THE RATIONAL ANIMAL WALK: We've been insulting The Others for a very long time!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2018

We seem to be blind to this fact:
What did we see on our autumn vacation? To the tune of The Baby Elephant Walk, let's start with an irony which was scattered through Saturday's New York Times.

On the op-ed page, Bret Stephens gloomily said that American liberalism had "pierced its own tongue" (had shot itself in the foot) as November's elections approach.

Stephens, a conservative NeverTrumper, has been rooting for a blue tidal wave as a reproach to Trump. In his column, he listed various ways in which, or so he said, American liberalism has recently made that outcome less likely.

He didn't skip the Kavanaugh hearings. Stephens included these remarks (about "American liberalism"):
STEPHENS (10/13/18): It [shot itself in the foot] when The New Yorker violated normal journalistic standards by reporting Deborah Ramirez’s uncorroborated allegation against Kavanaugh, and much of the rest of the media gave credence to Julie Swetnick’s lurid one. The pile-on wound up doing more to stiffen Republican spines against an apparent witch hunt than it did to weaken their resolve in the face of Blasey’s powerful accusation.

It [shot itself in the foot] when Susan Collins and other female Republicans who supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation were denounced as “gender traitors” in an eye-opening op-ed in this newspaper. Approximately 30 million women voted for Trump in 2016, and many of them (along with at least a few Clinton supporters) surely felt just as Collins did. Are they all “traitors,” too?
Stephens had a decent point about the treatment of the Ramirez and Swetnick claims. That said, the denunciation of all those "gender traitors" takes us to the front page of that same day's Times, where Matt Flegenheimer offered a somewhat peculiar analysis piece.

According to Flegenheimer, many liberals are wondering if we've been "going high" too often and too long. ("When they go low, we go high," Michelle Obama famously said and prescribed.)

Have we liberals been "going high" too long? It amazed us to think that anyone really believes that we've actually "gone high" at all.

Consider a piece from the next day's Sunday Review. After that, we'll return to Saturday's Times.

On the front page of the Sunday Review, the Times' editor on gender issues, Susan Chira, examined a major mystery. How in the world could any woman ever have voted for Donald J. Trump? How could women have sided with the Kavanaugh nomination?

How could any woman have taken these stances? As she started, Chira seemed to strike a sensible pose. She too cited the recent claim about "gender traitors:":
CHIRA (10/14/18): What are those women thinking?

The ones who cheered President Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi, tweeted #HimToo in support of their sons who might one day be, in their eyes, unfairly accused of assault?

On the left, they’re being reviled as gender traitors, depicted as betraying the sisterhood and acting against their own best interests. The Democrats’ hope for a blue wave rests on female voters coming out to register their displeasure with the president’s party. Women will be acting as a political force.

But women don’t automatically ally with other women, as Senator Susan Collins’s vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court demonstrated. Sisterhood doesn’t override partisanship or deeply held moral views. Victims of sexual harassment didn’t all believe Christine Blasey Ford. Women don’t act as one.

The question is why so many people are still surprised that they don’t, even after the election of 2016.
"Women don’t act as one," Chira sensibly noted. She then struck another sensible pose. In effect, she wondered why so many of us clueless liberals are still surprised by this blindingly obvious fact.

What makes us liberals so clueless? Whatever the answer may be, we thought of Flegenheimer's front page report as Chira turned to the associate professors to explain the evil and the craziness of The Others—of the women who refuse to react and vote in the ways we liberals are nice enough to prescribe.

Have we liberals been going too high all these years? When Chira turned to Associate Professor Cassese, a flood of name-calling ensued, with Cassese and Associate Professor Barnes giving us several new bombs to drop on the heads of our neighbors.

Apparently, it's no longer enough to denounce The Others, including Other women, as mere "sexists." Thanks to the high-minded work of the associate professors, we now understand that some of these women are "benevolent sexists" while most are "hostile sexists."

That said, everyone has to be some kind of sexist! It's one of the ways we go high!

(Amusingly, Chira writes this at one point: "No one is saying that being a Republican woman means being a sexist." She doesn't seem to realize that that is precisely the impression that she, and her associate professors, are conveying in her piece.)

We liberals! Even as we imagine ourselves going high, we love to drop our many bombs on the heads of our various neighbors. We've been doing it for a very long time. Consider the Loudon Wainwright piece which appeared in Saturday's New York Times.

At one time, Wainwright was married to the late Kate McGarrigle. In our view, she and her sister, Anna McGarrigle, performed as the most wickedly funny feminist writers of all time.

They also performed as lovers of life and of living things. As we read Saturday's Times, we were struck by one selection in Wainwright's list of his "top ten protest songs:"
WAINWRIGHT (10/13/18): “Little Boxes:" In 1963, Pete Seeger had a folk hit with this Malvina Reynolds composition. It’s nursery-rhyme-like melody offers a tinkly condemnation of what used to be called middle-class conformity. Tom Lehrer considered it “the most sanctimonious song ever written,” but I like it. Kate and Anna McGarrigle recorded a fine French version, “Petites Boîtes,” in 2001.
Say it isn't so! Our favorite duo recorded Little Boxes?

Little Boxes wasn't a classic "protest song." That said, it was, and is, a classic "liberal superiority" song.

It satirized an every-house-the-same housing development in Daly City, California, just south of San Francisco. Rather quickly, the lyrics offer this uplifting assessment of our friends and neighbors:
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.
Those Others! They were all made out of ticky-tacky and they all looked just the same!

This song was written in 1962. Already, we liberals were "going high" through popular lyrics like these.

True story! Two years earlier, at the age of 12, we had stayed in one of those little, fog-smothered houses in Daly City with our aunt and uncle as our family looked for a house after moving to California.

Were our aunt and our uncle, and our younger cousin, all made out of ticky-tacky too? In fairness, they hadn't gone to the university, so maybe they weren't included in this very typical high liberal "insult song."

(Just a guess. There weren't a lot of doctors, lawyers and business executives living in that modest, fog-smothered development. Those little boxes were very small. Did we mention that they were fog-smothered?)

We liberals! We've been insulting our lessers, The Others, for a very long time (and in an assortment of ways). But to the tune of The Baby Elephant Walk, we rational animals Over Here seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that we routinely do this.

We can see the dumb things The Others do. We can't seem to see the things we frequently do Over Here.

That said, The Others are able to hear the various things we say! To the tune of The Rational Animal Walk, this is one of the obvious ways we've managed to create our current debased situation.

What did we do on our autumn vacation? We also listened to NPR's Krista Tippett, whose sensibility we've admired for years.

Tippett's new episode was called Relationship Across Rupture. To the tune of The Potentially Educable Liberal Walk, let's start there tomorrow.

Also this: Wainwright wrote The Swimming Song. The McGarrigles perform it here.

A mission of national import!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2018

No fish today:
We're off on a mission of national import. We'll have no fish today.

We expect to post tomorrow or Monday. We return to full service on Tuesday.

BREAKING: What did Capito, Scott and Rubio think?

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2018

You saw no journalist ask:
Is it true, what sacred Aristotle is frequently said to have said? Can his paraphrased statement be true:

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?"

In fairness, it's hard to know what Aristotle meant by whatever it is he said. For all his greatness, he never learned English, and he lived at a different time and in a different place.

This means that even his most storied statements are subject to the vagaries of translation and to the misunderstandings endemic to cultural difference.

Sometimes, Aristotle made mistakes, as in his controversial statement about what all matter is made of. In this instance, we may not know what he actually meant by whatever it is he said. but we do know how the famous remark has been taken, at least in the western world.

Man [sic] is the rational animal! We humans have found a hundred ways to distinguish ourselves from the lesser animals, who either lack consciousness, or lack a soul, or just aren't as smart as we are.

The idea that we humans are "the rational animal" is part of this sweeping self-affirmation—though it increasingly seems that, in imagining ourselves this way, we're "seeing ourselves from afar."

Are we humans the rational animal? If we might borrow from NAME WITHHELD, in a sense, but not as such! What kind of animal are we really? We would suggest these ideas:
Homo sapiens, observed in the wild:
Man [sic] is the animal which divides itself into groups.
Man [sic] is the animal which invents and repeats tribal script.
How we love to do these things! Consider this morning's newspapers.

In this morning's Washington Post, Christine Emba complains about these all-too-human impulses. She discusses our love of tribal script in terms of thE recent academic hoax in which deliberately silly papers got published, and in terms of the recent fight over Christine Blasey Ford's charge against Brett Kavanaugh.

We can't say that we agree with all of Emba's assessments. In this passage, it seems to us that a category error may be lurking::
EMBA (10/11/12): In the battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, two tribes organized around closely held identities that relied on narrow preoccupations (liberals: “Believe women!”; conservatives: “Roe v. Wade!”). The dysfunction that followed was the result of straining to buttress those positions rather than seeking an actual common good—which is what, so I’ve heard, politics is actually for.
In this passage, Emba criticizes liberals for tilting toward an emerging tribal dogma which basically doesn't make sense. (Stating the obvious, there is no category of people who should be believed in every instance. Just consider Kathleen Willey, who pundits hailed as incredibly credible when she first appeared.)

Somewhat fuzzily, Emba pairs this emerging dogma with conservatives' devotion to a certain position regarding abortion. We're conventionally pro-choice ourselves, but strong adherence to a position on an issue would seem to differ from the adoption of an irrational dogma.

In that passage, we thought Emba was perhaps a bit unfair to conservatives. In this passage, she seems to tilt things the other way:
EMBA: [In the case of the academic hoax], supposedly rigorous journals on the left proved all too willing to accept any nonsense that aligned with their obsessions. Meanwhile, the researchers, attacking from the right, were willing to act unethically to get their “point” across. The end result? No truth gathered, no new knowledge shared. An exercise in cynicism rather than creation, sowing doubt about the academic enterprise in an era when truth and education are already under attack.
Emba assumes the hoaxers came "from the right," a claim they seem to dispute. She then says they acted unethically, and she says that, for this reason, no learning emerged from their work.

This strikes us as wrong in several ways. Regarding the hoax, we'd say a lot of knowledge emerged, as you can see from reading the first half of Emba's column!

We don't agree with elements of Emba's analysis, but we think she's squarely on target in her major point. She's describing our failed human nature, in which we tend to divide ourselves, in unhelpful, invidious ways, into unreasoning, warring tribes.

Do we humans really do such things? It's easy to see The Others when they engage in such conduct! If you want to see our own liberal tribe behaving this way, we'll suggest that you read an op-ed column in today's New York Times.

Online, the headlines say this:
Maybe Girls Will Save Us
They’ve eclipsed boys in political participation and shown incredible moral clarity.
That headline strikes us as amazingly dumb, and as deeply unwise in the political sense. But dear God! How we humans love love love to split ourselves into Us and Them, often on fairly narrow statistical distinctions drawn from certain selected studies.

Girls aren't going to save us! That said, if girls or any other group ever planned to do any such thing, they should have started in early 1992, when the New York Times launched a 26-year journalistic war with the first of its front-page Whitewater hoax reports.

Girls aren't going to save us! As long as we keep dividing ourselves in invidious ways, neither will anyone else.

It's also true that no particular group of people can always be believed. Meanwhile, we liberals are making The Others mad when we adopt such invidious attitudes and such dull-witted tribal beliefs.

In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the New York Times "asked women across the country to tell us how they were reacting." For background, see yesterday's report.

The Times received 40,000 reactions. On some basis which went unexplained, the newspaper published eleven.

On a statistical basis, those eleven published reactions are representative of nothing. That said, we were struck by the several reactions in which women complained about the way our liberal tribe divides us up, in invidious ways, on the basis of gender and race and region and age and anything else we can find.

We'd have to say that those women have a point. Consider the way our corporate hacks behaved on corporate cable.

Again and again and again and again, our own tribe's corporate hacks on our own "corporate liberal" TV complained about the "old white men" who supported Kavanaugh in spite of Blasey Ford's accusation.

They also wondered about how Collins and Murkowski would be voting. They asked about this again and again and again and again. After that, they asked about it again, then they asked about it some more.

Members of our extremely prehuman tribe knew how to snark and complain about "old white men." They never asked about Senator Scott, a 53-year old Republican man who is socially defined as black. They never asked about Senators Rubio and Cruz, who are defined as Hispanic (each is 47).

They never asked about Senators Capito, Ernst, Hyde-Smith and Fischer, four other Republican women (average age: 59.5). They never asked about Senator Sasse (age 46), who spends a lot of time defining himself as a type of free-thinking free thinker.

All those Republican senators voted for confirmation. What did they think about Blasey Ford's claims? We never saw anyone ask!

Did they think Blasey Ford was lying? Did they think she was mistaken in the statement she advanced with 100 percent certainty? Did they think the march of time meant that her charge didn't matter even if true?

What exactly did they think? Nobody ever asked!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we humans just aren't very sharp. We've extremely good at praising ourselves and our own select groups, less skilled at everything else.

As we finish today's deep thoughts, let's add to our earlier definitions:

"Man" is the animal which divides into groups and plays it dumb all the way down!

Still coming: What did The Others actually think concerning Blasey Ford?

BREAKING: What does Collins actually think?

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2018

You'll see no journalist ask:
In today's hard-copy New York Times, subscribers are treated to a fairly typical non-discussion discussion.

The entertaining non-discussion consumes the top half of page A11. Hard-copy headline included, Kelly Virella introduces the feature like this:
VIRELLA (10/10/18): How Did People React to the Kavanaugh Confirmation? 40,000 Told Us

After the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, we asked women across the country to tell us how they were reacting.

We heard from 40,000 people.

Many of the women—lawyers, teachers, home-schoolers, military spouses—expressed anger and bitterness over the nomination fight and those on the other side of the political divide. They also told us what lessons from this confirmation they will pass down to the next generation.

We asked, If you were to pass down one lesson to your son or daughter from the Kavanaugh nomination and hearings, what would it be? Here is a selection of their responses, edited and condensed for clarity.
The Times provides eleven of the 40,000 reactions. In truth, the eleven reactions were "edited and condensed" for near-perfect uselessness.

On balance, the feature is a standard journalistic non-presentation presentation. Nothing of value can be learned from a big pile of piffle like this.

Yes, a presentation of this type can be fun for browsing purposes. But it tells us nothing of value. Primarily, it serves an entertainment purpose.

In this feature, the Times presents reactions from eleven women, out of 40,000 such respondents. (These women are identified in the hard-copy headline as "people.")

For what it's worth, two of the women seem to say, in so many words, that they think Christine Blasey Ford was lying in her allegation against Brett Kavanaugh and Mike Judge.

We wonder how those women reached that conclusion—but needless to say, they weren't asked. This is largely an entertainment feature. It isn't a search for the logic of a situation, and it isn't a search for the likely or probable truth.

It isn't a search for the actual thinking of actual voters. On the whole, it's a pile of journalistic pretense.

Why did the women from Texas and Arkansas seem to say that Blasey Ford was lying? The New York Times didn't ask! But then, someone else will never be asked to explain her conclusion about what Blasey Ford said.

That person is Susan Collins. For reasons which won't be pursued any further, Collins said the following in her speech on the Senate floor:
COLLINS (10/5/18): Mr. President, I listened carefully to Christine Blasey Ford's testimony before the Judiciary Committee. I found her testimony to be sincere, painful and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life.
Collins says she found Blasey Ford's testimony to be be sincere. Presumably, that means that Collins doesn't believe that Blasey Ford was lying.

It's also important to understand this—Collins didn't say that she thinks Blasey Ford's allegation is false. She seems to have said that the allegation actually could be true.

Collins merely said that the accusation can't meet a reasonable standard of proof. After rattling off a pile of remarkably thin "evidence," Collins went on to say this:
COLLINS: Mr. President, the Constitution does not provide guidance on how we are supposed to evaluate these competing claims. It leaves that decision up to each senator. This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of "more likely than not" as our standard.

The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the "more likely than not" standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.
Translated, that seems to mean this:

According to Collins, it's possible that Blasey Ford actually was assaulted "that night." (No night was ever specified.) It's also possible that she was assaulted by Kavanaugh and Judge, just as she said. It's just that the allegation can't meet the threshold of being "more likely than not."

Does Collins' presentation make sense? In her testimony, Blasey Ford made her claim against Kavanaugh with a "degree of certainty" of "one hundred percent," and Collins believes that the claim is sincere. That said:

If Collins believes Blasey Ford isn't lying, in what other way could her claim be untrue? Presumably, Collins believes that Blasey Ford may have misidentified her attackers. She says it's more likely than not!

Is that what Senator Collins believes? Amazingly but predictably, no one is going to ask!

No one is going to ask about that because that's not what our journalists do. Rational animals though they may be, they tend, like Hughes, to keep it simple, and they tend to defer to authority figures and to power structures.

If Collins believes Blasey Ford is sincere, on what possible basis does she doubt the truth of her charge? No one is going to ask about that! Tomorrow, we'll discuss many other questions which didn't get asked as the rational animals in our upper-end press corps pretended to sort out this charge.

The Times burned the top half of today's page A11 with some fairly typical piffle. It's there so we can enjoy a good browsing session, in which we hate some people for their remarks while falling in love with some others.

What do Republican senators think about what Blasey Ford said? Ten thousand questions went unasked in this, the biggest recent public discussion in this, our rational world.

Tomorrow: What do Republican senators think? Why didn't journalists ask?

BREAKING: The oligarchs are happy to see us like this!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2018

Oligarchs play to win:
Impressively, we're prepared to admit it:

As of today, we're licked!

Yesterday, we previewed today's report in this award-wining fashion: "Truly, where to begin?"

We were scanning a list of 23 points concerning our own team's performance in the recent fight over Justice Kavanaugh. Over Here on our team, everyone knows how badly Trump and Graham have performed. But then again, what about Us? What about the various ways our own instincts (and incentives) have failed us all over again?

We wanted to discuss the endless overstatements—for example, the claims that Kavanaugh had "lied" in various cases where he pretty much hadn't. (Nicholas Kristof! Good God!)

We wanted to discuss the silliness of saying, as we scriptedly do, that "only 2-10 percent" of rape accusations are false. Did we really fail to see that this claim, which few people could explain, doesn't necessarily help the anti-Kavanaugh cause?

We wanted to discuss the absurdity of saying to Orrin Hatch (or to anyone else), "Do you believe women?" (As some journalist sillily did, after Hatch had rudely dismissed several female protesters.) Can you believe that anyone in our tribe still thinks that question makes sense?

We wanted to discuss the fuzziness of the Ramirez charge, at least as filtered through The New Yorker, with gratuitous undermining courtesy of the Times. Moving to the next disastrous step, we wanted to discuss the latest disgraceful lunacy by Michael Avenatti, who has clowned us again and again.

Most horrifically in this general area, we wanted to discuss the way Rachel Maddow treated that unsigned letter from Boulder, Colorado—the unsigned letter which supposedly put a fourth credible charge into play. Has anyone ever played the fool more perfectly than Maddow did that night? If that's what our Rhodes scholars do, what hope can there possibly be for our tribe's rank-and-file?

We wanted to discuss the way Blasey Ford's accusation became publicly known, despite her request for confidentiality. (In her testimony, she seemed to say that she never wanted her charges to be passed on at all.) We wanted to discuss the way Senator Feinstein waited and waited and waited and waited before finally saying, in fairly ridiculous fashion, that she and her staff didn't leak Blasey Ford's charge to the press.

We wanted to discuss the astonishing way Feinstein tried to pin the blame on Blasey Ford's friends when she finally managed to say that she and her staff didn't do it. We wanted to show you who Ryan Grim's reported sources were when he filed this initial report.

(Quoting Grim: "Democratic sources said." He didn't say he got the story from Blasey Ford's friends.)

We wanted to discuss the gong-show discussion Don Lemon led about the insertion of race into a set of Republican accusations (allegedly by "a bunch of old white men") in a case in which everyone was white.

Has there ever been a dumber discussion than the one Lemon led that night? We wanted to show you what conservatives had been hearing on Fox about this reflexive "racialization of everything that happens on the face of the earth" which has now become a low-IQ trademark of our failing tribe.

(We wanted to show you the ages of the "old white men" in question. Did you know that three of the Republican senators on the committee are younger than Lemon is?)

(One of the "old white men," Ted Cruz, is 47 and Hispanic. In fairness, the census would list him as a white Hispanic. When George Zimmerman was described that way, our liberal tribe spilled over with incredulous souls who had never heard of such a thing.)

Are we supposed to "believe the women," as somebody yelled at Hatch? We wanted to tell you what conservatives have been hearing on Fox about the Keith Ellison case in Minnesota, and about our tribe's alleged hypocrisy in that matter. As liberals, we're shielded from hearing about such matters on our own cable channels.

Beyond all this, we wanted to talk about the widely repeated claim that Blasey Ford was "incredibly credible"—the claim that she was "the most credible witness we could possibly have," the claim by a federal prosecutor turned MSNBC legal analyst that he "never had a single witness anywhere near as effective and credible as she was."

On the channel where We Liberals get propagandized every night, claims like that last one were common—and at least six different pundits said that Blasey Ford was "incredibly credible." At times of tribal war like these, tribes feed on overstatement.

For ourselves, we know of no reason to think or believe that Blasey Ford's account is false in any significant way. But we also can't swear that her account is accurate, and we could spend all day describing possible witnesses who would be more effective, through no fault of Blasey Ford's, in a case like this.

That doesn't mean her account is false. It means we're being endlessly propagandized by corporate hacks on Our Own Cable Channels.

Over on Fox, people are often being grotesquely propagandized. (Often, but not always.) But they're also hearing accurate presentations about how phony and foolish we are Over Here. They're hearing that Avenatti is crazy. They're hearing, over and over, that Democrats outed Ford.

Avenatti undercut Blasey Ford badly. Maddow acted like an unsigned, possibly deranged letter from Boulder actually counted as the latest credible accusation. Could she possibly have believed that? Or were we being fed tribal porridge to make us feel tribally good?

On our channels, no one asked how Blasey Ford's account got released despite her express request for confidentiality. We're not a smart or honest tribe. In truth, we aren't especially rational animals, and we're constantly serviced by hacks.

It's been like this for thirty years, through two generations of bullroar. (For 24 years, we twiddled our thumbs as Hillary Clinton got slimed, often in misogynistic ways by our own tribal gods.) Our decades of lazy indifference and vast gullibility have ended with Donald J. Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

That said, to what did we return last night on our own cable channels? To feel-good piddle about the upcoming election—the same kind of piddle we got dumped on our heads back in 2016.

Back then, Hillary Clinton couldn't possibly lose. Last night, the hacks were saying there was no way we could lose this election.

We're silly and hapless and not very smart. The oligarchs are happy to see us like this. As Plato understood all too well, oligarchs play to win.

THE RATIONAL ANIMALS FILE: The Others showed symptoms of True Belief!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2018

But then, so did We Over Here:
To appearances, many rational animals had little trouble deciding who to believe.

On Sunday morning, September 30, some of these “rationals” called C-Span's Washington Journal. They believed that Kavanaugh was telling the truth. They didn't believe Blasey Ford.

As we noted last Wednesday and then again Thursday, these callers didn't strike us as being enormously rational. There was no apparent basis on which they could be sure that Blasey Ford's account was false. But they seemed to be callers from the Trump right—and they seemed inclined to express "true belief" in the player who played for their side.

This behavior is less than perfectly rational, but it's extremely common “human” behavior. Indeed, such behavior even occurs Over Here, within our own liberal tribe.

Did Kavanaugh assault Blasey Ford, in the manner she has described, when she was just 15? If you gave us money and told us to bet, we would bet that he did—but we can’t say we’d be sure.

We'd bet that Blasey Ford's account is accurate, but we can't say we know it is. Nor do we agree with what Jennifer Granholm said on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time, four days after Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford testified.

Granholm is very smart. In our view, she's one of the brightest pundits or politicians you'll ever see on TV.

Granholm graduated from Harvard Law School; she was elected governor of Michigan twice. Despite these problems, she's very sharp—but we don't agree with this statement, which came to us, live and direct, from one of our tribe's most dominant scripts over the past few weeks:
GRANHOLM (10/1/18): The part that's so frustrating about this is that we have a woman who gets up there and takes an oath and who comes across to most people as incredibly credible. I'm not sure that's the right thing to say, but as amazingly credible.
Let's be fair! In that statement, Granholm described how Blasey Ford "came across to most people." She didn't say how Blasey Ford had seemed to her—to Granholm herself.

That said, we can assume that Granholm was also describing her own view of Blasey Ford's testimony. One day before, on the September 30 State of the Union, she had described Blasey Ford as "the most credible witness we could possibly have."

We definitely don't agree with that statement. Indeed, it strikes us as utterly daft.

Was Blasey Ford "the most credible witness we could possibly have?" That statement strikes us as daft. That doesn't mean that Blasey Ford's allegations were false. But it does mean this:

In our view, Granholm's statement helps show that our tribe exhibited symptoms of true belief in the course of this ugly episode. Those C-Span callers displayed True Belief, but so did we, Over Here.

Was Blasey Ford "the most credible witness we could possibly have?" Perhaps through no fault of Blasey Ford', the assessment is absurd on its face, as anyone can see on perhaps ten seconds' reflection.

We'll proceed to that question tomorrow. For today, let's consider the ugliness of this debate, and the nature of true belief.

In our view, the bulk of the ugliness in this debate came from—who else?—Donald Trump.

At various points in the past several weeks, Trump somehow managed to rein in his demented, disordered instincts. He even said, one day after Blasey Ford testified, that he found her testimony "very compelling" and “very credible.”

To Trump, she seemed like a very fine woman. This was Trump’s fuller statement, from a Rose Garden press event:
TRUMP (9/28/18): I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me. A very fine woman.

And I thought that Brett's testimony, likewise, was really something that I haven't seen before. It was incredible. It was an incredible moment, I think, in the history of our country.

But certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects.
Trump said that Blasey Ford’s testimony was “very credible.” He said that Kavanaugh’s testimony was “incredible,” though he probably didn’t mean it that way.

As he continued, he said he hadn’t considered withdrawing his nomination of Kavanaugh, “not even a little bit.” He wasn’t asked to explain the possible contradictions in this various things he had said.

Trump was on his best behavior during large chunks of this process. But before and after that Rose Garden session, he engaged in his standard ugly behavior. He snarked at Blasey Ford’s “loving parents;” he mocked Blasey Ford herself for things she says she can’t remember, misstating basic facts as he did.

That was Standard Trump. Through twenty-six years of incompetent, sub-rational and frequently dishonest behavior, leading stars of our own liberal tribe worked to create the situation in which he now sits in the Oval Office, having filled two seats (so far) on the Supreme Court.

Rational animals within our own liberal rank and file still don’t understand the facts of this ugly, 26-year process. (We’re dating it from January 1992 through November 2018.) However rational we liberals may be, we’re also amazingly easy to fool, as are many rational animals in The Other Tribe.

On Sunday morning, September 30, rational animals from Trump’s own tribe flooded C-Span with phone calls expressing their true belief. That said, they’d heard a lot of things from their tribal news orgs which we liberals had been sheltered from Over Here, within our own tribal news orgs.

Those callers had been given lots of reasons, some of them sensible, to doubt Blasey Ford’s account. They’d also been given many reasons to disregard the various things our own liberal leaders were saying, some of which bordered on daft or perhaps dishonest.

Within this ugly, stupid context, one of our smartest leaders appeared on CNN and made an implausible statement about Balsey Ford. For the rest of the week, we’ll be exploring the ways our own tribe has failed.

Warning! The Others have been told about the ways our leaders failed. As we've watched our darlings Rachel and Lawrence, we liberals have been kept in the dark—propagandized, to employ a key word.

Plato didn’t believe in rule by us the rabble. Those calls to C-Span buttressed his point—but so did a great deal of conduct Over Here in our own sub-rational tribe.

Tomorrow: Truly, where to begin?

BREAKING: Ludicrous dog park study gets published!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2018

But so did that Godel book:
Warning! The study we're about to discuss was a deliberate hoax.

Still and all, the phony study got published! In a front-page report in yesterday's New York Times, Jennifer Schluesser described the contents of the faux study, which came to us, live and direct, from imaginary dog parks in a real American city:
SCHUESSLER (10/5/18): In “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Ore.,"...the study purported to observe dogs having sex, and how their owners reacted, to draw conclusions about humans’ sexual attitudes.

Humans intervened 97 percent of the time when male dogs were “raping/humping” other male dogs, the paper said. But when a male dog was mating with a female, humans intervened only 32 percent of the time and actually laughed out loud 18 percent of the time.

The paper’s author cautioned: “Because of my own situatedness as a human, rather than as a dog, I recognize my limitations in being able to determine when an incidence of dog humping qualifies as rape.”
The faux author of the faux study was called "Helen Wilson." She acknowledged the fact that, because of her own situatedness as a human, she was limited in her ability to categorize incidents of dog sex.

Oof! The data in question were fake. People can judge the concepts involved in the fake study for themselves.

To some, the concepts seem absurd on their face. Still and all, the fake study got published as part of an overall hoaxer event.

At the start of yesterday's news report, Schuessler provides this overview of the hoax. She includies her first capsule account of the dog park dogmatics:
SCHUESSLER: One paper, published in a journal called Sex Roles, said that the author had conducted a two-year study involving “thematic analysis of table dialogue” to uncover the mystery of why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters.

Another, from a journal of feminist geography, parsed “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity” at dog parks in Portland, Ore., while a third paper, published in a journal of feminist social work and titled “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” simply scattered some up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

Such offerings may or may not have raised eyebrows among the journals’ limited readerships. But this week, they unleashed a cascade of mockery—along with a torrent of debate about ethics of hoaxes, the state of peer review and the excesses of academia—when they were revealed to be part of an elaborate prank aimed squarely at what the authors labeled “grievance studies.”

“Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities,” the three authors of the fake papers wrote in an article in the online journal Areo explaining what they had done.
Just for the record, why do (some) "heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters" and other such "breastaurants?" (The hoaxers actually used that term in their pseudo-study.)

We can answer that question! (Some) men like to eat at such places because they lack sexual politics—because they've never developed grown-up views concerning boys and girls.

That said, the phony studies described in that passage were part of an "elaborate prank" in which the hoaxers submitted twenty such studies to various journals over the course of nearly a year.

According to Schuessler, the hoaxers "said that four papers had been published [and] three had been accepted but not yet published" when the hoax came to light.

"Seven [more] were under review and six had been rejected." Or at least, so Schuessler was told by the hoaxers—who, it must be remembered, are hoaxers, after all.

This hoax has already been widely discussed. Different people have different ideas as to what it may mean.

Slate's Daniel Engber isn't impressed by the hoaxers' point of view and conclusions. For ourselves, we were struck by one of the comments recorded by Schuessler:
SCHUESSLER: Embarrassed journal editors quickly stamped the word “Retracted” across published papers this week, while the hoax drew appreciation from scholars who tend to be skeptical of work focusing on race, gender, sexuality and other forms of identity.

“Is there any idea so outlandish that it won’t be published in a Critical/PoMo/Identity/‘Theory’ journal?” the psychologist and author Steven Pinker tweeted.

Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Harvard, called the hoax “hilarious and delightful” on Twitter. In an interview, he said of the authors, “What they have shown is that certain journals, and perhaps to an extent certain fields, can’t distinguish between serious scholarship and a ridiculous intellectual hoax.”
"Not so fast, Pinker!" one analyst cried. "In 2005, you approvingly blurbed Professor Goldstein's book!"

The book in question is Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel. The book was written by Rebecca Goldstein, the high-ranking philosophy professor and highly regarded novelist.

In his blurb, Pinker hailed Goldstein's book as "a gem—the gripping story of a momentous idea." He said Goldstein had produced "not just a lucid exposition of Godel's brainchild but a satisfying and original narrative of the ideas and people it touched."

We're not saying that's wrong. We are saying this—there's nothing in those hoax studies which is any more ludicrous than this passage from The New Yorker's review of Goldstein's well-received book:
HOLT (2/28/05): Gödel entered the University of Vienna in 1924. He had intended to study physics, but he was soon seduced by the beauties of mathematics, and especially by the notion that abstractions like numbers and circles had a perfect, timeless existence independent of the human mind. This doctrine, which is called Platonism, because it descends from Plato’s theory of ideas, has always been popular among mathematicians.
Friend, was Godel seduced by "the notion that abstractions like numbers and circles had a perfect, timeless existence independent of the human mind?" (Goldstein refers to numbers and circles as "abstract objects.")

Has this alleged doctrine "always been popular among mathematicians," including those of the 1930s? Goldstein says the same thing, and it seems to be true.

Friend, nothing which appears in those hoax studies is any more ridiculous than the (unexplained) idea that numbers and circles have a perfect, timeless existence independent of the human mind. And even though the formulation posted above was written by Jim Holt, a widely lauded science/math writer, we'd say that it's a fair account of Goldstein's own gobbledygook, which extends far and wide in all sorts of directions.

We expect to spend the next week reviewing the way the Kavanaugh nomination fight unfolded. That fight produced a series of sobering insights into the way our nation's highly non-rational public discourse works.

After that, we expect to return to the larger story we're presenting under the heading "Aristotle's error." Eventually, we'll discuss the (hard-to-read but highly instructive) work of the later Wittgenstein.

In our view, the later Wittgenstein said that most of the work of western philosophy has come to us, live and direct, from the clownish, hoaxer realm of those Portland, Oregon dog parks. And yes—in the end, this connects back to the pitiful, pre-rational way our nation's public discourse has unfolded over the past thirty years.

That jumbled, wholly incompetent discourse has left us with Trump in the White House. Over here in the liberal world, we rail about the consequences of that state of affairs without displaying the slightest ability to understand the way our own enfeebled tribe has helped put Trump where he is.

We're lazy and stupid and nobody likes us except in Oregon dog parks! Those hoax studies are intended to point in that general direction, but so will the rest of our work concerning Aristotle's error and Professor Harari's bracing alternate view.

Those hoax studies were comically awful. So is the bulk of traditional western philosophy, or so Wittgenstein clumsily said.

Professor Horwich has our backs. We suspect he's gotten it right!

THE RATIONAL ANIMALS FILE: Obviously, scribe absolutely believes!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2018

Two unexplained key words:
Do you believe it? Do you believe that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford—then Christine Blasey, age 15—in the manner Blasey Ford has described?

As of last Sunday morning, it seemed fairly clear that several callers to C-Span's Washington Journal didn't believe Blasey Ford. What did they think of Blasey Ford, and of her allegations?

Allen from Ohio said, "She's not credible. Not credible at all." He based his assessment on his experiences with "professors and people with Ph.D.'s," who "can be a little goofy."

Philip from North Carolina had a somewhat similar view. "I don't believe her. She just doesn't have credibility," Philip said. "Maybe she believes that was Kavanaugh, but it wasn't." Full stop!

The very next caller, Sarah from Texas, didn't believe Blasey Ford either. "To come on TV and act like she did, I think she's a disgrace to the women," Sarah from Texas said. "And I believe that Kavanaugh is telling the truth."

Allen, Philip and Sarah directly said that they don't believe Blasey Ford, or that they do believe Kavanaugh. Others denigrated Blasey Ford without explicitly saying that they don't believe her account.

According to Jim from Delaware, Blasey Ford had been "drawn out of the woodwork" as part of "this, the whole conspiracy to keep Kavanaugh or anybody that is nominated by Trump off the court." Howard from Florida hotly complained that Blasey Ford, and one of her lawyers, had attended last year's women's march—and that the lawyer had made an incriminating statement in a speech at that march.

(Note: Blasey Ford didn't attend the march. We find no report that the lawyer attended, or of the lawyer's alleged statement.)

Carol from New York wanted an investigation of Blasey Fork's "drinking habits" and "drinking background." She speculated that Blasey Ford may have been too drunk to identify her attacker on the night of the alleged attack.

Jacqueline from Philadelphia complained that, if she herself had a doctorate, "I don't think I would be speaking in that teeny-tiny voice. I noticed that right away."

(Note: In fairness, Carol also said she wasn't sure that she liked Kavanaugh's crying. Also in fairness, a full investigation of Blasey Ford's claims probably would include an attempt to determine how much she drank on the evening in question, though it isn't obvious how such a thing could be determined.)

We listened to the first dozen calls to Sunday's Washington Journal. By that time, 7:30 AM Eastern, several analysts had gone catatonic. Skillfully, we turned the TV off and addressed their needs.

At any rate, quite a few callers seemed fairly sure that Blasey Ford's account was inaccurate, though none of these callers were asked to explain the basis for their apparent certainty. As a general matter, C-Span offers an open, welcoming forum for callers. Each caller is allowed to state his or her views, full stop.

Under this system, factual claims go unchallenged, even if they're inflammatory or prejudicial or almost surely false. Statements of belief, including so-called true belief, go unchallenged too.

On what basis did these callers believe that Blasey Ford's account was wrong? No one was asked to say, and the logic of the callers' presentations often came live and direct from la-la land. That said, this happens whenever C-Span opens its lines for viewer calls.

Here as elsewhere, these open phone segments tend to draw the curtain back concerning our ballyhooed human nature. That said, these callers are "regular people"—Joe and Josephine Sixpacks. They don't possess the special skills of our high journalistic class.

That said: Long before last Sunday's forum, we were struck by a pair of statements by a major national journalist.

The analysts woke us on Tuesday, September 18 to report an emergency sighting. Possibly behaving a bit like those unschooled C-Span callers, Michelle Goldberg had started her column in that day's New York Times with a somewhat puzzling statement—a statement anchored by a somewhat puzzling word:
GOLDBERG (9/18/18): Obviously, I believe Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who says that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school while his friend Mark Judge watched and, at moments, egged him on. I believe her when she says that Kavanaugh, who she says was drunk, held her down, covered her mouth when she tried to scream, and ground against her while attempting to pull her clothes off. I believe her when she says this incident haunted her all her life.
Blasey Ford's name had appeared in the Times on Monday, September 17 for the very first time. One day later, Goldberg was saying who she believed—and she began with an unexplained word.

Goldberg didn't say that she was inclined to believe Blasey Ford. She didn't say that she believed Blasey Ford at that point on balance. She didn't even say she believed Blasey Ford, full stop, and leave her statement at that.

Instead, she said she believed Blasey Ford's account—and she started with the word "obviously." She never explained where that word had come from. Nor had her editor required an explanation.

Later in her column, Goldberg said that Kavanaugh had been "credibly accused of attempted rape." As things have turned out, we'd say that statement turned out to be perfectly accurate. But "credible" isn't the same thing as "true." How did "credible" get us to "obviously" at roughly the speed of light?

Goldberg didn't explain. Two days later, she wrote on the topic again. Again, an unexplained word:
GOLDBERG (9/20/18): Whether you believe Blasey or not—I absolutely do—something happened when she was 15 that damaged her. A friend from her teenage years told The New York Times how, after the alleged attack, the formerly outgoing, popular girl “fell off the face of the earth socially.” Much later, The Wall Street Journal reported, she told another friend that she needed more than one door in her bedroom to avoid feeling trapped. She sought therapy for what she experienced, and reportedly confided in her husband and in at least one friend well before Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
Now, Goldberg "absolutely" believed Blasey Ford. She based this assessment on at least one reported fact which seems to have turned out to be mistaken. A more important claim was attributed to Blasey Ford's husband. It bore the key qualifier, "reportedly."

Our analysts went catatonic as they listened to those C-Span callers this Sunday. Several of the analysts even cursed sacred Aristotle, the mental giant who memorably said 1) that all matter was made of four elements plus the heavenly aether, and 2) that we humans are "the rational animal"—or at least, so he's said to have said.

That "rational animal" characterization is part of the western canon. That said, to what extent are we humans defined by our "rational" nature?

It's easy to be hard on the follies of C-Span's less than perfectly rational callers, especially those who hail from the other tribe. It may be harder to see the problems when they strike a bit closer to home, and when they strike at authority figures in the academy or in the upper-end "press."

It may be hard to see the problem when our team leaps to true belief. To see the way this may help our oligarchs tighten their grip on the world.

Coming next: "Incredibly credible," a raft of pundits said

THE RATIONAL ANIMALS FILE: C-Span callers know who they believe!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2018

Rational animals, 2500 years later:
Long ago and far away—indeed, it was at the dawn of the west—Plato's Socrates established several of the most basic norms which inform western thought, to the extent that that critter exists.

Today, some 2500 years later, we largely observe these norms in the breach. Despite our allegedly rational nature, we might almost seem to be a species of extremely slow learners.

To what norms do we refer? One concerns skepticism concerning intellectual or clerical authority.

Professor Lee provides the background to this foundational tale in his widely-respected "Translator's Introduction." The story starts with a proclamation by the oracle at Delphi:
LEE: The oracle at Delphi, in response to an inquiry by one of [Socrates'] admirers, had said that he was the wisest man in Greece. Socrates was sure that he was not, and set out to prove the oracle wrong.
At the very dawn of the west, in a foundational act, Socrates set out to prove the oracle wrong!

"His method of doing so was to cross-question people he met about their beliefs," Lee writes as he continues. In the Apology, Plato's Socrates, on trial for his life, tells a foundational tale:
SOCRATES OF ATHENS (399 BC): When I heard [what the oracle had said], I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of this riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god and cannot lie; that would be against his nature.

After a long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, "Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest."

Accordingly, I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him—his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination—and the result was as follows:

When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me.

So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: "Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him."

Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.
Socrates knew that he himself had no wisdom. In order to prove the oracle wrong, he set out to locate someone who did!

But alas! Wherever he went, Socrates found that people with reputations for wisdom actually had no wisdom at all. But these people falsely believed themselves to be wise, and thus were less wise than he.

Beyond that, they hated Socrates for suggesting otherwise. Did we mention the fact that he was on trial for his life?

In the end, Socrates acknowledged that the oracle had gotten it right this time. As it turned out, he actually was wiser than all these others because, while he had no wisdom to speak of, he at least knew that he wasn't wise. The other people believed they were wise, when they actually weren't.

In this foundational tale, Plato's Socrates establishes a preference for the three dirty words you can't say on (cable) TV: "I don't know." He knew that he himself lacked wisdom. The various people with whom he spoke—politicians, poets and artisans—didn't know this about themselves, and in that sense were less wise.

In this foundational tale, Socrates establishes the principle of skepticism in the face of intellectual or clerical authority. Beyond that, he establishes the importance of being able to recognize and acknowledge how much you yourself don't know.

He establishes the idea that wise people know that they often don't know. Twenty-five hundred years later, this principle is observed in the breach all over our floundering public discourse. Consider what happened on C-Span's Washington Journal when Steve Scully fielded the phone calls to which we referred in yesterday's report.

As we noted, many of Scully's callers delivered orations which may not have been perfectly "rational" in every conceivable way. But in that first dozen calls, no one voiced uncertainty about who they should believe in the current contradiction between Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.

Callers spilled with certainty concerning these contradictory accounts! Yesterday, we showed you substantial chunks of the comments made by callers 2, 3, 7, 11 and 12. Today, let's consider callers 8, 9 and 10, focusing on their certainty about whose account should be believed. To hear all calls, click here.

Caller 8 was Philip from North Carolina, on the Republicans line. Rather plainly, he felt he knew whose account was correct, but he never said how he knew:
PHILIP FROM NORTH CAROLINA (9/30/18): I am a Republican, but I think it's time Republicans forgave Dr. Ford. I don't believe her. She just doesn't have credibility. Pray for her, she's got a lot of trouble ahead for her because she got involved in this and stepped up. Maybe she believes that was Kavanaugh, but it wasn't.
"Philip, thanks for the call," C-Span's Scully said. Philip seemed sure about what had occurred, but he didn't say, and he wasn't asked, how he could be so sure.

The next call came in on the Democrats line. This caller seemed quite sure too:
KELLY FROM FLORIDA: ...Yes, I believe Ford, I believe the professor. She put a lot on the line to come out, putting out her integrity and her whole life. And Kavanaugh, he's a spoiled little boy and the Republicans are going to pay him back for helping Bush win.
That could all be true, of course. But what made Kelly so certain concerning the central question at issue?

Sarah from Texas came next. She expressed high certainty too:
SARAH FROM TEXAS: Good morning. I'm glad that you're talking to me. I'd like to say that Miss Ford, she has a Ph.D., she's well educated. To come on TV and act like she did, I think she's a disgrace to the women. And I believe that Kavanaugh is telling the truth and I think that our problem with Republicans is that they're not strong enough, they don't fight back as hard as they could...
We listened to the calls from Scully's "daunting dozen." It's fair to say that no one expressed any uncertainty as to whose account was accurate. Beyond that, no one was asked to justify the certainly being expressed.

Late Sunday evening, Socrates visited us in our spartan founder's quarters in an almost dreamlike incident. "Why did I waste my time back then?" the great elucidator somewhat mournfully said.

Those three dirty words—"I don't know"—were never uttered by Scully's callers. That said, the immortal Socrates proceeded to caution us thusly:

"It's easy for you modern liberals to roll your eyes at the Philips and Sarahs," he thoughtfully said. "But many of your biggest stars have been playing the game this way too!"

Tomorrow: "Incredibly credible"

THE RATIONAL ANIMALS FILE: On C-Span, Scully talks to the animals!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2018

Aristotle's key error exposed:
We know Steve Scully the tiniest bit, from way back in the award-winning guest star appearances on C-Span's Washington Journal days.

We know Steve Scully the tiniest bit. Like everyone else, we like Steve Scully a lot.

Last Sunday, at 7 AM Eastern, Scully fielded a series of calls from the rational animals. We're going to say that these phone calls may have exposed Aristotle's error.

Back in the day, Doctor Dolittle gained worldwide fame by talking to the animals. By way of contrast, Scully speaks only to rational animals, the ones who pick up the phone and call Washington Journal.

Last Sunday, the topic was the Kavanaugh hearings and the way it might affect voting patterns in next month's elections. Steve's second caller, Jim from Delaware, took a shot at Aristotle, though only indirectly.

Trigger warning! This is not what we liberals have been hearing on our own cable channel since last Thursday's Senate hearing. Beyond that, Jim's comments, which we'll post in three parts, may not always seem to make complete total rational sense:
JIM FROM DELAWARE (9/30/18): Good morning! Based on the reaction of my friends, I think a lot of them are going to vote now that probably weren't going to vote.

They're going to vote Republican, definitely, because I think Trump and this whole hearing has exposed the fact that, no matter who they put up, they would have drawn people out of the woodwork to testify against, against whatever the nominee was going to be. This has just become a standard tactic of the Democrats in order to thwart the Trump agenda.

And it's just made people sick, this whole thing, especially here in Delaware, where she's been hiding in Delaware for the longest time. And I truly believe that our senators are complicit in this, the whole conspiracy to keep Kavanaugh or anybody that is nominated by Trump off the Court.

So I think people have blood in their eye and they're ready for a fight this time around, big-time, to support the president.
Jim was calling on the Republican line. After Scully asked a follow-up question, Jim further detailed his views:
JIM FROM DELAWARE: If they do an FBI investigation, I want them to investigate everybody. I'm talking about all the associations that Feinstein dealt with, all the associations that Ms. Ford had over the years with Democratic operatives.

I want her to have those people who she talked to on the beach in San Francisco talked to. I want everybody that she talked to down at Rehoboth Beach, [Delaware,] or wherever she was down at the beach, I just want everybody talked to. Let's get to the bottom of where this came from. And that's the only way an FBI investigation is going to satisfy me.
Jim's position? He hopes the FBI speaks to everyone Blasey Ford spoke to on the beach in San Francisco.

When was Blasey Ford on the (cold, forbidding) beach in that (foggy) place? Like you, we have no idea! But in Jim's view, Blasey Ford was drawn "out of the woodwork" to lodge her accusation as part of "the whole conspiracy to keep Kavanaugh or anybody that is nominated by Trump off the Court."

According to Jim, Blasey Ford "has been hiding in Delaware for the longest time." She seems to have had quite a few suspicious conversations with people on various beaches.

Blasey Ford has been conspiring with various people on the shores of two different oceans. Jim wasn't asked to explain this idea, but so it goes, on a regular basis, when we the people call Washington Journal to air our political views.

Jim went on a bit longer this day, occasionally flirting with the possible truth:
JIM FROM DELAWARE: I just have a feeling that there are so many RINOs on that Senate committee that are so sensitive to being criticized in the press for being anti-woman that they are not going to really push as hard as they should. They have to stand up. This is a big issue, because no matter who was appointed was going to face this sort of stuff.

I am sure there is a war room somewhere in this country where they just strategize on how to destroy this individual, that individual. It doesn't matter whether you are liberal or conservative or moderate, if you are put up by Trump, there is an effort out to put a target on your face, without a doubt.
"Jim, thanks, from New Castle, Delaware," Scully said. On Washington Journal, by rule, moderators tend to accept whatever the caller has said.

In our view, Jim may have been a tiny bit weak on the shape of Trump-era politics. He seemed to think that there is a chance that Trump might nominate a liberal to serve on the Supreme Court.

He thinks the Dems will try to destroy such liberals if Trump decides to name them. He thinks the Senate Judiciary Committee is largely peopled by RINOs.

No, that doesn't seem to make perfect sense. But neither does the famous definitional claim which is widely attributed to Aristotle—the famous claim in which we the people are defined as the "rational animal."

Are we humans "the rational animal?" Does that famous statement capture who, or what, we actually are?

As the weeks and months roll on, we'll be exploring that question in more detail. This Sunday, though, Scully's next rational animal had called on the Independents line—and he took a novel approach:
ALLEN FROM OHIO: Well, it's not really going to impact my vote. I consider myself independent, but I have a tendency to vote Republican. When I was watching the hearings—and I have a four-year degree in urban studies from Cleveland State, and I understand Ms. Ford, or Dr. Ford, has this Ph.D. And you know what, I've had a lot of experience, and I hate to sound judgmental, but I have had a lot of experience with professors, and people with Ph.D.'s, they can be a little goofy, OK? And you know, there is something—she just doesn't seem to make sense. She's not credible. Not credible at all.
According to Allen, Blasey Ford had possibly seemed a bit goofy, and she wasn't credible at all. To Allen, who has a lot of experience, it looked like a Ph.D. thing.

"Allen, thanks for the call," Scully politely said.

As the first half hour rolled on, so did the off-kilter calls from all the rational animals. We can't transcribe every call, though you can listen to all the calls here. But the seventh caller, on the Republican line, heatedly offered the thoughts and the claims shown below.

Warning! We can't vouch for this caller's "facts:"
HOWARD FROM FLORIDA: This has been a headache. OK? Because since the inauguration, OK, since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the lawyer representing Miss Ford was at the Women's March. She stated on that stage that she's going to do whatever it takes to take down this president and everybody that he nominates.

This woman said that! There's also word that Miss Ford was also at that march. This has nothing to do with rights of a woman. Yes, if that happened, then by all means she deserves justice. But if Kavanaugh did not do it, OK, then he deserves to be heard.
In Howard's view, this was all prefigured long ago, at the women's march.

Rationals, can we talk? It would hardly be surprising if Blasey Ford's lawyer, Debra Katz, attended the women's march. That said, we find no report which says that she did, and we certainly find no report which say that she made the statement Howard reports.

Blasey Ford did not attend the march. "Howard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida," Scully said at the end of the less than fully rational call.

Scully's eleventh caller this day called on the Democrats line. She too wants to see a tough probe—a probe of Blasey Ford's "drinking habits" and her "drinking background:"
CAROL FROM NEW YORK: Good morning. I'm a woman. I'm a lifelong registered Democrat. However, I have some problems with the situation going on with Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.

First of all, I guess I'm glad to have an investigation, but I would like it to also investigate Dr. Ford and go into her drinking habits.

On the night, or the day, of this occurrence, I'd like to know how she got to the house and how she got back. I'd like to know what her parents thought of her behavior that day.

I'd like to know about the money track that Dr. Ford was talking about. Immediately afterwards she had 500,000 in her GoFundMe page. Where did that come from? What's the trail of that? How did she get 500,000 so quickly?

I would like to thank Mr. Flake for encouraging more and more protesters to trap our legislators in elevators and scream at them. There's going to be a lot more of that. Those two women are going to be heroes, and this has nothing to do with the MeToo movement...

I'd like to wait this out, but she needs to be a little more investigated into her drinking background. Perhaps she drank so much that night that when she was pushed from behind, maybe she was not correct on who pushed her into that room. I just have a lot of questions so thank you and have a good day.
"Carol, from New York."

Carol wants to know what Blasey Ford's parents thought of her behavior that day. Since Blasey Ford says she didn't tell her parents about what allegedly happened, this doesn't necessarily make complete perfect total sense.

Carol is also concerned that protesters will now be encouraged to trap our legislators in elevators and yell at them. She seems to think that Blasey Ford is the one who may have been drunk that evening—which of course is always possible.

The next caller completed Scully's "daunting dozen." It was Jacqueline from Philadelphia, calling on the Republicans line. She loves to people watch:
JACQUELINE FROM PHILADELPHIA: Hi! I was questioning Dr. Ford. I love to people watch and watch their actions, and first of all, if I have a "Doctor" in front of my name, I don't think I would be speaking in that teeny-tiny voice. I noticed that right away.

I'm a kindergarten teacher and I don't talk to my kindergarten children that way. I speak firmly, I speak up. And I noticed that right away. I don't know if she's guilty or innocent.

And then as far as Brett Kavanaugh, I'm not so sure I liked that he was crying. I was people watching him too and I don't know if I like that. So I just wanted to make that comment. I kept the sound off on some of the things.
This caller didn't like Blasey Ford's teeny-tiny voice. She doesn't know if she liked Kavanaugh's crying.

By now, it was 7:30 AM Eastern. Several of our youthful analysts had gone semi-catatonic.

"They don't sound like rational animals," one youngster managed to cry. "What was Aristotle talking about when he authored that famous assessment, the one we hear all the time?"

We thought the youngster was asking good questions. That said, we warned this youngster against going totally tribal.

You see, we also thought that some less-than-rational, great ape talk had been coming from some in the mainstream press, even from some on the left! Skillfully, we warned the youngsters:

We humans have been fashioning this great ape talk for an extremely long time.

Tomorrow: Doctor Dolittle meets sacred Descartes

THE GUARDIANS FILE: Digest of reports!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2018

New chapter starts tomorrow:
Achilles begged for the help of the gods. We need the help of logicians!

Tomorrow, we offer the first report in our rational animals file. Below, you see links to our reports from the guardians file:
Tuesday, September 25: Major professors abandon their posts! Semantics and paraphrase!

Wednesday, September 26: Plato actually got this one right. Our professors keep getting it wrong.

Friday, September 28: You know what you saw at yesterday's hearing? Plato saw the same thing!

Monday, October 1: Achilles needed the help of the gods. We need the help of logicians!
So it went in our guardians file.

That said, our "Aristotle's error" opus now includes five such cycles. For links to all reports to date, you probably know what you can do:

You can just click here.

THE GUARDIANS FILE: Achilles needed the help of the gods!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2018

We need the help of logicians:
Even the swift runner Achilles once called out for help from a guardian class—though in his case, the guardian class whose aid he sought was the Olympian gods.

As documented in Book XXI of The Iliad, Achilles had wandered far from the walls of Troy, slaying various Trojans. But he was discarding their bodies in the river Scamander, and the river god boiled with rage.

We offer the 1898 Samuel Butler prose translation, largely because it's available on line. Butler used the Roman forms of the gods' names, in which Zeus, to cite one example, appears as Jupiter/Jove:
HOMER (Book XXI): [N]ow that he had killed Asteropaeus, he let him lie where he was on the sand, with the dark water flowing over him and the eels and fishes busy nibbling and gnawing the fat that was about his kidneys. Then he went in chase of the Paeonians, who were flying along the bank of the river in panic when they saw their leader slain by the hands of the son of Peleus. Therein he slew Thersilochus, Mydon, Astypylus, Mnesus, Thrasius, Oeneus, and Ophelestes, and he would have slain yet others, had not the river in anger taken human form, and spoken to him from out the deep waters saying, "Achilles, if you excel all in strength, so do you also in wickedness, for the gods are ever with you to protect you: if, then, the son of Saturn has vouchsafed it to you to destroy all the Trojans, at any rate drive them out of my stream, and do your grim work on land. My fair waters are now filled with corpses, nor can I find any channel by which I may pour myself into the sea for I am choked with dead, and yet you go on mercilessly slaying. I am in despair, therefore, O captain of your host, trouble me no further."
As documented by Homer, Scamander had taken human form. He commanded Achilles to stop.

Achilles disregarded the river god's command. When he did, the river descended upon him in the manner reported below. Swift-running Achilles was forced to seek help from a mightier guardian class:
HOMER: Achilles sprang from the bank into mid-stream, whereon the river raised a high wave and attacked him. He swelled his stream into a torrent, and swept away the many dead whom Achilles had slain and left within his waters. These he cast out on to the land, bellowing like a bull the while, but the living he saved alive, hiding them in his mighty eddies. The great and terrible wave gathered about Achilles, falling upon him and beating on his shield, so that he could not keep his feet; he caught hold of a great elm-tree, but it came up by the roots, and tore away the bank, damming the stream with its thick branches and bridging it all across; whereby Achilles struggled out of the stream, and fled full speed over the plain, for he was afraid.

But the mighty god ceased not in his pursuit, and sprang upon him with a dark-crested wave, to stay his hands and save the Trojans from destruction
. The son of Peleus darted away a spear's throw from him; swift as the swoop of a black hunter-eagle which is the strongest and fleetest of all birds, even so did he spring forward, and the armour rang loudly about his breast. He fled on in front, but the river with a loud roar came tearing after. As one who would water his garden leads a stream from some fountain over his plants, and all his ground-spade in hand he clears away the dams to free the channels, and the little stones run rolling round and round with the water as it goes merrily down the bank faster than the man can follow—even so did the river keep catching up with Achilles albeit he was a fleet runner, for the gods are stronger than men. As often as he would strive to stand his ground, and see whether or no all the gods in heaven were in league against him, so often would the mighty wave come beating down upon his shoulders, and be would have to keep flying on and on in great dismay; for the angry flood was tiring him out as it flowed past him and ate the ground from under his feet.

Then the son of Peleus lifted up his voice to heaven saying, "Father Jove, is there none of the gods who will take pity upon me, and save me from the river?
I do not care what may happen to me afterwards. I blame none of the other dwellers on Olympus so severely as I do my dear mother, who has beguiled and tricked me. She told me I was to fall under the walls of Troy by the flying arrows of Apollo; would that Hector, the best man among the Trojans, might there slay me; then should I fall a hero by the hand of a hero; whereas now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end, trapped in this river as though I were some swineherd's boy, who gets carried down a torrent while trying to cross it during a storm."
Achilles begged for help from the ultimate guardian class, and his call for help was rewarded.

"It is not your fate to perish in this river," Poseidon (Neptune) instantly told him, having taken the form of a human himself. "He will abate presently as you will see."

When Scamander threatened to destroy him, even swift-running Achilles was forced to seek help from a guardian class. Within our own failing culture and society, we ourselves are badly in need of help from some guardians too.

As effects of climate change advance, we could certainly use some help from the gods of nature. But as our society continues to fashion a clownish, broken national discourse, we also badly need the help of a human guardian class.

We need the help of our logicians, and perhaps of our ethicists too. It wouldn't hurt if our political scientists came down from their lecterns now and then to stand on their hind legs too.

It isn't that professors of the types we've named don't exist, in profusion. The problem lies in their alienation from the daily events of this earth.

When Achilles cried out to the gods, Poseidon was quick to respond. But as our embarrassing national clown show has rushed upon us in recent decades, our mighty logicians have distinguished themselves by their endless silence.

It would make a great Bergman film. (Max von Sydow calls out for help, but the logicians are silent!) But it also makes for a dying culture, of the type we see around ourselves every day of the week.

Let's be candid! No one imagines that our "logicians" will ever intercede in our great societal mess. It isn't clear that our greatest logicians have any skills in what might be called the logic of everyday discourse.

As we've noted in recent weeks, our logicians have busied themselves, even over the past hundred years, in the logic of 2 + 2 equaling 4. Or in the logic of 1 + 1, as a favorite writer reminded us roughly one week back.

Regarding that favorite writer of ours, we will make this point:

This favorite writer often seems to assume that we say the things we sometimes say through a great measure of ignorance. On this occasion, he assured us that Godel's theorems really do turn on the logic of the (pseudo) statement, "This very statement is false."

He also assured us that Lord Russell and Alfred North Whitehead really did spend a hundred pages proving that 1 + 1 = 2. He seemed to assume that we didn't know such things—that our assessment of giants like Godel would change if we did.

In fact, we do understand that our "greatest logicians" have tended to spend their time on such pursuits. But from our perspective, such facts indicate that our greatest logicians have spent the past hundred years (or more) involved in utterly pointless pseudo-disputes.

In our experience, we trace this notion to the (highly inarticulate) work of the later Wittgenstein. We'll be exploring this idea in the weeks and months ahead.

Were our "greatest logicians"—great figures like Godel—successful logicians at all? In large part, it seems to us they were not.

Beyond that, it seems to us that, as they have wasted their time on disputes about "the perfect. timeless existence" of such "abstract objects" as numbers and circles, they have utterly failed their citizen's duty to this failing republic. They've left us shlubs, us average Joes, very much in the lurch.

As anyone with a TV set knows, our daily public discourse is largely scripted by clowns. But when we humans cry out for help from a guardian class, our great logicians fail to respond. Our ethicists seem to be on sabbatical in the south of France.

The result:

As a nation, we're thrown back on the manifest horrors of endless discussion-by-clown.

In part, this is a comical story, but it also points the way to possible death and destruction. Beyond that, every step of the way, it points to the question we'll continue to ask:

Was sacred Aristotle more nearly right with his widely-bruited alleged claim that "man [sic] is the rational animal?"

Or is Professor Harari more right in his recent claim that our triumphant species, Homo sapiens, is more accurately seen as a type of great ape which developed the ability to "gossip" along with the ability to invent and promulgate stirring group "fictions?"

In the weeks and months ahead, we'll keep asking that anthropological question. Eventually, we'll also return to Professor Horwich's street-fighting claim—his claim that our professors stopped teaching the later Wittgenstein so that they could continue to teach the earlier bullroar they like.

We'd joked about that possibility for years. Then Horwich came out and said it—in the New York Times, no less!

We'll get to Wittgenstein soon enough. Tomorrow, we'll briefly pause for an embarrassing trip through the rational animal file.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. In fairness, Aristotle didn't have cable TV or access to comment threads.

He'd never heard the things The Others say. Beyond that, he'd never heard Us!

Tomorrow: From the rational animal file, C-Span's first dozen callers