We must hope for indictments by somebody else!

SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2019

The propaganda war moves on:
The Mueller report has been dropped! The Mueller report has been dropped!

Last evening, a wave of Paul Reveres rode through the streets of cable news making this announcement. In our view, the gang at New York magazine got one part of this episode right:
HART (3/22/19): Multiple sources are now reporting that Mueller is recommending no further indictments. What does that tell us?

CHAIT: It certainly seems to point toward an anticlimactic outcome.

KILGORE: Since presumably there are people who (unlike Trump) can be indicted for helping him with collusion and/or obstruction, the fact that they likely won’t be is a pretty good thing for Trump.

CHAIT: It’s strange, though, given how many crimes have been clearly hinted at to date.

HART: This fits with the rising tide of chatter in the last few days, from White House sources and Democrats alike, predicting that the report will end up being quite favorable to Trump—relatively speaking.
In the end, will the actual Mueller report "end up being quite favorable to Trump, relatively speaking?" We have no way of knowing.

That said, a vast array of crimes "have been hinted at" in the past year, but the bulk of these crimes, for which we liberals have fervently prayed, didn't end up getting charged. This awkward fact will lie at the heart of the next propaganda war, which has already started.

Good lord! No one got charged for the Trump Tower meeting. Possible targets like Jared Kushner didn't get charged with perjury.

Carter Page is gone and forgotten, after being convicted, again and again, by the likes of "our own hangin' judge," cable star Rachel Maddow. A wide range of crimes which were "hinted at" (and proselytized about) seem to, perhaps and possibly, maybe be dead and gone.

For another example of a crime which didn't end up getting charged, consider the passage shown below.

The passage appears near the end of a lengthy front-page report in this morning's Washington Post. It begins with yet another awkward fact, then moves on to Jerome Corsi:
BARRETT, ZAPOTOSKY AND DAWSEY (3/23/19): None of the Americans charged by Mueller are accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election—the central question of Mueller’s work. Instead, they pleaded guilty to various crimes, including lying to the FBI.

The investigation ended without charges for a number of key figures
who had long been under Mueller’s scrutiny, including conservative writer Jerome Corsi, who said Friday that he felt “vindicated” by the development.

Corsi met with prosecutors repeatedly about communications he had before the November 2016 election with Stone about the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. In November, Corsi took the unorthodox step of publishing draft court documents Mueller’s team had provided to him as they urged him to plead guilty to lying in an October 2018 debriefing. He said that his memory had been faulty but that he had not intentionally lied, and he refused to take the deal.

“They lost. They tried to give me a plea deal that was a lie and I exposed it,” he said. “They wisely left me alone. Seven months through absolute hell when all I did was try to cooperate.”
Oof! Mueller ended up charging no one with criminal forms of collusion. Over Here in our liberal world, such charges have long been devoutly wished for.

Meanwhile, consider the Corsi matter:

From our point of view, Corsi has been a total nutcase for a good number of years, long predating Trump. That said, was he actually guilty of "lying [to prosecutors] in an October 2018 debriefing?"

We have no way of knowing. That said, the Mueller team tried to get him to plead guilty to such a crime, then ended up not charging him with any such offense.

As citizens, should we be concerned about such prosecutorial conduct? For ourselves, we don't know; we'd like to hear the pros and cons. Surely, though, everyone knows how this episode is going to look Over There.

For many months, we liberals have been mightily pleasured on MSNBC by the prospect of coming indictments. We've been fed this tribal comfort food night after night after night after night, just before going to bed.

Our own hustlers and con men have sent us to bed pleasured by the prospect of such coming indictments. The propaganda war will now move on, with Fox News claiming vindication for Trump, and our own cable stars assuring us that future indictments, from other prosecutors, are right around the corner.

WE liberals have been dumbed way down, for months and years, by our own cable stars. It's propaganda, all the way down. Our cable stars are paid millions of dollars to dumb us down this way, though we aren't allowed to know how many millions of dollars.

(Our big stars love transparency. They just don't love it that much.)

What does the Mueller report really say? We have no way of knowing. But the propaganda war has already moved on, and over here, in our liberal tents, we liberals are still getting clowned.

On the brighter side: Last night, we liberals also got to learn, at several points, about Rachel's "fishing trip interruptus."

As usual, Rachel was selling the car. "I I I I I I I," our angry young analysts said.

Who gets to cruise on the trustees' yachts?

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2019

We're just an extremely dumb nation:
A ridiculous fellow named Peter Singer organized a very limited college admissions scam. Recently, he got arrested, along with a few dozen parents.

This scam featured gruesome behavior, but it was very limited. That said, the scam involved Hollywood, wealth and admission to Yale, the only three things which actually matter to much of our national press.

For that reason, this very limited scam has received a blizzard of coverage. Much of the coverage has been stupendously dumb. At this particular point in time, we're just a very dumb nation, and the dumbness keeps getting worse.

The New York Times did some very dumb work concerning race, a very serious topic. We've seen several chunks of dumbness at Slate. This blanket coverage by New York magazine is enough to make brain cells die.

(If you want your brain cells to die, click here, but also click this. This is utterly silly teen magazine stuff. Presumably, it was assigned by some New York magazine editor.)

The dumbness has been general. For our money, though, the dumbest moment occurred early on, on March 13, on Don Lemon's CNN program. It involved the fact that Olivia Jade was cruising in the Bahamas on the yacht of a Southern Cal trustee when the scandal broke—Olivia Jade, the teen-aged daughter of a Hollywood actress and an international designer. (She's friends with the trustee's daughter.)

We'd planned to review that dumbest moment. We don't have the heart to do so.

That said, you can check the transcript yourself. As far as our floundering nation's concerned, there's no clear way out of this mess.

We weren't all that sharp from the start. Along came corporate cable.

MATHEMATICIANS GONE WILD: Livio's magical mystery tour!

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2019

Things that go bump in the night:
Was man [sic] ever "the rational animal" is any essential way?

This morning, right in his opening paragraph, Paul Krugman helps answer that question. Don't let your children read this:
KRUGMAN (3/22/19): We’re now in the silly season of the Democratic primary—a season that, I worry, may last all the way to the nomination. There are many honorable exceptions, but an awful lot of reporting seems to be third order—not about the candidates, let alone their policy proposals, but about pundits’ views about voters’ views of candidates’ electability. It’s a discussion in which essentially nobody has any idea what he or she is talking about.
So it goes as the rational animals pretend to cover another White House campaign. And while we're at it, make no mistake:

Many of these "rational animals" went to "the finest schools." It doesn't much seem to have helped!

In truth, Krugman is being too kind. It's hard for us to understand how anyone can still be watching "cable news," a profit-seeking corporate enterprise which now centers, with numbing repetition, on The Chase And Nothing Else.

No one is more obsessive in this regard than Rachel Maddow. Maddow is Our Own Rhodes Scholar and a Stanford/Oxford grad. That said, she continues to center on one entertainment product—Manafort Pictured In Chains.

Public schools don't exist on this program; neither does America's struggle with health care. In fairness, though, the Green New Deal has finally been mentioned.

The plan was designed to save the world; it was released on February 7. Maddow finally mentioned it at the start of Tuesday evening's program, during the throw from Chris Hayes. This is what was said:
HAYES (3/19/19): The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

MADDOW: Chris, I am super-excited about your Green New Deal town hall thing. That's awesome.

HAYES: I am too. You know what? Here's a great detail. It's in the Bronx. It's in the hospital I was born in, which is in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's district.

MADDOW: That is going to be amazing. That is the last Friday in March, that's Friday, the 29th. Awesome.

HAYES: Yes, Friday next.

MADDOW: I have to find out about these things watching TV!

HAYES: That's how you get it.

MADDOW: Jeez, you know, I work down the hall. You could—

HAYES: Well, you're welcome to come if you want, although you've got to a show to do. All right.

MADDOW: Yes. Thanks. Well done! And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

We've got a lot to get to tonight. You can always tell that when my desk is piled up like this before we even gotten started talking about anything.
Maddow told us that her desk was piled up. "I I I I I I I," the analysts quickly said.

At any rate, Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, had finally mentioned the Green New Deal! As it turns out, she "has to find out about these things from watching TV!"

In fairness, Maddow probably meant that she'd just found out that Hayes would be holding a town hall program. That said, if Maddow's viewers want to find out about the environment (or about any significant part of their world), they'll have to go somewhere else, to some other TV show, perhaps to a show which originates in some Platonic realm.

What you see in that exchange with Hayes is Maddow's most extended discussion of the Green New Deal since the program was unveiled on February 7. That said, what did she quickly "get to" after speaking with Hayes? In accord with the laws of Pandering Tribal Entertainment, she quickly "got to" this:
MADDOW (continuing directly): But we're going to start tonight with something that arrived in today's news as a surprise.

About a week and a half ago, the Washington Post filed a motion with the federal court in Washington, D.C. that was handling the criminal case of the president's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort...
As always, she turned to Manafort In Chains. Why that would come as some sort of "surprise" is anybody's guess!

Despite this amazingly useless diet, the Maddow Show remains the cable program most heavily watched by us pseudo-liberals. For ourselves, we persistently marvel at the idea that anyone could still be watching this ridiculous program by choice.

In that opening paragraph, Krugman describes the fatuous way our White House campaigns typically get covered. In the case of Maddow, children being born today are going to drown in future years because corporate multimillionaire "rational animals" conduct themselves as she does.

So it goes as our theoretically brightest "rational animals" agree to destroy the earth. Elsewhere, our highest ranking intellectuals—our astrophysicists, mathematical physicists, philosophers and mathematicians—continue to stage their endless pseudo-debate about where "you can find" the number 3, about where such "mathematical objects" "reside."

Where do the numbers 3, 4 and 5 reside? According to Professor Livio, Professor Penrose believes that they resides in "the Platonic world of mathematical forms, which to Penrose has an actual reality"—an "actual reality comparable to that of the physical world."

Newton's laws "reside" there too—or so says Livio, though only while reporting what Penrose, "a renowned Oxford mathematical physicist," allegedly thinks.

In fairness, this is Livio's account of what Penrose thinks; at no point does Livio quote Penrose speaking in his own words. That said, Livio presents this peculiar set of ideas in a fully respectful way, as if the ideas he ascribes to Penrose might seem to make some sort of sense.

It isn't until page 37 that Livio tips his hand. We're going to guess that Professor Livio isn't a "devout Platonist," the term he ascribes to Penrose.

Indeed, we'll guess that Livio, like Professor Goldstein before him, isn't a Platonist at all! We say that because, on that page, he writes this:
LIVIO (page 37): Platonism has become one of the leading dogmas when it comes to the foundations of mathematics.

But does the Platonic world of mathematics really exist? And if it does, where exactly is it? And what are these "objectively true" statements that inhabit this world? Or are the mathematicians who adhere to Platonism simply simply expressing the same type of romantic belief that has been attributed to the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo? According to legend, Michelangelo believed that his magnificent sculptures already existed inside the blocks of marble and that his role was merely to uncover them.
"Where exactly is this world?" Livio skeptically asks. But uh-oh! On its face, his question doesn't exactly seem to make sense, since he has earlier said that the Platonic world of mathematical forms "exists outside space and time."

Whatever! We have to say we're inclined to count Livio among the group to whom we've affixed the moniker, "mathematicians [and others] gone wild." We say that because we've read the first two pages of his book, in which he travels to a dream state which almost certainly has Michelangelo shaking his head.

Like others in his high academic class, Livio has invented a "fairyland" (page 9) by the end of his own fourth paragraph. We'll examine what he says in two steps.

As you can see at this NPR link, Livio starts his book with an explanation of its eye-catching title:
LIVIO (page 1): A few years ago, I was giving a talk at Cornell University. One of my PowerPoint slides read: "Is God a mathematician?" As soon as that slide appeared, I heard a student in the front row gasp: "Oh God, I hope not!"

My rhetorical question was neither a philosophical attempt to define God for my audience nor a shrewd scheme to intimidate the math phobics. Rather, I was simply presenting a mystery with which some of the most original minds have struggled for centuries—the apparent omnipresence and omnipotent powers of mathematics. These are the type of characteristics one normally associates only with a deity. As the British physicist James Jeans (1877-1946) once put it: "The universe appears to have been designed by a pure mathematician." Mathematics appears to be almost too effective in describing and explaining not only the cosmos at large, but even some of the most chaotic of human enterprises.
Please note: before the professor has completed his first page, he is attributing "omnipotent powers" to mathematics—"the type of characteristics one normally associates only with a deity."

Already, Livio is flirting with a highly peculiar "romantic belief" all his own! In part, he gets there by way of a logical error—through his conflation of the terms "describing and explaining" in this particular context.

Can mathematics "describe" the cosmos at large? In many ways, yes, it can.

A few pages later, Livio describes the way Newton was able to formulate "unbelievably accurate mathematical laws of nature" based on a set of observations—observations of the moon and of a falling apple. Those "laws of nature" can be said to describe the way physical bodies act across the cosmos at large.

Newton's laws can be said to describe major parts of the way the cosmos works. But do they "explain" the way physical bodies act? Not exactly, no—and when an astrophysicist blows past this fact, he may soon be indulging himself in things that make us go hmmm:
LIVIO (continuing directly): Whether physicists are attempting to formulate theories of the universe, stock market analysts are scratching their heads to predict the next market crash, neurobiologists are constructing models of brain function, or military intelligence statisticians are trying to optimize resource allocation, they are all using mathematics. Furthermore, even though they may be applying formalisms developed in different branches of mathematics, they are still referring to the same global, coherent mathematics. What is it that gives mathematics such incredible powers? Or, as Einstein once wondered: "How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience [the emphasis is mine], fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?"

This sense of utter bewilderment is not new. Some of the philosophers in ancient Greece, Pythagoras and Plato in particular, were already in awe of the apparent ability of mathematics to shape and guide the universe, while existing, as it seemed, above the powers of humans to alter, direct, or influence it.
By paragraph 4, Livio seems to be saying that mathematics is somehow "shaping and guiding" the universe. Mathematics is no longer being used to provide a description of the way physical bodies move. It's now somehow said to be guiding the moon, and falling apples, in the way they move.

It now seems to exhibit "the type of characteristics one normally associates only with a deity."

In just four paragraphs, while still on page 2, mathematics has been turned into something resembling a god. It's no longer describing the universe. It how has the power to guide it!

This is foolish, incompetent work. It's also the product of our highest-order rational animals—and a great deal follows from that.

This is what happens when mathematicians and physicists leave their areas of expertise and head down to the corner bar for a couple of cool ones. Given the way we humans are, silly "things which make us go hmmm" are the inevitable product.

We debate where the number 3 resides; along the way, we decide that mathematics is "guiding the universe!" This is the apparently endless product of mathematicians, and humans, gone wild.

You'll note that Livio tells us, right in paragraph 1, that he'll be discussing the work of "some of the most original minds" of the past few centuries. We humans have always flattered ourselves in such ways. This helps explain how we came to think of ourselves as "rational animals" to begin with.

In the middle part of the last century, a logician tried to put a stop to this manifest foolishness. According to Professor Horwich, "professional philosophers" in the academy have chosen to throw him away.

Livio's book is a record of primitive thought—primitive thought as conducted by our highest-ranking intellectuals. The fact that nonsense like this can seem deep and wise helps explain the past thirty-five years, in which professional journalists have run wild in the way Krugman describes, with almost none of our vaunted intellectuals stepping forward to offer critiques, objections or correctives.

Our journalists clown as Krugman describes. Our foremost thinkers continue to wonder where the number 3 "can be found."

The clowning and the manifest nonsense have become increasingly general. Are we supposed to be surprised to see climate change threatening the world, to see Donald J. Trump where he is?

Coming: Horwich on Wittgenstein

BREAKING: News from the Platonic realm!

THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2019

Natural numbers gone wild:
In response to this morning's report, comedian [NAME WITHHELD] has emailed us with an anecdotal further report.

"I'd not sure if 3 lives next to 4," he admits, but he's "heard that 7 ate 9."

We've received partial confirmation of this unusual breaking report. According to Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, it happened one block over, not too far from the gated community where the trapezoids live.

A chance to review such actual facts!

THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2019

What college enrollments look like:
Very few seats at a handful of schools were involved in the current "college admissions scandal."

Despite this fact, the scandal has been getting maximum play. That's pretty much the basic way we rational animals roll.

The coverage has involved a fair amount of obvious inanity. Tomorrow, we'll cover the silliest moment of them all, taken from—where else?—CNN's Don Lemon program.

For today, let's use this as an opportunity to review such actual data. On Sunday, in a high-profile essay, the New York Times was making it sound like it's still 1955, with elite colleges doing everything they possibly can to keep out students of color.

Is that really the way our "elite" campuses currently roll? We were struck by these in-house data from Harvard concerning its current freshman class:
Ethnicity, Harvard College, admitted class of 2022
African American: 15.2%
Asian American: 22.9%
Hispanic or Latino: 12.3%
Native American: 1.9%
Native Hawaiian 0.4%
Somewhat oddly, "white" is neither a race nor an ethnicity within these Harvard statistics. The data seem to cover the number of admissions offered to various students as opposed to the number of enrollments, although thanks to Harvard's murky work, we can't really be sure.

That said, if those in-house data are accurate, Harvard offered admission to black kids in a number which matches the percentage of black kids within American public schools. If Harvard is trying to ban students of color, it's doing a terrible job.

Those are in-house data from just one class at just one famous college. For today, let's look at NCES data from some of the schools involved in the current (quite limited) scandal, with a few other schools thrown in.

For starters, what does Stanford's enrollment look like? The NCES says this:
Undergraduate enrollment, Stanford
White students: 36%
Black students: 7%
Hispanic/Latino students: 16%
Asian-American students: 22%
Two or more races: 10%
Race/ethnicity unknown: 0%

Foreign students: 9%
Remember—foreign students are treated as a separate category in these NCES statistics. Among American students enrolled at Stanford, the NCES says that white students made up 36% of overall undergraduate enrollment. Students of color stood at 45%, with an additional 10% biracial students.

Stanford is not all white. What do other upper-end schools look like? To simplify matters, we'll show you the data in a three-part format. For any school's data, start here:
Undergraduate enrollment at various schools
White students/Students of color/Biracial students

Harvard: 43% / 35% / 6%
Yale: 45% / 38% / 6%
Princeton: 42% / 39% / 4%
Columbia: 37% / 38% / 6%

Cornell: 38% / 39% / 5%
Duke: 44% / 40% / 2%
Georgetown: 53% / 25% / 4%
Stanford: 36% / 45% / 10%

USC: 39% / 39% / 6%
UCLA: 27% / 53% / 5%
Texas/Austin: 42% / 48% / 4%
Georgetown is an outlier here. That said, it's the only one of these schools in which white American students constitute even half of the overall undergraduate enrollment.

Try comparing that to the impression the New York Times pimped to the world in this essay in last weekend's Sunday Review. In that essay, readers were told that these schools do everything they can to deny admission to students of color. We've included Cornell on our list because the Times' grossly misleading essay mainly concerned that school.

Meanwhile, take a look at UCLA's breakdown. Last Saturday, Times readers were given the impression, in this news report, that it's extremely hard for students of color to get admitted there. This is the way the New York Times rolls, though mainly the paper's just stupid.

The Times is a pernicious force in the intellectual life of the nation. They've been such a force for a very long time. There's no sign that they plan to change.

One final point:

Black enrollments at the private schools on this list tend to stand at roughly 7 percent. According to the NCES, undergraduate black enrollment at Harvard was 7 percent when these data were compiled, as opposed to the higher number to whom the school says it offered enrollment in this year's freshman class.

(Note: The NCES data aren't directly comparable to the in-house data from Harvard.)

Why are black enrollments so low? We'll be discussing that question all next week, in line with this latest report from the Times about New York City high schools.

The Times strikes us as a pernicious pseudo-liberal upper-class force. This helps explain why black kids are under-represented at upper-end schools. It helps explain how Donald J. Trump got where he currently is.

One further note: As we've told you, you won't be seeing data like these in the New York Times. Information is boring! And hard!

Instead, you'll be seeing human interest stories concerning what Olivia Jade deeply prefers for breakfast. This is very much the way our dumbest big newspaper rolls.

MATHEMATICIANS GONE WILD: Fields Medal winners get tons of respect!

THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2019

Mathematicians gone crazy:
Friend, do you believe that the numbers 3, 4 and 5 can be said to "reside" somewhere?

Does the number 3 "reside" next door to the number 4? Do Newton's laws of motion inhabit a larger residence in this same immutable "world?"

We ask these questions after perusing Mario Livio's well-received book, Is God A Mathematician?

Livio is an astrophysicist—a ranking astrophysicist at that. As is required by Hard Pundit Law, his book was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the best science books of 2009.

You can read Livio's entire first chapter thanks to the people at NPR. The Washington Post decided to publish the bulk of the first chapter too.

Rather famously, Rodney Dangerfield got no respect at all. But astrophysicists get tons of respect within our routinely comical press corps, even when they, in turn, are displaying tons of respect for mathematicians gone wild.

If you're a ranking astrophysicist, or even a ranking philosophy professor, you can say any darn thing you please and journalists will rush to affirm you. And so it was when, right on page 2, Livio respectfully described the views of Roger Penrose, a "renowned Oxford mathematical physicist" seemingly gone wild:
LIVIO (pages 2-3): Penrose identifies three different "worlds": the world of our conscious perceptions, the physical world, and the Platonic world of mathematical forms. The first world is the home of all of our mental images—how we perceive the faces of our children, how we enjoy a breathtaking sunset, or how we react to the horrifying images of war. This is also the world that contains love, jealousy, and prejudices, as well as our perception of music, of the smells of food, and of fear. The second world is the one we normally refer to as physical reality. Real flowers, aspirin tablets, white clouds, and jet airplanes reside in this world, as do galaxies, planets, atoms, baboon hearts, and human brains. The Platonic world of mathematical forms, which to Penrose has an actual reality comparable to that of the physical and the mental worlds, is the motherland of mathematics. This is where you will find the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,..., all the shapes and theorems of Euclidean geometry, Newton's laws of motion, string theory, catastrophe theory, and mathematical models of stock market behavior. And now, Penrose observes, come the three mysteries. First, the world of physical reality seems to obey laws that actually reside in the world of mathematical forms...
Let's be clear—we're looking here at Livio's account of Penrose's views, not at the work of the renowned Oxford mathematical physicist himself.

But as Livio describes those views, he seems to be describing the thoughts of a person who's stark raving mad. Respect for authority apparently keeps him from making this rather obvious statement—respect for authority, or perhaps the lack of intellectual ability which has long characterized the comical efforts of us "rational animals," especially those who work on the highest academic platforms.

Let's summarize what Livio says there:

According to Livio, Penrose believes that the numbers 3, 4 and 5 "reside" in "the Platonic world of mathematical forms." Penrose allegedly further believes that this Platonic world "has a reality comparable to that of the physical world"—indeed, that it has an actual reality of that type, whatever that one extra word might be thought to add.

Newton's laws of motion can also be "found" in that Platonic world, possibly in a larger residence than the one where the number 3 lives. You see, those laws "reside" in that world too. They "actually" reside there, in fact!

Except in the disordered world described by Andersen in The Emperor's New Clothes, the views attributed to Penrose would seem to be those of a madman. But because our frequently comical human world is frequently extremely irrational, such apparently peculiar views are routinely treated with full respect.

As Livio proceeds through Chapter 1, he quotes one mathematician after another making "philosophical" statements which seem to be fatuous, crazy, incoherent or bizarre pretty much on their face.

On page 9, for example, we encounter one of those "things that make us go hmmm," if we might quote Professor Hall. We encounter it in the form of a quote from French mathematician Alain Connes:
CONNES: Take prime numbers, for example, which as far as I'm concerned, constitute a more stable reality than the material reality that surrounds us. The working mathematician can be likened to an explorer who sets out to discover the world. One discovers basic facts from experience. In doing simple calculations, for example, one realizes that the series of prime numbers seems to go on without end. The mathematician's job, then, is to demonstrate that there exists an infinity of prime numbers. This is, of course, an old result due to Euclid. One of the most interesting consequences of this proof is that if someone claims one day to have found the greatest prime number, it will be easy to show that he's wrong. The same is true for any proof. We run up therefore against a reality every bit as incontestable as physical reality.
Do prime numbers "constitute a more stable reality than the material reality that surrounds us?" It's hard to know why anyone would raise such a peculiar point, and Livio makes no attempt to speak to this obvious question.

In fairness, "the material reality which surrounds us" is subject to earthquakes, tidal waves, nuclear war and the gruesome effects of bomb cyclones. As best we can tell, prime numbers are subject to no such forces, nor do we have the slightest idea what it could mean to say such a thing.

In that sense, you might decide to say that prime numbers "constitute a reality" (whatever that formulation might mean) which is "more stable" than the physical reality of farmland in Nebraska. You might decide to make that statement if you're very, very strange, though it's unlikely you'd be able to explain why your statement made any recognizable sense if you were subjected to something like competent intellectual challenge.

Mathematicians like Connes don't get that kind of challenge in Livio's book. Again and again, their puzzling, often fatuous statements are presented as if they make full and complete perfect sense.

Why is apparent nonsense of this type afforded so much respect? We'll only say that, on page 9, Livio describes Connes as "winner of two of the most prestigious prizes in mathematics, the Fields Medal (1982) and the Crafoord Prize (2001)."

Apparently for that reason, Connes' fatuous statements in other areas will be treated with full respect, even when he's ventured far outside his field of expertise.

The comical aspects of this culture seem to know no bounds. Professor Goldstein took the same approach to the "Platonism" of leading intellectual lights in her own remarkable book, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel.

As we've noted in earlier reports, Goldstein's ridiculous treatment of ludicrous claims won her accolades from a long string of name-brand intellectuals. That's the way the game is played within this high-ranking class.

Along the way, Goldstein dropped hints that the views she was describing were in fact the crazy views of irrational people gone wild. But she never came out and made this blindingly obvious statement. Livio follows suit.

We'll have a lot of nonsense to get to in tomorrow's final report. We'll want to look at the peculiar way Livio starts his book, right there on page 1. We'll also want to touch on his respectful treatment of a hoary semantic morass, the utterly pointless pseudo-debate about whether mathematics is "discovered" or "invented."

Before we hit those topics, let's agree that we'll begin tomorrow on page 37, where Livio finally rolls his eyes at all this "Platonist" foolishness. That said, he does so very respectfully. These are the emperors' theories, the theories of Fields Medal winners gone wild.

As you know, we're just killing time at this site as we await the start of Mister Trump's Fully Dispositive War. Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) have told us, in a set of convincing nocturnal submissions, that the conflagration is coming.

Convincingly, they've told us that the road to this war involved the ineptitude of our mainstream press corps over the past thirty years or so, mixed with the failure of leading academics to step in with helpful correctives.

Was man [sic] ever "the rational animal," as sacred Aristotle is widely said to have said? These future anthropologists tend to respond to that question with short bursts of mordant laughter.

At such times, they point to the highly irrational claims of physicists, philosophers and mathematicians gone wild. "Look upon the works of these mighties," they mordantly say, "and join us in joyful despair!"

Tomorrow: "But does the Platonic world of mathematics really exist? And if so, where is it?"

Berkeley and Harvard and Stanford oh my!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2019

Top schools admit no one but white kids:
When the current "college admission scandal" broke, the New York Times swung into action, doing the one thing it knows.

The New York Times began working from script. In this circumstance, this meant that the New York Times began telling black kids that they were getting royally hosed and should feel deeply aggrieved.

In fact, very few students were affected, in any way, by the recent scandal. But this is the one thing the Times does well. Last Saturday, we showed you one of the more unfortunate passages produced in the Times' blizzard of misleading coverage.

"So disheartening," the headline says. This is the passage in question:
LEVIN, DE LEON AND ASSAN (3/16/19): At the University of California, Los Angeles—among the campuses ensnared in the shocking scheme—students like Ayesha Haleem said she and her classmates were both heartbroken and fuming.

“The higher education system has always benefited people who come from privileged backgrounds,” said Ms. Haleem, a Pakistani 23-year-old senior. “Students of color have it so much harder to even get to these places.”
At UCLA, the New York Times said, a heartbroken student was fuming. “Students of color have it so much harder to even get to these places," she was quoted saying.

By Sunday, the Times had refined its message. An essay in the Sunday Review seemed to say that admission procedures at these upper-end schools were designed to admit as few "students of color" as possible.

That essay principally dealt with Cornell. Yesterday, we showed you the current enrollment figures there—figures which are impossible to square with the Times' ugly, dim-witted propaganda.

Today, let's return to UCLA, the school which is so hard for students of color to get in to. Have they managed to keep the school all white? According to the NCES enrollment data, the answer would seem to be no:
Undergraduate enrollment, UCLA
White students: 27%
Black students: 3%
Hispanic/Latino students: 22%
Asian-American students: 28%
Two or more races: 5%
Race/ethnicity unknown: 2%

Foreign students: 12%
As we noted yesterday, the NCES data treat foreign students as a separate category, with no race or ethnicity recorded. At UCLA, that accounts for 12% percent of the undergraduate student body.

Among UCLA's undergraduate American kids, 27 percent were white; 53% were students of color, with an additional 5% listed as biracial. Compare that with the fuming quotation the Times had chosen to run.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for a lazy, upper-class newspaper which functions the way the Times does—for a newspaper which aims to mislead its readers about elementary facts, then builds on that by filling good, decent American kids with waves of resentment and grievance.

In fairness, UCLA is a bit of a special case; California is different. These are the enrollment figures for Cal Berkeley, one of the nation's most elite state universities:
Undergraduate enrollment, Cal Berkeley
White students: 26%
Black students: 2%
Hispanic/Latino students: 15%
Asian-American students: 35%
Two or more races: 6%
Race/ethnicity unknown: 4%

Foreign students: 12%
It's true, of course, that black enrollment is quite low at both these upper-end schools. We'll be discussing that general topic all next week, when we focus on the latest front-page report by the Times about New York City's high-powered "specialized high schools."

That said, Berkeley currently enrolls 26% white students and 52% "students of color," with an additional 6% biracial kids. If current admission procedures are intended to keep enrollment by students of color as low as possible, the powers that be at Westwood and Berkeley are doing a rather poor job.

You don't, and you won't, see data like these in the New York Times. Tomorrow, we'll look at Harvard and Yale and Stanford and such—at elite private schools, where you'll see a higher black enrollment.

Deeply serious national issues are involved in the data we've shown you. The New York Times, working from script, continues to propagandize and misinform. It's behaving like the pseudo-liberal, upper-class clown car it has long been.

Are the most elite private schools trying to admit the fewest possible students of color? Tomorrow, we'll show you the data for a range of such schools, and we'll quote that pitiful New York Times essay again.

The Times has played it this way for decades. Rather clearly, this helps explain why Donald J. Trump is in power.

MATHEMATICIANS GONE WILD: "When language goes on holiday!"

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2019

Hardy and Godel gone wild:
Just for today, let's be fair.

Professor Livio didn't invent the cultural phenomenon which is, in fairness, on full display at the very start of his well-received 2009 book, Is God A Mathematician?

As we noted yesterday, the cultural practice is on full display by page 3 of Livio's book. At that point, in just the fifth paragraph of his book, we're confronted by the spectacle of a ranking astrophysicist citing a renowned Oxford mathematical physicist, with the latter said to have made incoherent remarks about the constitution of this big crazy cosmos of ours.

For the fuller text, see yesterday's report. Meanwhile, this is a taste of the oddness:
LIVIO (page 3): The Platonic world of mathematical forms, which to [the mathematical physicist] has an actual reality comparable to that of the physical and the mental worlds, is the motherland of mathematics. This is where you will find the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,..., all the shapes and theorems of Euclidean geometry, Newton's laws of motion, string theory, catastrophe theory, and mathematical models of stock market behavior. And now, [the mathematical physicist] observes, come the three mysteries. First, the world of physical reality seems to obey laws that actually reside in the world of mathematical forms...
According to the astrophysicist's account of the views of the mathematical physicist, the Platonic world of mathematical forms doesn't just "have a reality," whatever that means. It has an actual reality!

Through a process which doesn't get explained, that "motherland of mathematics" is said to be "where you will find the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,...," along with Newton's laws of motion. Later in the passage, we're told that's where they "reside."

In what way will you "find" the natural numbers there? Readers, please don't ask! But that's the world where the natural numbers "reside." Rather, that's where the number 3 "actually resides," or so we're crazily told.

A peculiar culture is on quick display in Livio's well-received book. In fairness, though, he didn't invent it. This puzzling culture of apparent incoherence has been around for an extremely long time.

Within this puzzling culture, peculiar metaphysical statements are hatched by physicists, astrophysicists and mathematicians gone wild. One such earlier adept was the brilliant British mathematician G. H. Hardy (1877-1947), whose famous treatise, A Mathematician's Apology, was reverentially quoted by Professor Goldstein in her well-received 2005 book, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel:
HARDY (1940): I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us, that our function is to discover or observe it, and that the theorems which we prove, and which we describe grandiloquently as our "creations," are simply our notes of our observations. This view has been held, in one form or another, by many philosophers of high reputation from Plato onwards, and I shall use the language which is natural to a man who holds it...

[T]his realistic view is much more plausible of mathematical than of physical reality, because mathematical objects are so much more than what they seem. A chair or a star is not in the least like what it seems to be; the more we think of it, the fuzzier its outlines become in the haze of sensation which surrounds it; but "2" or "317" has nothing to do with sensation, and its properties stand out the more clearly the more closely we scrutinize it. It may be that modern physics fits best into some framework of idealistic philosophy—I do not believe it, but there are eminent physicists who say so. Pure mathematics, on the other hand, seems to me a rock on which all idealism founders: 317 is a prime, not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way rather than another, but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way.
Warning! In this passage, the terms "realism" and "idealism" are technical terms taken from a long, less-than-coherent "philosophical" tradition. Having allowed for that, let's consider what Hardy does in this passage.

In this hoary, much-quoted passage, Hardy invents a construct called "mathematical reality." He then starts debating where it "lies" (i.e., where it "resides") and the way it is "built."

For reasons which go unexplained, he refers to numbers like 2 and 317 as "mathematical objects." In this way, he continues venturing down as unfortunate road, in which, to quote the later Wittgenstein, "language goes on holiday," generally with bad results.

The numbers 2 and 317 have now been classified, somewhat oddly, as "mathematical objects." Having introduced that strange formulation, Hardy tells us that such objects "are much more than what they seem."

More specifically, he tells us that the chair on which you're currently sitting "is not in the least what it seems to be," while the properties of the number 2 "stand out the more clearly the more closely we scrutinize it."

From there, we're invited to wonder about what makes 317 a prime. It isn't a prime "because we think so," this brilliant mathematician somewhat peculiarly says. Instead, he says that 317 is a prime "because mathematical reality," whatever that is, "is built that way," whatever that might mean.

Why is 317 a prime? Within the context of Hardy's rumination, the question starts to seem odd, but we'll offer an extremely simple answer:

Once you know what it means to say that some number is a prime, it's very easy to determine that 317 qualifies. First you try to divide it (evenly) by 2. Then you try to divide it evenly by 3, and then by 5, and then 7.

By the time you've been unable to divide it evenly by 17, your search is over, though people like Hardy—mathematicians who have wandered outside their field of expertise—will try to engage you in a debate about a range of fuzzy concepts they couldn't explain or clarify if they were competently asked to.

Alas! Within our academic world, such challenges are rare. In that famous passage from Hardy's famous essay, we're looking at the ruminations of a brilliant mathematician gone wild.

Hardy's ruminations are barely coherent. But Professor Goldstein presented the passage with full respect, and she tends to treat Godel's crazy ideas about "Platonism" in a similar way.

Livio behaves the same way in his opening chapter. He quotes a string of award-winning mathematicians as they make fatuous remarks about the structure of the cosmos—after they have strayed beyond the bounds of their expertise.

In effect, Livio treats these mathematicians' fuzzy statements as "things that make us go hmmm." In his years on late-night TV, Arsenio Hall performed that trademark bit as a rollicking entertainment. But at the higher ends of the academy, astrophysicists, mathematicians and "philosophers" gone wild still play the game for real.

In the first two paragraphs of his book, Livio starts taking us down the amusing road of "things that make us go hmmm." Tomorrow, we'll review those opening paragraphs to see what can happen when the mind of a ranking astrophysicists is allowed to stray.

For today, we'll only say this. Once we start down that road—the road where language has gone on holiday—we can reach some very strange destinations. By page 9 in his opening chapter, Livio is offering the following passage as he tries to fight his way through a long-standing semantic muddle:
LIVIO (page 9): As I noted briefly at the beginning of this chapter, the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics creates many intriguing puzzles: Does mathematics have an existence that is entirely independent of the human mind? In other words, are we merely discovering mathematical verities, just as astronomers discover previously unknown galaxies? Or, is mathematics nothing but a human invention? If mathematics indeed exists in some abstract fairyland, what is the relation between this mystical world and physical reality? How does the human brain, with its known limitations, gain access to such an immutable world, outside of space and time?...
We're now being asked to consider the possibility that mathematics "exists in some abstract fairyland"—in some sort of "mystical world," which lies "outside of space and time." This is where we can get by page 9 when, on pages 1-3, language has been allowed to go on a bit of a journey.

The later Wittgenstein warned about this ubiquitous practice. According to Professor Horwich, his work has been thrown under the bus because our "professional philosophers" still want to gambol and play.

According to Horwich, they want the right to retain their long-standing "linguistic illusions and muddled thinking. This helps explain why so little aid has come from the academy as our journalistic discourse has descended into inanity and grinding technical incompetence—and by the way:

This is the type of work which is done by our highest-order thinkers! By our astrophysicists, our mathematicians, our winners of all those medals!

Man [sic] is the rational animal? As we await the start of Mister Trump's War, is it possibly time to thrown that pleasing old story away?

Tomorrow: Things that make us go hmmm

From the original text: "Philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday."

So said the later Wittgenstein, in Philosophical Investigations.

To review the original text, click here, then move to page 19—though, as Wittgenstein essentially acknowledged, the writing is quite obscure.

Undergraduate enrollment at Cornell!

TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019

As compared to the Times' propaganda:
Should the New York Times adopt a new motto? Should its old motto give way to this:

All the news which fits the script?


So it might seem if we consider the way the Times has treated the recent "college admissions scandal."

As we've noted, this scandal is very limited in scope. The behavior involved has been egregious, but very few people seem to have been involved.

Yesterday, Kevin Drum complained about "the unbelievable amount of attention paid to a tiny little college admissions scandal." He then tried to quantify the extent of the scam. This is what he came up with:
DRUM (3/18/19): We still don’t know how many people were involved, but it appears to be something like 0.01 percent of the entering freshman class of America’s most elite universities. This is a rounding error, and it’s for a scandal that only affects about 5 or 6 percent of American families in the first place. What’s more, it’s just standard issue cheating, not even a symptom of some new or systemic problem. It deserved a few column inches on A7, not flood-the-zone coverage everywhere we looked.
As best anyone knows at this time, this heinous behavior has involved a very small number of college admissions. The blanket coverage at the Times is a sign of gruesome journalistic judgment in service to upper-class values, in which admission to Stanford or Yale is the only event which actually counts.
.
The Times has grossly over-covered this severely limited matter. It has also taken the opportunity to grossly mislead its readers in service to a preferred narrative. Once again, let's consider what Jennine Capó Crucet has said.

Crucet wrote an essay for the Times about admission procedures at Cornell. Her piece appeared in this weekend's Sunday Review section. At one point, she said this:
CRUCET (3/17/19): [W]hile working at a nonprofit as a college access counselor to low-income first-generation college students like me, I made sure to tell them about legacy and development admissions...I wanted my students to know what they were up against, and I also wanted them to realize how much more they belonged on whatever campus was lucky enough to snag them than the students who’d essentially bought their way in.

[...]

I reminded my students that a college degree is one of the fastest ways to break the cycle of poverty in a family. And that’s exactly why the college admissions process—with its overreliance on scores from tests that are widely regarded as biased against low-income students, students of color and students from single-parent households—is designed to let as few of us in as it can: Why invest in us when there could be a bigger payoff, in future donations, for that same spot?
According to Crucet, the college admission process "is designed to let as few [students of color] in as it can." Given the overall thrust of her essay, she was presumably talking about admissions to "elite," upper-end colleges.

Since Crucet's essay involved the miseries involved in attending Cornell, we decided to take a look at Cornell's enrollment data.

Has Cornell been trying to admit as few students of color as possible? That's the impression the Times conveyed when it published Crucet's piece. But according to NCES data, undergraduate enrollment at Cornell currently looks like this:
Undergraduate enrollment, Cornell
White students: 38%
Black students: 7%
Hispanic/Latino students: 13%
Asian-American students: 19%
Two or more races: 5%
Race/ethnicity unknown: 8%
Foreign students: 11%
Those are the official NCES data. We'll summarize them like this:

According to the NCES, 38% of undergraduates at Cornell are white American kids. Some 39% are American "students of color," with an additional 5% listed as biracial American kids.

You'll note that foreign students are treated as a separate category in the NCES statistics. No attempt is made to report their race or ethnicity. An additional 8% of undergraduates seem to be American students for whom race/ethnicity is unknown.

That said, does it look to you like Crucet's alma mater is doing everything it can to eliminate "students of color?" We think the Times committed one of its many grievous offenses when it put Crucet's essay in print, in a very high-profile section no less.

That said, Crucet's endless bellyaching did advance a favored narrative, in which it's still 1955 and no one but whites need apply. Crucet's irate assertions very much fit this treasured script. Again and again, this is the way the New York Times seems to report educational issues, whether in the public schools or in the nation's colleges.

Tomorrow, we'll show you comparable data for the colleges involved in the current limited matter. We'll also show you basic data for all eight Ivy League schools.

The basic facts are hard to square with the propaganda the Times has been selling. At this point, does this ridiculous upper-class newspaper ever do anything right? Does the Times consult basic data at all? Or is it script all the way down?

Tomorrow: Stanford and Harvard and Yale oh my! If you read the Times, you might be surprised, perhaps even pleased, by the actual data.

MATHEMATICIANS GONE WILD: Professor Livio's well-received book!

TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019

High-order rational animals:
Nothing we discuss this week will make any sense unless we agree to the following stipulation:

As determined by any conventional norm, Mario Livio is smart.

As a matter of fact, Livio is surely very smart. You see, he isn't just smart, he's an astrophysicist—and, as best we can tell, he seems to be a ranking astrophysicist to boot:
Mario Livio (born 1945) is an Israeli-American astrophysicist and an author of works that popularize science and mathematics. From 1991 till 2015 he was an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope.
He isn't just an astrophysicist. He's an astrophysicist who worked on, or at least around, the Hubble Space Telescopr for roughly 25 years!

In the way we assess such things, Professor Livio is extremely smart. You'll note that he also writes books "that popularize science and mathematics." With that in mind, we offer the fuller capsule bio from the leading authority on Livio's life and career:
Mario Livio (born 1945) is an Israeli-American astrophysicist and an author of works that popularize science and mathematics. From 1991 till 2015 he was an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope. He is perhaps best known for his book on the irrational number phi: The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number (2002). The book won the Peano Prize and the International Pythagoras Prize for popular books on mathematics.
He's best known for his book on an irrational number? We'll use that as a hook!

This week, we'll be looking at early passages from another book Livio wrote for general readers. This well-received book, Is God a Mathematician?, was published in 2009. Its publisher, Simon and Schuster, describes the book like this:
SIMON AND SCHUSTER: Bestselling author and astrophysicist Mario Livio examines the lives and theories of history’s greatest mathematicians to ask how—if mathematics is an abstract construction of the human mind—it can so perfectly explain the physical world.

Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner once wondered about “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” in the formulation of the laws of nature. Is God a Mathematician? investigates why mathematics is as powerful as it is...

Physicist and author Mario Livio brilliantly explores mathematical ideas from Pythagoras to the present day as he shows us how intriguing questions and ingenious answers have led to ever deeper insights into our world.
This fascinating book will interest anyone curious about the human mind, the scientific world, and the relationship between them.
Does mathematics "explain" the physical world. Or does it simply describe its various processes? Right in the first sentence of this blurb, we may have hit our first snag.

Set that to the side for now; the publisher isn't the author. That said, the publisher vouches for the author's brilliance—and, without any possible question, Livio is, by normal standards, a highly intelligent person.

That's why it's interesting to note the fact that his book is routinely a jumbled sub-logical irrational mess right from its opening pages. Tomorrow, we'll look at Livio's first two paragraphs, but suffice to say that, by paragraph 5 as found on page 2, we're asked to grapple with this:
LIVIO (pages 2-3): Millennia of impressive mathematical research and erudite philosophical speculation have done relatively little to shed light on the enigma of the power of mathematics. If anything, the mystery has in some sense even deepened. Renowned Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, for instance, now perceives not just a single, but a triple mystery. Penrose identifies three different "worlds": the world of our conscious perceptions, the physical world, and the Platonic world of mathematical forms. The first world is the home of all of our mental images—how we perceive the faces of our children, how we enjoy a breathtaking sunset, or how we react to the horrifying images of war. This is also the world that contains love, jealousy, and prejudices, as well as our perception of music, of the smells of food, and of fear. The second world is the one we normally refer to as physical reality. Real flowers, aspirin tablets, white clouds, and jet airplanes reside in this world, as do galaxies, planets, atoms, baboon hearts, and human brains. The Platonic world of mathematical forms, which to Penrose has an actual reality comparable to that of the physical and the mental worlds, is the motherland of mathematics. This is where you will find the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,..., all the shapes and theorems of Euclidean geometry, Newton's laws of motion, string theory, catastrophe theory, and mathematical models of stock market behavior. And now, Penrose observes, come the three mysteries. First, the world of physical reality seems to obey laws that actually reside in the world of mathematical forms...
In that passage, an astrophysicist is describing the views of a "renowned mathematical physicist." On their face, those views seem to make no earthly sense, a point we'll further explore before the week is through.

Let's restate the key point:

As described by Livio, the views of this renowned mathematical physicist seem to make no sense at all. Or do you think you have some idea what it might mean to say that "you will find" numbers and circles and mathematical laws in a "Platonic world"—a world which has "an actual reality" (our emphasis), a world where Newton's laws of motion "actually reside?"

Reader, tell the truth! On its face, does any of that seem to make any sense at all? Or do you just feel that it has to make sense, given the academic standing of the authority figures who emit such strings of words?

College freshmen have always suspected that people like these are nuts. In the middle part of the last century, Ludwig Wittgenstein finally said that those traditional, mystified freshmen just weren't all that wrong after all.

If we might borrow from Professor Horwich, Wittgenstein said that our "philosophical" theories and claims tend to be "misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking." And alas! In the highest realms of our persistently bungling world, that muddled thinking remains comically widespread today.

In Is God A Mathematician?, a ranking astrophysicist steps outside his area of expertise and starts to deal in what would typically be called the philosophy of mathematics. When he does this, "linguistic illusion and muddled thinking" quickly start having their way.

Livio is an astrophysicist; we assume he's a very good one. That said, he isn't a "philosopher," and we'd have to say this starts becoming clear in the first pages of his book.

Let's be clear! The later Wittgenstein said that "linguistic illusion and muddled thinking" were the traditional stuff of academic philosophy itself.

Indeed, he said we humans—we famously self-impressed rational animals—are most likely to commit the types of errors he diagnosed "when doing philosophy." We're going to spend some time this year exploring this comical story.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," we self-impressed humans have long said. The later Wittgenstein showed the way our rational abilities quickly break down when we start "doing philosophy."

These comical errors are constantly being made on our highest academic platforms, the later Wittgenstein said. That's what makes this a comical story—a comical story which helps explain the very poor work you persistently encounter in a silly, upper-class newspaper like the New York Times.

At the start of last year, we made a gloomy proclamation: "It's all anthropology now." We gloomily meant that the time was past when it made any sense to expect good work from our leading journalists, or to expect significant corrective work from our leading professors.

That said, the later Wittgenstein produced a type of anthropology. He diagnosed a basic way our species' rational thinking breaks down.

This doesn't just happen on "cable news," or in the hopeless work routinely found in the New York Times. According to the later Wittgenstein, these extremely basic errors dog the sorts of work which emerge from our highest and most-respected intellectual platforms.

In our view, Livio's book is a case study in this anthropological mess.

We assume that Livio is a brilliant astrophysicist. By way of contrast, his popular book for general readers offers a remarkable though familiar portrait of physicists, philosophers and mathematicians gone wild.

Tomorrow: Things that make you go hmmm

The New York Times keeps pouring it on!

MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2019

Cornell despises students of color, famous newspaper says:
In this morning's New York Times, our very limited "college admissions scandal" is back in the saddle again.

As reported and charged so far, the scandal involves the fraudulent acquisition of several dozen admissions at a handful of elite colleges. Despite the small numbers involved in this scam, the famously upper-class Hamptons-based newspaper has rather plainly gone wild in its coverage of the topic.

Yesterday, an experienced Times reporter claimed that this very limited scandal, along with two other limited situations, shows that the college admission system is "broken" (see her third paragraph). Today, the Times has the scandal back on page A1, in a human interest report about the "pied piper" who was running the scam:
BOSMAN, KOVALESKI AND DE REAL (3/18/19): He was part coach, part therapist, part motivational speaker and part name dropper. Like a traveling salesman, he sought out clients near and far, selling dreams of prosperous futures.

In central Illinois, William Singer made a passionate pitch to local business executives who came by invitation to a hotel meeting room.
In Sacramento, he addressed rapt audiences of parents at private schools. He twice spoke to well-heeled employees at Pimco, the giant investment management firm based in Newport Beach, Calif.

His message was confident and concise: He knew the secret to getting into college.
Based on what is known so far, Singer ran a deeply repellent but rather limited scam. But because this scam involves the only three things which actually matter—celebrity, wealth and admission to Yale—the Times is treating it like the outbreak of World War IV.

Yesterday, our analysts had finally had enough! At issue was a remarkable essay in the Sunday Review section—an essay about the miseries Jennine Capó Crucet has had to endure because, as a lower-income Latina, she applied to Cornell, was accepted by Cornell and graduated from Cornell, an Ivy League school.

For reasons we can't necessarily explain, Crucet is a "contributing opinion writer" at the Times. Amazingly, yesterday's essay was the third piece she's written for the Times in the past eighteen months about the miseries she's had to endure because she applied to, was accepted by, and graduated from Cornell.

Crucet was the first in her family to attend college. For some other students at Cornell, it seems this wasn't the case.

Yesterday's belly-aching concerned the trauma Crucet endured when she spoke with a "legacy" student, during lunch, early in her freshman year.

Based on what this student said, Crucet concluded that the other student was unqualified for Cornell on a purely meritocratic basis. That may, of course, have been true.

(For all we know, of course, that could also have been true, in some regard, for Crucet herself. There's no way for a reader—or perhaps for Crucet herself—to make such an assessment.)

At any rate, the trauma of this revelation has haunted Crucet ever since. In her high-profile essay, she describes the advice she later gave to other low-income high school kids who were thinking of applying to upper-end colleges:
CRUCET (3/17/19): A decade or so after that lunch, while working at a nonprofit as a college access counselor to low-income first-generation college students like me, I made sure to tell them about legacy and development admissions. I told them about application coaches—how parents spent millions on services that all but guaranteed admission into the country’s best schools, and that colleges didn’t generally require anyone to disclose that they used those services. I wanted my students to know what they were up against, and I also wanted them to realize how much more they belonged on whatever campus was lucky enough to snag them than the students who’d essentially bought their way in.

[...]

I reminded my students that a college degree is one of the fastest ways to break the cycle of poverty in a family. And that’s exactly why the college admissions process—with its overreliance on scores from tests that are widely regarded as biased against low-income students, students of color and students from single-parent households—is designed to let as few of us in as it can: Why invest in us when there could be a bigger payoff, in future donations, for that same spot?
According to Crucet, the admission process at schools like Cornell is designed to discriminate against low-income students and students of color. According to Crucet, the process "is designed to let as few of us in as it can."

That's what New York Times readers were told by one of the paper's contributing writers. Tomorrow, we'll show you the current enrollment figures at Cornell—figures which are extremely hard to square with Crucet's remarkable claim.

By this point, the analysts were already aroused. But as Crucet finished her highly dubious piece, they came right out of their chairs:
CRUCET (continuing directly): I learned too late that college was never a meritocracy and that it was not a prize: It was an extension of the same uneven playing field that created a campus where very few of its students looked and lived as I did. Part of me is glad I didn’t know, because I worry such knowledge might have discouraged me from working to get admitted in the first place.
Crucet says she's almost glad that she didn't know how the system worked. If she'd known, she might have been so discouraged that she wouldn't have applied to Cornell at all.

That was quite a confession! As we read it, we couldn't help wondering how many of Crucet's students were so discouraged by her poisonous presentations that they gave up on the dream of admission at a school like Cornell.

Our analysts had had the exact same reaction. That's why they were appalled by the idea that the Times would have published this piece, the third in Crucet's moving triptych about the horrors of getting accepted as a place like Cornell.

Tomorrow, we'll show you the current enrollment data for Cornell. Those data are very hard to square with Crucet's remarkable presentation.

We'll show you the data tomorrow. As a general matter, we'll say this right now:

It can be very easy for us liberals to see propaganda and disinformation when they're peddled by players over at Fox. But the New York Times is horrible too, in ways which leave readers misinformed and help Donald Trump hold power.

Tomorrow: Let's take a look at the data

THE "DID DONALD TRUMP ACTUALLY SAY THAT" FILE: Digest of reports!

MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2019

Starting tomorrow, Mathematicians gone wild:
In this morning's New York Times, David Leonhardt builds an intriguing framework around Donald Trump's latest remarks.

"Trump Encourages Violence," his hard-copy headline says. Meanwhile, as Leonhardt starts, he makes an apt observation:
LEONHARDT (3/18/19): The president of the United States suggested last week that his political supporters might resort to violence if they didn’t get their way.

The statement didn’t even get that much attention. I’m guessing you heard a lot more about the college-admissions scandal than about the president’s threat of extralegal violence. So let me tell you a little more about the threat.
Leonhardt goes on to report and discuss Trump's latest remarks. Before he does, he makes an apt observation about the hysteria on display, mainly at his own newspaper, about the current, extremely limited, "college-admissions scandal."

This afternoon, we'll continue to discuss the New York Times' hysterical treatment of that rather limited scandal. In our view, the Times' absurd behavior helps us see why so many people voted for a disordered being like Trump, and may well do so again.

Concerning Trump, we'll also note this: In the first half hour of today's Morning Joe, Joe and Mika focused on the notion that Trump is some form of "mentally ill."

They didn't use that term, of course. Once again, we'd say it's fairly clear that network policy is forcing them to speak about Trump's mental condition in euphemisms.

That said, the thrust of their comments was clear. For their text, they worked from George Conway's recent tweet about the president:

"His condition is getting worse."

Are Joe and Mika required to work in euphemisms? "People don't like us talking about it on the air, so we'll talk about it on the air," Joe said as the veiled discussion began with the first posting of Conway's tweet at 6:07 Eastern.

"Reason will tell you something is very, very wrong...He's not well," Mika said at 6:19 Eastern, as the Conway tweet appeared again.

"People who know him say this privately," Joe replied. At the Morning Joe site, see the segment bearing the headline, "Trump lashes out on Twitter..."

Trump's "condition" may be getting worse, but so is that of the mainstream press and much of the liberal world. The New York Times' treatment of the "college-admissions scandal" stands as a case in point, as we'll be noting all week.

We'd be inclined say the same thing about the recent claims from cable stars which we examined last week. Trump's "condition" may well be getting worse at this time. But back in August 2017, at the time of the Charlottesville mayhem, did he actually say the various things they alleged in recent weeks?

We'd have to say that no, he did not. Meanwhile, such claims by leading corporate pseudo-liberals help explain why so many people believe they're simply watching a "witch hunt" as the Coopers, the Acostas, the Burnetts and the Shieldses take turns topping each other about the various things Trump allegedly said.

This afternoon, we'll continue with our ruminations about the New York Times' remarkable treatment of the "college-admissions scandal." Starting tomorrow, we'll offer a series of reports from a loftier realm.

Those reports will concern the lofty realm where our physicists, philosophers and mathematicians help us see how reflexively sub-rational we "rational animals" actually are.

We'll work from the remarkable logic on display in Mario Livio's 2009 book, Is God a Mathematician? Eventually, this will take us to the jumbled but highly instructive work of the later Wittgenstein, who explained the way our species' ballyhooed rationality persistently breaks down "when doing philosophy."

What the heck has Livio said? That topic starts tomorrow.

Meanwhile, did Donald Trump actually say the various things major pundits alleged? Last week's reports went like this:
Tuesday, March 12: In a storm of critical paraphrase, we'll assess what the journalists said!"

Wednesday, March 13:
Mark Shields reported what Donald Trump said. Huckabee Sanders said different!

Thursday, March 14: One brave leader boldly spoke, bluntly condemning Nazis!

Friday, March 15: Did Donald Trump really say those things? It's all anthropology now!
Tomorrow, Mathematicians gone wild! Also, we'll sift basic facts about college admissions and college enrollments all through the course of the week.

Outsized reaction to Yale scam continues!

SATURDAY, MARCH 16, 2019

Nobody cares about black kids:
Sometimes, the larger scandal lies in the way our upper-end press corps reacts to some limited scandal.

So it goes with the current hot scandal concerning a relative handful of upper-end parents who cheated to get their kids admitted to a handful of upper-end colleges.

This morning, the New York Times has gone wild again, publishing five (5) more full-length reports about this rather limited matter. In this morning's print editions, the Times offers this array of reports:
In today's hard-copy Times:

A front-page report about the scandal, right there on page A1. (It's a troubled and troubling portrait of the respected Yale soccer coach.)

A front-page report in the Business Day section. It's right there on page B1.

Three (3) more full-length reports inside the National section. We'll quote from one below.
By our count, this means that the Times has published twelve (12!) full-length reports about this rather limited matter in the last three days, not counting material in its Sports section. Four of these reports have been on page A1, the hard-copy Times front page.

The usual nonsense has appeared as editors delight at the chance to talk about Hollywood, the super-rich and the cultural greatness of schools like Yale all at the very same time.

Our favorite bit of small-bore nonsense appeared in one of Thursday's front-page reports. As a courtesy to the reporters, we'll exclude their names:
TWO UNNAMED REPORTERS (3/14/19): The government’s indictments of dozens of parents, college administrators and coaches exposed an ugly array of corrupt and illegal admissions practices.

But there is also a perfectly legal world of gaming the college admissions process by doing everything from picking advanced classes, choosing the right sport, giving donations and turning to the multibillion-dollar industry of test prep, college essay editing and advice on how to produce the perfect application.
Did you follow the apparent logic there? Unless we misunderstand what was said, a student is now "gaming the system" if he or she takes Advanced Placement classes when he or she is in high school!

If you take AP classes, you're gaming the system! So it seems to say in paragraph 6 of a New York Times front-page report! So it goes when the "rational animals" at the Times grab hold of a "story" they like.

Our favorite nonsense in today's paper comes from a report about student reaction on the handful of campuses involved in this rather limited scandal. At the New York Times, editors routinely wave copy like this into print without even bating an eye:
LEVIN, DE LEON AND HASSAN (3/16/19): At the University of California, Los Angeles—among the campuses ensnared in the shocking scheme—students like Ayesha Haleem said she and her classmates were both heartbroken and fuming.

“The higher education system has always benefited people who come from privileged backgrounds,” said Ms. Haleem, a Pakistani 23-year-old senior. “Students of color have it so much harder to even get to these places.”

The issue of race-based admissions dominated conversations at the University of Texas at Austin, which was party to a landmark affirmative action case several years ago and has a student body that is now 41 percent white, down from 62.7 percent in 2000.
All right, all right—the scheme was shocking! That said, our question would be this:

If it's so hard for students of color to get admitted to these schools, why is the student enrollment at Austin down to just 41 percent?

The comment quoted by the reporters was made by a heartbroken, fuming student at UCLA.

But according to the NCES data base used by the Times for such matters, undergraduate enrollment at UCLA is now just 27 percent white. Somehow, it seems that a lot of students who aren't white are getting accepted at Westwood! (We regard that as a good thing.)

(Fuller disclosure: At UCLA, white enrollment seems to be roughly 31 percent among non-foreign students. More on these NCES enrollment statistics next week.)

"All the news that's fit to print!" At one time, that was the slogan.

Today, the slogan might be somewhat different: It might go something like this:
All the quotations, and all the news, which fit prevailing scripts!"
The quote from the heartbroken student at UCLA fits the much-loved prevailing narrative. For that reason, the Times was eager to let you read it.

Did editors even notice the way that enrollment statistic doesn't seem to align with the student's complaint? We don't know how to answer that question, but unremarked non sequiturs of this type are common in Times reporting.

The Times is in a major tizzy about a rather small number of enrollment slots which went to the unfortunate children of some horribly grasping parents.

This "scandal" is very limited in scope at this time, but it involves both Hollywood and Yale. For that reason, the Times has swung into action, clutching real pearls as it falls on a couch, perhaps somewhere in the Hamptons.

For perhaps the ten millionth time, we're going to show you the wide-ranging education scandal the New York Times doesn't tell you about. Below, you see the latest scores in Grade 8 math for the 99.9 percent of American kids who aren't the children of grasping Hollywood stars or grasping corporate moguls:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2017

White kids: 292.16
Black kids: 259.60
Hispanic kids: 268.49
Asian-American kids: 309.52
Those data define the actual scandal which lies at the heart of American education. Based on a very rough rule of thumb, the average black eighth-grader is roughly three years behind the average white kid in math, perhaps as much as five years behind the average Asian ancestry kid. The average Hispanic kid is less than one year better.

The New York Times doesn't publish or discuss those very basic, brutal statistics. The Times doesn't fill its pages with reports about that state of affairs, possibly for the most obvious reason:

Judging from appearances, the New York Times doesn't care about the nation's black kids! Nor is there any sign that it ever has.

Yale and Hollywood win the prize. Those horrible nationwide data are swept away, sent down the drain.

We'll be discussing this general topic all year long, focusing on the press corps' treatment of the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail campaign. Of one thing you can be quite certain:

Nothing we show you, including those data, will ever enter the national discourse.

That discourse is run by the New York Times and by people who want to work for the Times. They're thrilled by Felicity Huffman in chains, by black kids not so much.

Everybody cares about Yale. About black kids, not so much! Yes, this is the national culture developed by us, the rational animals. And yes, this is the tribal culture of Us in our silk liberal tents.

The Washington Post nails Howard Schultz!

FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2019

The rewards are too damn high:
Howard Schultz is threatening to run for president on the strength of a business career built upon a two-part plank—charging too much for his products while paying his employees too little.

All of a sudden, before he knew it, he owned three billion dollars! His stores had overcharged by exactly a dollar on three billion green tea lattes!

Yesterday, the Washington Post's Marc Fisher profiled Schultz on the paper's front page. More precisely, Fisher profiled the never-ending string of misstatements Schultz has emitted, down through the years, about his allegedly hardscrabble background and upbringing.

Is there anything Schultz hasn't misstated, in serial fashion, down through the many long years? Also, could we just call this gong-show off now?

With respect to which, one more point:

This week's college admissions scandal is rather limited in scope at this point, but it involves remarkably gruesome behavior by the upper-end movers and shakers who took part.

Their personal conduct was simply appalling. So, it would seem, is the way Schultz has kept reinventing his personal story down through the many long years.

Donald Trump's serial craziness has seemed to define a new low in American public morals. That said, the mainstream press corps has behaved in similar ways for decades, and "cable news" is now largely the province of high-priced selective clowning.

(We rubes aren't allowed to know how much those top-end performers get paid.)

"The rent is too damn high," one New Yorker once famously said. So are the rewards, in money and fame, available within our society. It's stunning to see what people will do to get to the top of the pile.

We strongly recommend Fisher's profile. Is there anything Schultz hasn't grossly misstated and rearranged down through the many long years?

To us, maybe more of the same: Then too, there's the FBI. According to the Los Angeles Times, they decided to treat Felicity Huffman like the gangster Roger Stone:
WINTON (3/12/19): When Felicity Huffman opened the door to her Los Angeles home at 6 a.m. Tuesday, she was met by FBI agents with their guns drawn, according a source familiar with the incident.

The agents informed her of the charges in a sweeping college admissions fraud case and handcuffed her, the source said. Huffman spent hours in federal custody at a detention center in downtown Los Angeles.
Huffman allegedly scammed the SATs. This apparently made her a dangerous criminal. Is the bullroar now too damn high?

Can anyone get over themselves at this point? We ask, cable pundits decide.

IN SEARCH OF WHAT TRUMP ACTUALLY SAID: Did Donald J. Trump really say those things?

FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2019

It's all anthropology now:
Did Donald J. Trump really say those things? Did he say the things they say he said in the wake of the Charlottesville mayhem?

Was he "talking about neo-Nazis" when referred to good people on both sides, as Anderson Cooper said last Friday night?

What did he say about the demented Charlottesville marchers who were chanting "Jews will not replace us?" Did Trump really "praise [them] as 'some very fine people,' " as Max Boot told Cooper that night?

Did Trump "call the Charlottesville white supremacists 'fine people,' " as Joan Walsh told Erin Burnett? And while we're at it, was Mark Shields' statement on the PBS NewsHour basically accurate, or was it basically wrong or misleading?
SHIELDS (3/8/19): I mean, we're talking about a president, Judy—let's be very blunt about it—who, when the white supremacists marched through the streets of Charlotte with torches, saying, "Jews will not replace us," said there's good people on both sides.
We'd say that statement was grossly misleading, pretty much to the point where it's just basically false. We'd say the other three statements—and many others like them—were just basically wrong.

Before we go into more detail, let's recall what we are, and what we aren't, talking about today:

We aren't asking if Donald J. Trump offered appropriate leadership in the wake of the mayhem in Charlottesville. We aren't asking if the various things he said rose to the occasion.

We aren't asking if his remarks rose to the level of the remarks which emerged from our own flawless tribe. We aren't asking what he secretly thought, or if he was sending dog whistles.

In fact, we aren't attempting to evaluate Donald J. Trump at all! Instead, we're asking a basic question today about Shields, and Cooper and Walsh and Boot, and about a host of others.

We're assessing our upper-end journalists! We aren't assessing Trump.

In the past week or so, these journalists have paraded about, offering accounts of what Trump said concerning the chaos in Charlottesville. We're trying to assess their conduct today, not that of Donald J. Trump.

Anthropologically speaking, this presents a major problem. Let's get clear on what that problem is:

Anthropologically speak, man [sic] is the tribal animal. We humans are strongly inclined to assembles ourselves into tribal groups, and to start creating and disseminating narrative "fictions" from there.

We use the word "fictions" to recall the portrait painted by Professor Harari in his best-selling book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Delivering body blows to Aristotle's famous "rational animal" framework, Harari says our species drove other human groups into extinction because our ancestors developed the capacity for "gossip" and "fiction," with another instinct thrown in. Let's recall what that third attribute was:
HARARI (page 18): Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark. In modern times, a small difference in skin color, dialect or religion has been enough to prompt one group of Sapiens to set about exterminating another group. Would ancient Sapiens have been more tolerant towards an entirely different human species? It may well be that when Sapiens encountered Neanderthals, the result was the first and most significant ethnic-cleansing campaign in history.
According to Professor Harari, Homo sapiens is not the "tolerant" animal! We'll complete his jaundiced portrait in the following way:

Anthropologically speaking, we humans are plainly the tribal animal. And once we identify a tribal enemy, we're strongly inclined to start inventing potent group "fictions" about them.

Our mainstream "press corps" rather strongly tends to behave this way. Once they've identified a tribal/guild foe, regard for fairness and accuracy may tend to slip away.

They'll invent crazy tales about the things the tribal foe said. They'll repeat these tales again and again. They seem to love this pleasing practice. Example:

Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? In all honesty, no—he did not.

Nor did he say that he inspired Love Story, or so said the only two journalists who were present to hear what he said. But our journalists, as a group, chose to fashion the contrary tale, and they repeated a raft of such stories for years.

Children are dead all over Iraq because these "rational animals" did this. We'd have to say that people like Cooper, Shields, Boot and Burnett were engaged in a similar activity in the past week or so as they recited embellished tales about The Vile Thing Trump Said.

As we've noted, our favorite performer in this group attack was April Ryan, a CNN contributor. We single her out because of what she implicitly acknowledged that she hadn't done:
RYAN (3/11/19): Since the president did say that in Charlottesville, some "very fine people on both sides," has he, in your opinion, or has he or us [sic], because I don't remember it, condemned the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville for their actions against the Jewish Americans there?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president has condemned neo-Nazis and called them by name...
That was Ryan on Monday afternoon. By then, she'd had the entire weekend to go back and take a look at what Trump actually said.

Being a journalist, she didn't do that. Instead, our journalists tend to work from the scripts that are lodged in their heads.

Trump made his statement about "very fine people on both sides" as part of a press availability on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Ryan could have reviewed the full transcript. She could have watched the whole tape.

Instead, she did what members of our species tend to do. She decided to rely on her memory—on that, and on the pleasing script her rock-headed guild had devised.

Huckabee Sanders told Ryan that Trump had "condemned neo-Nazis by name." We're sorry to be the killjoy here, but we'd have to say that Trump actually did that during that August 15 presser.

He also condemned "white supremacists" and "white nationalists" by name. In our view, it's hard to say that those were the people he was talking about when he said that there had been "very fine people on both sides."

Humanoids like Cooper once took delight in inventing wild statements by Candidate Gore. In December 1999, they even created one of their most destructive tales—Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!—out of a flat misquotation of Gore by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The misquotation was corrected by a group of New Hampshire high school students who had tape of Gore's remarks. But so what? The Times and the Post, and the rest of these apes, decided to stick with their tale.

Children are dead all over Iraq because people like Shields behaved in these ways at that time. At one point, Shields' defense of Governor Bush was so inane and so absurd that it rocketed off the charts—but that's the way this gang of Sapiens was "fictionalizing" events of the world at that terrible time.

Children are dead all over Iraq because Shields and the others did that. Last Friday night, he was engaged in similar conduct—though this time, he was advancing a pleasing group fiction against a dangerous, disordered man.

We regard President Trump as disordered and therefore dangerous. People like Cooper and Shields have refused to discuss the possibility that this president, who holds the nuclear codes, is some form of "mentally ill."

We regard Trump as disordered; so do Cooper and Shields. Here's where the problem comes in:

Anthropologically speaking, once we humans form such a judgment, we're strongly inclined to start inventing powerful "fictions" about the person or group we oppose.

Accuracy tends to give way to the joys of tribal loathing. "Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark," but neither is adherence to Enlightenment values. Anyone who follows the work of our mainstream press corps has seen this anthropological principle acted out many times.

There are perfectly reasonable ways to criticize Trump's statements about Charlottesville. Simply put, that isn't the game our journalists tend to play.

Instead, they tend to invent compelling group "fictions" and repeat them as a group. This led to Cooper's statement last Friday, then on to Ryan's question.

Was Trump "talking about the neo-Nazis," as Cooper pleasingly said? Had he ever condemned neo-Nazis, as Ryan asked?

Concerning Ryan's question, we'll say this:

The march by the chanting neo-Nazis took place on Friday evening, August 11, 2017.

On Sunday, August 13, the White House released a statement in Trump's name: "The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, the KKK, Neo-Nazis and all extremist groups."

On Monday, August 14, the White House issued another statement: "To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered...Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

On Tuesday, August 15, Trump held his aforementioned presser. He made his statement about "both sides," but he also said this:

"I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups." As he continued that statement, he seemed to name "white supremacists" as one such group.

Later, he specifically said that he wasn't praising "the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally." Thus spake Donald J. Trump, on that very occasion.

Two years later, Cooper and Boot and a cast of thousands said Trump had been saying there were "very fine people" among the neo-Nazis. Boot said he had praised the chanting neo-Nazis. Working solely from memory, Ryan had no idea.

You can review the tape and transcript yourself to see what Trump may have meant by his statement about "very fine people on both sides."

We think he spells it out somewhat clearly, but he specifically says that he doesn't mean neo-Nazis.

Having said this, we'll offer one last anthropological point:

Your lizard brain won't like what we've said. "Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark!" Amazingly, that even holds true within our own self-impressed, highly incompetent tribe.

Within our tribe, as in all human tribes, we're strongly inclined to invent compelling "fictions" concerning those we oppose. It's amazing to think that you'd have to embellish facts to invent a critique of Donald J. Trump, but that's the way we "rational animals" are strongly inclined to work.

Your lizard will tell you that Shields and Cooper and all the others just basically have to be right. To that, we'll add this point:

Children are dead all over Iraq because of the conduct of these rational animals during Campaign 2000. But Shields is still featured on PBS as the network's official "nice guy," and we liberals were very pleased by what he told Judy last Friday.

There's no apparent way out of this mess. Next week, we'll return to the remarkably unimpressive work of the most exalted "rational animals" of them all.

This is the way our species works. There's no way out of this ballgame.

Next week: Mathematicians gone wild