No fish today!


It's New Year's Eve:
We've recently learned that it's New Year's Eve. For that reason, there will be no fish today.

No fish today, or tomorrow! But astounding new product awaits.

Native American kids in school!


From today's front page:
How are Native American kids doing in school?

Atop the fold on today's front page, the New York Times attempts to explain. We don't think the Times did the world's greatest job. Let's start with some basic data.

The Times focuses on Wolf Point High School, a small school in rural Montana. In fact, Wolf Point High is quite small. In the 2015-16 school year, total enrollment seems to have been 217 for grades 9-12.

In that particular year, 57 percent of the students were listed as Native American; 19 percent of the students were listed as white. Another 19 percent were listed as "two or more races." These elementary facts about this small school don't appear in the Times report.

As Green and Waldman begin their report, they focus on one student at Wolf Point High. This student has had major psychological difficulties, including attempts at suicide.

Stating the obvious, this young person deserves to be helped in every way possible. Quickly, though, the Times uses her difficulties as a way to provide this overview:
GREEN AND WALDMAN (12/29/18): Her despondency is shared by other Native students at Wolf Point and across the United States. Often ignored in the national conversation about the public school achievement gap, these students post some of the worst academic outcomes of any demographic group, which has been exacerbated by decades of discrimination, according to federal reports.
Native American kids "post some of the worst academic outcomes of any demographic group?" We wondered how bad the academic outcomes actually are for these kids.

In our view, the Times does its usual slapdash job explaining that basic point. Here are the most recent and most basic data, derived from our most reliable domestic testing program:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2017 Naep
All students: 281.96
White students: 292.16
Black students: 259.60
Hispanic students: 268.49
Asian-American students: 309.52
American Indian/Native Alaskan students: 268.24

Average scores, Grade 8 reading, 2017 Naep
All students: 265.33
White students: 273.75
Black students: 248.37
Hispanic students: 254.60
Asian-American students: 281.19
American Indian/Native Alaskan students: 252.71
For all Naep data, start here.

For many years, we routinely offered some very rough rules of thumb for interpreting the size of those "achievement gaps" on the Naep. Finally understanding the way our society works, we no longer waste our time doing things like that.

We'll only note a few basic facts. According to our most reliable data, our black kids are doing less well, on average, in reading and math than our Native American kids.

According to those Naep results, the gap in math is almost one year! This is a very basic fact, one which is missing from the Times report.

Meanwhile, our Hispanic kids are doing about as well, on average, as our Native American kids. As the Times entertains and pleases readers with tales about the mistreatment of Native American kids, we'd say its readers should have been given this basic frame of reference.

What explains the punishing achievement gaps which obtain, on average, between various groups of American kids? That's a very important question, one which is typically submerged beneath pleasing novelized narratives like the one which appears today, in which a small rural school full of fallible people is novelized as the cause of children attempting to kill themselves.

In our view, the despair which has children taking, or attempting to take, their own lives deserves a much more serious treatment than the one which appears today. That said, New York Times education reporting has long been a novelized rolling disgrace. We're fed the stories which make us feel good, which play to preferred tribal narratives.

Why don't Native kids do better in school? We'd love to see a serious attempt to address that deeply important question.

That said, our black kids, on average, are actually doing somewhat worse than our Native American kids, even after decades of improvement! This is a very basic, very important fact of American life. Nowhere in today's report did the pair of Times reporters provide this basic frame of reference.

A second perspective: At one point, the Times reporters manage to state some basic facts. We'll guess that very few readers knew the highlighted facts:
GREEN AND WALDMAN: While the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education runs about 180 Native-only schools, more than 90 percent of Native students attend integrated public schools near or on reservations, like Wolf Point. A wealth of rarely tapped data documents their plight.

In public schools, white students are twice as likely as Native students to take at least one advanced placement course, and Native students are more than twice as likely to be suspended, according to an analysis of federal civil rights data conducted by ProPublica and The New York Times. Native students also score lower than nearly all other demographic groups on national tests, and only 72 percent of Native students graduate, the lowest of any demographic group.
The vast majority of Native American kids attend "integrated public schools near or on reservations." A much smaller percentage attend "Native-only schools" run by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

Most Times readers wouldn't have known that. For ourselves, we clicked one of the Times reporters' links. Wading through a lengthy report, we saw some remarkably terrible data from those BIE schools.

The report in question was issued by the Obama administration in December 2014. It offered this overview concerning those two types of schools for Native American kids:
OBAMA ADMIN REPORT (12/14): The vast majority of Native students—92 percent—attend local public schools operated by state and local educational authorities. States have a responsibility to educate all students who live within the state’s borders, including students who are members of Indian tribes. The other 8 percent of Native students—approximately 41,600—are enrolled in 183 federally-funded Bureau of Indian Education schools. These schools are located on 63 reservations in 23 states.
According to this Obama Admin report, only eight percent of Native kids were attending those BIE schools. (Wolf Point High is not a BIE school.)

That said, those BIE schools seem to produce extremely low test scores. These are the data which appear within, or can be derived from, that 2014 report (see graphic, page 16):
Average scores, Grade 4 reading, 2013 Naep
All students: 220.67
White students: 230.91
Black students: 205.13
Hispanic students: 206.54
Asian-American students: 236.53
American Indian/Native Alaskan students: 205.97
Students at BIE schools: roughly 180
Judging from the Obama Administration report, Native American kids at BIE schools were producing much lower test scores than their Native American peers at locally-run schools.

The achievement gap there was very large. What is, or isn't, taking place at those BIE schools?

Coming Monday: These presidential historians today!

The fraudulence comes to Fergus Falls!


It was widespread long before:
We'll return tomorrow to Donald Trump's alleged bone spurs and to These Presidential Historians Today.

More specifically, we'll review what Michael Beschloss recently said. We think there's a point to be made.

That said, there are several obvious points to be drawn from the front-page report in today's New York Times concerning Fergus Falls.

Fergus Falls is a town of roughly 14,000 souls in west central Minnesota, trending toward the Dakotas. As is now being widely discussed, the fraudulence arrived in Fergus Falls in the aftermath of Donald J. Trump's 46 percent win in the 2016 White House election.

Warning! Trump got 64 percent of the vote in Otter Tail County, of which Fergus Falls is the county seat. This made Fergus Falls a natural target for the sort of fraudulence which is widespread among our race.

Matt Furber and Mitch Smith describe the fraud today. The fraudulence came from a major newspaper from Over There. The Times report starts like this:
FURBER AND SMITH (12/29/18): Claas Relotius, who spent weeks reporting in Fergus Falls last year for one of Europe’s most respected publications, could have written about the many residents who maintain friendships across partisan lines, about the efforts to lure former residents back to west-central Minnesota or about how a city of roughly 14,000 people maintains a robust arts scene.

To give a sense of the place, he could have described local landmarks like the giant statue of Otto the Otter. Or the Minnesota-shaped welcome sign next to the Applebee’s. Or the expansive prairie that surrounds the town.

But he did not.

Instead, Mr. Relotius invented a condescending fiction. On the venerated pages of Der Spiegel, a German newsmagazine, Mr. Relotius portrayed Fergus Falls as a backward, racist place whose residents blindly supported President Trump and rarely ventured beyond city limits. He made up details about a young city official. He concocted characters, roadside signs and racially tinged plotlines.
Relotius "invented a fiction" concerning "a backward, racist place." He concocted characters, roadside signs and racially tinged plotlines.

Needless to say, that isn't the fault of other journalists. But among the fictions Relotius published in Der Spiegel, he even offered this:
FURBER AND SMITH: When [Relotius] was exposed, the fact that his portrayal of Fergus Falls was false went public, too, as well as the efforts of some people in town to document what he got wrong.

Soon, the town found itself in the midst of an international furor that it did not ask to be part of. The American ambassador to Germany accused Der Spiegel of a pattern of journalistic malpractice. National and international news outlets have visited the city, about 175 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Painful memories of being lied about have resurfaced.


The fabrications in the article ranged from the trivial (an account of a foreboding forest that does not exist and a Super Bowl party that did not happen) to the personally devastating (the city administrator was falsely portrayed as a gun-obsessed, romantically challenged man who had never seen the ocean) to the downright inflammatory (Mr. Relotius claimed—falsely, residents say—that there was a sign that said “Mexicans Keep Out” at the entrance to town). He seemed to conflate and invent biographies for different Hispanic people and said “American Sniper” had been playing for months on end at the local movie theater, a claim rebutted by residents.
Surely, Der Spiegel obtained a photograph of that remarkable roadside sign before it published that accusation.

Well, apparently, no, it did not. Nor do Furber and Smith seem entirely willing to say that they know that this "fabrication" (their assessment) really and truly was "false."

Whatever! This report seems to chronicle the latest example of flatly fraudulent fictive "reporting," a type of journalistic malfunction which appears from time to time.

It also chronicles the efforts of some people in Fergus Falls to challenge the fraud. Three cheers for Michele Anderson, whose challenge to Der Spiegel apparently drew no response:
FURBER AND SMITH: Michele Anderson, who works for a local arts nonprofit, said she had been eager to read Mr. Relotius’s work and used Google’s translation service last year to convert the German text to English. The translation was imperfect, but it was immediately clear that the story was a fabrication. When Ms. Anderson saw someone praise the article on Twitter in April 2017, she replied that the story was false, a “hilarious, insulting excuse for journalism.” For more than a year, Der Spiegel did not respond.


As the truth spread—that the story was not only largely false, but also deeply insulting—residents began weighing their options. City officials discussed whether they had any legal recourse. Ms. Anderson and a friend began compiling a list of the article’s inaccuracies. But unsure what options they had and not wanting to draw more negative attention, residents mostly kept their anger within city limits until Mr. Relotius’s broader misdeeds were exposed this month.
Someone had loved the report on Twitter! There's a lot of that going around!

The Der Spiegel report seems to have been the latest instance of flat-out, fraudulent journalistic invention. In this country, we've had major examples of this type of journalistic fiction in the past thirty years—from Jayson Blair at the New York Times and Stephen Glass at the New Republic, to cite two high-profile examples.

That said, our discourse is awash in commentary which falls just short of this level of fraud. Meanwhile, our upper-end "news reporting" has often been driven by such fiction-based writing, in ways which have changed the course of world history and taken many lives.

The twenty-month coverage of Candidate Gore fell just short of this level of fraud. That coverage sent George W. Bush to the White House and children in Iraq to their deaths.

The coverage of Candidate (Hillary) Clinton often adopted a similar cast. The New York Times' giant, sprawling "news report" about Uranium One fell just short of being outright fraud when it appeared in April 2015. We'd say this ridiculous October 2016 front-page report about the moral greatness of the truth-tellers Flowers and Hamzy didn't fall far behind, based mainly on the three million facts the news report chose to withhold.

The lunacy of this "news reporting" fell just short of outright fraud. That said, there's one big difference between those cases and the case of Fergus Falls:

The fraudulent treatment of Fergus Falls has now been widely debunked and discussed. By way of contrast, the fraudulence of the New York Times cannot be reported or discussed. Any such conduct would be forbidden by the tenets of Hard Pundit Law, by the unyielding code of silence observed within the guild.

Here at this site, we wrote for years, including for twenty months in real time, about the fraudulent coverage of Candidate Gore. But because the fraud was being conducted by the Washington Post and the New York Times, it was then, and it remains today, undiscussable within the system.

In one glorious exception, Vanity Fair published this October 2007 report by Evgenia Peretz, a report which was almost wholly based on our own earlier work. There it was, at full length, in a major publication.

No discussion ensued. For the criminal class which conspired to kill all those kids in Iraq, any such discussion would have constituted a violation of law.

How about that fraudulent report about Hillary Clinton and Uranium One? Here too, the fairly obvious fraudulence has never been discussed in public or explained by the Times.

It has been discussed in private (in effect)! In August 2017, Harvard's Berkman Klein Center published a lengthy, deracinated report beneath this intriguing title:
Online Media & the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Included deep within the report was a lengthy discussion of the role played by the Times report in making Uranium One a major part of anti-Clinton propaganda. That said, the Harvard reported appeared several years too late, and it was written in the abstractified style which seems intended to ensure that it will never be read or discussed by anyone in the outside world.

The authors did find time to praise themselves for their tireless, exhaustively-staffed, well-funded efforts. The report starts like this:
FARIS, ROBERTS, ETLING, BOURASSA, ZUCKERMAN AND BAKLER (8/17): This paper is the result of months of effort and has only come to be as a result of the generous input of many people from the Berkman Klein Center and beyond.

Jonas Kaiser and Paola Villarreal expanded our thinking around methods and interpretation. Brendan Roach provided excellent research assistance. Rebekah Heacock Jones helped get this research off the ground, and Justin Clark helped bring it home. We are grateful to Gretchen Weber, David Talbot, and Daniel Dennis Jones for their assistance in the production and publication of this study.

This paper has also benefited from contributions of many outside the Berkman Klein community. The entire Media Cloud team at the Center for Civic Media at MIT’s Media Lab has been essential to this research.

Natalie Gyenes and Anushka Shah provided research insights and Media Cloud expertise. Rahul Bhargava, Linas Valiukas, and Cindy Bishop built the platform that made this work possible. John Kelly and Vlad Barash provided important insights into the role of social media in the election, leading us to new hypotheses and ideas that shaped the paper’s development. Matt Higgins helped lay a firm foundation of thought and hypotheses upon which this work was completed. Philipp Nowak provided valuable early research assistance.

Participants of Data & Society’s Propaganda & Media Manipulation Workshop in May 2017 provided valuable feedback and critical cross-examination that helped steer this paper to its final version. Thanks to Anthony Nadler for particularly helpful feedback on an early draft of this study.

This study was funded by the Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs. Media Cloud has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.
Who didn't fund this project? Meanwhile, the tireless authors worked "for months," helped by a cast of thousands.

We've worked for free for 21 years. Our debunking of the Times' Uranium One report appeared one day after it first appeared, not more than two years later.

(Two days before the report appeared, we offered these ruminations concerning the very strange business deal from which the report resulted. Such things can be done in real time, though the issues involved won't be discussed by our favorite stars on cable.)

Fergus Falls has had its day in court. The fraudulent report about the town has been identified, acknowledged, discussed.

The larger frauds under which we all live continue along under stifling codes of silence. Simply put, you aren't allowed to know many things. This is roughly the arrangement Chomsky describes as "manufactured consent."

One final point. The fraudulent Der Spiegel report worked from a much-loved novelistic framework. It was all about the racism of Those People, the ones in the other tribe.

Our contemporary liberal world runs on that fuel. Our liberal world runs on tribal loathing, on the loathing of The Others which has always routinely prevailed.

Are we humans really the rational animal? This depressing New York Times report about the inner workings of the Women's March provides a depressing answer to that question.

We humans just aren't all that sharp. In particular, we have a lot of trouble with the logical complexities of "some" versus "all."

This doesn't mean that anyone's evil. It means we're prone to self-defeat through painful error, even Over Here within our progressive tents.

It means we aren't all that sharp. Except when we're seeing ourselves from afar, the truth is, we never have been.

Charles Lane goes to Fergus Falls: Charles Lane was editor of The New Republic during the Stephen Glass era.

Earlier this week, he discussed the Fergus Falls case in the Washington Post. He also discussed the way we liberals love to drop our bombs.

Tomorrow: What Michael Beschloss (oddly) said to applause

These presidential historians today!


First part of a year-end report:
If we were inclined to restart today, we might restart with this New York Times editorial, which is actually an "editorial substitute."

In hard copy, the presentation looks like the day's lone editorial. In fact, it's a signed "Editorial Observer" piece by Bill Saporito, who's identified (though only on line) as "a contributor to the editorial board."

Is a contributor to the editorial board the same thing as a member of the editorial board? As best we can tell, the answer is no.

That said, Saporito's piece has the look, and the positioning, of this morning's lone editorial. Readers of today's print editions will likely think that's what they're reading when they peruse his piece.

For what it's worth, we thought we were reading the day's lone editorial when we read our hard-copy Times! At any rate, along the way, Saporito offers this:
SAPORITO (12/27/18): Mr. Trump is King Minus. Everything he touches turns to lead. And everyone else is at fault but him. He can’t understand it. Didn’t he give Mexico and Canada a great deal in replacing Nafta with Naft2? He thinks so, even though the Canadians fought furiously until they got an agreement they could live with; the Mexicans are still on the fence, if you’ll pardon the pun.

And didn’t he win the trade war with China? The president brays that jobs will be moving here from there, which will make the trade deficit diminish. The reality is that the trade deficit continues to climb, mostly because it helps our economy. What is diminishing instead are sales of soybeans to China, once the largest customer for American farmers. In November, China bought exactly zero soybeans from us. Merry Christmas, Iowa. Does this feel like winning?

In Mr. Trump’s snow-globe reality, our days are merry and bright as long as he’s in charge. It’s only when those other fools interfere—the courts, the Fed, Congress, whoever is chief of staff—that things go wrong. Thus the government shutdown that he bragged he would own he now says belongs to the Democrats. No one is buying that one, not even in his own party. And no one is buying his $5 billion Mexico wall, either. And that includes the Mexicans. Nor should they. The number of people entering the United States from Mexico has been declining for a decade, but Mr. Trump has now wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars placing American troops in Texas to protect us from an immigration threat that doesn’t exist.
Snore! If you're alive on the planet, you're encountered that array of prepackaged editorial observations a million times by now.

As we read Saporito's piece, we thought of the December 24 Deadline: White House broadcast. The Christmas Eve effort was a pre-taped affair. For that reason, it was even more repetitive and scripted than the almost insanely repetitive program's standard daily fare.

Within the tents of our generally useless tribe, everyone knows what to say about Donald J. Trump. Pundits take numbers and stand in line awaiting their chance to recite, just as they did in 1999 and 2000, when their insanely repetitive claims were designed to defeat the very bad person who was Bill Clinton's chosen successor.

This is the way the minds of us the humans tend to work! For ourselves, we think of what Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, told the headstrong Diomedes at the moment of truth on the plains outside Troy:
Few can match your power in battle, Diomedes,
and in council you excel all men your age
But you don't press on and reach a useful end...
In council, the youthful Diomedes exceeded everyone else his age. But, at least in this instance, the vastly more experienced Nestor—"he always gave the best advice"—told Diomedes that he had failed to "reach a useful end."

For our money, it's the greatest fictional scene we know—the scene which has been reenacted the most times in the millennia since it passed into tribal song.

Everyone knows how to repeat the complaints Saporito repeats this morning. You can see them stated, almost insanely, for an hour each weekday afternoon on Deadline: White House.

Our tribe knows how to repeat these complaints. But we're struck by the way our corporate tribal leaders fail to move beyond the obvious to reach a useful end.

In large part, we blame the New York Times itself. Back in January, the newspaper warned us not to say the sorts of things Carl Bernstein said, not for the first time, on last Sunday's Reliable Sources.

Bernstein questioned the president's psychological state. Speaking with CNN's Brian Stelter, he moved beyond rote recitation toward a potentially useful end:
STELTER (12/23/18): Carl, help us connect this fight [about the exit from Syria] to Trump's precarious position overall. To me, James Mattis issued a warning to America with his resignation letter, and that's the other big story this weekend, loss of support for the president. How do you connect these fights?

BERNSTEIN: Well, you just said it right, it's all one big story and that story is about the fitness or unfitness of Donald Trump to be president of the United States. What the Mattis letter has done in a monumental way is to push Republicans into making some real judgments, they're talking to each other, there is coming to be a much greater consensus that he is unfit to be the president of the United States, if you talk to Republicans, that he is unfit on psychological grounds, that he is unfit perhaps because of his contempt for the law and particularly unfit in his conduct of foreign policy in such a way as to be a danger himself.

And this is what Mattis has said, Tillerson has said, McMaster has said. They view the president of the United States as a danger to the national security of the United States...


I think as journalists that we need to be going to all Republican members of the House and Senate and having serious discussions with them, questions on background, what do they think about the fitness of Donald Trump to be president of the United States. And let's start running detailed stories about what they really think.


This is not just a question of whether he is going to be impeached, convicted, not convicted. This is about whether or not a consensus is developing that the president of the United States is not fit to serve in a situation such as we have never had in the history of this country.

Read what individuals are saying in the Congress, being quoted as saying he's off the rails. Republicans saying that, not Democrats. "He's off the rails psychologically. He's not stable enough to be president."

These are questions that as journalists we have to look at, not pejoratively, not saying whether we think he's psychologically unfit, but what people of the country think. We also ought to be talking to people in the country about all these things, but also about Republicans particularly and what they say about these questions...
All through the past year, Bernstein has said that journalists should conduct a public discussion concerning Donald J. Trump's psychological state—concerning his mental health.

In Bernstein's view, Trump's lack of stability makes him a danger to the nation, presumably to the world. But alas! In January of this year, the New York Times editorial board said we shouldn't have that discussion, and the rest of the mainstream press corps quickly fell into line.

This undercut the effort by Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee to initiate such a discussion. Her efforts were thrown under the bus as the Times, predictably enough, said we should ignore the questions she was attempting to raise.

This leaves our pundits repeating their useless daily claims concerning whatever ridiculous thing Trump said or did ten minutes ago. They refuse to reach a (potentially) useful end as they conduct this insanely repetitive pseudo-discussion.

In this morning's New York Times, Saporito repeats the basic points for perhaps the ten millionth time. He repeats the claims they all can repeat, the claims they repeat every day.

Repetition is easy and fun, but does it reach a useful end? As they repeat and repeat and repeat, Donald Trump still holds the nuclear codes, and the generals who were supposed to prevent their use are increasingly absent.

The latest pleasing daily complaint concerns Trump's alleged bone spurs during the Vietnam War. Inevitably, the corps is now claiming to be shocked, shocked by the latest relatively trivial thing they may or may not have learned.

Last night, Don Lemon was shocked by this latest report. This leads us to our mini-topic for this, the last full week of the year:

These presidential historians today! Tomorrow, we'll start a lazy year-end semi-report by showing you what Michael Beschloss recently oddly said.

Tomorrow: Pleasing but blatantly false

The charioteer's fuller tale: He always gave the best advice! In this instance, his advice went exactly like this:
Few can match your power in battle, Diomedes,
and in council you excel all men your age
But you don't press on and reach a useful end.
How young you are—why, you could be my son,
my youngest-born at that, though you urge our kings
with cool clear sense: what you've said is right.

But it's my turn now, Diomedes.
I think I can claim to have some years on you.
So I must speak up and drive the matter home.
And no one will heap contempt on what I say,
not even mighty Agamemnon. Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for the horror of war with his own people.
The charioteer continued from there, chastising even Agamemnon. For ourselves, we think we see a lot of lusting for war with our own people within our own current discussions.

Concerning the spirit of the day after Christmas!


The desire to give comfort and aid:
Excuse us for noticing, but everyone else is still lounging about, so we plan to lounge about today too. We'll probably restart tomorrow.

In place of our normal useless services, we'll remind you of a wonderful question, a question first asked long ago and followed by a pledge:
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
The question is followed by a pledge, a pledge to give "comfort" (and aid). We're always happy to read and recommend the full text at this time of year.

Who found you in the forest? Although "to each his world is private," it's a wonderful children's question. With everybody lounging about, it's well worth considering today.

BREAKING: Special report concerning tomorrow!


According to practiced observers:
We forgot to mention the fact that tomorrow is Christmas Day.

For that reason, we won't be posting today or tomorrow. Wednesday's a long ways off.

Also this: "the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads

i'll give them all to you to hold..."

We frequently recommend it.

BREAKING: Cable star seeks personal peace!


Admits she's "slightly obsessed:"
Twelve minutes into last night's program, a major corporate cable news star made a peculiar remark:
MADDOW (12/21/18): I mean, we expected to be getting on the air tonight without a clear story to tell about whether or not the entire federal government was going to shut down at midnight.

We expected to be covering, this hour, ongoing wrangling and negotiations, potentially even last-minute votes. That is not the circumstances that we are in, because around dinner time East Coast time tonight, the Senate just decided, "Yeah, we all know this thing's going to shut down anyway. Why fight it? Why stay up late? We're old guys!"
To watch the whole segment, click here.

Maddow is never especially shy about the kind of remarks our team will sometimes denounce as "ageist," though only when such remarks are made by The Others. So it was with last night's wonderfully entertaining remarks about those comical "old guys."

For ourselves, we've never used the term "ageist." We'll just call the remarks in question "stupid" and leave our assessment at that.

That said, it wasn't the wonderful jibe about the "old guys" which seemed so odd to us. We've highlighted the cable star's oddest remark in that passage—her suggestion that she'd been bracing for the possibility that "the entire federal government" might perhaps shut down.

That, of course, was never a possibility, as everyone else on the face of the earth had reported and explained by the time of last night's show. Later in the program, an NBC reporter ran through the basic facts. ("I mean, I know that it's a little bit different in that 75 percent of the government is already funded. This is only going to affect 25 percent of the government.")

Presumably, someone even knew such things on Maddow's staff. This is what the cable star said as she continued, working from prepared text:
MADDOW (continuing directly): So there technically will be a partial government shutdown that initiates as of midnight tonight when funding for the government runs out. It's because there is no deal. There is no $5 billion for the president to build a wall or a moat or steel slats or a decorative pergola on the long southern land border between our country and Mexico. There's none of that. There's no deal.
After floating the idea of a shutdown of the entire government, Maddow now copped to a partial shutdown. So it goes on the increasingly narcissistic program.

Last night, it started like this:
MADDOW: Let us start with a simple thing. Let us start with a news development that is almost pure in its simplicity and its straightforwardness and its crystal clear implications for what should happen and what likely will happen next. As an, as an—

I find this comforting. As a news story, this is just kind of perfect, the way like a pecan pie is perfect, or a sunrise, right?

All right. Today, this news story, I have found, has been sort of my, my order in the midst of chaos. You ready to becalm yourself with me right now? All right.

Right now, the White House chief of staff is John Kelly...
The Maddow Show routinely concerns the feelings of Rachel Maddow. These reports will be mixed with endless speculation about how much time various Others will have to spend in jail.

Few other things matter on this show. For example:

According to the Nexis archives, the cable star who fronts this program hasn't said the word"Yemen" all year. Last night, she burned the first twelve minutes of her show with a rather selective report about a trivial incident which doesn't seem to be fully understood at the present time.

That said, the somewhat poorly understood story involves a deputy to Kelly. The host dished out some selective facts. After 12 minutes of time had been killed (with speculations about jail time ahead), we viewers got to hear this:
MADDOW: So like, this is how I relax now. This is what counts as like my happy place. It's like a relaxing, comforting turn in the news these days.

It is like people upload it to Twitter like those pictures, those like little GIFs of like hedgehogs eating kernels of corn. It's like this is the equivalent of that.

Zone out and think about this for a while. Oh, garden variety, potentially criminal public corruption at the highest levels of the White House staff. That feels like a place of rest right now, which is telling about what else is going on right now in the news.

I mean, we expected to be getting on the air tonight without a clear story to tell about whether or not the entire federal government was going to shut down at midnight...
Viewers heard that odd remark about the entire government shutting down. Luckily, we also got to learn about this narcissistic multimillionaire cable clown's "happy place."

Later, we were treated to such inside information again. Maddow routinely seems disturbed by the thought of sexual activity among The Others. Almost surely, that explains the "slight obsession" she mentioned in this pair of teases:
MADDOW: It's been a whole bunch of interesting court filings related to the Mueller probe today. I will tell you we`re going to get to that a little bit later on this hour too, including the lifting of the gag order in the Maria Butina case. I am slightly obsessed with that case and that element of it. We will have more on that, coming up.

MADDOW: All right. Still ahead, a mystery developments in a Russian meddling case that is not one of the Robert Mueller cases, but this happened today. I'm slightly obsessed with it. That story is next.
It's always important for viewers to know what Maddow is slightly obsessed with—though if you can't spot the obsessions from watching her work, you may be absorbing too much of the tribe.

Let's say it again. According to the Nexis records, the host of this particular "cable news" show hasn't said the word "Yemen" even one time this year. Tens of thousands of children have been starved to death as part of that U.S.-linked war, but she keeps talking about how trivial players are maybe possibly and perhaps going to spend time in jail, especially if we don't consider the facts she may choose not to mention.

It's her place of peace! That, and she may have a "slight obsession" with Butina's boy friend, who may be facing some sort of indictment. (That's the gist of the new, minor fact about which she's slightly obsessed.)

She doesn't have a Butina sex tape yet, but if she gets one, she'll likely play it again and again, covering her ears like a little girl and pretending she doesn't want to. To us liberals, this seems like good fun!

She's slightly obsessed with Butina's sex life, but she's never mentioned the children of Yemen. At the present time, through no immediate fault on our own, this is who and what we liberals have become.

The little girl who got hit by the napalm in Vietnam and ran screaming away from her village? She wouldn't have made the cut on the Maddow Show. These are the values of our tribe, of the big giant stars we most love.

And no, this isn't all Maddow's "fault." Like so many others before her, she's been enabled in this descent every step of the way.

A note concerning our top career liberals: Just as they never criticized Chris Matthews or Maureen Dowd, they will never mention or criticize Maddow's downward spiral. Just as they never mentioned Olbermann's rank misogyny—except when they were speaking in private, on Ezra Klein's JournoList. (Their silence wasn't Klein's fault.)

Dearest darlings, use your heads! Careerist codes are in effect. This is the way we highly "rational" humans reason.

FOOLS FOR PARADOX: Lord Russell's paradox drew him in!


The land of "abstract objects:"
Again, let's start with our basic questions. For example:

In a world which is crawling with top-flight logicians, why is our public discourse bedeviled by hopeless illogic? From 1994 through 1996, why did no logician step in to critique this iconic claim by Newt Gingrich:
No one is cutting the Medicare program. We're just slowing the rate at which the program will grow.
For roughly two years, the public discourse came to a halt as reporters and pundits struggled with that claim by the Gingrich-led Republican party. Our journalists were hopelessly overmatched by the claim. But where were our many elite logicians?

In some ways, our question is easily answered. Our elite logicians concern themselves with loftier topics than these. As we showed you just last week, W. D. Hart offered these thoughts in his 2010 book, The Evolution of Logic:
HART (page 59): Perhaps more generally a quantifier is a second-level function whose value at an (n + 1)-ary first-level concept is an n-ary concept, unless n is zero, in which case its value is a truth value, an object. In that case, quantifiers would be second-level functions sometimes having first-level concepts as values and sometimes objects as values. When the value of a first-level concept at an object is truth, Frege says the object falls under the concept. Perhaps the concept:falls-under is a binary second-level concept whose first argument is an object and whose second is a first-level concept. In that case, second-level concepts could also have arguments of different levels.
When issues like these are being resolved, few will have time for the affairs of the world.

Then too, we have Professor's Goldstein's explanation of Godel's incompleteness theorems. According to the New York Times review of Goldstein's 2005 book, this was magically lucid work:
GOLDSTEIN (page 175): The Godel number that will correspond to the sequence of p1 followed by p2 is:

GN(p1, p2) = 7387398776738467398827343980675846758

Through Godel's inspired contrivances, all of the logical relations that between propositions in the formal system become arithmetic relations expressible in the arithmetical language of the system itself. This is the essence of the heart-stopping beauty of the whole thing. So if, for example, wff1 logically entails wff2, then GN(wff1) will bear some purely arithmetical relation to GN(wff2). Suppose, say, that it can be shown that if wff1 logically entails wff2, then GN(wff2) is a factor of GN(wff1). We would then have two ways of showing that wff1 logically entails wff2; we could use the rules of the formal system to deduce wff2 from wff1; or we could show that GN(wff1) can be obtained from GN(wff2) by multiplying by an integer. Suppose that GN(wff1) = 195589 and GN(wff2) = 317. 317 is a factor of 195589, since 317 multiplied by 617 = 195589. So that wff1 logically entails wff2 could be demonstrated either by using the formal rules of proof to arrive at wff2 from wff1, or, alternatively, by using the rules of arithmetic to arrive at GN(wff1) = 195589 by multiplying 617 by 317 = GN(wff2). The metasyntactic and the arithmetic collapse into one another.
According to the Times review, that was part of an exposition which was magically lucid for the general reader. That said, when logicians have matters like this to discuss, who has time for the piddling issues affecting the health of tens of millions of people?

For better or worse, our elite logicians have developed elite concerns. They leave the affairs of the world to people like the Washington Post's Monica Hesse, who recently explored the metaphysics, hermeneutics and ontology of Stephen Miller's deeply troubling yet highly evocative hair.

Our journalists have been exploring such pitiful topics for decades. Our logicians live in the clouds, perhaps in the land where numbers and circles have the "perfect, timeless existence" alluded to in The New Yorker's unintentionally comic review of Goldstein's surprising book.

So it goes with us rational animals in this, the deeply dangerous era of Donald J. Trump. According to Professor Horwich, this lunacy persists, at least in part, for an all-too-human reason:

When the later Wittgenstein came along and offered advances in rational conduct, our philosophers turned him away, concerned because he'd said that their previous efforts had been built on definable types of illusions. According to Professor Horwich, the guild has chosen to turn him out, to reaffirm the old ways.

This brings us to the second major "paradox" explored in Professor Goldstein's 2005 book, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel. On Wednesday, we explored "the liar's paradox," a form of chicken-scratching on the approximate level of the tree which famously falls in the forest when no one is around.

The notion that modern logic is built around the mysteries of this ancient riddle—well sir, Trump can sing the entire theme song from Green Acres before the laughter subsides.

Goldstein, a ranking philosophy professor, takes the liar's paradox very, very seriously. Later in her favorably reviewed and blurbed book, she describes "Russell's paradox," the conundrum which convinced the young Ludwig Wittgenstein to give up aeronautics and study logic instead:
GOLDSTEIN (page 90-91): Wittgenstein came from one of the wealthiest and most culturally elite families of Vienna, "the Austrian version of the Krupps, the Carnegies, the Rothschilds, whose lavish palace on Alleegasse had hosted concerts by Brahms and Mahler..." He was, in his intensity, preoccupations, ambitions and conflicts, indelibly stamped by the sensibilities of that intense, preoccupied, ambitious and conflicted city. While studying aeronautical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, he had learned of Russell's paradox, and became interested in the foundations of mathematics.
So what the heck was Russell's paradox? In truth, it was basically a tricked-out version of that ancient Greek/Cretan tale:
GOLDSTEIN (continuing directly): Russell's famous paradox is of the self-referential variety. The liar's paradox—this very sentence is false—is of the same variety. We get into trouble because some linguistic item talks about itself, at least potentially, and by reason of this self-referentiality we end up both asserting that some statement is true and that it is also false, which is logically impossible if anything is.
This very sentence is false! Should we regard that as a "statement," as Goldstein does in that passage, or as a silly parlor trick? To see us vote for the latter approach, click here for Wednesday's report.

Regarding Russell's "famous paradox," Goldstein proceeds to the place where the rubber meets the road. As she does, it seems to us that we can hear the laughter of the gods:
GOLDSTEIN (continuing directly): Russell's paradox concerns the set of all sets that are not members of themselves. Sets are abstract objects that contain members, and some sets can be members of themselves. For example, the set of all abstract objects is a member of itself, since it is an abstract object. Some sets (most) are not members of themselves. For example, the set of all mathematicians is not itself a mathematician—it's an abstract object—and so is not a member of itself., Now we form the concept of the set of all sets that aren't members of themselves and we ask of this set: is it a member of itself? It either is or it isn't, just as the problematic sentence of the liar's paradox either is or isn't true. But if the set of all sets that aren't members of themselves is a member of itself, then it's not a member of itself, since it contains only sets that aren't members of themselves. And, if it's not a member of itself, then it is a member of itself, since it contains all the sets that aren't members of themselves. So it's a member of itself if and only if it's not a member of itself. Not good.
"Russell's paradox concerns the set of all sets that are not members of themselves." As Goldstein correctly notes, this is the famous conundrum which lured the young Wittgenstein to Cambridge.

Let's turn to Goldstein's account. For our money, it's amazing that a ranking philosophy professor could have produced such work in 2005, some 52 years after the publication of the later Wittgenstein's definitive text, Philosophical Investigations.

It's even more amazing that three academic stars—Pinker, Greene and Lightman—would have rushed to the back of her book to blurb her lucidity and praise her insight and skill.

To our ear, almost every part of that paragraph evokes the laughter of the gods. "Sets are abstract objects that contain members?" On the steepest slopes of Olympus, how the gods must have roared!

In our view, it's a remarkable fact that elite logicians still traffic in piddle like this. For today, we'll only enjoy the mirth which comes to us when we read this one small part of Goldstein's presentation:
"Sets are abstract objects..."
Sets are abstract objects! Before we comment on that peculiar choice of words, let's get clear on one point. Goldstein is speaking here of a particular type of "set," though she fails to say so.

Your grandmother's special china set isn't, in any normal sense, some sort of "abstract object." It's a collection of physical objects—tea cups, saucers and plates—which are taken out of her cabinet for use on special occasions.

John Doe's full set of 1958 baseball cards is also, in the most straightforward sense, a collection of physical objects. And sure enough! Even as we sit here typing, Macy's is offering low, low prices on "Calvin Klein Modern Comforter Sets."

There too, the sets which you can buy at Macy's are collections of physical objects. No "abstract objects" are listed as part of the deal!

In fairness, Professor Goldstein isn't talking about that type of "set." She's discussing a different type of "set"—a type of set she chooses to describe as an "abstract object."

Tell the truth! Do you have any idea what an abstract object might be? Do you know why a person would choose to employ such an odd choice of words?

In our view, the type of "sets" to which Goldstein refers are more accurately described as "imaginary collections." You can imagine "the set of all mathematicians," though it would be hard to agree on, and list, all their names.

Once someone has explained what an "abstract object" is, you can even imagine "the set of all abstract objects," though you'd never be able to list every such set.

Russell's paradox concerns the set of all sets that are not members of themselves! In our view, it also concerns grown men and women, typically of a certain class, amusing themselves by playing with dolls while ignoring the affairs of the world.

These woods are silly, and not very deep. Again and again, then again and again, Goldstein insists on the opposite view of the world which can be created when we pretend to address the imagined perils of "self-referential paradox," which causes the mind to crash.

"This problem that had stumped the great Lord Russell was obviously something worth thinking about." So Goldstein writes on page 93, explaining why the youthful Wittgenstein was drawn in by this puzzle.

Having said that, alas! By the time he wrote his first, early book, the still-youthful Wittgenstein had kicked Russell's paradox to the curb. Goldstein keeps rolling her eyes at such heretical work. According to Professor Horwich, our elite logicians are like that.

Our journalists deal with clothing and hair; with questions of who may or may not have had sex on one occasion in 2006; and of course with invented quotations which help advance preferred story lines. Our logicians deal with the set of all sets not members of themselves!

In this way, the dumbing proceeds. Eventually, after the lovin' is done, Donald J. Trump gets elected.

BREAKING: About our desire to lock him up!


Kristof and Drum's assessments:
Nicholas Kristof has written an interesting column today about the way nobody reads his columns.

Rather, no one reads certain types of columns. At one point, he offers this overview:
KRISTOF (12/20/18): A common thread, as you can see, is that international columns don’t get much of an audience, particularly if they aren’t about issues in the news and don’t relate to President Trump...

Human rights and humanitarian topics often do particularly poorly by digital metrics, and this affects the decisions news organizations make about what to cover. Central African Republic is a humanitarian catastrophe, but one reason it doesn’t get much coverage is that it’s expensive and dangerous to cover—and then readers or viewers turn the page or switch the channel.
Who cares what happens overseas? Unless it's connected to Trump!

Our tribal obsession with Donald J. Trump has perhaps been harmful in the international arena. On the other hand, it may be that it has shed light on a type of disinterest which was always present.

Who cares what happens Over There? As he continued, Kristof offers a comment about The One True Channel:
KRISTOF (continuing directly): Fortunately, The Times is still committed to such stories, as are some other journalists and news organization. Bravo, for example, to the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who did extraordinary reporting on the killings of Rohingya in Myanmar—and as a result have now been imprisoned for more than a year. But these are tough stories to get an audience for. There’s a reason that CNN, MSNBC and Fox are not all over the Central African Republic crisis, Yemen starvation and global violence against women.
Yemen does involve Donald J. Trump! Even then, our favorite stars at MSNBC don't care if tens of thousands of children die of starvation there.

Rather, their bosses, who pay them the giant salaries whose size we aren't allowed to know, don't want them covering such boring topics, and so our favorite stars don't. By way of contrast, The Chase after Trump is a true crime drama, with plenty of sizzle and action.

Our tribe's obsession with locking him up is turning some of our favorite shows into tribal porn. (We think of Morning Joe and Deadline: White House, daily tributes to undisguised tribal propaganda.)

This obsession may also affect the clarity of our assessments and statements. Consider a recent bomb by Kevin Drum—our favorite blogger, the person whose work on lead abatement is the most informative work we've encountered on line.

Drum wrote about the Trump Tower/Moscow letter of intent signed by Candidate Donald J. Trump. The letter was signed on September 28, 2015. That said, is this thunder accurate?
DRUM (12/19/18): This was signed four months into the Republican primary campaign, when Trump was insisting that he had no interests, no loans, no deals, no nothing going on with Russia. He was, obviously, lying, and this goes a long way toward explaining why he was being so obsequious toward Vladimir Putin at the time (“I’d get along great with him,” “He’s a leader,” “I’ve always had a good instinct about Putin,” etc.).
Why has Trump deferred to Putin in the ways he has? In the end, the answer may be far more incriminating than anything connected to the Trump Tower/Moscow.

That said, was Trump "insisting that he had no interests, no loans, no deals, no nothing going on with Russia" at the time he signed that letter? Was he making such declarations throughout the campaign?

Here's a recent compilation by Meg Kelly at the Washington Post's Fact-Checker site. Pleasing though Drum's thunder may be, we'd say the answer to our questions is pretty much no.

(And no, we don't think Giuliani has nailed down when the pursuit of this project ended. As usual, our pundits settled on the most incriminating interpretation of his latest murky statement. We've seen no one attempt to execute a careful follow-up.)

On cable, our favorite stars have become more and more promiscuous when it comes to matters of fact. On our favorite shows, the pundit panels are selected to ensure that Everyone Will Say The Exact Same Things in The Exact Same Ways, except to the extent that they try to top each other. Chuck Rosenberg excepted!

Edges on the actual truth get sanded further every day. In such ways, Donald J. Trump has always had a bad effect on the various things he touches.

(Who eats but is not satisfied/Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself/And turns his back on me.)

FOOLS FOR PARADOX: Magical, lucid, the Times review said!


Are elite humans conscious?
Trust us! No one reading Rebecca Goldstein's 2005 book, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel, will come away with even the slightest understanding of Godel's famous alleged theorems and proofs.

Goldstein is a well-regarded novelist as well as a ranking philosophy professor. In her well-received book, she spins a web of interesting tales about Godel's intensely difficult life, which ended in suicide by self-starvation at age 71.

That said, Goldstein's book was aimed at general readers, and no general reader on the face of the earth will have any idea how Godel's incompleteness theorems actually worked after reading Goldstein's attempts to explain them.

Those readers won't know what Godel is said to have proven, or how he is said to have proved it. We'll be proving this point below.

Tomorrow, we'll return to the paradox wars, moving from the liar's paradox onward to Lord Russell's. For today, if only for comic relief, let's focus on an intriguing part of the modern publishing industry. As we do, let's continue to ask our latest gloomy question:

Are we humans even conscious? Or are we, in many cases, simply misfiring machines? We were forced to ask that gloomy question after reading the New York Times review of Goldstein's well-received book, a review which insists—here we go again!—that Rebecca Goldstein "magically" managed to make Kurt Godel easy.

Books which claim to make difficult science easy are now a basic part of the publishing business. This culture began with the Einstein-made-easy books, especially with Stephen Hawkings' incomprehensible best-sellers which claimed to accomplish this task.

Einstein-made-easy books created this publishing niche. But the practice expanded from there, even to Professor Goldstein's Godel-made-easy effort.

Goldstein's book concerns Godel's incompleteness theorems—theorems which established Godel, according to Goldstein and others, as "the greatest logician since Aristotle." These theorems are plainly hard (or impossible) to explain, but on the dust jacket of Goldstein's book, three major academic stars blurb the lucidity of her work, as is required by law.

(Alan Lightman: Incompleteness is "a penetrating, accessible, and beautifully written book." Stephen Pinker: Goldstein "offers us a lucid exposition of Godel's brainchild." Brian Greene: "a remarkably lucid account of Godel's most stunning breakthrough—a proof that there are true but unprovable statements.")

According to the blurbs on the back, Goldstein's book isn't simply accessible and lucid; the book is remarkably lucid. And then, along came the New York Times review, written by Polly Shulman.

The Times identified Shulman as "a contributing editor for Science magazine [who] has written about mathematics for many other publications." According to Shulman's current web site, "she majored in math at Yale."

We're going to guess that Shulman knows a whole lot of math! We'll also guess that she understands the modern journalistic convention in which insiders insist that wholly incomprehensible books make various abstruse science/math topics amazingly easy to grasp.

We don't know why major newspapers like the Times enjoy this game so much. Is it possible that its editors aren't even conscious—that they're simply misfiring machines?

We'll leave that one to the experts! For today, if only as comic relief, let's walk through Shulman's upbeat assessment of Goldstein's work. After that, we'll look at part of the way Goldstein explains Godel's proof.

As far as we know, Shulman understands Godel's theorems, whatever that might entail. That said, her review is already working the lucidity beat by the end of its first paragraph:
SHULMAN (5/1/05): Rebecca Goldstein, as anyone knows who has read her novels—particularly "The Mind-Body Problem"—understands that people are thinking beings, and the mind's loves matter at least as much as the heart's. After all, she's not just a novelist, but a philosophy professor. She casts "Incompleteness," her brief life of the logician Kurt Gödel (1906-78), as a touching intellectual love story. Though Gödel was married, his wife barely appears here; as Goldstein tells it, his romance was with mathematical Platonism, the idea that the glories of mathematics exist eternally beyond our grasp. Gödel's Platonism inspired him to deeds as daring as any knight's: he proved his famous incompleteness theorem for its sake. His Platonism also set him apart from his intellectual contemporaries. Only Einstein shared it, and could solace Gödel's loneliness, Goldstein argues. A biography with two focuses—a man and an idea—Incompleteness" unfolds its surprisingly accessible story with dignity, tenderness and awe.
Goldstein's book is "surprisingly accessible," Shulman says. (Also, it's a "love story!") By rule of law, elite reviewers are required to voice this judgment concerning easy-to-understand books written by the elect.

By the third paragraph of her review, Shulman is discussing "the famous Liar's Paradox." ("The proofs of Godel's famous theorems rely on just that sort of twisty thinking: statements like the famous Liar's Paradox, 'This statement is false.' ") Shulman then moves to her basic account of what Godel is said to have proved.

Below, you see that basic account. We hate to be the killjoy here, but by the time this paragraph is done, the general reader will have zero idea what Shulman is talking about. Any such dream will have come to an end with the passage we're setting in bold:
SHULMAN: Gödel's work addresses the core of mathematics: finding proofs. Proofs are mathematicians' road to truth. To find them, mathematicians from the ancient Greeks on have set up systems consisting of three basic elements: axioms, true statements so intuitively obvious they are self-evident; rules of inference, logical principles indicating how to use axioms to prove new, less obviously true statements; and those new true statements, called theorems. (Many Americans met axioms and proofs for the first and last time in 10th-grade geometry.) A century ago, mathematicians began taking these systems to an extreme. Since mathematical intuition can be as unreliable as other kinds of intuitions—often things that seem obvious turn out to be just plain wrong—they tried to eliminate it from their axioms. They built new systems of arbitrary symbols and formal rules for manipulating them. Of course, they chose those particular symbols and rules because of their resemblance to mathematical systems we care about (such as arithmetic). But, by choosing rules and symbols that work whether or not there's any meaning behind them, the mathematicians kept the potential corruption of intuition at bay. The dream of these formalists was that their systems contained a proof for every true statement. Then all mathematics would unfurl from the arbitrary symbols, without any need to appeal to an external mathematical truth accessible only to our often faulty intuition.
Uh-oh! In this passage, Shulman almost suggests that there may have been something a little bit odd in what these mathematicians (these elite logicians) began doing way back when. We applaud Shulman for this behavior. By the rules of deference to academic authority, hints and suggestions of this type are very rarely supplied.

At any rate, in the course of "taking these systems to an extreme," these mathematicians "built new systems of arbitrary symbols and formal rules for manipulating them." These mathematicians "chose those particular symbols and rules because of their resemblance to mathematical systems we care about (such as arithmetic)."

General reader, please! By now, you have exactly zero idea what Shulman is talking about.

You may not understand that fact, but it's a fact all the same. Apparently, Shulman's editors at the Times didn't understand this fact themselves, or perhaps they just didn't care.

Already, the general reader won't understand what Shulman is talking about. Despite this fact, she plows ahead, explaining what Godel proved, and even how he proved it.

The general reader won't understand a word of what's said in the passage below. But by the end of this passage, Shulman is insisting that Goldstein's explanation of Godel's "spectacular proof" is so amazingly easy to understand that even a house pet can grasp it:
SHULMAN (continuing directly): Gödel proved exactly the opposite, however. He showed that in any formal system complicated enough to describe the numbers and operations of arithmetic, as long as the axioms don't lead to contradictions there will always be some statement that is not provable—and the contradiction of it will not be provable either. He also showed that there's no way to prove from within the system that the system itself won't give rise to contradictions. So, any formal system worth bothering with will either sprout contradictions—which is bad news, since once you have a contradiction, you can prove anything at all, including 2 + 2 = 5—or there will be perfectly ordinary statements that may well be true but can never be proved.

You can see why this result rocked mathematics. You can also see why positivists, existentialists and postmodernists had a field day with it, particularly since, once you find one of those unprovable statements, you're free to add it to your system as an axiom, or else to add its complete opposite. Either way, you'll get a new system that works fine. That makes math sound pretty subjective, doesn't it?

Well, Gödel didn't think so, and his reason grows beautifully from his spectacular proof itself, which Goldstein describes with lucid discipline.
Though the proof relies on a meticulous, fiddly mechanism that took an entire semester to build up when I studied logic as a math major in college, its essence fits magically into a few pages of a book for laypeople. It can even, arguably, fit in a single paragraph of a book review—though that may be stretching.
Hurrah! According to Shulman, Goldstein describes Godel's spectacular proof "with lucid discipline." She goes on to say that the essence of Godel's spectacular proof "fits magically into a few pages of a book for laypeople," by which she means Goldstein's book.

Shulman goes on to offer her own one-paragraph account—an account no layperson will understand. But in obedience to the rules, Shulman says that Goldstein "magically" describes Godel's proof—indeed, that she does so with "lucid discipline," taking just a few pages to do it.

Are humans even conscious? We often find ourselves asking that question when we encounter claims like this—claims which are completely standard in the elite journalistic culture surrounding [WHOSOEVER]-made-easy books.

How magically lucid is Goldstein's account of Godel's spectacular proof? The task is undertaken in Part III of Goldstein's four-part book. (Part III, "The Proof of Incompleteness," starts on page 147.)

In fact, Goldstein's account stretches over more than just "a few pages." By page 174, the general reader is encountering the magical lucidity we invite you to gaze on below.

We're using plain numbers in place of subscripts. With the exception of that one change, Goldstein's magical lucidity looks exactly like this:
GOLDSTEIN (page 174): Now we're going to turn this wff into a number by just consecutively going along and replacing each symbol in the wff by its Godel number. Every symbol in the formula p1 has been assigned a number; the open parenthesis is a 7, the x a 3, the close parenthesis an 8, the tilda a 0. Replacing each element of the formula with the corresponding Godel number yields a large number, which is the Godel number for the wff. Abbreviating "the Godel number of the proposition p1" by (GN)p, we obtain:

GN(p1) = 738739877673846739882734398

In this way Godel numbers are assigned to wffs, which are sequences of symbols, and hence to propositions, which are just special wffs. In the same way, Godel numbers can be assigned to sequences of propositions, and in particular to potential proofs, which are, after all, just sequences of propositions, using the Godel numbers already assigned to propositions. Bookkeeping! In our simplified version, the Godel number of a sequence of propositions (a potential proof) is obtained basically by putting the Godel numbers of the sequences propositions together; however, since it is important to be able to unambiguously extract from the number the original sequence of propositions, we'll need some sort of signal that will indicate where one proposition ends and the next one begins—sort of like a carriage return on a typewriter. We'll let 0 function as our carriage return, indicating that we now go to a new line in the proof.
The lucidity is everywhere! On the next page, the magic continues:
GOLDSTEIN (page 175): The Godel number that will correspond to the sequence of p1 followed by p2 is:

GN(p1, p2) = 7387398776738467398827343980675846758

Through Godel's inspired contrivances, all of the logical relations that between propositions in the formal system become arithmetic relations expressible in the arithmetical language of the system itself. This is the essence of the heart-stopping beauty of the whole thing. So if, for example, wff1 logically entails wff2, then GN(wff1) will bear some purely arithmetical relation to GN(wff2). Suppose, say, that it can be shown that if wff1 logically entails wff2, then GN(wff2) is a factor of GN(wff1). We would then have two ways of showing that wff1 logically entails wff2; we could use the rules of the formal system to deduce wff2 from wff1; or we could show that GN(wff1) can be obtained from GN(wff2) by multiplying by an integer. Suppose that GN(wff1) = 195589 and GN(wff2) = 317. 317 is a factor of 195589, since 317 multiplied by 617 = 195589. So that wff1 logically entails wff2 could be demonstrated either by using the formal rules of proof to arrive at wff2 from wff1, or, alternatively, by using the rules of arithmetic to arrive at GN(wff1) = 195589 by multiplying 617 by 317 = GN(wff2). The metasyntactic and the arithmetic collapse into one another.
"The metasyntactic and the arithmetic collapse into one another." To Goldstein, this is part of "the heart-stopping beauty" of this proof—the proof she is explaining in this magically lucid way.

Are elite humans conscious? At present, it's part of elite journalistic culture to tell the general reader that explanations of this sort are lucid, accessible, surprisingly accessible, even remarkably lucid.

In the case of Shulman's review, New York Times subscribers were told that Goldstein describes Godel's proof "with lucid discipline," producing an account which "fits magically into a few pages of a book for laypeople."

All these claims—those from the blurbs, those from the review—are perfectly obvious nonsense. That said, they come to us from the highest realms of elite pseudo-culture, in which members of the elect praise the work of others.

Then again, Godel's spectacular theorems comes to us from the realm of paradox—more specifically, from the realm of "the liar's paradox," an utterly silly bit of nonsense which exists on the level of the ability to magically find a penny behind the ear of a 4-year-old child.

Have our most brilliant elite logicians been long-standing fools for paradox? Tomorrow, we'll move on to Goldstein's account of "Russell's paradox," the utterly silly fiddle-faddle which transfixed elite logicians like Godel as they ignored the affairs of the world while starving themselves to death.

We're told that they're our brightest lights. We end up with Trump in the White House.

Tomorrow: "Russell's paradox concerns the set of all sets that are members of themselves."

BREAKING: Stephen Miller's glorious hair!


What humans think about:
Is Stephen Miller the secret brain behind the Trump political operation?

Beyond that, is Stephen Miller one of the many Trump leakers? Is that why the press corps seems to spend so little time examining question 1?

It's amazing how little attempt the press corps makes to examine Stephen Miller. Until today, that is, when the Washington Post helped us learn what humans think about.

In print editions, the piece sat on the front page of Style. In the end, this is what the brain of "the rational animal" actually turns out to be like.

(See Dowd's many columns about Candidate Gore's bald spot, including her column the Sunday before the election. Also see her many references to Candidate Edwards as "the Breck girl.")

When all is said and done, this is what our species is like; this is what we think about. Expressed a slightly different way, this is what, and all, we are.

Beyond that, this explains how a person like Donald J. Trump ever reached the Oval Office. After decades of steady bullshit like this, there was no way to keep him out.

In a related report, yesterday the New York Times reported on the Neanderthal brain—and on ours. Quick takeaways:

"[T]heir brains were as big as ours, on average, perhaps bigger." On the other hand, our brain cases are more round, theirs were more elongated.

Go ahead—read the piece about Stephen Miller. It's your chance to school yourself on what humans are actually like.

FOOLS FOR PARADOX: Should foolishness cause the mind to crash?


Silliness all the way down:
Should the silly old "liar's paradox" make the elite mind crash?

So says Rebecca Goldstein and pretty much everyone else. As we noted yesterday, Goldstein described the problem in her 2005 book, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel.

It's a puzzling book which was favorably reviewed within the guild.

In her book, Goldstein described the ancient "liar's paradox," which "causes our minds to crash." She hailed the historical brilliance through which Godel was able to turn this "intelligence-mortifying material" into "a proof that leads us to deep insights into the nature of truth."

It took a giant to handle this paradox. Once again, this is the passage in question:
GOLDSTEIN (page 49-50): Paradoxes, in the technical sense, are those catastrophes of reason whereby the mind is compelled by logic itself to draw contradictory conclusions. Many are of the self-referential variety; troubles arise because some linguistic term—a description, a sentence—potentially refers to itself. The most ancient of these paradoxes is known as the "liar's paradox," its lineage going back to the ancient Greeks. It is centered on the self-referential sentence: "This very sentence is false." This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false. But if it is true, then it is false, since that is what it says; and if it false, well then, it is true, since, again, that is what it says. It must, therefore, be both true and false, and that is a severe problem. The mind crashes.

Paradoxes like the liar's play a technical role in the proof that Godel devised for his extraordinary first completeness theorem.
Godel was able to take the structure of self-referential paradoxicality, the sort of structure that causes our minds to crash when considering "This very sentence is false"—and turn it into an extraordinary proof for one of the most surprising results in the history of mathematics. This itself seems almost paradoxical. Paradoxes have always seemed specifically designed to convince us that we are simply not smart enough to take up whatever topic brought us to them. Godel was able to twist the intelligence-mortifying material into a proof that leads us to deep insights into the nature of truth and knowledge and certainty.
In a footnote, Goldstein explained the origins of the liar's paradox. For the record, the paradox tracks back to this:
GOLDSTEIN (page 49): Here is the textual reference the paradox is derived from: "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, 'The Cretans are always liars.'...This witness is true." (Titus 1:12-13).
That's where the so-called liar's paradox got its start. In its modern form, Goldstein, and everyone else, presents it as shown below:
"This very sentence is false."
This very sentence is false! According to Goldstein, that troubling sentence is false if it's true, and if it's false, then it's true! That means the sentence is both true and false—and, according to Goldstein, "that is a severe problem."

Indeed, it's a severe "philosophical" problem! In our first semester as a college freshman, we studied six such "philosophical problems," including the eternal head-scratcher, "How can we possibly know that 7 plus 5 equals 12?"

(Miss Cummings told us in second grade, we mused. But this wasn't considered a proof.)

This very sentence is false! To Goldstein, this is an example of "self-referential paradoxicality, the sort of structure that causes our minds to crash."

More specifically, Goldstein says it's the sort of structure which causes the minds of our elite logicians to crash. According to Goldstein, it took "the greatest logician since Aristotle" to wrestle this beast to the ground.

When we first read Goldstein's book, we were amazed to see a ranking philosophy professor promulgating such manifest foolishness. In our view, it was astounding that a ranking philosophy professor could have been presenting such manifest nonsense in the year of our lord 2005, with her work being lauded in blurbs by three high-ranking academic authority figures.

Beyond that, it was amazing to think that such manifest nonsense was being promulgated in the year of the later Wittgenstein 52—that is, some 52 years after the publication of the later Wittgenstein's seminal work, Philosophical Investigations.

The later Wittgenstein had been very hot when were philosophy majors, back in the late 1960s. We were amazed to see a ranking professor who seemed to have gained nothing at all from that famous figure's murky but highly instructive later work.

Our view? Goldstein's presentation is manifest nonsense, bordering on something resembling insanity. The problem in the professor's work starts with this odd claim:
"This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false."
Every sentence must be either true or false? On what planet has this elite yet crashing mind been dwelling all these years?

Is it true? Must every sentence (every statement) be either true or false? That sounds like an obvious statement of fact, but it should be scored as grossly misleading or as just plain wrong.

The essence of the later Wittgenstein's work takes us to an important point. Some sentences—especially those we create "when doing philosophy"—are in fact neither right nor wrong!

Instead, such sentences are incoherent. They may seem to display the apparent form of familiar, coherent claims, but, just as a matter of fact, they're nonsense all the way down.

The silly "This very sentence is false" is one such (apparent) sentence. Let's compare it to other, perfectly sensible sentences which display a roughly similar form:
Some (apparent) sentences don't make definable sense:

"This very sentence is false."

Compare to:

"The first sentence in this morning's news report is false."

"The second sentence on page 32 is false."

"Every statement you've made today has been false."

"Trump said Obama was born in Kenya. That statement was utterly false."
Those five sentences may seem to share a common form. But the bottom four senteces, when offered in a sensible context, will in fact make perfect sense.

The first sentence doesn't make sense at all.

What makes the bottom four sentences different from the first? In each of the bottom four sentences, a two-step process has occurred. Some external statement was made, and this statement was then declared false.

In each case, you can repeat, or point to, the pre-existing sentence which is said to be false. You can look at this morning's news report and see what the first sentence said. You can turn to page 32 and read the second sentence.

In each of these cases, a two-step process occurs. First, someone mas made a statement, expressing it in the form of a sentence. Then, someone says that the statement in question is false.

That doesn't happen in the formulation which makes the elite mind crash. The familiar phrase "is false" appears in the first sentence listed above. But no external statement has been made. There is no pre-existing statement which is being described as false.

Let's make this as simple as possible. You can't sensibly say that a statement is false until a statement has been made.

That said, what statement is being declared false in Goldstein's intelligence-mortifying example? No such statement has been made! No statement is available to be rejected as false.

It's amazing to think that a ranking professor was still piddling around with such nonsense in 2005. It's especially amazing when we see major intellectuals on the dust jacket of her book, hailing the professor for her brilliantly lucid work.

Beyond that, we reach the most amazing idea of all—the idea that the greatest logician since Aristotle built "his extraordinary first completeness theorem" out of the blatant silliness being put on display here. We're left with the basic questions we've been raising all along:

Is it possible that our elite logicians have never been all that sharp? More generally, is it possible that we self-impressed human beings are barely "rational" at all?

Goldstein's dance with the liar's paradox is silly all the way down. The foolishness comes into stark relief at a later point in her book.

On page 166, Goldstein is finally trying to explain the essence of the reasoning which lies behind Godel's theorems. We'll look at some of that material tomorrow. For today, consider the highlighted material at the end of this passage, in which Goldstein returns to the liar's paradox:
GOLDSTEIN (page 166): By tradition, the liar's paradox is attributed to the Cretan Epimenides, who reputedly said something implying: All Cretans are liars. This sentence, in itself, isn't paradoxical, except insofar as it suggests that what Epimenides was saying was something like this:

This very sentence is false.

Now that sentence, as we've already seen, is true if and only if it's false—not a good situation, logically speaking. Godel's strategy involves considering an analogue to that paradoxical sentence, viz. the proposition:

This very sentence is not provable within this system.

Let's call this sentence G. G, unlike its analogue, isn't paradoxical, though it is, like all self-referential sentences, somewhat strange. (Even the non-paradoxical self-referential This very sentence is true is mystifyingly strange. What's it saying? What's its content?)
This very sentence is true! Goldstein is able to see that this (apparent) sentence is extremely strange, in that it lacks any content.

She's right! But the same is true of her original sentence, the one which makes the mind crash. That (apparent) sentence lacks any content too. Putting it another way, it's neither true nor false.

When we see our ranking logicians fumble and flounder in these ways—when we see their minds continue to crash decades after Wittgenstein's instructive if jumbled later work—might we sensibly wonder about the basic mental ability of our human race?

Presumably, we no longer have to wonder why these elite logicians don't step forward to help us with the broken everyday logic which leads our nations onward toward wars. Frankly, these people don't seem especially sharp, and they seem to live in a bubble.

This very sentence is false? We're sorry, but the ancient "liar's paradox" is just a silly old parlor game; it's piddle all the way down. And yet, according to Goldstein, the greatest logician since Aristotle built his astounding life's work around its mortifying structure!

He then proceeded to starve himself to death. We'd have to say that tragic event was another bad sign.

Tomorrow: It's so easy to understand Goldstein (or so the New York Times said)

Friday: Onward and downward to "Russell's paradox," concerning the set of all sets...

BREAKING: Michael Cohen's perhaps non-existent Prague spring!


Which was said to have happened that summer:
Did Michael Cohen ever go to Prague, the way the Steele dossier said?

We've been wondering about that lately. Cohen had been moving through the sentencing phase of his interactions with Robert Mueller, and nothing had surfaced about that alleged, once-ballyhooed, nefarious journey to Prague.

In this new post, Kevin Drum puts a fairly cheerful face on the accuracy of the Steele dossier, to the extent that its accuracy can be assessed at this point. We'll only say this:

If you watch MSNBC, you've been endlessly propagandized and brainwashed about the way various parts of the dossier have allegedly been confirmed. It's all been part of the tribal political porn that is dispensed on that tribal channel, most egregiously now on the embarrassing 4 PM Eastern show, Deadline: White House.

(It's the program with the "liberal hero" host who used to push all the anti-same sex marriage initiatives for President George W. Bush. Any hack in a storm!)

Drum puts a fairly cheerful face on the current state of play concerning the accuracy of the dossier. That said, his final assessment is this:
DRUM (12/18/18): All things considered, then, the dossier has held up pretty well. There are a couple of sensational claims (Prague, pee tape) that are unproven and, at this point, seem unlikely to be true, but the fact that they got lots of media coverage doesn’t mean they were critical to the overall integrity of the dossier. Taken as a whole, it looks like a pretty solid report that’s probably provided lots of good leads to follow up.
The only claims anyone cared about were the highly peculiar "pee tape" claim and the claim about Cohen's subversive Prague summer. Drum says those claims are likely untrue, but the dossier looks pretty good otherwise.

We looked back through the dossier in recent weeks. The claims about Cohen's activities in Prague are detailed and quite expansive. Essentially, they involve Cohen in treasonous conduct with Russkies. It was exciting stuff!

Drum says those claims are likely untrue. There's a basic lesson to be learned here, but given our status as Harari's "great apes," our tribe may not stampede off to learn it.

FOOLS FOR PARADOX: Lies and the lying Cretans who tell them!


The ancient Cretan's tale:
According to Rebecca Goldstein, Kurt Godel—he of Godel's astonishing incompleteness theorems—was "the greatest logician since Aristotle."

Goldstein is hardly alone in that assessment. And since Godel was born in 1906, that assessment covers a lengthy time span of well over two thousand years.

A tiny irony lurks here. According to Goldstein (and everyone else), Godel's greatness leads us back to the realm of "ancient paradox"—specifically, to an ancient saying in which an outspoken Cretan was said to have said that all Cretans are liars.

From this ancient formulation, Godel is said to have spun his logical gold. In the passage shown below, Goldstein compares the fame of Albert Einstein with the relative obscurity of his friend, the great logician Godel:
GOLDSTEIN (page 65): We know a great deal about the preoccupations that led Einstein to his special theory of relativity. It is all part of the public record of the scientist who performed the role of the professional genius in the collective imagination of the world...

But Godel's genius was never put on public display the way Einstein's was. The sources of [Godel's] inspiration, the play of mind, revealing how ancient paradox could be transformed into a proof for conclusions shot through with meta-overtones, are unknown. He must somehow have glimpsed the metamathematical potential of logic, even when logic was, as it was then, far less mathematically respectable than his own work would render it.
In Godel's hands, "ancient paradox" was the fuel which produced the greatest advances in logic in over two thousand years. This helps explain why Goldstein's favorably-reviewed 2005 book carried this title:
Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel
Godel ran on paradox—ancient paradox at that. Paradox was the fuel which drove the greatest advance in logic in well over two thousand years.

So the story is told. But if Godel actually is that "greatest logician since Aristotle," his use of paradox may help us answer our own basic questions—our questions about the role of the elite logician in the affairs of the suffering world.

Our questions run like this:

Why do our elite logicians seem to have so little to say about the everyday logic, or lack of same, which defines our clown-like public discourse?

Also this, as incomprehensible as it may seem:

Is it possible that our greatest elite logicians have never been all that sharp? Is it possible that the world of elite logic resembles a house of cards?

So the later Wittgenstein may possibly have seemed to suggest. At any rate, we'll continue to consider that trio of questions, today and all through the week.

According to Goldstein (and everyone else), how astounding were Godel's achievements in logic? What made him the greatest since Aristotle? What made him a figure whose genius can sensibly be placed alongside Einstein's?

What made Godel so great? In the passage shown below, Goldstein starts to define the ancient paradox which lies at the heart of his astonishing work.

As we move through additional text from Goldstein, we'll see the esteem in which she holds the great Godel—but we'll continue see the outline of the "ancient paradox" which lay at the heart of his work:
GOLDSTEIN (page 49-50): Paradoxes, in the technical sense, are those catastrophes of reason whereby the mind is compelled by logic itself to draw contradictory conclusions. Many are of the self-referential variety; troubles arise because some linguistic term—a description, a sentence—potentially refers to itself. The most ancient of these paradoxes is known as the "liar's paradox," its lineage going back to the ancient Greeks. It is centered on the self-referential sentence: "This very sentence is false."
"This very sentence is false!" Goldstein describes that as a "self-referential sentence." Dating its lineage back to the Greeks, she says it creates a paradox—a "catastrophe of reason."

As she continues, Goldstein starts fleshing out this idea. We were amazed the first time we read the short passage which follows:
GOLDSTEIN (continuing directly): ...It is centered on the self-referential sentence: "This very sentence is false." This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false. But if it is true, then it is false, since that is what it says; and if it false, well then, it is true, since, again, that is what it says. It must, therefore, be both true and false, and that is a severe problem. The mind crashes.
"The mind crashes," Goldstein says. In essence, that's the point we plan to make concerning the apparent lack of competence of the modern elite logician, who tends to break down in these ways.

We first read Goldstein's book somewhere around its publication in 2005. We were amazed to see a ranking philosophy professor making these presentations some 52 years after the publication of the later Wittgenstein's seminal work, Philosophical Investigations.

"This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false?" It was the essence of the later Wittgenstein's work to say that many sentences are neither true nor false. According to Wittgenstein, that's especially true of the kinds of sentences we generate "when doing philosophy."

Must every sentence be true or false? According to Wittgenstein, many (apparent) sentences are simply incoherent.

These sentences are neither true nor false. Instead, these sentences don't make any definable sense, no matter how they may appear.

This is a very basic idea; it's hardly unique to Wittgenstein. But in the year 2005, there was a major philosophy professor cruising along as if this elementary notion had never been unloosed on Earth!

On its dust jacket, Goldstein's book was favorably blurbed by a trio of ranking scholars. It was well reviewed in the New York Times, as is required within the guild for work done by the elect.

(We'll look at that amazing New York Times review in the weeks ahead.)

Goldstein's book was widely praised within the tents of the clan. (For the New Yorker review, click here.) Along the way, readers were asked to dance around the maypole of the silliest "paradox" of them all, a construct on the approximate level of the (chestnut) tree which falls in the forest when no one is around.

This part of Professor Goldstein's book seemed amazingly silly to us. But as she continued, she oohed and aahed about the brilliance of the logical work to which the silly "ancient paradox" was brilliantly put by Godel.

How brilliant was Godel's use of this paradox? According to Professor Goldstein, his work was as brilliant as this:
GOLDSTEIN (continuing directly): Paradoxes like the liar's play a technical role in the proof that Godel devised for his extraordinary first completeness theorem. Godel was able to take the structure of self-referential paradoxicality, the sort of structure that causes our minds to crash when considering "This very sentence is false"—and turn it into an extraordinary proof for one of the most surprising results in the history of mathematics. This itself seems almost paradoxical. Paradoxes have always seemed specifically designed to convince us that we are simply not smart enough to take up whatever topic brought us to them. Godel was able to twist the intelligence-mortifying material into a proof that leads us to deep insights into the nature of truth and knowledge and certainty.
Deep insights into the nature of truth! It also purees and dices!

"This very sentence is false?" To Goldstein, this intelligence-mortifying construct causes our minds to crash. That said, leave it to Godel! In his hands, this silliest of all the paradoxes "leads us to deep insights into the nature of truth and knowledge and certainty," and what's not to like about that?

"This very sentence is false!" According to Goldstein, such paradoxes seem designed to convince us that we're "simply not smart enough" to deal with the problems they cause.

Goldstein said it first! Essentially, though, that's the possibility we plan to float about the elite logician and his or her puzzling work.

Is it possible that our elite logicians have never been all that sharp? Could this raise the ultimate question about Aristotle's original assessment of our kind, at least as it has been interpreted down through the ages?

We humans are "the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. Is it possible that this assessment has always been fundamentally wrong, perhaps even comically so? Is it possible that we've been "seeing ourselves from afar" when we praise ourselves in that way? Is it possible that Professor Harari's gloomier view may turn out to be more nearly right?

Are we really the rational animal? Or could it be that, in the end, we're more about "gossip" and "fiction?" Tomorrow, we'll consider the silliness of that tired old Cretan's tale, the ancient paradox which has long caused our greatest elite minds to crash.

Tomorrow: Sillily silly all the way down

Coming: Lord Russell's "set of all sets!"