ARISTOTLE'S ERROR: Rational animals on the prowl!


Top paper frisks Roger Stone's clothes:
It was Saturday morning, February 2. At the tippity-top of American journalism, the rational animals were on the prowl again.

One day later, the New York Times would present this hard-hitting expose concerning the sources of Donald Trump's fan. (It would be featured in Monday's Spotlight feature as one of the day's most-read "stories.")

On Sunday, the Times would examine Trump's tan. On Saturday, though, the rationals were deeply concerned with the meaning of clothes.

In print editions, the report appeared on the first page of the newspaper's National section. On line, the insightful report still carries a triple headline:
Roger Stone’s Costume Drama
The political operative has been modeling a primer on how to dress for court.
Trump's tan would be frogmarched the following day. On this day, Vanessa Friedman was pulling the curtain back from an ongoing "costume drama."

Friedman is her famous newspaper's "fashion director and chief fashion critic." In her previous post, she was the fashion editor of the Financial Times.

She'd prepped at The Chapin School and Exeter before moving on to Princeton (class of 1989), but don't let those famous names fool you. In a profile of Friedman in the wonderfully monikored Surface Magazine, she described the wacky, Kerouackian spirit of her early post-college years:
PERROTTET (3/8/16): To hear Friedman tell it, the road to her current status as the thinking person’s fashion critic was less a conscious decision—she had no formal design or journalistic training—than a series of happy accidents. “I wasn’t into fashion when I was young,” she recalls. “I liked looking at Vogue, but fashion was never a big part of my life. I certainly never thought of it as a career.” After graduating from Princeton, she lived in her native New York, working on the bottom rungs of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. In 1996, newly married at age 28, she suggested to her husband that they move to Britain, not as a career step but as a spur-of-the-moment adventure: “One day I said, ‘Shouldn’t we go live in London?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ And so we did!”
The key words there may have been the first five: "To hear Friedman tell it."

Was it true? Had the happy-go-lucky couple, at least one of whom had no journalistic training, pulled up stakes and decamped for swingin' England as a "spur-of-the-moment adventure?"

We can't exactly answer your question, but according to the New York Times' report about the couple's wedding, Friedman's husband, then 32, was "an associate in the emerging markets investment banking group at the Chase Investment Bank in London" even as vows were spoken.

Based upon that bit of reporting, the devil-may-care adventure had taken the happy-go-lucky couple to the very city where the husband seemed to be employed. According to that same wedding report, the bridegroom's father was "the owner of Twenty-First Century Investments, a financial management company in Toronto." Friedman's father was "a senior partner in Debevoise & Plimpton, the New York law firm."

Not that there was anything wrong with it! We include these biographical shards to offer a sense of the part of the world from which would emerge the lazy, silly, low-IQ musings which adorned the first page of the Times' National section on Saturday morning last.

The rational animals were at it again as Friedman's report unfolded! In fairness, Friedman may be an excellent source of worthless opinion concerning the world of high fashion. The problem begins when the fatuous creatures from whom she emerged start turning fashion, hairdos and invented quotations into the raw material of a failing nation's "political" news.

(And sexual congress, of course!)

So it was as this fatuous creature typed her sub-rational thoughts. In fairness, we can't blame Friedman alone for what happened; a team of editors stood behind her, gents and ladies alike. But as she typed, "the thinking person's fashion critic" started by sharing these thoughts:
FRIEDMAN (2/2/19): Roger J. Stone Jr. set foot on the stage—sorry, the floor of the federal court in Washington—on Friday for his scheduling hearing in a somber pinstriped ocean-dark suit, matching dark tie, pristine white shirt and muted pocket handkerchief, bringing to a temporary close the latest installment of what may become one of the most-watched spinoffs of the reality show known as “The Trump Administration.”

It was a veritable replay of what Mr. Stone, the political operative and former Trump adviser, chose to wear for his earlier court appearance, on Tuesday (a single-breasted three-button navy suit, pure white shirt with a Windsor collar, white pocket handkerchief and marine blue knit tie).

That itself was a more formal version of the navy polo shirt with white polo pony and dark jeans Mr. Stone had worn last Friday, when he was arrested on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements. He appeared after the indictment with both arms raised in a Nixonian victory sign.
Important! On the first page of the New York Times' National section, we learned what Roger Stone, a lifelong hustler and lunatic, had chosen to wear to federal court on two recent occasions.

Through some under-explained species of logic, we also learned that "a single-breasted three-button navy suit, pure white shirt with a Windsor collar, white pocket handkerchief and marine blue knit tie" is just "a more formal version of the navy polo shirt with white polo pony and dark jeans" Stone had worn when he was arrested. You can puzzle that out on your own.

On Sunday. we'd have the crafting of tans. On this day, the naming of parts was restricted to matters of wardrobe. And why should any Times subscriber give a hoot about felonious foofaw like this? As she continued, the happy-go-lucky Princeton ex-pat shared some post-rational logic:
FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): Why do such costumes matter?

Because Mr. Stone has long treated—and referred to—his wardrobe as exactly that: a key part of the theater of his life in politics.
Why should readers give a flying felafel concerning what Stone chose to wear to court? Why do his costumes matter?

It matters because Stone says it matters, the ranking post-journalist said. With that, she began to blather again, in a high-profile "news report:"
FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): This is, after all, a man who wore full morning dress to the 2017 inauguration; who is famous for his penchant for bespoke double-breasted suits from Savile Row or Alan Flusser (a tailor known for his master-of-the-universe clients); who once joked that he had more shoes than Imelda Marcos; and who called himself a “showman” in his 2018 book, “Stone’s Rules: How to Win at Politics, Business, and Style.” Someone who believes fully in the power of clothing as communications tool, and is comfortable admitting it. Crowing about it, even.

And because in court, defendants generally don’t talk. Their lawyers, their demeanor and their clothes talk for them. Given that Judge Amy Berman Jackson is still considering a gag order preventing Mr. Stone (who spent his time between hearings giving news conferences and making appearances) from discussing his case publicly, it’s possible that at some point he won’t be able to speak out of court either. Which puts an even greater burden on what he wears to start emoting in his place.
We're sorry, but no—it really can't get dumber. Stone's clothes aren't going to "talk for him" in court unless Judge Jackson is a fool, which, by all accounts, she rather plainly isn't. And his clothes won't talk to us in the wider world unless foppish fiddlers like Friedman and her unnamed editors turn their news pages over to ruminations about where tans come from and about the meaning of Roger Stone's clothes.

As Friedman typed on, she pretended to explain why Stone was making these utterly insignificant wardrobe choices—why he "has suddenly adopted a sartorial stance of relative...understatement."

She explained the whole fandango, but was forced to close her post-journalistic "news report" with a small confession:
FRIEDMAN: [Stone] went so far as to reveal in [a] video that he chose not to wear one of his many made-to-measure double-breasted suits (he is partial to pinstripes and plaid) because they were “a little too wealthy looking and I am dirt poor at this point, having been destroyed financially by a two-year inquisition by Robert Mueller.”

Then he told everyone that the three-button suit he did go for was 30 years old. And while he acknowledged the potential foppish touch of the pocket hankie, he called the one he picked “pedestrian,” perhaps to lessen the effect.

The theory has some merit...

Still, by Friday Mr. Stone seemed to have changed his mind about the single- versus double-breasted idea.
Perhaps because he has also admitted that his double-breasted suits are his “armor,” and right now he needs as much of that as he can get.
With that, the news report ended. Having explained the powerful logic of Stone's ideas about single-breasted suits, Friedman revealed, as she closed, that he'd flipped in his second court appearance, choosing to go double-breasted. That said, there was only one actual reason for this post-journalistic "news report:"

The children who work for the Hamptons-based Times like to talk about wardrobe and bald spots, and best of all about sex. They simply don't care about anything else. Those topics define their horizons. This has been clear for decades, and of course it goes undiscussed.

Aristotle is widely said to have said that we humans are "the rational animal." While it isn't entirely clear what the ancient logician actually meant by whatever he actually said, no one who reads the New York Times could fail to encounter the following thought, if only in tortured dreams:

Could Aristotle's assessment, at least as widely understood, have been erroneous in some basic way? Anthropologically speaking, is it possible that we the humans aren't especially "rational" at all? Have we been "seeing ourselves from afar" in some fundamental way?

We'll be exploring such questions all year long. Anyone who reads the Times will understand why such excavations are needed. Also, why such topics will stay undiscussed everywhere else on the dial.

Tomorrow: No inanity left behind


  1. "Anthropologically speaking, is it possible that we the humans aren't especially "rational" at all?"

    Humans are fine, Bob.

    It's the lib-zombies who aren't rational, Bob; but nor are they supposed to be. By design. Y'know, the 'feature, not bug' thingy...

    1. Holy crap, Mao posted two hours ahead of schedule! Are you off your meds, or did you just migrate to a new regimen?

  2. "Friedman is her famous newspaper's "fashion director and chief fashion critic." In her previous post, she was the fashion editor of the Financial Times."

    And Somerby blames her for writing about clothes. Isn't that her job?

    1. JFC, Bob doesn't "blame" her for that. He cites the fact that the NYT chose to put a story like that in a prominent place as evidence that the NYT's priorities are f'd up.

    2. Wouldn't you say that the focus on Roger Stone is what put this article on the National Page and not the mention of fashion? That said, I will point out again that New York is the center of the US fashion industry, which is important to the economics of the city.

      In the LA Times you frequently see articles about which movie stars are selling their multi-million dollar homes, and who just bought what, along with a report of the film grosses for each week. This is considered news because entertainment is a major industry in Los Angeles, key to the financial prosperity of the city, supporting a lot of people. Just as fashion does in NYC, and every other city has a key industry that is reported about on its news and in its papers.

      Being in Baltimore, maybe Somerby doesn't understand this. In Boston, one of the key industries is higher education and the 27+ colleges and universities get more newspaper prominence than in other places. Did that help put the chip on his shoulder about professors?

      So, is it f'd up for a newspaper to care about and promote whatever is their local source of jobs and income for workers? Or is Somerby mistakenly thinking that the NY Times cares mostly about the consumers of fashion and not the generators of it, or the Boston Tribune cares more about the students than the people who work in those universities providing educational services? I think Somerby's priorities are f'd up.

    3. Somerby started off analytical years ago. Now, when he says “clothing is all the Times cares about”, he’s not making a logical assertion; it is what he *feels* to be true. Contrary evidence will not be admitted.

  3. "a flying felafel"

    Shouldn't an erudite blogger like Somerby make the effort to spell a word like falafel correctly? It is a staple food of the Middle East, so getting that right is a mark of respect toward people who are a bit diverse in our culture.

    Who doesn't care about spelling? Who doesn't care about diversity -- Trump, and Somerby apparently.

  4. Hey Bob,
    I know you're mostly concerned about fashion-related atrocities in your infamous zombie rag, but just in case you have (even the slightest) interest in serious shit -- like your zombie cult's xenophobia -- would you care to comment on this, please:
    ‘Corruption is in Russia’s DNA’: Even Moscow’s biggest critics can’t stomach ‘racist’ NYT op-ed.


    1. Will you vote for Howard Schultz over Trump? Schultz has the same idiotic know-nothing economic ideology, without the racism and misogyny.

    2. Caution -- Mao's link leads to an irrelevant RT article. His job is generating clicks.

    3. Trump and Schultz, who each earned billions of dollars, know nothing about economics? Was their success just luck?

    4. Yeah, and the dembots, working (judging by the spam directed here) from a warehouse in Mumbai, are real economic geniuses...

    5. Schultz...maybe. His company actually is public. And built from the ground up.

      Trump? You might want to research his “success.” Inherited wealth. Bankruptcies. Defaulted loans. Shady loans. Credit risk. Money laundering (casino). Fraud (Trump U). Lack of transparency in his financial history.

    6. If you took Trump daddy's loan and put it in a savings account, you'd have more wealth than Trump has currently. And without the half-dozen bankruptcies, which screwed his contractors.
      Nothing is the word.
      BTW, polls show Republicans have a favorable view of Schultz at a 4% rate.
      My mea culpa: I never should have said ALL Republicans were bigots. My apologies to the 4% of Republicans who aren't.

    7. The notion that most of the wealthy, powerful, and successful among us arrived at their station through any means other than inheritance, luck, and corruption is risible.

      Is Starbucks a good company that makes good products? Brother please, they make overpriced garbage that rips people off - both employees and consumers - and pollutes the environment. The cheapest home coffee maker makes better coffee, but so many people are downtrodden and depressed by the oppressive nature of our hierarchical society that they are easy marks for sleazy marketing "geniuses" like Schultz and Trump.

      The gross inequality in America is a natural outcome of capitalism, a symptom of inhumanity and immoral greed, and a clear indication of an unhealthy and unhappy society.

    8. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.

    9. Oh man. You can curse the universe all you want, but the society (at the moment) is what it is.

      And in this society, making money (call it "corruption" or call it "entrepreneurship") is The Game. In the minds of a vast majority of its inhabitants, it is.

      And that's all there is to it.

    10. Rasmussen - I recommend a trip to Africa. If you see the poor people in Zimbabwe live, I think you would change your mind about the virtues of the industrial revolution. BTW you might like the comic song Civilization.
      You might take it seriously.

    11. I've read your posts and you are a fool.

      Those us who live in “advanced” countries have greatly increased the life-expectancies but technology and industry has destabilized society, made life unfulfilling, subjected human beings to indignities, led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and has inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.

      And you suggest I don a pith helmet, hop on a plane and go gawk at the natives to make me feel better about the destruction technology has wrought?

      You are just lucky you're old and won't have to witness the destruction your grandchildren and their grandchildren will endure.

      Thank you but no, I don't like that song or any other of that Tin Pan Alley garbage.

      Wishing you a good day.

    12. While alienation - resulting from the ever increasing division of labor and expansion of the capitalist mode of production - is indeed a real thing, it's not necessarily terminal, Rasmussen. Chances are, this is just a phase, just another phase.

      Just like the slave and feudal modes of production before it. Cheer up, fella.

    13. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it may eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine.

      Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: No way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

      If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

  5. "The children who work for the Hamptons-based Times like to talk about wardrobe and bald spots, and best of all about sex. They simply don't care about anything else. "

    To make this argument, Somerby would need to tell us what proportion of the Times was about such topics, not simply point out an article here or there and say look, they don't care about anything but this. I would be willing to bet real money that most of the words in any day's NY Times are devoted to so-called hard news.

    Do rich people care more about clothes than middle class and poor people? I think it would be hard to make that case. I would agree that rich people care more about expensive clothes, but all people are interested in how other people dress. For one thing, it is an indicator of social class and all people care about where they fit in the social hierarchy, whether they are at the top or the bottom. For another thing, it is an indicator of sexual singleness and availability, which people do care about and should, if we want to continue our species (whether Somerby cares about it or not). And many people enjoy expressing themselves through clothing, being creative, differentiating themselves from others and being more than a face in the crowd -- maybe even Roger Stone feels this urge. Is that necessarily frivolous? I don't think so, but Somerby does.

    1. Somerby wasn’t always like this. 20 years ago, I was attracted to his blog precisely because he *didn’t* engage in cherry-picking and generalizations. Now, that’s almost all he does. There’s plenty to criticize about the media, especially the New York Times. But he can’t or won’t stop himself from sounding like a cartoonishly inept grade school blogger: I saw 3 articles about clothing; that’s all they care about! And other such malarkey.

  6. "Anthropologically speaking, is it possible that we the humans aren't especially "rational" at all? Have we been "seeing ourselves from afar" in some fundamental way?

    We'll be exploring such questions all year long. "

    There is an extensive body of research about how humans actually do reason and think and solve problems. How will Somerby explore this, anthropologically or not, without reading some of that research? Will he confine himself to Godel and Harrari again in 2019 or will he actually read something germane? Smart money says he will babble on about his pet peeves and pretend he is a blogger, much as Trump is pretending to be president while watching TV.

    But I also predict that Somerby will emerge from his recursive meandering posts to support Bernie, who is eagerly stealing the spotlight from Stacey Abrams, demonstrating that he doesn't care about Democrats and is tone deaf about how women will regard his figuratively grabbing the mic in order to mansplain things Abrams is well able to discuss on her own.

  7. Again the utterly sleazy "Aristotle is widely said to have said that we humans are "the rational animal." " Since anyone with the slightest knowledge of intellectual history knows perfectly well that Aristotle never said anything of the sort it is clear that on this as on other topics (like the SCOTUS theft of the presidency in 2000) Somerby is playing the total ignoramus. And he dares to say "While it isn't entirely clear what the ancient logician actually meant" it is entirely clear what Aristotle's book (or lecture notes transcribed by a student) known to everyone but a pretend-ignoramus like Somerby as "De Anima" (on the soul) actually said: that the psyche (soul) has three parts; the vegetative soul, the appetitive soul, and the rational soul. And that among his chosen examples for the "rational soul" was THE STORK. If Somerby really cared about what Aristotle meant, he would recognize that Aristotle did indeed maintain that some humans (like many of his chosen targets) had such feeble "rational souls" as to make them "Slaves By Nature."

    1. And, if he cared what Gödel thought, he would actually read Gödel, rather than his paraphrases. The list goes on. And on.

  8. Somerby’s fuel is running low, and he refuses to stop and gas up.

    Same complaints, same fallacies, different date. Same commenter criticisms, different anonymi.

    Same tired list of 6 books, apparently the sum total of Somerby’s reading list, same distortions of said books, same talking points.

  9. God bless Bob Somerby.

    All his shortcomings notwithstanding, he does attract plenty of dembots, making them squirm and foam at the mouth.

    And who could ask for more?..

    1. The criticisms of Somerby have nothing to do with the political leanings of his critics. They criticize his logical fallacies and his misrepresentation of Aristotle and Gödel, to name two.

      I frankly couldn’t care less if Somerby were a raging pedophile. Or a Trump supporter. Or a Bernie fan. I do care about the quality of his writing.

      And in reality, the number of people reading his blog is not accurately described as “plenty.” And as long as he doesn’t care about that, then everything is copacetic presumably.

    2. Do you care about the quality of writing of every blogger in the universe?

      If the politics (the abomination of liberal blogger criticizing liberal media, in this case) is not involved, then you either find his writings interesting and read them, or you don't and then you don't. What am I missing here?

    3. She's a dumb and crazy cunt.

  10. c"Important! On the first page of the New York Times' National section, we learned what Roger Stone, a lifelong hustler and lunatic, had chosen to wear to federal court on two recent occasions."

    Beside that, there does seem to have been an inordinate number of words devoted to this fatuous train of thought. It is indeed important to point these things out, since money spent on shit like this could, presumably, be spent on other topics of major importance. So it goes.

    I'm sure a thrill went up and down Maddow's leg, might have even put pause to her over-lubricating over "Russia-Gate."

    Now, when the hell are we getting to the New Year, Bob? I know it will be covering old ground, but dammit, throw us a bone. Show us something new with your (admittedly) concise observations and ruminations. Give us the Ancients!


  11. Bob misuses the word "frisk" for "fisk".
    Fisk: to refute or criticize (a journalistic article or blog) point by point. Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers. Word origin of 'fisk' C21: after the use of this technique by Robert Fisk (born 1946), British journalist, to criticize articles.

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