

For that reason, it may occur to them that they don't have the slightest idea what Rovelli means by his admittedly deep-sounding question. At this point, it may cross their minds that rough waters lie ahead.

Some will quit on this book right there. They may say something like this, as they safely place the book out of the reach of children:

"Rovelli may be a brilliant physicist. But in other realms, he seems hopeless, perhaps a bit lost."

In our view, it's premature to quit on Rovelli's book on page 3. At what page is all hope lost?

In our view, all hope is lost by page 12. Tomorrow, we'll visit that planet.

Tomorrow: Time to move on

For lovers of foolishness only: Part 1 of Rovelli's book starts on page 9. It's preceded by six pages of pompous piffle from which today's excerpt was drawn.

Luckily, Rovelli's pages are very short. Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada, you can read pages 1-6 here.

WHAT WE DID: On our summer vacation!

MONDAY, JULY 9, 2018

Worst story ever told:
You call that a summer vacation?

It started last Wednesday morning. It ended very late Saturday night, after a hurtling, eight-hour train ride down the northeast coast.

Short though it was, it featured one relevant achievement. We read The Worst Book Ever Written, or at least its earlier parts.

We refer to Carlo Rovelli's latest submission, The Order of Time. A bit of background may be relevant at this point:

Rovelli's earlier book, Seven Brief Lessons in Physics, became a run-away best seller in 2015. At that time, we skillfully refused to take the bait.

Three years later, Rovelli was back. When a review appeared in the Washington Post's Outlook section—and with our summer vacation approaching—we decided we were willing to do what plainly had to be done.

The review was penned by Joseph Perschel, "a freelance writer and critic." As for Rovelli, he's the type of writer who, by the rules of the game, triggers mandated statements like this:
PERSCHEL (6/24/18): No one writes about the cosmos like theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. He may not be as well known in the United States as the late Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson or Alan Lightman. But in his books, “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” and “Reality Is Not What It Seems,” Rovelli explains physics with reverence and exuberance, in ways that even a book reviewer without a PhD can understand.
So simple that even a reviewer can understand it! By well-established rules of the game, reviewers must claim that they "understand" the prose of these easy-to-understand types.

Editors rush such claims into print. As he continues, the reviewer will claim, or perhaps will seem to imply, that the author's latest book is easy-to-understand too:
PERCHEL (continuing directly): In his newest work, “The Order of Time,” Rovelli shares his enthusiasm as he discusses scientifically and philosophically the “greatest remaining mystery”: the nature of time. This book, like his previous works, is translated by Erica Segre and Simon Carnell, and their poetic interpretation of his words, I surmise, derives strongly from the original Italian.
It isn't just easy-to-understand; it's poetic too! By the rules of the game, the reviewer will present this as an added bonus feature, not as a possible source of distraction and/or misdirection or even as a possible sign of flimflam.

Let's be fair to Perschel! In paragraph 2, he describes the three parts of Rovelli's book, none of which the reader will understand. But in paragraph 3, he adopts a minor modesty pose, advancing the familiar procedures of reviews of this type:
PERSCHEL: Some ideas in “The Order of Time” are a bit confusing and require a re-reading, but Rovelli includes only one equation in his new book, and he even apologizes for its appearance...
Some ideas in The Order of Time are a bit confusing! This is Perschel's way of saying that neither you, nor anyone you've ever met, will have the slightest idea what's being said in any part of this book, the least understandable and worst book ever sold in stores.

Not wanting to let our vacation end, we've decided to focus this week on what we did on that vacation. At several points, we boasted to a young relative that we were reading the worst book ever written. Since she was reading a book required for incoming seventh graders at her middle school, she was thereby reassured that her own book wasn't the worst.

Presumably, Rovelli's new book will also be a best-seller. Successfully approached, it gives befuddled readers a chance to apply an unusual critical question:

We call it the "At What Page" question. At what page does it become absurd to pretend that anyone has the slightest idea what is being said?

In this case, we've decided to name page 12 as the place where hope ends. For the record, Rovelli's Part 1 begins at the bottom of page 9, and a full page in his small book contains maybe 240 words.

We also thumbed Yuval Noah Harris's 2015 best-seller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Early on, Harari says the rise of human language primarily enabled us the people to engage in two highly adaptive activities—"gossip" and the invention of group "fictions."

As students of modern journalism, we had to admit that Harari seemed to be on the right track! That said, we'll discuss our summer vacation all week, with reference to this recent front-page report in the New York Times.

(Headline: ‘Shaken’ Rosenstein Felt Used by White House in Comey Firing.)

The report in question seized control of cable news on Friday, June 29. How does this connect to Rovelli? In due time, everything will be clear.

Tomorrow: Near the top of page 12!

Next week: Return of the gaps

BREAKING: Who we should "try to understand!"


Who we should respect:
"No people are uninteresting?"

So Yevtushenko is said to have said. His poem appears in translation:

No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them in not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private
and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute
These are private...
So the fellow is said to have said. He continues along from there.

We first read "People" long ago, stumbling upon in it Ivan Illich's 1971 book, Deschooling Society. We were teaching fifth grade in Baltimore at the time.

We believed the poem then. We still believe it today.

This recent post by Kevin Drum brought the poem to mind. We think Drum's headline was poorly chosen, but we largely agree with the general viewpoint he advanced.

Drum was commenting on the latest manifestation of our own glorious tribe's angry contempt for The Others. This contempt is a very key part of our failing tribe's DNA. At present, it's helping to destroy the world, but we cling to it ever more strongly.

Drum was commenting on Sean Illing's annoyance on being told that he should try to understand the views of Other People. Poor Illing! Unmistakably brilliant as he is, he's forced to cohabit with the likes of people like this:
ILLING (6/30/18): I’m still struggling to understand what exactly these people mean when they complain about the “moral decline” of America. At one point, you interview a woman who complains about the country’s “moral decline” and then cites, as evidence, the fact that she can’t spank her children without “the government” intervening. Am I supposed to take this seriously?
Poor Illing! An admittedly brilliant man, he's constantly asked to take "these people" seriously!

Drum suggested, perhaps a bit politely, that Illing should perhaps and possibly try getting over himself. He offered several reasons for listening to the lesser breed, including this:

"It’s just generally a good idea to try to understand points of view that are held by a substantial number of people."

That's especially true, of course, if the people in question are able to vote and they live in the same country you do. That said, people like Illing have the royal impulse—an impulse which has driven so-called humankind down through the annals of time.

We do think Drum made some missteps. We mentioned the headline he wrote. That headline went like this:
We Should Try to Understand Even the People Who Hate Us
Drumster, please! The people who vote the other way don't necessarily "hate us." What makes us want to type a headline in which we imply that they do?

The Drumcat also said this. It's where our tribe goes wrong:
DRUM (6/30/18): Illing’s real complaint seems to be that even if this stuff is explicable, there’s nothing much anyone can do about it. So why bother with all the hand-wringing?

It’s a good question. There are plenty of people who are simply beyond reach for liberals. They’re either racist or sexist or they love guns or maybe they’re just plain mean. Whatever the reason, they aren’t going to vote for anyone even faintly liberal, and there’s virtually nothing that could persuade them otherwise. For myself, I’d say it’s still worthwhile understanding them...
The highlighted statement shows us the soul of all "human" tribes. If you think with the brain of the tribe, anyone who disagrees with you has to be subhuman, or at least strongly tilting that way.

In the current context, anyone who doesn't vote or think the way we vote has to be "either racist or sexist...or maybe they’re just plain mean." There's no such thing as the possibility that someone may know, or sensibly value, something we geniuses don't.

"No people are interesting," Yevtushenko once said. He hadn't seen our modern liberal tribe in action. Has any group of alleged human beings ever been so perfectly programmed for defeat?

Breaking: In this morning's column, David Brooks links to Professor Walters' Outlook piece. As he does, he calls it cartoonish:
BROOKS (7/3/18): [I]n the political showbiz sphere, Trump’s cartoonish masculinity squares off against cartoonish “Why Can’t We Hate Men?” incitements. It’s only there that we see the usual social media game of moral one-upmanship in which each tribe competes to be more victimized, more offended and more woke.
We're in the war of the all against all. Illing holds his lessers in contempt; Walters want to hate all men. Michelle won't stop this stupid shit in which she compares Ivanka to herpes.

Our team is so dumb we think this is smart. But this is the game at which Trump excels. Our glorious small-minded dumpster-class Dumb helps explain how the Trumpcat survives.

GAPS AND PLANS CONTINUED: District 3's Rube Goldberg plan!


Part 2—The Onion tries "desegregation:"
How can test scores be so different from schools right in the same town? Let's review some recent results from three New York City schools:
New York State math test, Grade 8
2016-2017 school year:

New York City Middle School A

Average student proficiency rating: 3.88 (of maximum 4.5)
Percentage of students achieving proficiency: 86.2%

New York City Middle School B
Average student proficiency rating: 2.61 (of maximum 4.5)
Percentage of students achieving proficiency: 30.4%

New York City Middle School C
Average student proficiency rating: 2.11 (of maximum 4.5)
Percentage of students achieving proficiency: 3.8%
Those schools produced very different results. How can three middle schools in the same city produce such divergent performance?

We liberals may turn to our favorite demons as we dash off our answers. In fact, in the case of Middle School A, the divergent results aren't hard to explain at all.

Middle School A is Booker T. Washington Middle School, a "highly selective" middle school whose students gain admission, at the start of sixth grade, through a combination of good grades and high test scores.

These kids were higher-achievers coming in. As those data show, they're also higher-achievers going out. There is no mystery to this pattern and process—except when the New York Times decides to find a mystery there.

Booker T. Washington has operated, of late, through a type of "tracking by school." Higher-achieving kids gain admission to the school. Once there, they pursue an advanced course of study.

Should the New York City Public Schools permit this type of "tracking by school?" That's a perfectly sensible question. It's also a matter of judgment.

One downside to this arrangement involves the question of "racial" and ethnic imbalance. This state of affairs is referred to, by our vastly moral though largely uncaring tribe, as "segregation." The term stirs liberal blood!

Given current realities, a school like Booker T. Washington will have more "white" and Asian-American kids than are found in the city's schools as a whole. Quite reasonably, this is widely seen as a downside of this type of school organization.

In New York City's District 3, our tribe has engineered a solution to this imperfect state of affairs. In a June 21 news report, the New York Times' Winnie Hu described the shape of the newly-adopted plan, which had long been debated.

In our view, "racial balance" is a very good thing in a public school, until such time as it isn't. Again and again in the past forty years, well-intentioned desegregation plans have led to anger, division and strife. Alas! Well-intentioned plans can sometimes produce lousy outcomes.

In the current circumstance, District 3's "desegregation plan" will affect the district's "highly selective" schools. With that in mind, it seems to us that this District 3 plan reads like a parody of a desegregation plan, perhaps as dreamed up by The Onion.

Hu's report started as shown below. The oddness of the District 3 plan was immediately apparent:
HU (6/21/18): New York City is moving ahead with a desegregation plan for middle schools that has drawn an outcry from some Upper West Side parents and heightened tensions over race and equity in one of the city’s most diverse and highly segregated school districts.

Middle schools in District 3, which stretches from the Upper West Side to Harlem, will be required to set aside a quarter of their sixth-grade seats for low income students with low test scores and grades beginning next spring, Richard A. Carranza, the schools chancellor, announced Wednesday.

The plan is intended to increase diversity in selective, high-performing middle schools like Booker T. Washington, where black and Hispanic students are underrepresented.
Yes, you read that correctly! This plan is not designed to bring a larger number of higher-performing black and Hispanic kids into Booker T. Washington.

On the contrary! The plan is specifically designed to admit black and Hispanic kids "with low test scores and grades!" The plan is specifically designed to admit black and Hispanic kids who who are doing poorly in school.

Indeed, a higher-performing black student—a kid with good grades and good test scores—can't gain admission to Booker T through this desegregation plan. For a black kid to gain admission under this plan, he has to prove that he isn't a good student! If he doesn't have low grades and low test scores, that student need not apply!

In our view, this plan reads like something straight outta The Onion! Imagine what this plan will produce:

District 3 did not decide to do away with "highly selective" middle schools. District 3 did not decide to return to large "neighborhood schools," where everybody, of all types, reports to one big happy building.

District decided that Booker T. Washington would retain its status as a "highly selective" school. It just won't be quite as academically "selective" as it was before, and this comes with a very strange hitch.

Before, 100 percent of the school's kids came in as higher-achievers. Now, 75 percent of the school's kids will gain admission through high-achievement—and they'll be joined by a bunch of black and Hispanic kids who have to prove that they aren't good students in order to gain admission. The pre-existing high-achievers are joined by the Bad News Bears!

The micromanagers of District 3 think this will produce a good outcome. It seems to us that this semi-parodic plan was almost designed to engender racial stereotypes among this school's young students.

Seventy-five percent of the kids will be among Gotham's higher-achievers. They'll be joined by a bunch of kids who had to prove they were lower-performing in order to gain admission to the higher-performing school!

That strikes us as an odd approach! But as Hu explained in her report, all the District 3 proposals included this peculiar twist. In fairness, there's a reason for this state of affairs, which we'll explain below:
HU: The plan was chosen over three other options, which all aimed to give priority to low performing students but used different criteria. District school leaders initially unveiled a plan to focus on students who scored a 1 or 2—the lowest grade on a 1-to-4 scale—on state standardized English and math tests...

Other plans considered factors in addition to low test scores, such as course grades and the income level of the students at an elementary school.

The plan that was selected will set aside 25 percent of the seats at middle schools for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, a widely accepted measure of poverty, and who are considered low performing based on their final fourth-grade English and math course grades and their scores on state English and math tests.
All the District 3 proposals "aimed to give priority to low performing students!" This would almost seem funny, if it didn't seem potentially sad.

Question! Why on earth would District 3 want to take such a peculiar approach? If the district wanted to admit more black and Hispanic kids to a "highly selective" school, why wouldn't it try to admit higher-achieving black and Hispanic kids? Why would it deliberately seek kids who were struggling students?

Answer! As Harris and Hu have explained in the past, it's against the law to admit kids to a public school based on race. Since District 3 wanted to admit more black and Hispanic kids, it had to find some way to get around the law.

Presto! How do you find black kids within the New York City Public Schools without asking if they're black? Simple! You look for kids with low grades and low test scores who went to low-income schools! You siphon these struggling students into a "highly selective" middle school—a school which is teaching an advanced course of study to a bunch of higher-performing kids, the majority of whom are white and Asian.

Does anyone think this makes sense? Does anyone think this makes sense as an academic matter? Does anyone think this makes sense as a way to engender good racial understandings and attitudes among these 11-year-old kids?

To us, this plan reads like something straight outta The Onion. In part, that'e because we understand how large the achievement gaps actually are:
Scores by percentiles
Grade 4 math, Naep, 2017
New York City Public Schools

90th percentile: 269.09
75th percentile: 251.60
50th percentile: 230.43
25th percentile: 207.50
10th percentile: 186.80
Oof! On the 2017 Grade 4 Naep, there was an 82-point "achievement gap" between Gotham's 90th percentile kids and those at the 10th percentile. There was a 44-point gap just between the 75th and the 25th percentiles.

By all standard rules of thumb, these gaps in achievement are huge. But so what? Under its Rube Goldberg "desegregation plan," District 3 will be introducing a bunch of black kids from below the 25th and 10th percentiles into a "highly selective" school full of white and Asian kids who are at and above the 90th.

Given the actual size of the gaps, this makes no academic sense. To our eye, it looks like a cauldron for the development of rotten racial ideas among this school's young kids.

To our eye, this plan seems like a parody dreamed by The Onion. Those lower-achieving black kids will not be able to take a couple of make-up classes, then succeed with Booker T. Washington's pre-existing curriculum.

Absent in-school tracking (and, thus, in-school "segregation"), this plan looks like a prescription for academic failure. It comes to us, live and direct, from the long-standing world of pseudo-liberal incomprehension and insouciance.

How do those achievement gaps get so wide by the end of fourth grade? That's the kind of question our tribe's favorite liberal stars never ask or discuss.

We liberals quit on low-income minority kids a very long time ago. We don't know much about their situations, and we don't seem to care. As a result, we come up with plans like this "two Americas" plan.

At present, the New York Times is very excited about two "desegregation plans" for the New York City Public Schools. One deals with the city's "specialized high schools."

This is the other plan.

In the high school plan, the mayor seems determined to start an ugly race war. He cares about the top 5%, ignores everyone else.

In the District 3 middle school plan, the do-gooders and micromanagers have launched a plan which would almost be comical—except that great kids are involved. New York City is full or great kids. They deserve much better adults.

In District 3, the micromanagers seem to believe that the new, low-achieving kids will take a couple of makeup classes and get in the swing of things. Despite one principal's silly pledge about "learning side by side," that isn't going to happen.

The micromanagers don't seem to understand the size of those gaps! Their plan is built on the pile of fantasies we've pimped for the past fifty years.

Those fantasies stem from our insouciance. For decades, our tribe hasn't cared.

Next week: Gaps and fantasies

BREAKING: Sullivan cites depressing new survey!

MONDAY, JULY 2, 2018

Suggests reason for its results:
Last Friday, in his weekly piece for New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan cited a depressing new survey.

He said that, according to several surveys, millennials have been moving away from support for the Democrats in the time since Trump's election. One large survey said this:
SULLIVAN (6/29/18): [W]hat to make of another huge survey—16,000 millennial respondents—that found that [millennials] were not as hostile to the GOP as a party as they are to Trump? It also found a significant group of millennials who had not become Republican, but who had lost their Democratic affiliation. Support for the Dems went from 55 percent to 46 percent from 2016 to 2018. Home in further and look at white millennials, and the drop is 47 percent to 39, which is dead even with the 39 percent who back the Republicans.

Then look at white millennial men. They’ve gone from 48 percent to 37 percent Democratic support. More striking in their case is that they haven’t just moved away from the Democrats, but have now become Republicans. Their support for the GOP in the last two years has gone from 36 percent to 46. Which means that for white men between the ages of 18 and 34, the GOP now has a ten-point lead. It has achieved that swing in the last two years.
The survey was done by Reuters/Ipsos. You can peruse it here.

Why would so many millennials—in particular, so many white millennial men—be moving way from Dems?

We can't answer that question. We can't even vouch for the accuracy of the very large Reuters/Ipsos survey.

That said, Sullivan took a stab at an answer. We think his suggestion is well worth considering, unless we refuse to wonder about the way our nation actually got here:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): We don’t know why this has happened. It may be the economy, lower unemployment, and marginally lower taxes. But that doesn’t explain the yawning and growing gender gap. So here’s a guess: When the Democratic party and its mainstream spokespersons use the term “white male” as an insult, when they describe vast swathes of white men in America as “problematic,” when they call struggling, working-class white men “privileged,” when they ask in their media if it’s okay just to hate men, and white men in particular, maybe white men hear it. Maybe the outright sexism, racism, and misandry that is now regarded as inextricable from progressivism makes the young white men less likely to vote for a party that openly advocates its disdain of them.

I don’t know for sure, of course. All I know is that, to my mind, bigotry is still bigotry, whoever expresses it. And those routinely dismissed as bigots might decide to leave a party that so openly expresses its disdain for them.
We liberals! We love to toss our S-, R- and B-bombs around. All of a sudden, there was Sully, lobbing a B-bomb at us!

Are young white men abandoning Dems for the reason Sullivan suggests? We have no ultimate way of saying.

That said, we've been repulsed by this sort of pseudo-liberal non-bigotry bigotry for years, if not for decades. And yes, our knee-jerk attacks on various groups have been reaching clownish proportions.

Are we liberals "asking, in [our] media, if it's okay to just hate men?" Really? Has anyone actually done that?

Sullivan links to a recent essay in the Washington Post's high-profile Outlook section. The piece appeared on Sunday, June 10. We think it was one of the dumbest, most depressing essays we have ever read.

The essay was written by Suzanna Danuta Walters. Horrifically, she isn't simply a professor of sociology at Northeastern University. She's "director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program."

In her essay, Walters basically said that women really should "hate men."

She didn't say that women should hate men who commit sexual assaults. She didn't say that women should hate men who engage in harassment.

She plainly suggested that women should just go ahead and hate men in general, full stop. Ever since the piece appeared, we've been trying to tame our depression long enough to comment.

Luckily, Sullivan cited the essay last Friday. He provisionally linked the sentiments expressed in the piece to falling support for Democrats among young millennial men.

Does this sort of thing explain why that survey turned out as it did? We have no idea, but we do know this:

By any normal, post Enlightenment standard, that essay was just dumbfoundingly dumb. It's astounding that a major professor could compose such dumbfounding work. It's even more astounding to think that the Washington Post chose to publish it, in high-profile Outlook no less.

Our team is extremely dumb. We're also filled with tribal loathing and poorly disguised group hatreds.

As a general matter, we're too dumb, too tribal, and too self-impressed to see these things about ourselves. Much as Sullivan suggests in his piece, The Others aren't always similarly blinded by the brilliant pure self-evident glory of lazy dumb farkwads like Us.

Did Walters help elect Donald J. Trump? Is it possible that her work is going to help re-elect him?