Epistle touching on Wittgenstein's Preface!


Not a good book, he said:
As we explained in our first epistle, we're writing to today's 9-year-old kids with messages to be read later.

It will fall to these 9-year-olds to rebuild our failing culture. We've suggested that a meditation developed in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations might help direct us to a day when we'll receive our daily bread, but also our daily logic.

Let's review some of the relevant history:

In the decades which led us to our own Trump, our logicians had walked away from their posts. They addressed highly esoteric concerns, hidden away in their aeries.

In the realm of daily logic, we badly needed assistance. We needed help with the logic of sensible paraphrase. We very badly needed help with the logic of generalization.

We needed help with the logic of "race." We needed help with the logic of same and different.

Did any logician step forward to help? We can't think of any such effort, and our journalists were utterly helpless.

When we started The Daily Howler, several years had just passed in which we were repeatedly told only two parts of a three-number story.

Our journalists couldn't figure it out. Our logicians were off in the ether.

Philosophical Investigations was published in 1953, two years after Wittgenstein's death (at age 62). Is it possible that this very jumbled book could contain a relatively simple diagnosis explaining where a great deal of reasoning goes astray?

Is it possible that this puzzling book could suggest a relatively simple way to recognize and address incoherence, even including incoherence on the highest academic levels?

Eventually, we expect to say yes! But first, we offer some good sound advice:

Do not read this book!

The woods were lovely, dark and deep, but Wittgenstein's book was impenetrable. If you try to read it, you'll fail.

Wittgenstein almost said as much in his preface to the book, a preface he wrote all the way back in 1945. The preface ended like this:
I make [my remarks] public with misgivings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another—but, of course, it is not likely.

I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.

I should have liked to produce a good book. It has not turned out that way, but the time is past in which I could improve it.

Cambridge, January 1945
In our next epistle, we'll review the preface in a bit more detail. We'll even give you a look at what you would encounter if you were ever foolish enough to try to read the actual book.

You shouldn't try to read Wittgenstein's book. But a river runs through it.

BREAKING: Governor Bullock's plea for supplies!


The commander's recollection:
The cable networks all seemed to know that we should see it live.

Soon after the start of yesterday's "briefing." Donald J. Trump introduced Mike Lindell, founder of TV's MyPillow empire.
Ron Popeil is no longer active, so Lindell appeared in his stead.

(Popeil's ventilator would also have diced and pureed.)

The president asked "The MyPillow Guy" to speak. The cable nets all knew that you should see this:
TRUMP (3/30/20): Mike, come on up. Come on up, fellas, please. Come on up. You have to say what you’re doing because it’s been really incredible.

Go ahead, Mike.

LINDELL: Okay. Well, MyPillow is a U.S. vertically integrated company, which has been forced to adjust to the changing business environment as a result of the pandemic. MyPillow’s unique position as a U.S. company functions as a manufacturer, logistics management distributor, and direct-to-consumer. Given our current business lines, we are experiencing the effects of this pandemic firsthand.

What MyPillow has done—we’ve established an internal task force, which is monitoring future needs of companies across the country as a result of this pandemic. And given our position, we’ve begun to research and develop new protocols to address the current and future needs of U.S. businesses across multiple sectors, how companies are going to prepare themselves when they once again open up, and changes to their current operations in order to adjust to future threats and pandemics.

MyPillow has designated some of its call centers to help U.S. companies navigate the many issues that resulted from this pandemic. We’ve dedicated 75 percent of my manufacturing to produce cotton face masks. In three days, I was up to 10,000 a day. By Friday, I want to be up to 50,000 a day.

I'm proud to manufacture our products in the United States, and I’m even more proud to be able to serve our nation in this great time of need. Thank you, Mr. President, for your call to action when—which has empowered companies like MyPillow to help our nation win this invisible war.
Briefly, let's pause at this point, noting that MyPillow has been "experiencing the effects of this pandemic firsthand."

We can't vouch for the accuracy of Lindell's claims. But he said that MyPillow may soon be producing 50,000 cotton face masks per day.

That might seem to be a large number. Recalling a basic principle, there is no point discussing any such numbers unless we're given some idea of the overall level of need.

With that, we return to the material the cable networks knew you should see. In fairness, CNN quickly cut away from this bilge. MSNBC and Fox did not:
LINDELL (continuing directly): Now, I wrote something off the cuff, if I can read this.

TRUMP: Okay.

LINDELL: God gave us grace on November 8th, 2016, to change the course we were on. God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. And I encourage you: Use this time at home to get—home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families.

Our president gave us so much hope where, just a few short months ago, we had the best economy, the lowest unemployment, and wages going up. It was amazing. With our great president, vice president, and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.

TRUMP: That’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it.

Please come on up. I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine, and I do appreciate it.
MSNBC aired that foolishness live. These "briefings" have been a parody of public discussion from the start. They've now descended further.

Last night, Chris Hayes edged toward saying or suggesting that these absurd propaganda swarms shouldn't be broadcast live. This gives us two measures of the degree to which our discourse is an extremely bad joke:

One measure is the virtual insanity of the commander. The other measure is the way our corporate-chosen "liberal" leaders can barely bring themselves to discuss issues involving the people who pay them.

Hayes inched toward a public critique of the company's policy. One day earlier, Joy Reid and a gaggle of stooges hadn't been willing to go there.

How crazy is our public discourse? Beyond that, what is the actual mental state of our current commander?

Assuming the reporting is accurate; assuming the exchange occurred as the audiotape indicates; the commander's response to Governor Bullock creates a point of reference.

Earlier yesterday, the commander spoke on the phone to the nation's governors. Bullock, who seems visibly sane, reported on the problems Montana is having getting access to coronavirus test kits which would allow "contact tracing."

Bullock responded to a question from Dr. Fauci. We've transcribed his remarks because no one else has yet bothered to do so:
BULLOCK (3/30/20): Dr. Fauci, we are trying to do contact tracing. But literally, we are one day away, if we don’t get test kits from the CDC, that we wouldn’t be able to be testing in Montana.

We have gone time and time again to the private side of this, the private market, and where the private market is telling us is that it's a national resource that are then taking our orders apart. Basically, we're getting our orders jammed, and that's for PPE, that's for testing supplies, that's for testing equipment.

So while we're trying to do all the contact tracing, we don't have adequate tests to necessarily do it, we don't have the PPE along the way, and we're not finding markets to be able to do that.

So we do have to rely on a national chain of distribution or we’re not going to get it. But we are doing our best to try to do exactly that. And like Gallatin County would be an example where we have almost half our overall state [inaudible].

So we're trying to shift the supplies to really isolate that and do the contact tracing, but we just don't have enough supplies to even to do the testing.
So went the report from Big Sky Country. Assuming the audiotape is accurate, the commander jumped in to say this:
TRUMP (continuing directly): Tony, you can answer if you want, but I haven’t heard about testing in weeks. We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with another one tomorrow, where it's almost instantaneous testing. But I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.
So the commander responded during yesterday's phone call.

People can assess that response as they see appropriate. Was the commander "lying," as Joe and Mika have now said? Was the commander informing Fauci of the preferred response to such comments as this?

Might the commander simply be completely divorced from reality? There is no way to answer these questions. But during yesterday afternoon's gong show, this is what the public was told about that earlier telephone call:
QUESTION: So do you believe, as we approach this peak in a couple of weeks, that there will be enough [testing] for the American populace?

TRUMP: I do think so. Yes, I do think so. I think we’re going to be in very good shape. And we had a great call today with the governors. And they were—I actually said, I hope that the media is listening to this call because it was a really good call. And that was randomly selected—largely Democrats and Republicans in there. I think, for the most part, they were saying. "Thank you for doing a great job." And we discussed that at the end of the call. So it really—people are very happy with what we’re doing.
Thus spake President Carsale.

According to subsequent reporting,
other governors seconded Bullock's concerns during the telephone call. But if you watched yesterday's "briefing," you were told that it had been a great call. You were told that people are very happy with the great job the commander is doing.

At MSNBC, the suits still insist on broadcasting these daily assaults on the public. The stars have been slow to say what a gong show this is.

This is the way our flailing nation conducts its public discourse. That said, it's been like this for decades now. The lunacies of the earlier discourse eventually gave us our Trump.

The MyPillow guy was blathering on. The commander offered a strange recollection of an important phone all.

After that, he yelled at several reporters as people were dying around the country. At The One True Liberal Channel, the overpaid corporate suits still think we should see it all live.

This is North Korean TV. The craziest person in the whole country is sent into our homes live.

Epistles to today's 9-year-old kids!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Don't read until the future:
Did the Irish really save civilization? We have no idea.

We can tell you this. Based on what we've been told by credentialed future anthropologists, today's 9-year-old kids will have to restart our failed civilization at some point in the future.

They will be called to this task in the wake of the global conflagration these despondent future scholars refer to as Mister Trump's War. They'll have to address the decades of intellectual squalor which led our failing society to this current place.

As we've noted in the past, our logicians have abandoned their posts over the course of a great many years. That's been true in the western world as a whole, not just here in this country.

It will fall to today's 9-year-old kids to restore our daily logic.

Give us this day our daily bread? It may be our species' most basic prayer. But our species can't live by bread alone. We also need daily logic.

We plan to leave these daily epistles for today's kids to find. They'll focus on a particular type of meditation which emerges from the later Wittgenstein's seminal book, Philosophical Investigations.

The book itself is an unholy mess, a point Wittgenstein himself acknowledged in his mournful Preface. We won't advise today's kids to (attempt to) read the book, unless they want a Finnegan's Wake-level interpretive challenge.

In our next epistle, we'll look at what Wittgenstein said about his own jumbled book. On the whole, we won't be attempting to tell the kids what Wittgenstein "thought" or "said."

We will be doing this, however—eventually, we'll be outlining Wittgenstein's theory concerning a basic way human reason tends to go astray. Writing for the New York Times, Professor Horwich put it like this:
HORWICH (3/3/13): Wittgenstein claims that there are no realms of phenomena whose study is the special business of a philosopher, and about which he or she should devise profound a priori theories and sophisticated supporting arguments. There are no startling discoveries to be made of facts, not open to the methods of science, yet accessible “from the armchair” through some blend of intuition, pure reason and conceptual analysis. Indeed the whole idea of a subject that could yield such results is based on confusion and wishful thinking.

This attitude is in stark opposition to the traditional view, which continues to prevail.
Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on—and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein.
For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking...
In his later work, Wittgenstein threw much of traditional "philosophy" under the bus. In Horwich's formulation, Wittgenstein said that traditional philosophy's alleged findings were, on the whole, "the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking."

Could such a counterintuitive claim possibly be true? In fact, college freshmen have suspected such things for centuries. In an otherwise muddled book, Wittgenstein conjures a meditation which lets us start to see that this counterintuitive view actually may be true.

His meditation leads to clarity in a wide range of undertakings. Our society has been dying on the vine from the lack of daily logic. In the future, will today's 9-year-olds peruse the epistles we leave for them and create a more competent world?

BREAKING: Quick observations, plus pet peeves!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Rational animals flounder:
Later today, we expect to start a series of afternoon posts, "Epistles to the 9-year-olds."

As the Irish saved civilization, it will fall to the 9-year-olds, in future decades, to rebuild our crumbling culture. Hopefully, these epistles will still be floating around, providing one way they can start.

For now, we'll list a few quick observations and peeves. We'll start with yesterday's daily briefing, which accidentally bled over into prime time.

Here at THE HOWLER, we appreciate the kinds of people who voice appreciation. So it went late yesterday as corporate leaders kowtowed to President Carsale right there in the Rose Garden:
MR. KAUFMANN (3/29/20): Thank you, Mr. President, and thanks for your leadership on this. Because of that leadership, we have really seen the government agencies working with industry like no time before...

MR. PESICKA: Thank you, Mr. President. Let me first start by thanking the administration for all the support you have provided to the industry...

MS. LANE: Thank you, Mr President, for the incredible leadership. I will share with you that UPS is really proud to be part of this effort...

MR. TYLER: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I would certainly like to echo my colleagues’ comments that the collaboration amongst many of the government agencies and the private market and the distributors represented here today has been incredible. It has been increasing and ramping up over the past weeks.

MR. MILLS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And thanks to FEMA and HHS. I think great leadership, and it’s really working well...

MR. CONNETT: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate the opportunity to work with your administration on a lot of collaborative fronts...
The president's incredible leadership is really working well. It's working like no time before. Everybody seemed to agree on these basic points!

You can't necessarily blame these people for kowtowing to President Sell-A-Wreck. People have to treat him this way, due to his condition.

His condition might be a "mental illness." It might be a "personality disorder."

As far as we know, sociopathy isn't a formal technical term, but a certain percentage of people qualify for the nearest diagnosis. Presumably, they didn't choose to be sociopathic, but many people are.

We can't tell you that President Junker isn't so afflicted. With that, a few observations and peeves:

Shocked, shocked: Kevin Drum has done fantastic work down through the years, That's especially true concerning his work on lead exposure. In that area, he tried to open an important discussion. His work was, of course, ignored and disappeared.

That said, it seemed to us that Drum entered the realm of newly discovered casino gambling in yesterday's post. Like so many others, he continues to be "shocked, shocked" by the latest manifestations of Trump's fairly obvious mental illness.

Now we know why Trump holds those briefings? On what planet was that comment hatched?

Donald Trump seems to be mentally ill. We're amazed by the lengths to which people will go to avoid making this obvious statement and advancing the discussion from there.

Seeing no evil:
Yesterday, at 11 AM Eastern, we watched a 20-minute panel discussion hosted by MSNBC's Joy Reid. One chyron said this:
Reid and her pals talked about Fox, but no one mentioned the elephant in the room. The major news outlet which sends them their checks is airing a maniac's daily briefings live.

They're airing his "briefings" live in prime time! None of the overpaid cable stars mentioned this unfortunate fact. These people are paid for their silence.

Hearing the very loud voices: Way back in 1988, Candidate George H. W. Bush defined himself thusly: "I may be a quiet man, but I hear the quiet voices others do not."

Maybe so, possibly not! This morning, it seemed to us that Charles Blow had been hearing a very loud voice which is basically no longer there:
BLOW (3/30/20): Donald Trump has tried in every way to make fighting the pandemic feel like fighting a war. As he tried to frame it: “We’re at war, in a true sense we’re at war, and we are fighting an invisible enemy.” But an invisible enemy doesn’t work as well as a visible one, so Trump now regularly refers to the virus as the “Chinese virus.”


Calling the virus “the Chinese virus” is the closest Trump can get to a target, to racist, cultural scapegoating.
Regardless of where the first case of this virus was identified, the United States now has more confirmed cases than any country in the world.
Does Trump "now regularly refer to the virus as the 'Chinese virus?'" We'd have to say he pretty much doesn't.

We searched all his daily briefings from last Monday on. We also searched his virtual town hall performance on Fox.

He used the term "Chinese virus" at one point in his Thursday, March 26 briefing. But that was the only usage we found.

Make no mistake! This blatantly disordered man is running a wide assortment of distractions, misdirections and scams. It would be helpful to see high-profile journalists like Blow trying to list them out.

That said, our tribe loves the "racist" narrative, so Blow has been hearing something regularly said. It's a preconceived tribal narrative, and our journalism is based on little else.

This is the way our press has worked all the way back to the Whitewater pseudo-scandals, followed by all the claims about all the crazy things Candidate Gore was imagined to have said. The novelized sliming of Hillary Clinton continued through November 2016.

That's the way rational animals actually work! This is one of the obvious ways Trump ended up where he is.

A certain lack of focus: In his daily televised briefings, Trump has been luxuriating in the gong-show of large numbers. In this way, he is convincing many people that his incredible leadership has resulted in the shipping of incredible amounts of supplies to our beleaguered hospitals.

Yesterday, he actually began suggesting that medical workers have been stealing and selling the mountains of material they've been sent thanks to his own incredible leadership. Because of his obvious but undiscussed condition, this sort of thing is never going to end.

No one has ever seen anything like it! In the last week, this has been the commander's play, much more than any racist attack on the Chinese. (Also, the endless claim that things were a mess when he got there.)

To what extent is testing now available? To what extent are necessary materials—masks, gowns, ventilators—being supplied to hospitals?

This is the basic blocking and tackling of our nation's attempt to respond to the worldwide virus. We're surprised by the lack of dedicated pages to these basic topics in our most famous newspapers. Also on cable, where human interest and interviews tend to prevail.

Masks, gowns, ventilators, tests? These are the basic building blocks of our nation's response. We need to know 1) how many have been provided, but also 2) how many will be needed.

Those items also constitute the basic building blocks of a certain maniac's relentless attempts at widespread public deception. Each topic should have a dedicated page in our daily papers.

The basic facts about these topics should be updated daily in a highly visible way. Would that require a type of focus our "journalists" tend to lack?

BREAKING: CNN starts teasing at 4 PM!


With slender fact-check at 11:
Yesterday afternoon, CNN initiated its repetitive tease right at 4 PM Eastern.

In this case, they were teasing the ceremony in which President Donald J. Trump would sign the $2.2 trillion disaster bill.

It wasn't exactly Jake Tapper's fault. But this is what he was directed to say, right at 4 PM Eastern:
ANNOUNCER (3/27/20): This is CNN breaking news

TAPPER: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

At any moment, we're expecting President Trump to sign the $2 trillion stimulus bill into law. We are going to bring that to you when it happens.
They were going to bring us the ceremony live. How the disinformation would flow!

After the signing ceremony was done, CNN began to tease the daily "press briefing." By now, it's North Korean TV all day, with the commander spewing nonsense and misinformation and CNN urging us not to miss it.

These sessions are State Propaganda all the way down. And make no mistake, people at CNN know this. Consider a case in point:

During the 5 PM hour, Wolf Blitzer aired a punishing report by Drew Griffin. For unknown reasons, this is the one hour from yesterday's broadcasts which CNN hasn't transcribed, so we can't show you all of what Griffin said.

We can tell you this. The portion of Griffin's report for which there is tape carries these unfortunate headlines:
Doctors and nurses alarmed about lack of supplies
As healthcare workers across the country become sick with Covid-19, doctors and nurses tell CNN they are worried about the lack of proper protective equipment.
CNN was waiting for the commander to start spewing misinformation in his daily prime time "briefing." As the network waited, Griffin offered a cheerless report about the way front-line health workers are being forced to put their own lives on the line.

You can watch the last three minutes of his report through this tweet by Griffin. Along the way, Griffin reported some familiar facts:

"Many medical workers are fighting this battle without the thinnest level of protection," he said. "[Without] the face masks, the plastic face shields, the flimsiest if plastic gowns that could mean the diff between treating the infected and becoming one of them."

Griffin spoke with medical workers who felt their own lives were at risk due to the lack of basic equipment. "The biggest question we're hearing: Where is it?" Griffin unpleasantly said. "Where are the strategic stockpiles the president and his administration keep talking about?"

As he closed, Griffin resorted to samizdat. On our own North Korean TV, basic information must now be masked in such ways as this:
GRIFFIN (3/27/20): Wolf, because of the shortages in this proper protective equipment, they're being asked to do what they say would have gotten them fired a short time ago.

They want us to tell you the stories because of the briefing you're about to hear. They say there is a shortage all across the country, no matter what you're being told.
Say what? These heroic medical workers want people to hear their stories because of the commander's briefings? They want us to hear the truth no matter what we're being told?

So it went in the samizdat wing of our new state-run TV. And dear God! If you watch the tape of Griffin's report, you can observe the ultimate insult:

Even as Griffin was signaling that these briefings are disinformation, there was CNN's visual tease for the upcoming session. These sessions are bullshit, CNN said. Please be sure to watch!

Yesterday at CNN, there was a change in procedure. Through Thursday, CNN had been cutting away from the commander's "briefings" as soon as the commander himself left the stage.

Yesterday, that procedure changed. CNN stuck it out to the bitter end, even after the commander turned things over to Vice President Heep.

Yesterday, CNN aired the entire briefing live. And when CNN aired the "briefing" live, the disinformation rolled down like waters and the feel-good distractions like a mighty stream.

For the first time since Monday, Dear Leader didn't make us listen to his claim about the way we've been testing more people, in eight days, than the ballyhooed South Koreans managed to do in eight weeks.

At last, that script was gone. That said, all manner of new absurdities were offered as the commander kept telling us about the giant amounts or material he had caused to flow.

Wholly irrelevant information was marbled through the improbable claims. Consider these stupenagel excerpts:
TRUMP (3/27/20): Under the normal condition that you would be—regular times—29,000 ventilators are distributed in the United States each year. In the next 100 days—well, first of all, we’ve already delivered thousands of them—but within the next 100 days, we will either make or get, in some form, over 100,000 additional units. And I guess, to put it in other words, in the next 100 days, we’ll receive over three times the number of ventilators made during a regular year in the United States, and that doesn’t include all of the thousands and thousands that we’ve—we’ve given to the various states, a lot of them.

We delivered thousands, as you know, to New York and they didn’t know they got them. And then we also had thousands put in a warehouse, and that was also for New York. And they just found out that they were there, so we have to make sure that when we deliver things, they get distributed.


Boeing is also offering us the use of their—what they call the Dreamlifter cargo plane. It’s the largest plane in the world. And this is sort of a picture of it.
They called up just a little while ago. And that can sort of take anything. That’s the biggest in the world. And they’re letting us use that for the distribution of product all over the country, especially the heavy product or large quantities of product.

And Boeing will dedicate up to three planes to the mission of flying medical supplies anywhere we need it. Each plane can carry 63,000 pounds of cargo per flight. That’s a lot of cargo.


And we’re going to be in very good shape, in terms of certain equipment that’s very hard to get, very hard to manufacture. And at the right time, we’ll be distributing that equipment throughout the world to other countries.

Boris Johnson was asking for ventilators today. As you know, Boris is—he has tested—unfortunately, he has tested positive and that’s a terrible thing. But he’s going to be great. I’m sure he’s going to be totally great. But they want ventilators. Italy wants ventilators. Spain wants ventilators. Germany wants ventilators. They’re all calling for ventilators. Well, we’re going to make a lot of ventilators. And we’ll take care of our needs, but we’re also going to help other countries.


Don’t forget, we sent thousands of ventilators to New York, and they didn’t know they got them. Then we sent thousands of ventilators to New York—they have a warehouse, a New York warehouse in Edison, New Jersey, which is an interesting thing. And we sent them to Edison, New Jersey. They were in the warehouse, ready to go, and New York never took them. So they knew they were there. So we have to get people lined up, but we’ve given them—

And I’m not blaming New York. Look, this is something that’s of a magnitude that nobody has ever seen before. But I’ll tell you what: The federal government has done a hell of a job.

So we sent thousands of ventilators to New York, and they didn’t know about it at the time. They were complaining. Thousands. We had 2,000, and then 2,000, and then 4,000, and they were going there in large numbers. And then before that, we sent many thousands.

We want to have so many that we do have more than we need because we can send them to other great countries and other countries that have been our friends. And they’ll never be able to do it themselves.
It's hard to scale the mountains of bullshit this disordered man can produce.

Part of those excerpts can be filed under "promises, promises." We're going to have so many extra ventilators that we'll be sending them to others all over the world!

Part of that was gong-show misdirection. That Boeing plane is amazingly big! It’s the largest plane in the world!

Part of that involved a new, highly suspect claim concerning the bungling fools in the state of New York. We sent them thousands and thousands of ventilators! They put them in a Jersey warehouse! They didn't even know they were there!

This is the lunacy which transpires when this highly disordered man is broadcast into American homes. At CNN, the best they can do is signal you, through samizdat, that what you're going to hear won't be true—even as they tease the upcoming performance, which they'll broadcast live.

The commander continued to repeat various pieces of misinformation and various distractions. Included was that new claim about the dummies in New York.

(Key point: Though the benevolence of Dear Leader, he isn't blaming New York.)

CNN's reaction? They finally got around to fact-checking this peculiar new claim in the 11 PM hour. They'd promoted the briefing, knowing it would be disinformation. Five hours later, Daniel Dale said he knew of no factual basis for this latest apparent tall tale.

As we noted yesterday, we live in North Korea now. CNN knows that these briefings are disinformation, but they tease them all afternoon and then they broadcast them live. And with that said, one additional point must be made:

During the briefings, no one asks this disordered man why his latest claims should be believed, given his past tall tales.

His previous claims have been crazily wrong, but no one dares confront him in such an impolite manner. CNN teases, then airs, these ridiculous sessions. And because we live in North Korea, the children arrayed before Dear Leader know they must defer.

So it goes with the rational animal in this plague year of the lord.

UPDATE: CNN has now posted the transcript from yesterday's 5 PM hour. You can read the full text of Drew Griffin's report. To do so, just click here.

The medical workers with whom Griffin spoke wanted you to hear their stories "because of the briefing you're about to hear!" As Griffin delivered his report, CNN was urging you to watch that briefing, even though Griffin and Blitzer knew it would be wholly bogus.

So it goes with the rational animal in this plague year of the faux.

BREAKING: We live in North Korea now!

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2020

At this site, you were warned:
How would our world be different if we actually were, as long advertised, really "the rational animal?"

Consider the way Commander Trump, and the media suits, have brought us our own North Korea.

If we were the rational animal, everyone would have realized, long ago, that something seems to be badly wrong with Commander Trump. Everyone would have taken the unfortunate measure of such statements as this:
“You have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be close to zero.”
The commander said that on February 26. Yesterday, one month later, the actual number was at least 82,000. It was likely much greater than that.

In a rational world, it would have clear, a long time ago, that something was and is wrong with our bold commander.

There may be an issue of mental health. There may be an issue of cognitive impairment. There may be illness and impairment. But this would have been clear long ago.

In a rational world, rational people would have discussed these obvious possibilities. In our world, press corps elites declared that we mustn't conduct such discussions.

We can finally taste the fruits of such conduct. We've ended up, all this week, watching North Korean TV.

What happens in North Korean TV? In our version of the system, useless elites find the craziest person in the society and put him on prime-time TV. They do it day after day after day. Yesterday, he was quickly saying this:
TRUMP (3/26/20): After the meeting with the world leaders, I spoke with the governors of our 50 states and territories. Our team has been in constant communication with the governors, and we had a terrific meeting.

Somebody in the Fake News said that one of the governors said, “Oh, we need Tom Brady.” I said, “Yeah.” He meant that in a positive way. He said, “We need Tom Brady. We’re going to do great.” And he meant it very positively, but they took it differently. “They think Tom Brady should be leading the effort.” That’s only fake news.

And I like Tom Brady. Spoke to him the other day. He’s a great guy. But I wish the news could be—could be real. I wish it could be honest. I wish it weren’t corrupt, but so much of it is. It’s so sad to see. Just so sad to see.

We had a great meeting. I tell you what: I’m sure you have tapes of the meeting. I’m sure that you were able to get tapes very easily. So you had 50 governors-plus. And if you had tapes, you’d see it was really—I mean, there was no contention. I would say virtually none. I would say maybe one person that was a little tiny bit of a raising of a voice, a little wise guy, a little bit. But he’s usually a big wise guy. Not so much anymore. We saw to it that he wouldn’t be so much anymore.
Everyone knows that the comment about Tom Brady was not "meant in a positive way." Everyone knows that the comment was meant as a criticism of the commander's perceived or actual failure to act in the face of this global pandemic.

Everyone knows that this presentation by the commander was utterly bogus. Everyone knows that he'll make an array of such ludicrous statements on a daily basis.

Everyone knows that this will happen, and everyone knows that something is wrong. But yesterday, the commander was speaking in the Baltimore market on the following outlets:

CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Fox Business Network.

There may have been one or two more. But make no mistake—this is North Korean TV. The craziest person in the society is broadcast into our homes every night, just as prime time is starting.

When this craziest person gets started, it's propaganda all the way down. Each presentation is propaganda. Surely, everyone knows that.

Yesterday, everything was great, incredible, amazing and beautiful in this state propaganda realm. Once the commander got going, he of course made such remarks as these:
TRUMP: As of today, FEMA has shipped over 9 million N95 masks, 20 million face masks, 3.1 million face shields, nearly 6,000 ventilators, 2.6 million gowns, 14.6 million gloves. And we’re sending more every day, and we’ve got tremendous amounts of equipment coming in.

A lot of great companies are making equipment right now. The ventilators, obviously they take a little longer to make, but we have a lot of companies making them. And we’re going to be in great shape.

We took over an empty shelf. We took over a very depleted place, in a lot of ways. As you know, the testing is going very, very well. And that was obsolete and broken, and we fixed it and it’s been going really good.

And I think, very importantly, the stockpile—we’re really filling it up, and we fill it up rapidly, but we get it out.
Again, we North Koreans were offered the feel-good "gong show of large numbers." Again, there was no attempt to compare these reported numbers to the apparent size of the nation's actual need.

Meanwhile, we were told that "the testing is going very, very well." On March 6, the commander said this:
"Anybody that wants a test can get a test."
Yesterday, twenty days later, the testing was "going very, very well!" Until you turned on cable news and saw people standing in line, for hours, all day long, in close quarters, trying to get tested at a hospital in Queens.

This being a province of North Korea, no journalist raised these embarrassing points when yesterday's "questioning" started. In this, the most rational of all possible worlds, our journalists—rational animals all—simply don't do such things.

Simply put, such things aren't done. No matter how much attendance is limited in these daily "briefings," the questioning remains scattershot. No follow-ups to the commander's weird statements allowed!

Over the past few days, we've followed a bit of propaganda which emerged at Tuesday's briefing. Yesterday, before taking any questions, the commander of course recited that script again:
TRUMP: As we continue to gather more information and accelerate the testing—where we’re doing record numbers of tests now, far more than any other country has done. I told you yesterday: Eight days here—because you heard so much about South Korea. The media kept talking, “South Korea, South Korea.” We have a great relationship with President Moon in South Korea. But when I hear so much about South Korea—

So, in eight days—in eight days, we do more testing than they did in eight weeks.
And it’s a very highly sophisticated test, too.
"In eight days, we do more testing than [South Korea] did in eight weeks." That talking-point emerged from a jumbled, confusing presentation by Field Marshal Birx on Tuesday.

In basic ways, this presentation seems to be wrong. In other ways, it's clownishly misleading.

But no matter how many times the commander recites this fuzzy point, no one will challenge him on what he says. And, this being North Korea, the executives put him all over TV at 6 PM Eastern so he can repeat this claim.

This is now a regular part of our nation's daily experience. Make no mistake about what this is:

This is North Korean TV.

The craziest person in the society is given the airwaves to spout every night. The children before him quiver and shake. Their "questions" may take this form:
TRUMP: I can now announce something that I think is incredible, what they’ve done in the Navy, because the incredible naval hospital ship the USNS Comfort—which is incredible, actually, when you see it inside—will be underway to New York City on Saturday.

So it’s going to be leaving on Saturday, rather than three weeks from now. They did the maintenance quickly, and it was going to be there for quite a while longer—another three or four weeks. And it should be arriving—I told the governor 20 minutes ago, Governor Cuomo, that the ship will be arriving in New York Harbor on Monday.

I think I’m going to go out and I’ll kiss it goodbye. I’ll go—I’ll go to—it’s in Virginia, as you know. And I will go and we’ll be waving together because I suspect the media will be following.

John, are you going to be following? Maybe. You never know.

QUESTION: I always follow the Comfort, sir. It’s a very important vessel.

TRUMP: It’s a great ship. It’s a great vessel, is right. So, if you want to go, I’ll see you there. And if you don’t, that’s okay.
If we might borrow from Wittgenstein, out of context:

"It is in this and in similar ways that [the North Korean press corps] operates with words."

In closing, let's return to Field Marshal Birx. On Tuesday, she made a peculiar, jumbled presentation which went straight to state propaganda.

We've seen no one ask her to explain or clarify her statement. Yesterday, though, the Washington Post did analyze the field marshal's ongoing performance.

In a rational world, the Washington Post might have critiqued what the field marshal said. In our world, the Post threw to fashion analyst Robin Givhan. Hard-copy headline included, she proceeded as shown:
GIVHAN (3/26/20): The reassuring style of Deborah Birx

Her tone is gentle but firm. From her background as a diplomat, she is skilled in soft force
— the art of getting people to do what you want them to do but having them think it was their brilliant idea all along. She stands out on what was a distressingly crowded stage until it recently thinned out: Women are in the minority during these public expositions. But she’s also distinctive because of her attire.

Birx doesn’t dress like a lady politician in jewel-tone suits and statement jewelry.
She doesn’t wear power dresses, those sleek sheaths that are a critical part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s professional wardrobe. She doesn’t turn up in a white coat as if she’s there to take the nation’s collective temperature. Birx’s style can be called classically feminine when she wears her shirtwaist dresses and knots silk scarves around her shoulders. She exudes academic wonkiness with her earth tones and tunics and mufflers double-wrapped around her neck. She never looks bland or nondescript. She doesn’t look like an automaton or someone who has lost herself in the data and computer models. And in doing so, she offers a subtle but important reminder to people that while this crisis is serious and meeting it is hard, we are still human. Do not lose yourself. Be kind to yourself.
Finally! A public figure has been praised for wearing earth tones! Meanwhile, "we're still human."

From there, the piece went on and on; then it went on and on some more. In hard copy, it appeared on the first page of Style. The Post has been publishing work of this type dating at least to the 2000 Florida recount.

Givhan didn't examine what Birx said this week. She examined the reassuring clothing she wore as she said it.

An important fact can be learned from this. It's an anthropological fact. The rumination goes like this:

For the past several years, we've been urging you to adopt a new paradigm, a new framework of understanding. We've suggested that you stop seeing our self-impressed species as "the rational animal."

We've suggested that you see us as what we've always been—as the highly tribal, reflexively script-reading, wildly distractible animal. Nothing will change if you adopt this paradigm shift, but you'll be seeing the world more clearly.

We live in North Korea now. At this site, you were warned!

BREAKING: Commander keeps spreading a virus around!


The suits keep letting him do it:
Donald J. Trump, the commander in chief, strode before the nation's cameras at roughly 6 PM Eastern.

The news channels had been teasing the briefing for over an hour. The commander took control of prime time, then quickly began to spread his virus around:
TRUMP (3/25/20): The governor is doing a very good job. I spoke to the governor—Governor Cuomo—last night and this morning, and he mentioned that, in his remarks, that he’s using the—that we are using—and I think he feels, because he understands negotiation—he thinks we’re using very appropriately the Defense Production Act. And we are. We’re using it where needed. It’s a great point of leverage; it’s a great negotiating tool.


We’re also doing some very large testings throughout the country. I told you yesterday that, in South Korea—and this is not a knock in any way because I just spoke with President Moon; we had a very good conversation about numerous other things—but they’ve done a very good job on testing, but we now are doing more testing than anybody, by far. We do more in eight days than they do in eight weeks. And we go up, on a daily basis, exponentially. So, it’s really good.
According to the commander, Governor Cuomo seems to understand the art of the deal! According to the commander, the governor approves of the his refusal to order companies to produce more life-saving protective gear and more life-saving respirators.

For people able to swallow that, the commander had anothee! In viral fashion, he repeated a slightly altered version of the self-affirming, feel-good misstatement he'd cooked up the day before:
"We do more testing in eight days than South Korea does in eight weeks."
In this way, the commander keeps spreading the virus of misinformation around. Based on recent surveys, people who don't know that it's misinformation seem to be agreeing with his daily self-serving assessment:
"So, it's really good."
This daily gong-show raises the same old obvious questions about the commander's mental health. More strikingly, the airing of this daily gong-show raises questions about the network suits who keep putting this gong-show on.

Yesterday, just after 6 PM Eastern, we flipped around the dial. The commander's stream of misinformation was being broadcast live by CNN, by MSNBC and by the Fox News Channel.

That said, the spreading of the virus didn't end there. Here in the Baltimore market, the gong-show was also being broadcast live by the local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.

It was prime time, and a wide array of highly-paid suits were spreading the virus around.

Concerning the commander himself, it's long been obvious that he seems to be either mentally ill in some way or cognitively impaired, or quite possibly both. Earlier yesterday, he broadcast his troubled state once again through his latest mocking tweet about the possibility that Mitt Romney might be infected.

The commander seems to be Dylan's (metaphorical) "poor immigrant." This has long been clear.

He may well be a sociopath; a certain percentage of people are. Though it isn't necessarily such people's "fault," it's a very dangerous state of affairs in an American president.

Something seems to be badly wrong with our fearless commander in chief, who never stops selling the car. But early in 2018, the New York Times declared that we mustn't discuss the possibility that the commander is mentally ill in some way, and so an incipient discussion was brought to a very quick end.

That decision by the Times will be discussed in future anthropology texts, assuming such texts exist. We can already announce one fairly obvious conclusion:

The decision flies in the face of the ballyhooed claim that we humans are "the rational animal."

Something seems to be wrong with Commander Donald J. Trump—but our journalistic elites have agreed that this obvious possibility must never be discussed. Yesterday, the network suits revealed their own lack of mental hygiene:

Once again, they agreed to put a crazy person all over TV, at the start of prime time, to spread a virus around.

They did this all through 2016 when Trump was running for president. Ratings and profits were good!

Four years later, the commander's disorder is much more obvious, but the overpaid climbers who run the nets still refuse to respond to this fact.

The commander is spreading a virus around on a daily basis. The suits keep letting him do it. Yesterday, they teased his appearance for over an hour. Then, they threw him on the air, and the virus was spread all around.

These are anthropology lessons. These lessons involve the mental traits of our floundering species' elites as we confront, or fail to confront, our ongoing plague year.

Cuomo thinks Trump is doing it right! They put the commander all over TV. He then revealed this key fact.

Tomorrow: Back to Birx

Anatomy of a fact-check: The commander left yesterday's briefing at roughly 6:30 PM. When he left, the briefing continued, with Vice President Heep in charge.

At this point, CNN dropped its live coverage. MSNBC and Fox continued to broadcast the briefing live.

At CNN, Wolf Blitzer quickly threw to Daniel Dale, asking for a fact-check. Below, you see what Dale said. On balance, we'd grade his fact-check as wrong:
BLITZER (3/25/20): I got Daniel Dale with us as well, our fact-checker. Daniel, what jumped out at you from what we heard from the president?

DALE: Well, Trump continue to boast about how the pace of testing for the coronavirus in the United States compares to testing in South Korea. He is correct that the U.S. is now conducting more tests than they are there, but what he's leaving out is the population difference.

So the U.S. has more than six times South Korea's population. And so per capita, South Korea is still far outpacing the United States. We have approximate figures, but it's something—it's fewer than 1 in 200 South Koreans who have been tested and it's more than 1 in 700 Americans who have been tested.

He's also left out the fact that South Korea has started testing much more quickly and implemented much more stringent post-test measures to try to contain this. And so, yes, Trump is correct in terms of the absolute numbers but he's not touting the full story here, Wolf.
The liberal world has accepted Dale as fact-checker in chief. Much of what he said was correct but we'd grade his final assessment as equivocating and wrong.

"Trump is correct in terms of the absolute numbers?" As far as we know, he isn't. We base this assessment on what was said at Tuesday's briefing, where Trump's new talking-point was born. See yesterday's report.

As far as we know, we are not "doing as much testing in eight days" as South Korea did, or is now doing, in eight weeks.

The feel-good claim began on Tuesday with Field Marshal Birx. But that doesn't seem to be what she actually said when she made the jumbled, confusing, upbeat statement the commander quickly embellished.

A full fact-check of what trump said should have provided more background. To our taste, Dale was much too equivocal in his assessment—was much too eager to say that Donald J. Trump wasn't completely wrong.

A full fact-check would have noted the confusing origin of this latest viral claim. It would also include an obvious statement—when networks air these gong-shows live, they let these embellished claims spread.

Our press corps' skills are very limited. This fact has been abundantly clear for at least three decades.

Dale's check is the best this elite can perform. As recent history had made all too clear, it isn't nearly enough.

BREAKING: U.S. puts South Korea to shame!


The gong-show of flexible numbers:
Donald J. Trump, the commander in chief, began his day on the Fox News Channel.

Later, he staged his regular daily briefing concerning the year of the plague. He began in the same old way, in the manner of a wartime president:
TRUMP (3/24/20): Let me provide you an update on critical preparations and supplies in our war on the virus. Through FEMA, the federal government is distributing more than 8 million N95 respirators, 14 million surgical masks and many, many millions more under order and there’ll be arriving soon.

2.4 million face shields, 1.9 million surgical gowns, 13.5 million gloves and more than 4,000 ventilators to the areas of greatest need have already been sent and we have 4,000 being delivered to New York. The federal government is using every resource at its disposal to acquire and distribute critical medical supplies.
Many, many millions more will be arriving soon. It doesn't get much more specific than that!

Meanwhile, is that 13.5 million gloves, or is it 13.5 million pairs of gloves? Ironically quoting Wittgenstein, to whom we expect to return next week:
No such thing was in question here, only how the [words "13.5 million pairs of gloves" were] used.
Here again, the nation was subjected to the gong-show of large numbers. The commander's very large numbers put the nation's hearts as ease. No attempt would ever be made to compare the very large numbers he recited to the substantially larger numbers which define the nation's apparent needs.

So it goes as we, the rational animal, negotiate our year of the plague.

But then, it wasn't just the commander who offered large numbers yesterday! Later in yesterday's session, Field Marshal Birx offered this:
BIRX: Thank you, Mr. President. I think those of you who heard at the town hall, we are continuing to accelerate testing at a record rate. We now have 370,000 tests that have been done. The majority of those—over 220,000 in the last eight days—which, those of you who have been tracking the South Korea numbers, put us equivalent to what they did in eight weeks that we did in eight days.
Say what? Birx was now producing large numbers too. But what exactly had the trusted field marshal said?

She clearly seemed to make these statements:
1) We've now conducted 370,000 tests.
2) We conducted 220,000 tests in the last eight days alone.
She'd clearly made those statements. But she also seemed to have made these claims:
1) We've done more tests, overall, than South Korea has.
2) The number of tests we did in the last eight days equals the numbers of tests the South Koreans have done in eight weeks.
That's what the field marshal seemed to have said. But uh-oh! Later in the important briefing, the commander took her overall statement and may perhaps and possibly have embellished it just a tad:
TRUMP: One of the things that’s happened, that we’ve done, I think, a really good job on it. I think that it’s something special what’s happened, is, I learned from Dr. Birx a little while ago when she said—

I learned it actually this afternoon. In eight days—because we kept hearing about South Korea. They had a very tough time at the beginning if you remember. In eight days, we’re doing more testing than they’ve done in eight weeks. That’s a tremendous turn and with our testing it’s going exponentially it’s going up, up, up every day. So we’re going to be able to do things with this very highly sophisticated testing and it’s also, the test itself is considered the best test.
Something special had occurred. The commander had learned it that afternoon, plus, we have the best test.

"We kept hearing about South Korea," the embattled commander said. But in the past eight days, we've done more testing than South Korea had done in eight weeks!

Just like that, we'd gone from matching the ballyhooed South Koreans to outperforming them! We'd now done more testing in eight days than they did in eight weeks. The numbers were no longer "equivalent," which seemed to be what Field Marshal Birx had said.

Such is the never-ending gong-show of flexible numbers. Trump embellished the apparent statement by Birx. But even as this gong-show unfolded, another problem was lurking:

Unstated at any point was the relative size of the two nations in question. Just consider this:

According to the latest fake news from NPR, South Korea's population is 51 million. Our own population is said to be larger—327 million.

No one believes those numbers, of course. But if those ridiculous numbers were accurate, that would mean that South Korea has still bigly out-tested us on a per capita basis:
MONTANARO (3/24/20): South Korea has a population of just 51 million people; the United States has 327 million.

At about 300,000 tests in each country, that means South Korea has tested 1-in-170 people; the United States: 1-in-1,090.

That's more than six times less, per capita, than South Korea.
No one believes those crazy numbers. But that's what NPR said.

In closing, let's return to what Field Marshal Birx seemed to have said. She seemed to say that our 220,000 tests in the past eight days were equivalent to the number of tests the Koreans had performed over the past eight weeks.

According to NPR, even that apparent statement was false. Because it wasn't quite false enough, the commander came along and, eternally selling the car, embellished it a bit.

(According to the Statista site, South Korea had conducted 348,000 tests as of yesterday afternoon. That would be substantially more than 220,000 tests.)

The commander and his top field marshal handed yesterday's flexible numbers to a grateful nation. NPR performed a fact check, but very few others did. Jealousy about basic facts is still a hit-or-miss proposition within our upper-end press corps and its gong-show culture.

Even this late in our species' career, this is the way information flows at the top of our floundering culture.

We humans! We've long believed that we're "the rational animal." In his later work, Wittgenstein sketched a remarkably basic way our reasoning tends to go astray, especially at the highest intellectual levels.

According to Professor Horwich, the academy threw that work away. In this and in other ways, the academy, over the past many decades, helped pave the way to our own Donald J. Trump.

BREAKING: Donald Trump points to millions of masks!


The gong-show of large numbers:
Donald J. Trump, the commander in chief, was larger than life and completely in charge.

Late yesterday afternoon, he spoke for almost two hours to a room of socially distanced reporters. Early in his prepared remarks, he provided a critical update:
TRUMP (3/23/20): Let me provide you with an update on critical supplies. FEMA is distributing 8 million N95 respirator masks and 13.3 million surgical masks across the country right now, focusing on the areas with the greatest need. We have shipped 73 pallets of personal protective equipment to New York City and 36 pallets to the state of Washington.

In the past 96 hours, FEMA has also received donations of approximately 6.5 million masks. We’re having millions and millions of masks made as we speak, and other personal protective equipment which we will be distributing to medical hot spots.

We’re focused on some of the hot spots across the nation. We’re seeing an outpouring of creativity and innovative ideas widely shared between the federal health leaders, governors and mayors, the scientific community and members of the private sector really working together. Everybody’s working together.
Across the nation, grateful citizens emitted sighs of relief, though always into their arms. Based upon quick mental arithmetic, the commander reported the imminent receipt of something on the order of 28 million masks—some "respirator," some "surgical."

(He was also shipping 109 pallets of personal protective equipment. He announced this fact to a grateful nation, none of whom had any idea how much equipment a "pallet" contains or how much such equipment is needed.)

Back to those 28 million masks! Under the commander's leadership, it seemed that the question of critical supplies was being wrestled to the ground. Unless you read today's New York Times, where a report in the Business section cites a larger number:
BRADSHER AND SWANSON (3/24/20): The Trump administration is signaling it isn’t too proud to buy Chinese masks, gowns, goggles and other equipment. At the same time, said Peter Navarro, a senior Trump administration trade official, it will object to any Chinese effort to turn deliveries into fodder for propaganda that would bolster China’s image at home and abroad.

“My job at the White House right now is to help find whatever the American people need and buy it from wherever we can, and if we need to send a plane to go get it, we’ll get that done using the full force of government and private enterprise,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview.


American officials have estimated that the country would need 3.5 billion masks to cope with a yearlong pandemic. Local health officials in the United States say nurses, doctors and other responders face hazards to their own health as infections mount.
Say what? The commander had alleged the impending receipt of 28 million masks, of two different (unexplained) kinds. But according to the Times report, the country will need 3.5 billion masks over the course of a year!

So it goes when we succumb to the gong-show of large numbers. Should they materialize, the commander's 28 million masks would apparently be a drop in the bucket as compared to long-term needs.

That said, 28 million sounds like a very large number of masks! And in the course of a press event which lasted almost two hours, no one asked the commander, or anyone else, to speak to the (very large) difference between millions and billions of masks.

As the commander continued, he shared more good news. He spoke about the apparent large quantities of chloroquine the federal government, under his direction, was "working to help obtain:"
TRUMP (continuing directly): I’m pleased to report that clinical trials in New York will begin existing for existing drugs that may prove effective against the virus. At my direction, the federal government is working to help obtain large quantities of chlororoquine, and you can look from any standpoint tomorrow in New York, we think tomorrow pretty early. The hydroxychloroquine and the Z-Pak, I think as a combination, probably is looking very, very good and it’s going to be distributed. We have 10,000 units going, and it’ll be distributed tomorrow. It’ll be available, and it is now. They already have it. They’re going to distribute it tomorrow morning to a lot of people in New York City and New York. We’re studying it very closely, watching it very closely.
They were going to distribute 10,000 units of a certain combination of drugs "to a lot of people." The commander thought the combination "probably is looking very, very good" and "may [even] prove effective."

Very few people watching him speak had any idea what this meant. Is 10,000 units a lot of units, or is it just a little? Beyond that, did the commander have any idea what he was talking about?

As the Q-and-A proceeded, the commander wasn't asked about the 28 million masks. He wasn't asked about the 10,000 units.

His presentation sounded good, and that's precisely where the information flow stopped. Are there rolling fact-checks in today's papers? We aren't sure where they are.

This is all part of the anthropology of our species at this point in time. This is part of what looks like "information flow" within our floundering culture.

At this particular point in time, information flow within our culture works under these constraints:

Donald J. Trump has an other-worldly capacity to continue "selling the car" in any and all circumstances. And at our current state of evolution, the rest of us haven't developed ways to deal with behavior of this type.

Where he went from there: As he continued, Commander Trump went anecdotal:
TRUMP (continuing directly): You probably saw a couple of articles today came out where a gentleman, they thought he was not going to make it, he said goodbye to his family, they had given him the drug just a little while before, but he thought it was over. His family thought he was going to die, and a number of hours later he woke up, felt good. Then he woke up again and he felt really good, and he’s in good shape, and he’s very happy for this particular drug that we got approved in record-setting time.

There’s never been anything even close to it,
and I want to thank the FDA, which has been incredible, and Dr. Hahn, Stephen Hahn, a highly respected man, but they’re doing everything possible to increase production and available supply of these drugs, not only this drug but also others that are coming.
The commander, in record-setting time, had brought Lazarus back from the grave. There has never been anything like it. Lazarus is very happy with the way the whole thing turned out.

This is an anthropological snapshot. At present, this is part of the way our (allegedly rational) species works.

THE WEEK ONE FILE: Give us this day our daily bread!

MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2020

But also our daily logic:
Are we humans really "the rational animal," in the manner we've long declared and supposed?

It all depends on how low your standard for grading is. Consider an op-ed column in this morning's New York Times.

The column was written by a professor of medicine at Cal's medical school. By any normal societal standard, this person is very smart.

Then again, so is Mario Livio, the astrophysicist with whom we began our search, one week ago, for an improved daily logic.

By any normal societal measure, Livio is enormously smart—but good God! When he wandered a bit afield, he produced some astoundingly jumbled logic.

The column in today's New York Times was written by a very smart person. Then again, that very smart person started her column like this:
ARONSON (3/23/20): “Not just old people: Younger adults are also getting the coronavirus,” a news network declared on its website last week. The words seemed to suggest that Covid-19 didn’t matter much if it was a scourge only among the old.
The news network in question is NBC News. To see the headline the writer is quoting, you can just click here.

That said, do the quoted words actually "seem to suggest" that Covid-19 "doesn’t matter much" if it only affects the old?

Our answer: it all depends on how low your standards for implication are.

In truth, any statement can "seem to suggest" anything else if you want it to. There's no formula which tells us when Statement A implies Statement B. In the end, it's always a matter of judgment.

Any statement can imply anything else if we want it to! And in such ways, our badly disordered public discourse had floundered and flailed over a period of decades. In the end, this blowsy, undisciplined public discourse finally gave us our Trump.

Does the quoted statement really imply, or seem to suggest, that a scourge among older people "doesn't matter much?" In our view, the quoted statement "seems to suggest" no such thing unless you just want it to.

We'll also say that this morning's logic doesn't improve as the writer continues. Like last week's astrophysicist, this week's professor of medicine is a very smart person. But as she continues, she offers this:
ARONSON (continuing directly): Even if the headline writer had no such nefarious intent, many people seemed surprised that two-thirds of the Americans known to be infected were under 65, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, and that younger adults around the country also have become critically ill. After all, we kept hearing that 80 percent of the infected Chinese who died were age 60 and older and that the average age of death from the disease in Italy is 81.

No one wants young people to die. So why are we OK with old people dying?
In paragraph 2, the writer acknowledges that the headline writer may not have meant to suggest or imply that the deaths of older people don't matter much.

That may not be what the headline writer meant! But given the ways of our blowsy daily logic, so what?

By paragraph 3, the professor of medicine has returned to her starting point. She directly implies that "we" (whoever that's supposed to be) are "OK with old people dying."

She has made no attempt to clarify what she means, or to offer any real evidence in support of her eye-catching claim. She has simply advanced the eye-catching claim. Quoting Wittgenstein out of context:
"It is in this and similar ways that [we] operate with words."
Very smart people actually do reason in such undisciplined ways. In fact, as anyone should be able to see, they do so all the time.

Ranking people reason is these disordered ways all the time. And when they do, our highest ranking news organizations simply aren't able to notice.

NPR rushes an incoherent excerpt from a new book into print. The New York Times rushes an unsupported claim to the top of its op-ed page.

It is in this, and in similar ways, that we rational animals reason!

In a more rational world, our logicians would descend from their aeries to comment on these follies. But in the alternate world which we do inhabit, the logicians threw the later Wittgenstein under the bus.

According to Professor Horwich, they did this so they could continue with the "linguistic illusions" which define the bubble within which they uselessly live. In this way, our ranking logicians—surely, none dare call them "guardians"—have wandered away from their posts.

We closed Week One in our new report with a revised public prayer. "Give us this day our daily bread," we said. "But also our daily logic."

Give us this day our daily logic! Our discourse will continue to flounder and fail in the absence of that boon until our cosseted logicians get off their high horses, emerge from their aeries and return to significant work.

In the past several decades, we've badly needed help with the logic of sensible paraphrase. Increasingly, we also need help with the logic of generalization and selective otherization.

This column in yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section is about as bad as daily illogic gets. It was written by two ranking professors at Columbia, neither of whom is a kid.

The professors are 53 and 42 years of age. They're dealing with an important topic. Their work is amazingly bad.

That essay was written by Ivy League professors, then published by the Washington Post. Even in our sudden age of cholera, it is in this and in similar ways that we "rational animals" work.

Last week, we started a lengthy attempt to describe the way the logicians of the world have walked away from their posts. We'll continue in the weeks to come, eventually showing you what the professors threw away when they decided to throw Wittgenstein under the bus.

We're hoping that a 9-year-old kid will read these reports at some future point and take the mission from there. For decades, our daily logic has been a sad joke. In the end, it gave us our Trump.

Last week, we began our new exploration with a prayer for daily logic. Our reports went exactly like this:
Week One: Give us this day our daily bread!
Monday, March 16: What Professor Horwich said! The start of a meta-discussion.

Tuesday, March 17:
Amazing! Fifty-six years after Wittgenstein's book, a very smart person wrote this.

Wednesday, March 18: The number 1 lives in a fairyland, and other high-end mumbo-jumbo.

Friday, March 20: Give us this day our daily bread—but also our daily logic.
We expect to start Week Two tomorrow. That said, we have a lot of rubble-strewn ground to explore, and we'd like to cover it well.

HUMAN REASON AND ITS DISCONTENTS: Give us this day our daily bread...

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2020

...but also our daily logic:
As noted earlier, Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations was published in 1953.

Wittgenstein had died of cancer in 1951, at age 62. But within the world of English language academic philosophy, he'd been a type of cult figure for roughly thirty years.

Upon publication, Philosophical Investigations became the definitive text of Wittgenstein's "later" period. But alas:

Sixty years after the book's publication, Professor Horwich said that "professional philosophers" had thrown the later Wittgenstein under the bus. (See the first report in this week's series.)

According to Horwich, professional philosophers had rejected the fellow who claimed that the bulk of their "life's work" was "confused and pointless"—was based on "linguistic illusion and muddled thinking" (we're quoting Horwich here). In part for that reason, muddled thinking and confused, pointless work may perhaps still be widespread in the world of academic philosophy, right to the present day.

Elsewhere, extremely smart astrophysicists are praised for texts in which they discuss the "fairyland" in which "you will find the number 1." That text appeared in 2006, 53 years after Philosophical Investigations was published. One year earlier, a professional philosopher—not an astrophysicist—had also offered this, within her own well-received general interest book:
GOLDSTEIN (pages 44-45): [Kurt Godel's] commitment to the objective existence of mathematical reality is the view known as conceptual, or mathematical, realism. It is also known as mathematical Platonism, in honor of the ancient Greek philosopher...

Platonism is the view that the truths of mathematics are independent of any human activities...The truths of mathematics are determined, according to Platonism, by the reality of mathematics, by the nature of the real, though abstract, entities (numbers, sets, etc.) which make up that reality.
The truths of mathematics are determined by the reality of mathematics? According to this high-end philosophy professor, that's what a Platonist holds!

Meanwhile, could anyone ever make sense of the claim that Godel (or anyone else) was committed to "the objective existence of mathematical reality?" Or is that just another example of high-end mumbo-jumbo, part of the web of "linguistic illusion" Wittgenstein aimed to reveal as a "house of cards?"

We'll discuss Professor Goldstein's book in more detail later in our ongoing series of meta-reports. As a general matter, we'd say that, for better or worse, her well-received book seems to display the type of disregard for Wittgenstein's work which Horwich said was widespread within the academy.

According to Horwich, philosophy professors who wanted to muddle along in traditional ways threw Wittgenstein under the bus. As we noted in an earlier post, we marvel, when we read texts like the ones we've cited, at the thought that such writing was still being offered, and was even being hailed, more than fifty years after Philosophical Investigations appeared.

In fairness, Philosophical Investigations was, and remains, a highly obscure text. Just consider:

Its title could hardly have been less specific. On the whole, the title only tells us that we aren't reading a biology text.

Things get even less clear inside. Philosophical Investigations has no chapters. For that reason, there are no chapter titles to offer hints about what topics are being discussed. Routinely, it's hard to know what Wittgenstein's topic is, yet alone what's being asserted.

The book is very obscure. In a preface he wrote all the way back in 1945, Wittgenstein seemed to acknowledge as much.

"I should have liked to produce a good book," he wrote at the end of his gloomy overview. "That has not come about, but the time is part in which I could improve it."

(To peruse the whole Preface, click here.)

So said Wittgenstein, as he offered the world the seminal text which would be discarded.

Fifty-three years after that text appeared, major figures were writing abut the mystical fairyland in which you could find the number 1, along with Newton's laws of motion. Academic philosophers had perhaps returned to fairylands of their own.

When the public badly needed help with its floundering daily logic, our logicians never spoke. Wittgenstein had been thrown away. Our logicians muddled ahead in worlds very much all their own.

For today, we thought it might be worth returning to a somewhat earlier time—to the early Winter of 68, when the later Wittgenstein's seminal text was still just fifteen years old.

We were an undergraduate at the time, a junior in the Harvard philosophy department, the lair of the rational animal. At that time, and in that place, the later Wittgenstein was very, very hot.

We were about to take the undergraduate Wittgenstein course. The course would be taught by the late Rogers Albritton, the chairman of the department.

We didn't know Professor Albritton, though we did have a mutual friend, even at that time. We only spoke with him once, in a highly flattering, slightly puzzling conversation which occurred at his request at the end of that course.

Rogers Albritton was never anything but exceptionally nice to us. That said, we're going to report a humorous remark made by our mutual friend before that course got started.

First, though, let's establish a brief overview of Albritton's long and distinguished career.

As far as we know, Rogers Albritton was a superlative person. Beyond that, he had a long and distinguished, and very unusual, academic career.

He was chairman of the Harvard philosophy department from 1963 until 1970. He spent the rest of his career at UCLA, where he served as department chair from 1972 until 1981.

According to the leading authority on such matters, Albritton was "considered by his peers to be one of the finest philosophical minds of the 20th century." We know of no reason to dispute that assessment, though we also think that the philosophy establishment of that century badly failed to serve the public, and continues to function in broadly "illusory" ways.

Professor Albritton died in 2002 at the age of 78. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times spoke to the high regard in which he was held by his peers.

We offer one word of warning. In our view, the article may have presented the world of philosophy as it can be imagined, or novelized, by other ranking elites. It may offer a somewhat "Pleasantville" rendering of a less simple world.

That said, the obituary was highly flattering. Headline included, we offer some relevant excerpts:
WOO (6/3/02): Rogers Albritton, 78; Philosopher Known for His Brilliance

Rogers Albritton, a charismatic philosopher who rarely published his work yet dazzled colleagues of diverse persuasions with his lucid analyses
of fundamental human dilemmas, has died. He was 78.


Called a philosopher’s philosopher, he was considered one of the most formidable intellects in his field. His legendary stature, however, stemmed not from his writings, but from what philosopher and film critic Stanley Cavell called “the charisma of ... conversation alone.”


Famously nondoctrinaire, even though he was an expert on the Greeks and Ludwig Wittgenstein, he was averse to ever declaring that a problem was solved. He could argue that a person had no way of knowing whether he was asleep or awake, then conclude the opposite after more hours of laughter-filled discussion.


“He was a kind of philosophical conscience,” said philosopher Thomas Nagel, an Albritton student who now teaches at New York University. “Almost all of the rest of us ... fall back on the stuff we think we’ve established.... Rogers was a reminder that you can never dispense with the obligation to actively think whatever you’re thinking and be prepared to think it through from the beginning.”

“Back about 25 years ago ... Peter Strawson [an eminent British philosopher] said Rogers was one of the 10 best philosophers in the world,” said Hilary Putnam, a past president of the American Philosophical Assn. and emeritus professor at Harvard. “Many would agree, including myself. He was quite unique.

“He gave me the feeling for what Socrates must have been like. Socrates didn’t publish much either. Like Socrates, he had a lot of impact on lots of philosophers.”
Albritton almost never published. According to a later New York Times obituary, "he published only four papers over his 36-year career."

That seems like an astonishing fact. It also seems that Albritton was very highly regarded.

Was he really "one of the ten best philosophers in the world?" We don't know how to answer that question, except to say that, whoever the top ten may be judged to be, you've never heard of any of them. We would say that this is the case for deeply unfortunate reasons.

At any rate, we were poised, having just turned twenty, to take the Wittgenstein course from Albritton, our department's chair. At that point, our friend, Jack WITHHELD, told us what would happen as the course proceeded.

Who was Jack WITHHELD, you ask. You're asking a sensible question. He'd graduated from Harvard in 1960, then had gone to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.

He'd returned to Harvard as a graduate student. For reasons he couldn't seem to explain, he couldn't seem to get his doctoral dissertation done.

During our freshman year (1965-66), he'd been our teaching assistant in a massive cattle-call course in which Professors Albritton and Cavell surveyed the sweep of western philosophy.

At the end of that year, WITHHELD became a good friend. Two years later, he told us how the Wittgenstein course would go.

What he said wasn't meant as derision. Nor was it meant as snark, a literary form which hadn't yet been invented.

WITHHELD had been in the philosophy department for roughly ten years by this time. He regarded Professor Albritton as a personal friend. What he said wasn't meant as derision.

That said, WITHHELD had a superb sense of the humor and the irony found throughout the world. Chuckling, as he typically did, he told us what would happen:

It's the same with Rogers every year, he told us (or words to that effect). He always starts out with the idea that this is going to be the year when he'll figure Wittgenstein out.

(In retrospect, this aligns with the description of Albritton as someone who always thought on his feet, even as a lecture or a course was proceeding.)

He always starts out with the idea that this is the year when he's going to figure it out, WITHHELD said, chuckling as he did. He'll be full of energy for the first few lectures, then the whole thing will slowly come undone as the semester proceeds.

We can't recall WITHHELD's exact words, but we very clearly recall the gist of what he said. He didn't mean what he said as derision. He meant it as a statement that the world is an amusing place, and that no one understood Wittgenstein yet, at that point in time.

At any rate, the semester proceeded along much as WITHHELD had predicted. We had a long conversation with Albritton at the end of the course.

The next year, we took the graduate seminar in Wittgenstein under Professor Cavell. We mainly recall being surprised by the fact that the graduate students didn't seem all that sharp.

At that time, we didn't realize that fifteen years isn't a very long time. We didn't understand what we understand now; we didn't understand that Philosophical Investigations is a deeply obscure text—that Wittgenstein wasn't being falsely modest when he said that he hadn't been able to "produce a good book."

That said, Wittgenstein's difficult text is built around a fascinating analysis of the way human reasoning frequently goes astray.

It does suggest that much of the work of traditional philosophy concerns itself, in Horwich's words, with "mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking." Setting that awkwardness aside, the book offers a fairly simple-minded way to untangle the endless webs of confusion which characterize our wider pubic discussions.

According to Horwich, our modern logicians have thrown this work away. They've also stood silent as an array of jugglers and clowns have made a joke of our broader public discourse over the past many years.

As the jugglers and clowns have gamboled and played, our professors have sat on the sidelines. In fairness, if their own work is built on "houses of cards," why would anyone expect them to notice, or comment on, the houses of cards and the muddled thinking which prevails all over cable and all through our major newspapers as our floundering nation slides toward the sea?

"Give us this day our daily bread." It may be the world's most basic prayer. But in a complex global world, we need daily logic too.

As matters currently stand, our professors aren't able to help us.

Fifteen years after publication, our professors hadn't yet puzzled out Wittgenstein's text. Fifty years after the text appeared, they'd allegedly thrown the book away, Meanwhile, within the wider national discourse, mugging and clowning had replaced daily logic.

Eventually, this unchallenged mugging and clowning gave us our Donald J. Trump. We're guessing that some 9-year-old kid may read the weeks of work which follow and will know, in future years, how to restore our daily logic along with our daily bread.

Next week: 7 + 5 = 12

BREAKING: Times are hard in the upper-end press!


Our series resumes tomorrow:
We'll be finishing this week's series tomorrow. This is the first of many weeks in which we plan to conduct a meta-discussion about how our failing society ever got in the mess it's now in.

We're hoping that some kid who's 9 years old today will read these reports at some point in time. We're hoping that he or she will be able to apply this work in a way which will rescue future generations from the spectacular dumbness which, in the fullness of time, has finally given us our Trump and our spreading plague.

For today, we'll only note that times are hard around the world of the upper-end press. In this morning's Washington Post, Robin Givhan helps us ponder what we've suddenly lost:
GIVHAN (3/19/20): Hanging up our clothes and our public personas

In offices, they call it power dressing and business casual and dressing for success. The invitations tell us to gussy up in cocktail party finery or unleash our imagination with creative black tie.
We buy something new because we have tickets to the theater or a concert. We hunker down in front of a television with a bowl of popcorn and become armchair critics as we watch a parade of fashionable — or not — celebrities on an awards show red carpet.

These are our personal fashion moments, both real and vicarious. For the time being, they no longer exist. They have evaporated in the midst of mandates to work from home, bans on large gatherings and other precautions against the unknowns of the coronavirus.

The public square has shut down. Employees are banned from their workplaces. Schools are closed. The Smithsonian Museums are shuttered. Broadway is dark. Disneyland is locked. And we’ve lost a little bit of ourselves. An essential part of our identity is rooted in how we relate to the people around us, how we situate ourselves within the social hierarchy. We are defined, in part, by our tribe. We dress to tell a story about ourselves and if there is no one there to hear our narrative, we’ve been put on mute—turned into mere ectoplasm in pajamas.
We're sure that Givhan's a very nice person. But is anyone actually reading this guff? Were we the people actually reading this guff down through all those many long years?

These journalists today! Their immediate predecessors spent months on Candidate Gore's disturbing earth tones and on his three-button suits. In the end, decades of this simpering lunacy finally gave us our Trump.

Tomorrow, we'll finish our first week's uber-report. This simpering lunacy has all been enabled from the top.

Ridiculous foolishness trickles down! In the weeks ahead, we'll be taking you all the way back to "the set of all sets not members of themselves" and thus to Lord Russell's Paradox!

If you have a 9-year-old, might your home-schooling start here?