BREAKING: Christopher Orr has a change of heart!

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 29 [sic], 2016

Straight Outta Mandated Judgment:
Yesterday morning, we endured our last day of pre-Oscar journalism.

At the Atlantic, Christopher Orr was making his yearly predictions. Here's the way he limned the Best Picture award:
ORR (2/28/16): What will win: The Revenant

What ought to win: Spotlight or The Martian

What was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn

What wasn’t nominated but should have been: Carol, Straight Outta Compton
Carol should have been nominated, Orr said. So too for Straight Outta Compton.

Should those films have received Best Picture nods? We have no idea. We haven’t seen Carol or Straight Outta Compton.

Beyond that, we’ve seen only Brooklyn among the eight films which did get Best Picture nominations. (We’re inclined to agree with Orr’s judgment there.)

We don’t have any way to assess Orr’s statement concerning Straight Outta Compton, which became a sudden pseudo-liberal favorite in the post-nominations pseudo-discussion.

That said, we do have Google! Incomparably, we decided to see what Orr had said in real time.

Sure enough! On December 18, he presented his choices for “The Best Movies of 2015.” Do you notice a certain omission?
ORR (12/18/15): 1. Spotlight
Many films are made about journalism, but few show any meaningful comprehension of their subject matter.Spotlight isn’t merely a great film about journalism (joining such classics as All the President’s Men and The Insider), it’s a great film, period.

2. The Martian
There aren’t many virtues more underrated than managing simply not to screw up. Ridley Scott’s latest is both about a tremendous team effort and the result of one: great lead, great supporting cast, great direction, great script, great everything.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Probably the most pleasant surprise of the year, and a much-needed corrective to cinema’s long over-reliance on CGI.

4. The Big Short...

5. Sicario...

6. Inside Out...

7. The Revenant...

8. Magic Mike XXL...

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens...

10. Steve Jobs...

11. Carol...

12. Room...
Back in December, Straight Outta Compton wasn't included in Orr's list of the twelve best films of 2015.

He also listed ten “Honorable Mentions;” Compton wasn’t there either. Back in December, it wasn't included in Orr's Top Twenty-Two!

(When Oscar nominations were announced, Orr wrote this about the Best Picture selections: “The omission of Carol is disappointing, and those of Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of No Nation, and Sicario might arguably be considered mild surprises, though none are shocking.")

Was Orr right in December, or did he get it right yesterday? We have no idea.

What do you think of his unexplained change of heart? To us, it seemed extremely familiar. It almost seemed that the change in heart might have come Straight Outta Script.

Recommended pre-Oscar reading: Yesterday, in the New York Times' Sunday Review, writer/actor Colton Dunn wrote an intelligent, first-person account of the way Hollywood often works in the realm of "diversity."

Hooray for simple-minded stereotyping! In our view, this was Dunn's nugget:
DUNN (2/28/16): Hollywood has no time for your feelings. It’s not P.C. and it’s not racially sensitive. It’s got a short attention span. Even in diversity showcases, attempts are made to make the presentations more uniform, to not stray too far from what Hollywood usually does. And that showcase was about preparing us performers for what we’d have to do to get our foot in the door. Once inside, we can make some changes—if we haven’t changed too much ourselves while trying to get in.
"Attempts are made to make the presentations more uniform?" That the rule in mainstream "journalism" too. For our current Exhibit A, we'd audition Orr's change of heart.

That piece by Dunn was fair-minded, decent and smart. The analysts looked at us in utter confusion:

Why the heck was a piece like that in the Sunday Review?

BREAKING: Brief thoughts from an undisclosed locale!


The New York Times, pondering hair:
As it turns out Andrew Lloyd Weber has a lot of explaining to do. In a column in yesterday’s New York Times, Julia Baird starts to lay out the charge, then poses some thoughtful questions:
BAIRD (2/26/16): In “The Woman in White,” the character Marian Halcombe is described as having “dark down on her upper lip” that “was almost a mustache.” Yet when Wilkie Collins’s 1859 story was adapted as a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2004, this aspect of her appearance was ignored so that the audience would not be “distracted” by her facial hair.

Why do we consider a mere hint of the hirsute such a disgrace for women when men can mooch about our cities with goatees, mutton-chop whiskers, navel-skimming beards and even “man buns” with little comment? We think of ourselves as liberated, yet it is still considered embarrassing and shameful for a woman’s upper lip to be imperfectly depilated.
Our view? All in all, that may have been the craziest column we’ve ever seen in the Times. It’s amazing to think that somebody wrote it, astounding that it was published.

In hard copy, it was published as the day’s most prominent column.

On the facing page to that column, an editorial was calling for Candidate Clinton to release the transcripts of her very important speeches. For reasons we expect to explain next week, we thought that editorial was pretty silly too.

That column by Baird is very strange. Because it seems to support a laudable principle, some editor couldn’t tell.

It’s now Potemkin all the way down in our journalistic/political culture. That said, the Times has been creating this culture for a very long time.

How did it ever get this far? We the liberals weren’t able to tell!

BREAKING: We're off on a mission of national import!


Extensive implications:
We're off on a mission of national import, with extensive South Carolina, Oscar night and Super Tuesday implications.

For today, we only say this:

We no longer have a national press corps. We mention this in passing.

(We'd like to go into more detail. On the other hand, can anyone imagine a point to any such conduct?)

Meanwhile, from the deeper realms:

The Nova program, Inside Einstein's Mind, can be viewed at this official PBS site. The program debuted last November.

The lady on the fast-moving train rolls by at roughly 12:25. A minute later, we're told that this lady's extremely fast trip "has mind-blowing significance."

Do you believe everything you're told? We look forward to returning to this ancient conundrum, but we'll offer no posts today.

Campaign watch: The New York Times [HEART] CNN!


For failing to ask the same questions:
Nick Corasaniti is a youngish reporter for the New York Times.

He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008. As of today, there seems to be something wrong with his TV set.

We base that statement on Corasaniti's 1200-word report in this morning's Times. Alas! When the scribe watches CNN's "town halls," he thinks he sees conduct like this:
CORASANITI (2/25/16): Live town hall meetings are not a new invention in the televised coverage of presidential politics. But with anchors like Mr. Cooper moderating, fact-checking and bantering, CNN has turned the genre into a powerful supplement—if not antidote—to the often-acrimonious debates: long, seemingly informal conversations in which candidates can be pressed at length, but can also take the opportunity to get their points across without being sniped at or interrupted, and to show more than a little personality and charm.
When Corasaniti watches CNN's town halls, he thinks he sees Cooper "fact-checking" the candidates. He thinks he sees those candidates being "pressed at length," presumably concerning their policy views or their substantive proposals.

How strange! When we watch CNN's town halls, our TV set shows something different.

This Monday, we recorded what happened last Friday night when Cooper pretended to question Candidate Trump about his absurdly incoherent prescriptions for health care.

We presented the transcript at great length because the exchange was so god-awful bad, largely thanks to Cooper's refusal to perform in the way Corasaniti describes.

Cooper's exchange with Trump about health care went on for more than six minutes. It was a god-awful parody of a burlesque of a policy discussion. The candidate wasn't "pressed at length." Meanwhile, the moderator did no particular "fact-checking."

Our conclusion? Something may be badly wrong with Corasaniti's TV set! He seems to be seeing town hall events our own TV set isn't showing.

In today's report, Corasaniti pens a belated Valentine to CNN's "campaign coverage." As he starts his report, he describes the way the network's fearless, sure-footed team composed a late-breaking question at last Friday's town hall, the same event which produced that god-awful "discussion" of health care.

The late-breaking question concerned Candidate Trump's original stance on the war in Iraq. This is the exciting way Corasaniti starts today's report:
CORASANITI: Jeff Zucker scowled over a laptop in a CNN truck here recently, scouring a new report by BuzzFeed: Donald J. Trump, contrary to his campaign trail boasts, initially supported the invasion of Iraq. A wall of monitors still showed Jeb Bush, but Mr. Trump would take the stage in CNN's latest Republican town hall-style meeting in minutes.

Yet Mr. Zucker, the network's president, urged care.

''I get it, we need to do this, but let's get it right,'' he said to Sam Feist, the network's Washington bureau chief, and David Chalian, the political director, but also to everyone else in the truck.

Mr. Chalian fashioned a question. Mr. Zucker and Mr. Feist refined it. Onscreen, Anderson Cooper was already questioning Mr. Trump. Precious moments ticked by as a printer was powered up. Finally, a producer snatched the page and dashed out of the truck, across a wide plaza, through a long law school lobby and into the wings to await the next commercial break.

''I literally was just handed this,'' Mr. Cooper said, posing the question, when the cameras went live again. As Mr. Trump stammered through his answer—''I could have said that,'' he allowed—Mr. Zucker, in the truck, nodded along, then went back to shuffling through a green deck of questions to be asked by handpicked voters in the audience.
Did Candidate Trump really "stammer through his answer" about his stance on Iraq? Not gigantically, no. For the transcript, see below.

At one point, Cooper and Trump wasted time as they took turns praising Howard Stern. ("A great interviewer," Cooper said.) Aside from that, Trump fumbled ahead with his usual blather. Cooper sat and watched.

As usual, Cooper skipped the chance to ask the obvious questions which keep going unasked. No last-minute prep would have been needed for the questions shown below. All that was needed was the desire to do the job of an actual journalist:
UNASKED BY COOPER: Last September, Mr. Trump, you said you "fought very, very hard against going into Iraq." You even said you could "give us 25 different stories" about your vocal opposition to the war, presumably meaning news reports. To this day, no one has ever found any such news reports. Where are those those 25 reports? If the news reports don't exist, why did you describe them to millions of voters during last September's GOP debate?
You'll see Cooper ask those questions when the cow jumps over the moon. Unless you watch TV with Corasaniti, in which case you'll see fearless questions being asked all the time!

It's embarrassing to see this youngish Timesman pretend that CNN is producing tough coverage of Trump. Just consider the blindingly obvious questions which everyone, in all news orgs, have agreed not to ask:
UNASKED BY EVERYONE: Back in 2011, Mr. Trump, you claimed that you had sent investigators to Hawaii to investigate President Obama's birth. On national TV, you even said that your investigators "cannot believe what they’re finding. And I’m serious." Were there any such investigators? If so, what did they find? Did they find anything at all, or was that claim a fabrication?
Anderson Cooper will ask that question when the cow returns from the moon. Last summer, Candidate Trump simply announced that he no longer wants to discusses that topic. All the obedient millionaires agreed to respect his wishes.

(Meanwhile, they rummage around in every word ever uttered by Candidate Clinton, worrying about the many false things she can be said to have said. "Please release your old speeches," they say, "so we can rummage around some more." As they do, Candidate Trump gets the eternal pass.)

Corasaniti's report is a bit of a fantasy piece. That said, the New York Times is mostly providing Potemkin campaign coverage too.

In essence, the Times is praising CNN for migrating to the same village. At the Times, scribes recall how much they [HEART] Candidate Bush, pretend CNN is tough.

The actual hard-hitting transcript: How much "fact-checking" do you see here? How much is the candidate "pressed?"
COOPER (2/19/16): Again, continuing. I literally was just handed this. There's a report now out tonight on Buzzfeed that includes—I have not heard it—includes an audio clip of what appears to be you on Howard Stern talking on the radio on September 11th, 2002. He asked you are you for invading Iraq? You said "Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly."

Is that accurate? Do you remember saying that?

TRUMP: No. But, I mean, I could—I could have said that. Nobody asked me—I wasn't a politician. It was probably the first time anybody asked me that question.

COOPER: But does that—

TRUMP: But by the time the war started—that was quite a bit before the war started.

COOPER: Yeah, this was 2002.

TRUMP: By the time the war started, I was against the war. And there are articles—I mean, there are headlines in 2003, 2004 that I was totally against the war. And actually, a couple of people in your world, in terms of the pundits, said, you know, "There's definite proof in 2003, 2004 Trump was against it."

COOPER: But 2004, the Reuters article, which you pointed to a lot, and there were a couple of comments you made, I think, at a Vanity Fair party and one other comment. Those were, I think, a couple of weeks after the war began.

TRUMP: Which is OK. A lot of people said—you know, it was so early that even if it was a little bit after the war, I mean, he was totally against the war. I was very much against it. That was probably the first time I was ever even asked about the war. Howard, who's a great guy, by the way. A lot of people don't understand that. But he is—

COOPER: He's a great interviewer.

TRUMP: He's a great—he's a great interview. He's a very talented guy and a good guy. But that was probably the first time—I don't remember that, but it was probably the first time I was asked about it.

COOPER: OK. I haven't heard it, but you may have said that.

TRUMP: And, you know, when you're in—when you're in the private sector—yeah, I may have. When you're in the private sector, you know, you get asked things and, you know, you're not a politician and probably the first time I was asked. By the time the war started, I was against it. And shortly thereafter, I was really against it.

COOPER: I want you to meet another voter. Ryan Parsons is his name. He's an aspiring entrepreneur here in South Carolina.
For the record, Howard Stern is a very talented guy and a good guy, also a great interviewer. Can't we all just agree on that?

Final question: where are those 25 news reports? Cooper forgot to ask!

FIRST REACTIONS: Isaacson calls spacetime a "fabric!"


Part 4—The Beatles called it Arthur:
For the last time, we're going to show you what Walter Isaacson said.

In almost all settings, Isaacson is an extremely clear writer. In his best-selling book, Einstein: His Life and Universe, the passages about Einstein's life are lucid, clear, interesting, intriguing.

Then we come to the passages—and the chapters—concerning "Einstein's universe," by which we mean his science. Below, we once again see an early attempt at explaining a famous part of that science.

Granted, we're still in Chapter One of Isaacson's best-selling book. That said, how many readers had any idea what this passage meant?
ISAACSON (pages 3-4): [I]n 1915, [Einstein] wrested from nature his crowning glory, one of the most beautiful theories in all of science, the general theory of relativity. As with the special theory, his thinking had evolved through thought experiments. Imagine being in an enclosed elevator accelerating up through space, he conjectured in one of them. The effects you'd feel would be indistinguishable from the experience of gravity.

Gravity, he figured, was a warping of space and time, and he came up with the equations that describe how the dynamics of this curvature result from the interplay between matter, motion, and energy. It can be described by using another thought experiment. Picture what it would be like to roll a bowling ball onto the two-dimensional surface of a trampoline. Then roll some billiard balls. They move toward the bowling ball not because it exerts some mysterious attraction but because of the way it curves the trampoline fabric. Now imagine this happening in the four-dimensional fabric of space and time. Okay, it's not easy, but that's why we're no Einstein and he was.
How many readers had any idea what Isaacson was talking about in that passage? Just for starters, we'll offer this guess:

Roughly essentially none.

By that, we mean this: We'll guess that very few readers could answer even the simplest questions about the various statements made in the passage. To consider the various sources of confusion in those two paragraphs, click here to peruse Tuesday's post.

In the good-natured jest at the end of that passage, Isaacson himself seems to say that this passage is perhaps quite unclear. A fair-minded person would want to see if Isaacson unpacks this confusion in the later chapters he devotes to the science.

(Examples: Chapter Six, Special Relativity. Also, Chapter Nine, General Relativity.)

Is the work in those chapters clear? We'll set that aside for another day. For today, let's look at Kevin Drum's first reaction to the puzzles offered here.

We do so because Drum is smart. Also, because a few of his commenters were so dittoheaded that they reacted as such figures will typically do—by saying the whole thing is perfectly clear, and that you'd have to be an ass to challenge our exalted professors, who have been nice enough to hand us the metaphors we should recite for the rest of recorded time.

The dittoheads are always with us—and yes, they even exist over here, in our own self-impressed tribe. That said, Drum is not a dittohead, and he undertook, in last Saturday's post, to address a question we had raised about the presentation of this material in best-selling books, even on the front page of the New York Times.

Last Thursday, we commented on the sources of confusion found in Isaacson's passage. In the process, we apparently offered this deathless remark, spoken on behalf of the shlubs of the world:

No one has the slightest idea what Isaacson means when he refers to "the four-dimensional fabric of space and time." We all can picture that trampoline—but none of us knows how to imagine that "four-dimensional fabric!" Nor does Isaacson give us the tools to do so, or notice that he has failed.

In a perfectly sensible way, Drum undertook to explain what "the four-dimensional fabric of space and time" actually is. He offered this presentation, whose accuracy and completeness we aren't equipped to assess:
DRUM (2/20/16): As it turns out, explaining the "fabric" of spacetime isn't hard. Yes, it's four-dimensional. But all this means is that you define it using four numbers. If you described me via my age, weight, height, and IQ, that would be a "four-dimensional" representation of Kevin Drum. It's not a big deal.

Now suppose you want to describe an event. You need to specify where it happened and when it happened. Take, for example, the airplane crashing into World Trade Center 1. It happened at 40.71º latitude, -74.01º longitude, and 6,371 kilometers (relative to the center of the earth) at 13:46:30 GMT on 11 September 2001 (relative to the common era calendar). As an event in spacetime it's represented by an ordered 4-tuple:

(40.71, -74.01, 6371, 2001.

There are other events that happened at the same time in other places (me saying "oh shit" in California); at the same place in other times (breaking ground on WTC 1 in 1966); and entirely different times and places (the Battle of Gettysburg). If you collect every possible location of an event ever—that is, every combination of four numbers specifying times and places in the universe—that's all of spacetime. Physicists are likely to call it a manifold or a Minkowski space.
"This is all pretty simple," Drum goes on to say. As presented, we'll agree with that statement.

In fairness, it isn't clear why someone would want to "collect every possible location of an event ever—that is, every combination of four numbers specifying times and places in the universe."

It isn't clear what you'd do with this collection once you were done, if you ever could be.

But if that's all Isaacson meant by "the four-dimensional fabric of space and time," it seems that he was working with some fairly simple concepts. Only one question remains:

Why did he use the word "fabric?"

Sadly, our question is important. When Isaacson refers to "space and time" as a "fabric," it lets him employ the picture of that infernal trampoline, a picture which will be familiar to readers of Einstein-made-easy books.

The problem continues from there. When Isaacson refers to "space and time" as a "fabric," this lets him tell us to picture a bowling ball rolling onto a trampoline, then to imagine something dropping onto "the four-dimensional fabric of space and time" in some similar way. Somehow or other, this is supposed to help us understand gravity, which he has already said is "a warping of space and time."

Alas! It's easy to "picture what it would be like to roll a bowling ball onto the two-dimensional surface of a trampoline." That doesn't tell us why Isaacson then decided to compare "space and time" to that trampoline. It doesn't tell us what he means when he says that space and time constitute a "four-dimensional fabric."

Sadly enough, it doesn't tell us why he referred to space and time as a "fabric" at all! We the readers of simplified books are left on our own with that!

"Okay, it's not easy," Isaacson says, "but that's why we're no Einstein and he was." For ourselves, we'd offer a different explanation. We'd say it isn't easy because Isaacson has made no attempt to explain the peculiar things he has said!

In last Saturday's post, Drum explained what "spacetime" is. This is a step Issacson skipped in the passage we posted.

Let's assume that Drum's account of "spacetime" is accurate and complete. Having done that, let us also ask this:

Even now, do you have any idea why you, or anyone else, should regard spacetime as a "fabric?"

In Drum's account, which is perfectly lucid, "spacetime" sounds like a giant collection of data. So why on earth would someone want to call it a fabric? Why wouldn't you call it "a page full of numbers," or maybe "a vat of ball bearings?"

If we might borrow from the Beatles, why shouldn't we just call it Arthur?

(Reporter: "What would you call that hairstyle you're wearing?" George Harrison: "Arthur." Click here, move to 0:54.)

Why did Isaacson say that "space and time" are some sort of "fabric?" Uh-oh! As readers of Einstein-made-easy books know, this is a common notion.

Indeed, Professor Greene's second best-selling book was called The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality. In Isaacson's "Acknowledgments" chapter, he thanks Greene first among the seventeen different physics professors who helped him craft the science in the book. (Greene "honed the wording of the science passages," Isaacson says.)

That said, here's our question: Does Isaacson ever explain the way in which space and time can be considered a "fabric?" How about Professor Greene? How clearly does he explain this metaphor, concept, description in his own best-selling book?

Following Frost, we'll set that aside for another day. In closing, though, we'll show you one more thing Drum said as he explained spacetime. We'll continue a bit beyond what we posted before. This time around, we'll highlight just one remark by Drum:
DRUM (2/20/16): As it turns out, explaining the "fabric" of spacetime isn't hard. Yes, it's four-dimensional. But all this means is that you define it using four numbers. If you described me via my age, weight, height, and IQ, that would be a "four-dimensional" representation of Kevin Drum. It's not a big deal.

Now suppose you want to describe an event. You need to specify where it happened and when it happened. Take, for example, the airplane crashing into World Trade Center 1. It happened at 40.71º latitude, -74.01º longitude, and 6,371 kilometers (relative to the center of the earth) at 13:46:30 GMT on 11 September 2001 (relative to the common era calendar). As an event in spacetime it's represented by an ordered 4-tuple:

(40.71, -74.01, 6371, 2001.

There are other events that happened at the same time in other places (me saying "oh shit" in California); at the same place in other times (breaking ground on WTC 1 in 1966); and entirely different times and places (the Battle of Gettysburg). If you collect every possible location of an event ever—that is, every combination of four numbers specifying times and places in the universe—that's all of spacetime. Physicists are likely to call it a manifold or a Minkowski space. For laymen, fabric is fine.

This is all pretty simple. You might not know the mathematics for dealing with arrays of four numbers at a time, but it's well developed. And if you combine that with a few other concepts—like the idea that the speed of light is always constant—you'll eventually end up with the theory of gravitational attraction that's called general relativity.
"For laymen, fabric is fine?" He seems to be saying it's close enough for Einstein-made-easy work!

Our passage from Isaacson turns on the concept that "space and time" can be regarded as some sort of "fabric." Once we've agreed to regard "space and time" that way, we can imagine some counterpart to those bowling balls creating curving and warping.

That said, in what way can "space and time" be regarded as a fabric? Why would anyone say such a thing? Under the circumstances, this seems like an obvious question.

Alas! After explaining nothing, Isaacson simply says the whole thing is hard. After explaining what "spacetime" is, Drum simply says that the "fabric" metaphor, comparison or description is "fine for laymen!"

Copy and recite!

To his credit, Drum accepted the Einstein-made-easy challenge in a pair of posts. Routinely, Drum does excellent work. In this case, though, in the end, even he left us shlubs on our own.

Einstein-made-easy is very hard work! In our view, it's part of a fascinating culture—an upper-end culture of incomprehension. This culture suffuses the failing work of our unhelpful academic and journalistic elites.

Coming next: Nova tackles the plight of the lady on the fast-moving train

Campaign watch: Kevin Drum batters Judicial Watch!


Gives mainstream "press corps" a pass:
Recently, we told you that Kevin Drum is our favorite blogger.

Oh wait! We said it earlier today. This afternoon, we're going to tell you the other side of the story.

The analysts screamed when Uncle Drum penned the complaint shown below about the latest scandal or pseudo-scandal surrounding Candidate Clinton. Truth to tell, the highlighted claim made the analysts writhe:
DRUM (2/24/16): This is all courtesy of Judicial Watch, the Scaife-funded outfit that brought us so much endless Clinton paranoia in the 90s. To this day, most people—including an awful lot of reporters who ought to know better—still don't realize just how deliberate and manufactured the effort to destroy Bill Clinton was back then. Despite thousands of hours and millions of dollars of investigation, virtually none of the "scandals" turned out to be real. They were just an extended effort to throw mud at the wall and see if something stuck. Ironically, the only one that did stick had nothing to do with any of the mud. It was just an old-fashioned sex scandal.
As always, Candidate Clinton is surrounded by scandals, alleged scandals or pseudo-scandals. As Drum notes, it has ever been thus.

The current batch of alleged scandals and alleged character flaws is extremely serious. Candidate Clinton has been badly damaged by the past two tears of scandal pursuit—scandal pursuit which has been met by the liberal world's standard refusal to push back or fight. This means that, if she is the nominee, Candidate Trump could win.

In that post, Drum makes a peculiar statement. He says "an awful lot of reporters who ought to know better still don't realize just how deliberate and manufactured the effort to destroy Bill Clinton was back then," meaning back in the 1990s.

Everything is possible, of course, as we frequently note. But on what basis are we supposed to assume that Drum's assessment is true?

Much of what happened in the 1990s tilted toward utterly phony. Starting in March 1999, the vicious attacks against Clinton and Clinton were seamlessly transferred to Candidate Gore, Bill Clinton's chosen successor.

Both here and at our companion site, we spent years producing material about the nature of those press corps attacks, the attacks which sent Bush to the White House. Are we supposed to believe that the nation's reporters don't know that their war against Gore was fake and phony, a press corps confection, a stampede of payback, a journalistic hoax which went one percent too far?

(You've never read a published account of Chris Matthews' astonishing conduct during the twenty months of Campaign 2000. Is that because "an awful lot of reporters who ought to know better" still don't know what Matthews did? Really? Can that possibly be what we're supposed to think?)

People like Drum have always refused to discuss this part of our recent history. He's joined in that decision by everyone who works at Mother Jones, a career journalist hive.

For that reason, many liberals don't understand the nature of that decade's attacks, first on Clinton and Clinton, then on Candidate Gore.

Liberal voters may be clueless about this basic history. Are we really supposed to believe that the nation's major reporters are clueless about it too? Just because Drum has typically chosen to duck these topics, are we supposed to think that he doesn't understand the scope of what occurred during that era?

In our last post, we mentioned the mainstream press corps' ubiquitous code of silence. A vast silence surrounds the press corps' conduct during the 1990s, including in the writing of Drum.

Drum's commenters don't seem to be mentioning that peculiar highlighted claim in their reactions to this new post. We the liberals are very gullible when it comes to the trust we place in our intellectual leaders.

Members of The Other Tribe have always unwisely believed in Rush. Relentlessly, we the liberals believe in our "leaders" too.

Congenitally, we seem unable to come to terms with the decade in question. We simply refuse to come to terms with the history of that era.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! He gave us Willie Horton! He lied about the union lullaby! About the cost of his dog's arthritis pills! He said that he inspired Love Story, that he discovered Love Canal! Al Gore hired a woman to teach him how to be a man!

Do we still, in our pitiful way, think those repetitive claims by the nation's reporters were actually made in good faith? Do we think "an awful lot of reporters" still don't know better?

Can this possibly be what we still believe? If so, please don't ask who gave us Trump. Candidate Trump sprang full-blown from us, from our massive unparalleled tribal refusal to function.

A lot of reporters don't know any better! Would that include people like Mika and Joe? Is that what our team believes?

Campaign watch: Marcus batters Candidate Trump!


Gives mainstream "press corps" a pass:
We go way back with Jackie Calmes, though we don't think we ever met her.

Back in the day, on several occasions, she treated readers of the Wall Street Journal to our incomparable jokes, right there on the front page, where the Journal featured her weekly "Washington Wire" piece.

Today, Calmes is at the New York Times, where she seems to hold the official throwback chair. She's the one who composes competent news reports about topics which used to be taken as serious while everyone else just rattles around in the realm of the piddle and foofaw.

Yesterday morning, Calmes wrote a news report about the crazy tax proposals of the major Republican candidates.

The Times had avoided this topic for roughly five months at that point. But when this fully ridiculous paper decided to offer a news report, they assigned the task to our old benefactor and she did her usual solid job.

That said, our journalistic culture has completely collapsed in the current campaign. In yesterday's paper, those tax proposals were reviewed by Calmes on page A12 of the Times; the Times reserved its front-page slot for a longer piece about the fact that Ted Cruz had fired a staffer in the wake of the latest gong-show distraction out on the campaign trail. For more information, click here.

Those important proposals were pushed to A12; the latest bullshit was on page one. Plus, Ashley Parker wrote a memoir about how much she [HEARTED] Jeb Bush! This is the culture which now exists at the silly, ridiculous Times.

Tomorrow, we'll take note of a technical point we think Calmes could have done better. For today, let's compliment Ruth Marcus for what she wrote about Trump's crazy tax proposal, and other ludicrous claims by Trump, in Sunday's Washington Post.

Calmes did an analysis piece in the Times; Marcus penned an opinion column. That said, her column had more information about Trump's crazy proposals and claims than the Times had bothered to publish in the five months since he released his crazy tax proposal.

To Marcus, Trump's manifest lunacy qualifies as a "scandal." Headline included, she started like this:
MARCUS (2/21/16): The Trump scandal no one talks about

In this depressingly unserious campaign season, it's time—past time—to take Donald Trump seriously.
In particular, to take seriously what passes for Trump's domestic policy, aside from that wall.

Trump purports to care about the national debt. "We can't keep doing this," he said of the debt at MSNBC's town hall Wednesday. "We've got to start balancing budgets."
From there, Marcus listed the various crazy ways Trump claims he can balance the budget. Here's one chunk of her column:
MARCUS: Another Trump favorite—empowering Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices—produces claimed savings, $300 billion annually, that are mathematically impossible. Medicare spending on prescription drugs was $78 billion in 2014. Total national spending on prescription drugs, not just by the federal government, was about $300 billion in 2014, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Stick with Trump! He'll get the drug companies to pay us to take their meds!

Push Trump on cuts elsewhere in the budget, and you get suggestions that are paltry and unrealistic.
"I'm going to cut spending big league," Trump pronounced at the MSNBC town hall. His sole example, when pressed by Joe Scarborough, was the Education Department.

Which part, please? The $28 billion to fund Pell Grants for low-income college students? The $16 billion to local school districts with large numbers of low-income elementary and secondary students? The $13 billion to states for special education? The entire $78 billion federal education budget?
Trump claims he can save $300 billion every year. He says he'll do so in a program which spends one-fourth that amount.

The inanity runs downhill from there. Before long, Marcus got to that crazy tax proposal:
MARCUS: This would not be so maddening if Trump were not simultaneously pushing a tax cut costing double-digit trillions of dollars over the next decade. His Republican rivals peddle big tax cuts—Trump's is huuuger.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates its 10-year cost at $9.5 trillion, or $11.2 trillion with interest. The Tax Foundation gives the Trump plan credit for generating economic growth; as a result, its estimated $12 trillion cost of Trump's plan would drop to a mere—mere!— $10 trillion, excluding interest.

How to pay for this? The Tax Policy Center illustrates the magnitude of cuts required...
The lunacy of Trump's tax proposal is clear as Marcus proceeds from there. Technical note:

In the passage we've posted, Marcus includes a basic technical point, the technical matter Calmes skipped. More on that tomorrow.

Marcus calls this lunacy from Candidate Trump "depressingly unserious;" she's certainly right about that. That said, she fails to mention another key point—her colleagues in her own press corps have also been "depressingly unserious" in their approach to this astonishing pigpile of nonsense.

In its basic reporting, Marcus' own Washington Post has basically ignored Trump's crazy tax proposal, just as the New York Times has done. As our journalistic culture collapses, such topics are no longer part of our front-page discourse. Speculation and species of piddle obsess our "reporters" instead.

Marcus name-calls Candidate Trump, but as she does, she gives the national "press corps" a pass. But then, it has always worked this way:

It's called a code of silence. Scrupulously, that code is maintained all through what we call "the press."

FIRST REACTIONS: Drum takes the Einstein-made-easy challenge!


Part 3—We keep pounding out those results:
People, let's come out and say it:

Your incomparable Daily Howler just keeps banging out those results!

Last Monday, we started a series of reports about an academic and journalistic phenomenon we described as a culture of incoherence, confusion and incomprehension. As we started, we focused on the incoherence we keep finding in the nation's constant stream of Einstein-made-easy books.

Do those books, and concomitant PBS programs, really make Einstein easy? Despite persistent raves from reviewers, we'd say they plainly do not.

In our view, the incoherence of those books and those PBS programs is a fascinating part of our academic and journalistic cultures. We plan to spend large chunks of time in the coming months examining the argle-bargle-based hodgepodge we persistently think we find in those widely-praised best-selling books.

By last weekend, we were already getting results! On Sunday, our favorite blogger, Kevin Drum, cheekily accepted the general relativity challenge.

His post appeared beneath a cocky headline. "Be careful, Uncle Drum," the analysts cried, when they read his banner:

"General Relativity: Not So Hard After All!"

That was the headline on Drum's post, in which he reduced General Relativity to just seven brief points.

You can find Drum's bullet points here, in his Sunday post. "Not so hard!" he cheekily claims, after listing his points.

In fairness to us, we never said that Kevin Drum couldn't make Einstein easy. (Nor did Drum attribute that claim to us.) We said the best-sellers which claim to make Einstein easy have persistently failed, in grandiose fashion.

In some ways, Drum seemed to agree with that general claim in the course of posting his seven points, and in his original Saturday post on this subject. That said, did the analysts' Uncle Drum succeed in making Einstein easy in the course of Sunday's post?

We'd have to say he probably didn't. As laymen, we can't even say with certainty that his seven points are all accurate, or that they're complete.

Why would we balk at Drum's self-assessment, in which he says The General Relativity-Made-Easy challenge actually "isn't so hard?"

Alas! It takes less time to read his points than to read a 400-page book. But lurking in his 126 words are several points we the laymen almost surely won't "understand:"

According to Drum, "gravity isn't a property of mass. It's caused by the geometry of the universe."

In all likelihood, we the laymen will have no idea those last four words mean.

According to Drum, "Einstein's equations predict that time runs slower near objects with high gravitational fields."

The notion that time can run faster or slower is one of the concepts by which we laymen tend to be bollixed when writers start making Einstein easy. For that reason, we're also likely to be puzzled by this point:

"Sometimes an object can have such a strong gravitational field that light can't escape and time stops."

Time stops altogether, full stop? It's natural for laymen to wonder what Einstein, or anyone else, could possibly mean by a statement like that. Drum provides no help.

Returning to Drum's post today, we also find this fiendish update at the end of his post:

"UPDATE: I've modified the third bullet of the relativity list to make it more accurate."

If memory serves, he also eliminated some fascinating language about the relationship between energy and matter.

In our view, the typical layman would have found that fascinating language confusing or puzzling or perhaps just fascinatingly incomplete. Today, that fascinating language is gone, and we're left with a simplified seven points which, in Drum's assessment, constitute "a perfectly adequate lay description of general relativity."

Is that assessment correct? We have no idea! We're the laymen of this piece; as such, we've purchased and read a lot of best-sellers which, we were assured by reviewers, would make Einstein stupefyingly easy.

We've always found these widely-praised books to be masterworks of bafflegab. For that reason, we don't understand special relativity, general relativity or quantum mechanics, or any of the other subjects these books purport to clarify or explain. For these reasons, we can't evaluate the accuracy of Drum's account.

Drum goes on to discuss the extent to which it even makes sense to try to "explain" this branch of science. In our view, his remarks in this area are a bit muddy. That said, they touch on very important points about what it even means to offer "explanations" in physics.

(Was Newton's theory of gravitation really an "explanation?" Or was it just a set of predictions? Drum flirts with essential questions here, although his remarks strike us as muddy.)

Kevin Drum is our favorite blogger. His work on the effects of exposure to lead has been, in our view, the most important body of work we've ever seen from any other "blogger."

(He's also examined this topic as a straight journalist. For his lengthy cover report for Mother Jones, you can just click here. Could someone tell the Maddow Show about the sprawling body of work they're turning into a creepy burlesque?)

That said, has Drum really produced "a perfectly adequate lay description of general relativity?" For the reasons explained, we have no idea. That said, a critic of Drum-the-teacher would say that he is instructing his students to do the following things:
1) Memorize these seven points.
2) Don't ask any questions!
That's a bit of an exaggeration. That said, how beloved would Mr. Chips have been if he had instructed the boys as Drum did in this post?

Nothing turns on the average person's knowledge of general relativity or quantum mechanics. Nothing turns on the average person's understanding of the connection between energy and matter, although that person's ability to reason and dream would be vastly enhanced by a competent discussion of that fascinating topic.

Nothing turns on the success of those Einstein-made-easy books. That said, we think our prevailing culture of incoherence is a fascinating phenomenon:

Remember when an emperor's claim made no sense and no one could tell except one little child? Our academic and journalistic cultures often seem to recall the bewitchment of that troubled empire. We plan to spend the coming weeks and months exploring that part of our failing culture—our culture of upper-end incoherence, our culture of pure bafflegab.

Uh-oh! In his initial post on this subject, our own Mr. Chips seemed to say that this bafflegab doesn't matter all that much. In last Saturday's post, what did Drum say about Walter Isaacson's best-selling book?

The analysts moped about all day. Tomorrow, we'll recall what he said.

Tomorrow: "It's close enough for the general reader," the analysts' Uncle Drum said

Campaign watch: Just try to explain this sort of thing!


Maddow's compulsive misstatements:
As usual, Rachel Maddow was wasting everyone's time last night with silly campaign piddle.

Before the program was over, she would 1) play tape of Bush's funny sounds again; 2) make Bush's head shot go "poof" on her big board of Republican head shots; and even 3) go back through all the Republican headshots, re-poofing every one!

For us out here in Mickey Mouse land, it was oodles of Mickey Mouse Club-style fun. It was also as dumb as a box of rocks, although we liberals don't seem able to notice or care.

Maddow's show has become every bit as faux as the Morning Joe gonger which forms its daily bookend. Last night, though, Maddow livened things up amid all the poof-ing with one of her compulsive, absurd false statements.

As she often does, Maddow was pretending to stand tall against that "Beltway press." When Maddow casts herself in this role, she often attributes puzzling claims to those unnamed very bad people.

Last night, though, Maddow outdid herself. Even by her own weird standards, the highlighted claims makes absolutely no sense:
MADDOW (2/22/16): This election year is now officially so weird that historically speaking, the least weird thing that could happen from here on out, would be for Donald Trump to win the Republican presidential nomination. Honestly, it would be bizarre if it didn't happen now.

No Republican candidate for president has ever won both New Hampshire and South Carolina and not gone onto win the nomination. Mr. Trump has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina. And he won them both by a lot.
It would be weird—it would be unprecedented if he didn't now go onto win the overall primary.

Now conversely, the political press has decided that Marco Rubio is basically a sure bet at this point. The endorsements for Senator Rubio is flooding in. He's been all but coronated by the Beltway press.

But Marco Rubio just lost by 10 points in South Carolina. He came in fifth before that in New Hampshire. He came in third before that in Iowa. Historically speaking, nobody has won the Republican nomination without winning at least one of the first three states.

Marco Rubio not only didn't win one of the first three, he didn't come close to winning in any of the first three states.

If Marco Rubio is going to get the Republican nomination, he's going to be a historical anomaly so glaring, you will be able to see the glow from space.
Sitting at home, we the gullible liberals got played by this big fraud once again.

Say what? "The political press has decided that Marco Rubio is basically a sure bet at this point?"

"He's been all but coronated by the Beltway press?"

We have no idea why Maddow would make such strange statements. Have you seen anyone in the mainstream press predicting that Rubio is going to win the GOP nomination? Have you seen anyone calling him "a sure bet?"

Why does Maddow say these things? Aside from our sense that she could possibly use some help, we have no idea.

Just for the record, to see the Maddow Show's "citations" for last night's program, you can just click here. The Maddow staff links you to many cites. There is no link to any claim that Rubio's going to win.

That claim was very, very strange but increasingly, so is this program's host. Many "stars" have been eaten alive by show business wealth and fame. Maddow, a multimillionaire clown, looks like the latest contender.

Campaign watch: Parker shares her love for Bush!


Our dumbest, most ludicrous newspaper:
Donald J. Trump released his formal tax proposal in September 2015.

It's the craziest such proposal in modern campaign history. Five months later, the New York Times has finally reported some basic facts about this crazy proposal.

The report is written by Jackie Calmes, who's kept on staff at the New York Times as the newspaper's "smart" reporter. In hard copy, Calmes' report appears on page A12.

In her report, Calmes also discusses the tax proposals of Candidates Rubio and Cruz. This is the way she begins her report on a topic which was once believed to be extremely basic:
CALMES (2/23/16): The tax plans of the Republican presidential candidates would cut federal revenues as much as $12 trillion over a decade, a post-World War II record eclipsing the deep tax cuts of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. And they would come just as America faces the costs of its aging baby-boom generation.

The combination of the tax cuts’ size and timing has many tax and budget policy analysts questioning their viability. The Republican rivals routinely denounce the current $14 trillion debt, but none has said how he would offset the revenues lost to his tax cuts, beyond unspecified cuts to domestic programs and repeals of some existing tax breaks.
Five months later, the Times has finally noted two facts. Trump has proposed the largest tax cuts in modern history. Also, his crazy proposal flies in the face of his constant complaints about the size of federal deficits and debt.

A bit later in her report, Calmes discusses the effect of these GOP proposals on income distribution. She also discusses the crazy effects of these crazy proposals on federal deficit spending.

By that measure, the craziest of these crazy proposals belongs to Candidate Trump:
CALMES: [A]t a time when many Americans lament the growing gap between rich and poor—and the shrinking middle class in between—the Republicans’ plans would mostly benefit the richest individuals and corporations, according to analyses by research groups that lean left, right and center.

What is indisputable is the sheer size of the proposed tax cuts. The four most detailed proposals would easily eclipse the reductions under Presidents Bush, Reagan and Kennedy, compared with the size of the economy.


By most estimates of the outside groups, the costliest plan is Mr. Trump’s. His proposed cuts could mean about $12 trillion less in federal revenue in the first 10 years after they took effect—a figure on which both a liberal tax policy group, Citizens for Tax Justice, and a conservative-leaning one, the Tax Foundation, agree. That would be more than a quarter of the $46.5 trillion in total revenues that the new Obama budget projects over 10 years.
Month after month, we've noted the failure of this famous but clownish newspaper to report these remarkable facts about Trump's crazy proposal.

Five months later, this Times has bestirred itself to publish a basic report on this topic—on a topic which was considered very basic before our whole culture collapsed.

That said, please note what else the New York Times published today.

As noted, Calmes' report appears on page A12. It runs 1229 words.

Calmes' report concerns a profoundly basic topic. That said, it is eclipsed, in size and placement, by the Times' 1447-word, front-page report about the latest inane distraction which has been churned within the Republican White House campaign.

In this morning's hard-copy Times, yesterday's firing of a Ted Cruz staffer is covered on page one. The report about this pointless event is longer than the Calmes report, which appears on page A12.

The report about the staffer's firing is accompanied by two photographs, one of which is quite large. Calmes' report is accompanied by one small photograph.

In every way, the Times treats the firing of the Cruz staffer as a more important topic than the obvious craziness of the GOP tax proposals. Then too, we must mention today's ludicrous "Reporter's Notebook" piece, a Valentine to former Candidate Bush by the ludicrous Ashley Parker.

The Parker piece appears of page A18, accompanied by a huge photo. It appears beneath this embarrassing headline:

"Voters Might Not Miss Bush, But Campaign Reporters Will"

A boxed sub-headline extends the theme: "Running a wildly imperfect campaign, but remaining deeply human."

Like a spawn of Campaign 2000-era Frank Bruni, this silly newspaper's silliest scribe takes some time to tell the world why she, and other reporters like her, are going to miss Candidate Bush.

For more than a year, Bruni fawned to a previous Candidate Bush. Plucking petals from a flower, Parker tells us this about the more recent version:
PARKER (2/23/16): He was your goofy dad, your awkward uncle. He bungled a policy rollout in Nevada when he called ''Supergirl'' ''hot'' (c'mon, Dad!), he was delightfully befuddled when his Apple Watch began ringing during a meeting with an Iowa newspaper, and he wiggled into a hoodie in a shaky YouTube video.

He talked with deep passion about space travel, and spoke to kids as if they were grown-ups, offering 8- and 9-year-olds treatises on the nation's debt.

He fumbled for basic expressions, and some of his references and jokes made no sense—and yet we loved them anyway. There was the time Jeb put a crab in a frog metaphor. And the one about being ''the bacon in the breakfast experience, not the egg,'' whatever that meant. (We assumed it was something Paleo.) By the end of his campaign, I had a whole mental subcategory of Bush stories that I had nicknamed Zany Jeb.

But, at the core, what made Jeb compelling to cover was that he was deeply, impossibly human.
Where on earth does the New York Times go to find life forms like Parker? Wherever it is, the Times has been hiring from that planet for a very long time.

As we noted, Calmes is the Times' "smart" political reporter. She's kept around to produce the occasional report about topics once believed to be serious.

Parker is more the norm at the Times. She started as Maureen Dowd's "research assistant," whatever that could possible mean. Her work has spiraled downward from there.

Reviewing the work of people like Parker, one gets an awkward impression: the Times is the place where our least competent upper-class children are sent by their connected parents to obtain mercy employment.

Their smarter siblings go to Wall Street, where they proceed to loot everyone else. The Parkers are sent to the Times, with instructions not to notice.

In fairness to Parker, what kind of editor assigns and/or publishes such work? The answer to that question is obvious:

An editor at the New York Times, our silliest, most ludicrous "newspaper!"

Five months later, the New York Times has gotten around to reporting a small minor fact. Candidate Trump has offered the craziest budget proposal in world history.

At the Times, this rates a five-month-old yawn. Dearest darlings, a staffer was fired! Also, we journos [HEART] Bush!

INITIAL REACTIONS: Reviewing the look of pure bafflegab!


Part 2—Bowling balls and trampolines and elevators oh my:
Last Thursday and Friday, we posed a bit of a question:

Does the passage shown below strike you as coherent?

The passage is taken from Walter Isaacson's best-selling book, Einstein: His Life and Universe. Do you feel you have even the slightest idea what Isaacson's talking about?
ISAACSON (pages 3-4): [I]n 1915, [Einstein] wrested from nature his crowning glory, one of the most beautiful theories in all of science, the general theory of relativity. As with the special theory, his thinking had evolved through thought experiments. Imagine being in an enclosed elevator accelerating up through space, he conjectured in one of them. The effects you'd feel would be indistinguishable from the experience of gravity.

Gravity, he figured, was a warping of space and time, and he came up with the equations that describe how the dynamics of this curvature result from the interplay between matter, motion, and energy. It can be described by using another thought experiment. Picture what it would be like to roll a bowling ball onto the two-dimensional surface of a trampoline. Then roll some billiard balls. They move toward the bowling ball not because it exerts some mysterious attraction but because of the way it curves the trampoline fabric. Now imagine this happening in the four-dimensional fabric of space and time. Okay, it's not easy, but that's why we're no Einstein and he was.
For Friday's report, click here.

There it is—Isaacson's initial account of "one of the most beautiful theories in all of science, the general theory of relativity." We repeat our award-winning question:

Do you feel you have any idea what Isaacson's talking about?

In fairness, we noted several points about that puzzling passage. We noted the fact that it comes very early in Isaacson's book. We said a fair-minded person would hold out hope that Isaacson would explain that puzzling passage at some later point in the book.

We also noted the good-natured jest with which Isaacson ends that passage. "Okay, it's not easy," Isaacson writes, "but that's why we're no Einstein and he was."

In that good-natured jibe, Isaacson seems to agree with our basic premise—as presented, that passage will likely prove to be very hard for most of us shlubs to understand, discuss, comprehend, paraphrase or explain.

Did Isaacson go on to explain that passage in his book? We leave that question for later in the course we'll be supervising—a course in the academic/journalistic culture of incoherence, confusion and complete total incomprehension.

Did Isaacson ever explain that passage? Taking our cue from Frost, we'll set that aside for another day! But good God! As that passage stands, we'll describe it as we did last week:

It's vintage bafflegab!

Isaacson's passage is crawling with relatively unfamiliar references—references the typical reader of best-selling books won't likely be able to discuss, paraphrase or explain. Consider some examples just from that second paragraph:

Do you the reader have any idea what it mean to talk about "the warping of space and time?" We all can picture the warping of wood. Do you feel you know what Isaacson means by the warping of space and time?

We all can picture a curve in a road. Do you feel you understand the "curvature" to which Isaacson refers in that passage? Do you feel comfortable talking about the "dynamics" of such a curvature?

According to Isaacson, the warping of space and time—rather, the dynamics of that warping—"results from the interplay between matter, motion, and energy." Consider:

For most of us the humans, "interplay" is a word we can comfortably use and understand in a wide array of contexts. That said, do you feel you know what Isaacson's taking about when he refers to "the interplay between motion and energy?"

Do you feel you have any idea what he's discussing there?

Uh-oh! At this point in that second graf, we're asked to engage in a thought experiment. The passage which follows will seem familiar to readers of Einstein-made-easy books. That said, do you have any idea what this sub-passage means?

"Picture what it would be like to roll a bowling ball onto the two-dimensional surface of a trampoline. Then roll some billiard balls. They move toward the bowling ball not because it exerts some mysterious attraction but because of the way it curves the trampoline fabric. Now imagine this happening in the four-dimensional fabric of space and time."

Presumably, no speaker of English will be confused when Isaacson describes the surface of a trampoline as a "two-dimensional fabric." Suddenly, though, we're asked to imagine something happening "in the four-dimensional fabric of space and time."

Putting aside the question of those four dimensions, do you know why he refers to "space and time" as a "fabric?" Forget about the reference to "space and time" as a four-dimensional fabric. From that passage, do you have any idea why Isaacson refers to space and time as a "fabric" at all?

Why on earth does Isaacson call "space and time" a "fabric?" No explanation is found in that passage, a passage which ends with that good-natured jest:

"Okay, it's not easy, but that's why we're no Einstein and he was."

We're no Einstein? Presumably, Einstein himself would have been puzzled by that passage had he been asked to read it at, let's say, age 21. He would have been puzzled because the passage involves unconventional locutions without any attempt at explanations of same.

Since we're just on page 4 of Isaacson's book, this may not reflect an ultimate problem with that book. But as it stands, that passage strikes us as world-class bafflegab—and we haven't even tried to wrestle with the relevance of that "enclosed elevator accelerating up through space," or the effects we would feel!

To us, that's prime bafflegab. In our view, it's bafflegab of a type which is common in Einstein-made-easy best-sellers—books which are commonly praised for their wonderful clarity by teams of mainstream reviewers and claques of physics professors.

The bafflegab is obvious there, to the point where Isaacson jokes about it. That's why we were intrigued by Kevin Drum's treatment of that passage in last Saturday's post.

Drum is our favorite blogger. In our view, his work on lead abatement may be the most impressive work ever produced on the web, with one obvious exception.

(We'd rank Drum's work behind our own treatment of the press coverage of Campaign 2000. By virtue of the code of silence mandated by Our Own Tribe's Tribal Rules, that body of work still can't be discussed. We liberals can't be exposed to our nation's recent history. It's journalistic careers in the balance!)

Let's return to our current topic:

Isaacson's passage strikes us as pure bafflegab. Tomorrow, we'll look at Drum's reaction to that passage in which, we'd have to say, he rushes past the basic point concerning that key term, "fabric."

Originally, we thought we'd be on Day Two of our first week on Wittgenstein by this point. That said, as Laura Ingalls Wilder used to tell Manly, "we have all the time in the world!"

We have all the time in the world! We say that even as our American culture, which no longer exists, slides into the swamp which contains the mud of the nether world.

Our journalists don't seem equipped or inclined to discuss that either! From what planet in what corner of space and time were these apparent life forms sent here?

Tomorrow: Close enough for Einstein-made-easy work!

Thursday: Confidence found in the comments

Campaign watch: Our political culture has ceased to exist!


Anderson Cooper with Trump:
We've been moving in this direction for a good many years. But in the current White House campaign, traditional journalistic culture has totally ceased to exist.

To see what we mean, consider CNN's town hall event last Thursday night. More specifically, consider a long, embarrassing, hapless exchange between Anderson Cooper and Candidate Trump.

Trump, of course, is a consummate clown, the end result of a long, gruesome process. We'll focus on Anderson Cooper.

At one point during his hour with Trump, Cooper called on a South Carolina voter named Todd. Todd wanted to know what Trump planned to do to replace Obamacare.

Todd said he was "a local health insurance agent." He said he wasn't "a big fan of Obamacare." Still and all, he stressed the fact that he wanted specifics from Trump:
QUESTIONER (2/18/16): What is your exact plan, and please be specific, as to what you would do to replace Obamacare?
To watch the whole segment, just click here. Todd's question starts around 16:30.

How would Trump replace Obamacare? The voter wanted to hear his exact plan. He asked Trump to be specific.

Needless to say, Trump instantly wandered off point. Just like that, the candidate was sharing his exact thoughts about refugees from Syria:
TRUMP (continuing directly): OK. Great question. First of all, Obamacare as you know is a disaster. Your rates are going up 25, 35, 45, 55 percent. It's going to fail in '17 anyway unless as usual the Republicans bail them out. We know where the Democrats are coming from, but the Republicans have been so weak.

The budget they passed four weeks ago is a—they call it the omnibus budget. It gives Obama everything he wanted. It gives him money to bring in people from Syria that we have no idea who they are or where they are, et cetera which is a disaster. We can't afford to do that.

It gives money for illegal immigration, for letting people come in illegally into this country. The whole thing is a disaster and the Republicans passed it.

With health care, we have to repeal and replace Obamacare.
To his credit, Cooper piped up at this point, reminding Trump of the question he'd been asked. In response, Trump wandered the countryside again.

Once again, he wandered about, then offered a magic solution:
COOPER (continuing directly): What would you replace it with?

TRUMP: A health care savings accounts, which are great. We would do that. Or we're going to have and probably—and—you can say and/or, what I really like is the—

I'm a self-funder. I'm not taking any money, OK? I'm not taking money from the insurance companies so I can do what's right.

I can do what's right for the people, I can do—and this is something that I think I've been given credit for. I don't think I've been given enough credit, because I have turned down hundreds of millions of dollars. I could take—if Jeb Bush raised $148 million, put it in a fund, it's like throwing it out the window, what he did with it. I would have had 500—I would have had $1 billion—I have people asking me, "please let me give you"—I'm doing it all myself.

What happened is, we have lines around each state. It makes it impossible for people to bid, for insurance companies to bid within those states. The insurance company would have a monopoly—would rather have a monopoly on here, or on New York, or on Iowa, or on any other place, than be able to bid all over the United States, because they make much more money that way. What we do—and the insurance companies take care of the politicians. They're giving the politicians—most of the guys that I'm running against are getting money from insurance companies and they're getting money from—by the way, other companies. Drug companies, pharmaceutical companies.

They give tremendous amounts of money to the people that I'm negotiating against, that I'm debating against, the people that are on the stage, the people that are in Congress, the senators.

So what I'm saying is this. We have to get rid of the lines. We have to create competition. When you do that, you will have the best health care you've ever, ever had. And it'll be at a reasonable cost.

They almost got rid of the lines when they were doing Obamacare but it didn't happen. Because the insurance companies have too many of the senators under control.

COOPER: Let me ask Todd, just to follow-up—

TRUMP: You understand what I mean. There's no competition!
How would Trump replace Obamacare? He mentioned health care savings accounts, which he said are great. Beyond that, he advocated "removing the lines," which he said would "create competition," leading to "the best health care you've ever, ever had."

By now, Trump had spoken for two minutes and 30 seconds in response to the voter's question asking him for specifics. He had said virtually nothing which was responsive to the question he'd been asked.

In all likelihood, very few viewers could really explain what "health care savings accounts" are, or how they would work as replacement for Obamacare. Presumably, almost no one knew what Trump meant by the phrase "removing the lines," given his hurried, rushed, confusing explanation of the topic.

Cooper made no attempt to clarify this part of Trump's statement, or to challenge Trump with the familiar standard objections to "removing the lines."

At this point, Cooper turned to Todd, the person who asked the question. In response to a pitiful question from Cooper, this exchange occurred:
COOPER (continuing directly): Did you get your answer? Is that specific enough for you? Do you—

QUESTIONER: Sounds fair enough. Yes.

TRUMP: Thank you.
To our eye, it looked like Todd was too polite to say that he wasn't satisfied. At any rate, that's what was said.

To his credit, Cooper asked an actual question at this point, although he stammered around. In response, a filibuster occurred:
COOPER (continuing directly): I got one question about it. If Obamacare's, like, repealed, and there's no mandate for everybody to have insurance, what's to— I mean, why would insurance company not have a pre-existing, insure somebody who has a pre-existing condition?

TRUMP: Well, I like the mandate.

OK. So here's where I'm a little bit different. I don't want people dying on the streets, and I say this all the time. And I say this—

Look, I did five speeches, maybe six speeches today. We had a lot of rallies. We had of thousands and thousands of people. We get big crowds. Every time I talk about this, I get standing ovations. The Republican people, they're wonderful people. They don't want people dying on the streets.

Sometimes they'll say, "Donald Trump wants single-payer," because there's a group of people—as good as these plans are, and by the way your insurance will go way down, you'll have better plans, you'll get your own doctor, which Obama lied. Remember this—

COOPER: Will people with pre-existing conditions be able to get insurance?


Obama lied when he said you're going to keep your plan, you're going to keep your doctor, you got to—it was a pure lie. And frankly, many Democrats went along, only because they believed him.

He lied 28 times, he said it. Twenty-eight times. If that were in the private sector you'd be sued for fraud, OK? He lied to get the plan through. He got it through and it's turned out to be a disaster. The wrong people are buying it, you know what's happening. It's dead. It's going to— Look, Obamacare is dead. It's going to be repealed, it's going to be replaced.

But I will say this, Anderson. If we don't do something quickly, you're going to have a health care problem like you've never seen before in this country. Now—

The new plan is good. It's going to be inexpensive. It's going to be much better for the people. But there's going to a group of people at the bottom, people that haven't done well. People that don't have any money that won't be able to be taken care of.

We're going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. We have hospitals that aren't doing well, we have doctors that aren't doing well. You cannot let people die on the street, OK?

Now, some people would say, "that's not a very Republican thing to say." Every time I say this at a rally, or even today, I said it once, it got a standing ovation.

I said, "You know, the problem is everybody thinks that you people, as Republicans, hate the concept of taking care of people that are really, really sick and are gonna die." That's not single-payer, by the way. That's called "heart." We gotta take care of people that can't take care of themselves.

But the plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare, they'll be far better than Obamacare, you'll get your doctor, you'll get everything that you want to get. It'll be unbelievable. But you've gotta get rid of the lines. You gotta have competition. Those people that are left, we've gotta help them live. And everybody likes it when I say it, and that includes Republicans. And it's not single-payer.
How would Candidate Trump replace Obamacare?

By now, five minutes and 15 seconds had elapsed since Todd finished asking his question, in which he asked for specifics. In reply, Trump had said virtually nothing about what he would do. Meanwhile, Cooper had shown a total inability to moderate a discussion of this extremely basic question.

Trump had rattled some highly inaccurate claims about how poorly Obamacare is working. In answer to what he would do instead, he kept saying he wouldn't let anyone die in the streets, and that his new plan, whatever it is, isn't "single-payer."

He stressed the standing ovations he says he gets when he speaks. He also said that his new plan, whatever it is, "is good," is "going to be inexpensive" and is "going to be much better for the people." He said people's insurance costs would go way down and they would be able to have their own doctor.

Voters will get everything they want to get. It will be unbelievable.

How was he going to keep people from dying in the streets? According to Trump, "We're going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare."

Cooper let this world-class bafflegab pass.

How was Trump going to make costs go way down while improving everyone's plans and requiring companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions? There wasn't the slightest sign that Cooper knew how to ask such questions, or that he was willing to stop Trump from the self-serving digressions with which he lards his reactions to basic questions like this.

It isn't easy to handle a discussion like this, but Cooper didn't show the slightest sign of having any ability, or any will, to engage in the process. Simply put, he's a multimillionaire TV star who was pretending to interviewing a multibillionaire candidate who has taken our culture's rolling decline completely over the top.

Including that voter's futile question, we've looked at roughly six minutes out of Trump's 30-minute session with Cooper. The transcript you see doesn't even resemble a rational discussion.

It isn't easy to be in Cooper's seat, tasked with responding to so much nonsense and evasion. But Cooper, who's paid millions per year, didn't show the slightest sign of knowing how to interrupt the familiar, predictable puddles of piddle the candidate emitted.

You're looking at a complete collapse of the American system. This cosmic journalistic collapse has been underway for decades, of course. Tomorrow, we'll review the accurate things Ruth Marcus has now said.

INITIAL REACTIONS: Drum says "fabric" is close enough!


Part 1—Not Isaacson's fault, scribe says:
This morning's Washington Post includes a brief but intriguing report.

The report was written by Valerie Strauss, a long-time education blogger for the Post. In the hard-copy paper, it appears beneath this headline:

"What to believe about Albert Einstein's childhood and education"

In hard copy, Strauss' report is just 507 words long; it's derived from this blog post, which is slightly longer. The report appears on page B2 in this morning's Metro section. On most Mondays, the page is devoted to education reports.

Strauss' report isn't especially long; it isn't prominently placed. That said, we think it's a fascinating report. Strauss begins like this:
STRAUSS (2/22/16): There is huge news in the science world: Scientists just announced that they have detected gravitational waves from the merging of two black holes in deep space—something predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

The finding serves to underscore—again—the prodigious genius of Einstein, a theoretical physicist whose work fundamentally changed the way humans view and understand their world.

The outlines of his life story are well known: He was born in Germany in 1879, worked as a patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, starting in 1905, and in 1915 completed the earth-shattering General Theory of Relativity, which helped explain how space, time and gravity interact and propelled him into the scientific stratosphere.
Strauss goes on to answer some questions about Einstein's childhood and about his education. These are the findings in the slightly longer blog post:

It isn't clear that Einstein started talking late, as he once seemed to say. It would be wrong to say that he was a bad student, as is sometimes claimed.

No, he never flunked math, Strauss says. Beyond that, "the evidence strongly suggests that he was not" dyslexic.

One last point:

According to Strauss, "researchers at Cambridge and Oxford" said, apparently in 2003, that they believed that Einstein "displayed signs of Asperger’s as a young child."

Was that a sound judgment? We have no idea, but as we all know, "researchers" have said everything that possibly could be said at some point in time.

Most shocking was Strauss' claim that Einstein declared, at age 13, that Kant was his favorite author, based upon his reading of the “Critique of Pure Reason.” Flawlessly, we imagined the scene as the youngster announced his judgment:

"He had me at 'the transcendental unity of apperception is that unity through which all the manifold given in an intuition is united in a concept of the object,' " we pictured the youngster telling the elders. Of course, everyone gets to make a mistake, or so we say around here.

Strauss focused on Einstein as a child. For ourselves, we were intrigued by those first three paragraphs, in which she set the stage for her rumination.

No, it doesn't actually matter, but we couldn't helping wondering this:

How many readers of the Post could discuss "gravitational waves" in any significant way? Put a bit more baldly, how many readers have any idea what gravitational waves actually are?

Our second question cuts a bit closer to the bone:

How many readers of the Post could discuss what it means when Strauss says that the General Theory of Relativity "helps explain how space, time and gravity interact?" How far could the typical reader get with any such discussion?

How far could the typical reader get? Not far at all, we'd guess. That said, nothing actually turns on the fact that most of us couldn't discuss these subjects. In the conduct of our daily lives, it doesn't actually "matter."

Various other situations don't actually "matter" either. It doesn't matter if a string of best-selling books about relativity will, in the end, be incomprehensible to the vast bulk of readers.

It doesn't matter if those best-selling books give rise to multi-part PBS programs which would also be very hard for the typical viewer to discuss, summarize or explain.

In the vast sweep of things, it doesn't matter if reviewers at major newspapers swear that those incoherent best-selling books make relativity so easy to understand that even a dachshund could get it.

Some folks may shell out money for books they won't understand in the end. That too won't be the end of the world, especially since many such people may not realize that they didn't understand the books!

In the real world, nothing turns on the average person's ability to discuss or explain any of Einstein's discoveries. It doesn't matter that professors have produced a wave of books that no one actually understands, despite what reviewers say.

It doesn't matter that this syndrome exists. That said, we've long thought that this is a fascinating part of our academic and journalistic cultures. And no, the phenomenon isn't restricted to books that purportedly make Einstein easy, although Einstein-made-easy is the leading edge in a fascinating publishing/PBS industrial complex which purports to make a wide array of academic subjects accessible to us the laymen and shlubs.

(Have you ever read Professor Dennett's 1991 book, Consciousness Explained? Twenty-five years later, we haven't read it either! Eventually, we'll try to explain. We'll also examine a set of puzzling but reliably lauded mathematics-made-easy books.)

Are our basic judgments correct about this intriguing realm? Is there a set of Einstein-made-easy best-selling books which actually don't make Einstein easy? Have reviewers and professors reliably vouched for the clarity of these books despite their incoherence? Does PBS keep airing programs which don't make Einstein easy? Last November, was Nova's treatment of Einstein's lady on the fast-moving train an instant classic in the field of non-elucidation?

We began advancing such claims last week. Over the weekend, our favorite blogger responded.

To tell you the truth, we aren't real sure whether his posts agreed with our claims or took the opposite stance. In each of his two weekend posts, he seemed to be arguing both sides of the issue at various times.

That said:

On Saturday, Kevin Drum discussed our incomparable complaints about a passage near the start of Walter Isaacson's best-selling book, Einstein: His Life and Universe. (For Sunday's post by Drum, click this.)

We had said we were forced to describe Isaacson's passage as bafflegab. "Somerby is complaining about a big problem here," Drum said. "But it's not Isaacson's fault."

His analysis continued from there. In comments, we the people joined in.

For what it's worth, we're not after "fault" or blame as we examine this fascinating part of academic culture. In the main, we're looking for coherence and comprehension.

Eventually, Drum seemed to say that bafflegab is close enough for Einstein-made-easy work, especially since such work is aimed at us the laymen. He specifically referred to the puzzling claim that spacetime, whatever that is, is or should or can be viewed as some sort of "fabric."

It's sometimes said that Drum is no Kant, but he's our favorite blogger. Could someone possibly tell the Maddow Show about his fantastic work on lead?

Tomorrow, we'll look more closely at what he said about that Isaacson passage. We'll also be posing this thoughtful question:

Whatever happened to standards?

Tomorrow: "For laymen, fabric is fine"

Coming: Certainty voiced in some comments

UPDATE: The lead-poisoned children of Allentown!


Cable's top clown doesn't care:
When last we looked in on the children of Flint, we had at least two basic questions:

First question: What kinds of health effects are the children of Flint likely to experience because of their exposure to lead in Flint's drinking water?

Second question: If Flint is AN AMERICAN DISASTER (as advertised on the Maddow Show), what are we supposed to say about Allentown, Pa., where children's exposure to lead seems to be many times worse?

Several weeks later, those questions remain, even after the "TRMS Special Report" which opened the Rachel Maddow Show on Thursday, February 11.

To watch that TRMS Special Report, you can just click here.

That TRMS Special Report struck us as rather odd. For starters, its total running time was 15 minutes and 25 seconds. That made it one of the shortest opening segments in recent Maddow Show history.

We're not sure why one of Maddow's shortest opening segments would be billed as a "Special Report." And by the way—only part of that Special Report was devoted to the many questions which still surround events in Flint.

In fact, that evening's TRMS Special Report started with three minutes and 35 seconds about an injury suffered by Gina Gogean, a Romanian gymnast, in 1996. This meant that Maddow's Special Report only devoted 11 minutes and 50 seconds to events specific to Flint.

Why did Maddow burn that time discussing a Romanian gymnast? Simple! Gogean's injury was treated by an unconventional laparoscopic technique. After spending 3:35 describing Gogean's medical treatment, Maddow began discussing the plumbing technique which may be used to replace lead pipes in Flint—a technique which might also be described as "laparoscopic."

Maddow went a very long way to set the stage for her discussion of that plumbing technique. After burning away 3:35 on the Romanian gymnast, she spent only eleven minutes and 50 seconds discussing events specific to Flint.

Maddow answered few questions that night in her TRMS Special Report. She did jack up the language she uses to describe the AMERICAN DISASTER in Flint.

On this evening, Maddow described events in Flint as "a humanitarian crisis of international proportions." Once again, this made us wonder how we're supposed to regard events on the ground in Allentown, whose children seem to display elevated blood lead levels at roughly six times the rate displayed in Flint.

If Flint is a "humanitarian crisis of international proportions," then what the heck is Allentown, Pennsylvania? Briefly, let's refresh ourselves on some basic facts:

Way back on February 3, Sarah Frostenson reported at Vox that "eighteen cities in Pennsylvania report higher levels of lead exposure than Flint." As Frostenson noted, quite a few of those cities show much higher rates of exposure.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 23.1 percent of Allentown's children had elevated levels in 2014. In Altoona, the figure was 20.4 percent; in Scranton, the figure was 19.4 percent.

By way of contrast, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's original report on Flint showed the rate of elevated lead in the blood rising from 2.1 percent before the switch in the city's water supply to 4.0 percent after the switch. According to Maddow, that rate of exposure—4.0 percent of Flint's children—helped identify Flint as AN AMERICAN DISASTER and as "a humanitarian crisis of international proportions."

If that is how we should think about Flint, then what should we say about Allentown, Scranton, Altoona, Johnstown, Reading, Easton? Maddow viewers will never have to worry their heads about that! This alternate reality has never been mentioned on Maddow's increasingly ludicrous show, where a very strange corporate host is feeding us liberals a partisan morality tale in which no children seem to matter or exist except the children of Flint.

Just this Wednesday, Sarah Kliff presented another detailed report for Vox about the rates of elevated lead exposure among the nation's children, in those Pennsylvania cities and elsewhere in the country.

If you read Vox, you're able to learn about this. You've never heard a word about this on the horrible Maddow Show, which stopped devolving long ago and has long since crashed and burned.

In that ridiculous "TRMS Special Report," we learned about an injury to a Romanian gymnast in 1996. We also got an exciting new tag—"humanitarian crisis of international proportions!"—and a new set of "geniuses" to join the pre-existing geniuses and heroes with which Maddow has peopled her tale.

(Who are the new "geniuses" of our tale? Simple! Click here, then search!)

We weren't given a Special Report about the likely health effects faced by the children of Flint. We weren't given a Special Report concerning the extent to which Flint's water may or may not be usable now.

We weren't treated to an interview with Professor Marc Edwards. (Maddow still hasn't done an interview segment with Edwards, nor has she explained why he hasn't appeared.) Most remarkably, we weren't told that exposure rates are much higher in many cities than they are in the city of Flint, the magical kingdom where our silliest corporate child is staging her current story.

We weren't told something else. We weren't told why Maddow devoted less than 12 minutes to Flint in the segment she dubbed a "TRMS Special Report." She spends more time than that reading polls, mugging and clowning virtually every night of the week.

Allentown has never been mentioned on the Maddow Show. As far as that program's star is concerned, that city's kids can go hang.

In her self-serving treatment of Flint, Maddow is giving us heroes and geniuses and one perfect villain, the villainous Governor Snyder. She's also giving us an "indefatigable mayor," Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, as part of the childish story she tells as she sends us to bed.

(That description of Weaver was offered during the TRMS Special Report. Maddow also lionized Weaver that night as "the tireless and aggressive Flint mayor.")

Mayor Weaver is an attractive public figure. That said, we don't know how to assess her current plans for Flint, in large part because Maddow spends so little time examining such questions.

Maddow spends enormous amounts of time mugging, clowning and discussing herself. She spends gigantic amounts of time reading worthless polls and offering inane remarks about various Republican candidates, not excluding the animal sounds she thinks she hears them making.

She spends extremely little time on Flint. Consider what happened this Wednesday.

Omigod! On Wednesday night, Maddow announced, at the top of the show, that "we've got news from the nerves-of-steel mayor in the America's number-one lead poisoned city," by which she seemed to mean Flint.

Later, Maddow reported that the mayor in question "has shown a remarkable ability to get things done for her city through sheer force of will since she took power in the middle of this crisis."

Late in the program, Maddow featured the nerves-of-steel mayor in an "interview" which lasted roughly three minutes. The interview involved only two questions. To watch the full segment, click here.

The actual interview lasted roughly three minutes. Earlier in the week, Maddow had spent roughly that much time on Candidate Bush's animal sounds, which mainly exist in her head.

Now, Maddow decided to grant equal time to the mayor who is trying to solve "a humanitarian crisis of international proportions." She doled three minutes to Mayor Weaver. Question: Did anyone learn anything at all from this very brief session?

Believe it or not, what's shown below was the second Q-and-A in this three-minute, two-question drive-by.

To watch the entire segment, click here. See if you have any idea what Weaver was talking about or what she actually said:
MADDOW (2/17/16): You know, you said today that you're planning to get this pipe replacement plan that you've come up with, you're planning to get it started next week. Do you actually have the money to start?

WEAVER: Well, you know what? We thought we had some money to start. In fact, I was surprised by the press release that you talked about earlier, that came out yesterday, because that's what we were going to do.

We thought $500,000, five—half a billion dollars, let me say that. We thought that was going to be coming. And it didn't come to us.

Instead, the governor has decided to put his own plan in place.
And I thought we would be working together. What we talked about was using the money that he had to get started and that's where we were going to do those homes that had been identified that we talked about.

And instead, he's put his plan in place to go ahead and get started and then do this testing. Well, what we wanted to do was to get started, and while that was going on, we know we would be working with Lansing Board of Water and Light, we were going to be working with our own people, we were going to be training people, and we wanted to have a vetting process for the engineering company that was going to come in and put all of the teams together.

So now, what we are going to do is we're going to continue to get started. I've talked with the Board of Water and Light down in Lansing and they said they are still willing to help. We're going to start the test run and if they have to come and just, you know, do two houses a day, we're going to do one child at a time, one house at a time, but that home that was tested that you referred to earlier, we need to guarantee that the child that lives in that home has clean water they can drink, and we need to get started there.

One of the other things that we need to do is I hope that by the end of this week or the first of next week, I'm getting a phone call, because right now we need some things pushed through. We cannot continue to have the state saying, "We're going to wait," the federal government saying, "We're waiting for the state," and in the meantime our kids, our families in the city of Flint are still dealing with toxic water. This is unacceptable.

MADDOW: Mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver, you have brought this to a head through your own sheer insistence that it can be done quickly. We have been documenting the way everybody else has been dragging their feet. You are not, ma'am. Thank you for helping us understand it. We will stay with this.

Thank you.

WEAVER: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
That ate the bulk of the three minutes Maddow surrendered to this interview. Frankly, it sounded like a double-talk demonstration—and Maddow did nothing, nada, zero, zilch to make this short exchange turn out to be clear and informative.

We can't really judge her perspective or her assessments. That said, we think Mayor Weaver is an attractive public figure.

By way of contrast, we think Maddow has degenerated into a total clown.

Starting with Judy and then with Elvis, wealth and fame have eaten many people alive in our modern show business history. Wealth and fame seem to have turned Maddow into an untrustworthy clown.

On Maddow's show, there are no children in Allentown. In fact, no children exist in this country at all, except the children in Flint. She's telling us a pleasing story peopled with heroes and geniuses and a nerves-of-steel mayor—and of course with that perfect villain, to help us sleep soundly at night.

Maddow's story is a classic bedtime tale. It has little to do with journalism or information, or with this nation's actual problems, or with this nation's actual children, most of whom don't live in Flint.

It has nothing to do with the children of Allentown, who seem to be "poisoned" by lead at rough six times the rate of the children in Flint. The children of Allentown can go hang. Our own tribe's victim of corporate wealth just doesn't seem to care.

If you only watch one tape this weekend, we think you ought to watch this. Instantly, you'll see our own Rhodes scholar mugging and clowning and acting out and drumming away on her desk.

In a culture which hadn't collapsed, that person would, long ago, have been removed from the air. When we watch this persistent behavior, we often wonder if the person in question may not perhaps need some help.

Maddow is massively rich and famous; Frostenson and Kliff are not. If you want to learn about your nation, you should click on the work they've done, not on That Crap Over There.