NONRATIONAL ANIMALS: The night they booed and hissed and jeered!

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2023

Years later, Trump arrived: Beavers have an impressive technology.

In fairness, ours is better. 

Concerning that first technology, here's the way the leading authority on such construction projects thumbnails the complex undertaking:

Beaver dam

A beaver dam or beaver impoundment is a dam built by beavers to create a pond which protects against predators such as coyotes, wolves and bears, and holds their food during winter. These structures modify the natural environment in such a way that the overall ecosystem builds upon the change, making beavers a keystone species and ecosystem engineers. They build prolifically at night, carrying mud and stones with their forepaws and timber between their teeth.

A minimum water level of 0.6 to 0.9 metres (2.0 to 3.0 ft) is required to keep the underwater entrance to beaver lodges from being blocked by ice during the winter. In lakes, rivers and large streams with deep enough water, beavers may not even need to build dams, and instead simply live in bank burrows and lodges. If the water is not deep enough to keep beavers safe from predators and their lodge entrances ice-free, beavers build dams.

Beavers start construction by diverting the stream to lessen the water's flow pressure. Branches and logs are then driven into the mud of the stream bed to form a base. Then sticks, bark (from deciduous trees), rocks, mud, grass, leaves, masses of plants, and anything else available are used to build the superstructure. Beavers can transport their own weight in material; they drag logs along mudslides and float them through canals to get them in place. Once the dam has flooded enough area to the proper depth to form a protective moat for the lodge (often covering many acres), beavers begin construction on the lodge.

Trees approaching a diameter of 90 centimetres (3.0 ft) may be used to construct a dam, although the average is 10 to 30 centimetres (3.9 to 11.8 in). The length depends on the diameter of the tree and the size of the beaver. There are recorded cases of beavers felling logs of as much 45 metres (148 ft) tall and 115 centimetres (45 in) in diameter. Logs of this size are not intended to be used as structural members of the dam; rather, the bark is used for food, and sometimes to get to upper branches. It takes a beaver about 20 minutes to cut down a 15-centimetre (5.9 in) wide aspen, by gnawing a groove around the trunk in an hourglass shape. A beaver's jaws are powerful enough to cut a 1.5-centimetre (0.59 in) sapling in one bite.

Maintenance work on the dam and lodges is often done in autumn.

"Maintenance work?" What's that?

As noted above, the lodge must be entered through an underwater entrance. But once the beaver has entered the structure, the living quarters sit above the water line, creating a dry living space!

Beaver, beaver, burning bright! What's going on in a beaver's mind as he or she works on this complex construction project?

Even at the highest ends of our discourse, we (meat-eating) humans have devoted remarkably little attention to such challenging questions. 

Is anything going through the mind of a beaver at all? By inference, it's sometimes said that Descartes said, or seemed to say, that the answer was no. 

Descartes was a doubter. But these construction projects are quite complex, and beavers complete such projects quite easily. What's going on in their heads?

In fairness, our human technology is much more advanced. There are no electric lights inside a beaver's lodge, nor do beavers ever emerge from their dry mid-water homes to launch rocket ships to the moon. 

Our technology is more advanced. That doesn't answer a basic question:

Do we humans command the intellectual skills which allow us to construct a "rational" national discourse, even in a very large, culturally diverse nation such as our own?

In theory, a rational discourse would help us escape predation from other humans—from outsiders who might wish to "break through and steal" the "treasures" we have laid up. The early passage from sacred Thoreau goes exactly like this:

But men [sic] labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.

It's a fool's life, our near neighbor scathingly said. 

Still, we humans will seek to protect our treasures, just as beavers do. Do we command the intellectual skills which allow us to construct a "rational" discourse toward this particular end?

Within the past several decades, the answer has seemed to come back as a resounding no. By the late 1990s, The Crazy was increasingly in the saddle and riding Americankind—and much of this was coming from the high-end mainstream press corps, not from the right-wing machine:

MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.

Black boots! Even that!

That was the reaction of a thoroughly mainstream, Pulitzer-winning columnist at the Washington Post. It was her reaction to the first Gore-Bradley debate of the 2000 campaign, which was held at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College. 

Over the course of the next several weeks, three major journalists described what had happened inside the press room from which that strange column emerged. We quote from Chapter 4 of our suspended companion site, the award-winning How He Got There:

The following week, Howard Mortman, managing editor of the Hotline, described the scene inside the Dartmouth press room. “The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something,” Mortman said, during a panel discussion on the Hotline’s nightly cable program. What happened when Bradley spoke? he was asked. “Stone silence, really,” he said.

Mortman described astonishing conduct. But Eric Pooley had already described a similar scene, in his full-length report for Time about that first debate. “Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd,” Pooley wrote, referring to "the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth." 

Oddly, Pooley showed no clear sign of thinking this conduct was inappropriate–except for the way he described his colleagues as “a gang of Heathers.” But in early December, a third reporter described this strange scene–and this reporter expressed his surprise, and his plain disapproval. Appearing on C-Span’s Washington Journal, Salon’s Jake Tapper responded to a viewer's question about–what else?–liberal bias:

I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that’s the only time I’ve ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.

Tapper had never seen such conduct before. But then, “gathered in a pack they can be cruel and unfeeling,” as [conservative journalist] Fred Barnes had already said.

(For ourselves, we had received a phone call from just outside the Dartmouth press room that very night. When we picked up, a major (Republican) journalist described the astonishing conduct which had just occurred.)

Three journalists spoke about what had happened—but this booing, hissing and jeering was never actually discussed. What happened in the press room stayed in the press room, until people like Mary McGrory began to issue insulting columns about that one candidate's allegedly clownlike attire, or about the way he had scampered about on the stage like a feral animal, or about the appalling way he'd inquired about a sick child.

The mainstream press had descended to that point by The Autumn of 99! When Candidate Trump arrived on the scene in 2015, the discourse was soon awash in insulting, cartoonish nicknames aimed at other candidates, with an endless array of ludicrous factual claims to follow.

The discourse was now in the hands of us, the nonrational animals. That said, something very unusual took place on CNN last night. 

As we watched, it made us think, with great surprise, of Keats' reaction to Chapman's Homer. On this morning's Morning Joe, Al Sharpton described it thusly:

"I think Chris Christie was excellent last night."

Sharpton isn't going to vote for Christie, but he saw the same thing we did. He saw a reversion to a type of fully coherent discourse—a type of discourse which predated the era of the insultingly stupid cartoonish nicknames and the earlier era of the booing, hissing and jeering and the subsequent Attack on The Clothes.

Beavers go about their business, laying up their treasures. Nonrational animals that we secretly are, will we be able to bring ourselves back from the culturally and intellectually dead?

Beaver, beaver, burning bright! As you work to lay up your treasures, what's going on in your head?

Tomorrow: Good God! Amazingly clear exposition!


  1. Research RFK for a change.

    1. Research Fort Liberty for a change. Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis want to restore the previous name of this US Army base -- Fort Bragg.

    2. RFK was a beaver.

    3. Liberty is a better thing to celebrate than a confederate general. Why did we ever name anything after traitors to the union? The answer is to put black people back in their places during Jim Crow (Ft Bragg was named in 1918).

      "Gen. Bragg is credited by historians with having won one of the most significant Confederate victories at the Battle of Chickamauga--but despite his advantage, he"declined to capitalize on his victory and instead allowed the Union Army to retreat to Chattanooga," according to a historical summary of his military service.

      Earl Hess, the author of Braxton Bragg: Most Hated Man of the Confederacy, explores the history of Gen. Bragg as "having a reputation for incompetence, for wantonly shooting his own soldiers and for losing battles."

    4. A Beaver who thought Covid restrictions were worse than Nazi Germany.

    5. The polls show no one wants Biden.

    6. And yet we will all vote for him in order to keep the bigger threat, Trump, out of office.

    7. According to Gavin Newsom:

      "According to Barron's, "Biden's first two years in office were the strongest two years of job growth on record in U.S. history. The overall size of the labor market has now more than recovered from the downturn caused by the COVID-19 recession."

      What's not to like about that, @10:49?

    8. You'll have to ask the actual respondents. Maybe they think he's too old or that those statistics are meaningless.

    9. We all think he is too old, but so is Trump. And Trump is so much worse. What is meaningless about people have better jobs under Biden? He's done a lot of other good stuff too -- and Biden is not alone but has a big staff of competent people helping him, whereas Trump surrounds himself with nutcases and grifters.

    10. We should aspire to promote leaders who are good on their own merits, no leaders who are merely not as bad as Trump. RFK we can all be proud of.

    11. Biden is good at bringing people together -- that is what a leader does. Look at the way he got the debt ceiling bill passed in the House. Look at the accomplishments of his team in putting together the historic infrastructure bill. And he protected social security and medicare! RFK is a kook and an asshole. Not in the same league at all, and on top of that, he is a Republican!

    12. You seem to be very excited that Biden is better than the worst president in history, managed to prevent the government from not becoming indefinitely nonoperational and not dead.

    13. And don't forget, he protected social security and medicare too, and don't forget the infrastructure bill and the way he got us through covid. And I like his support for Ukraine. He has a lot of accomplishments when you really think about it. Characterizing him as an old man is really unfair in the light of all he has done. Some are comparing him to FDR, which I think is apt. What does his age matter in the face of all he has managed to do?

    14. Biden deserves a better defense than Somerby has given him here. Oh, wait, Somerby has not said a word about Biden, except to call him old. Meanwhile he goes on and on about Al Gore, who left politics in a pique and hasn't been back.

    15. I don't know. Biden is one of the most unpopular presidents of all time.

    16. Biden is unpopular but not as unpopular as Trump was as president, nor as unpopular as RFK jr is.

      Biden is an establishment Dem, but has governed surprisingly well, although there is certainly much to criticize. On the whole, probably a better president than Clinton and Obama.

      RFK jr is a neoliberal that engages in right wing conspiracy theories, and supports right wing policies.

      Until we start to solve some of our society’s larger problems, voting will generally be a matter of choosing the lesser evil/harm reduction.

    17. Biden seems to have forgotten about liberal values like putting people before profits. I hope we can find someone else.

    18. That’s more of a leftist value; regardless, there are plenty of impressive young Dems emerging that are progressive, and even leftist.

      RFK jr is neither progressive nor impressive.

      Biden can be criticized but has leaned progressive more than any other modern president.

    19. Who are the impressive young Dems emerging?!?!

    20. You can start with the two young Dems that were removed from the TN state legislature and then reinstated, there’s plenty more - the Squad, Katie Porter, etc.

      You’ll need to do your own homework, dependent on your own values.

      If RFK jr is your person, then in reality you’re a right winger.

    21. "If RFK jr is your person, then in reality you’re a right winger."

      You just made that up.

      You're a liar.

  2. And this is how someone with a blog phones it in. Somerby copies a long passage about beavers and barely tries to relate it to anything. He doesn't bother looking up anything from comparative psychology (a field that studies how animals think) but tells us he thinks beavers have no thoughts. Then he cribs a long passage from himself about Al Gore, even though there is no relation between Gore and beavers (except perhaps having no useful thoughts), and wraps it all up by copying a passage from Thoreau, calling him sacred the way any college kid of the 60s might have. Most learn as they get older and find new heroes.

    And then we get "beaver beaver burning bright" which Somerby no doubt finds funny. It is from another 60s college boy hero, William Blake. Without attribution and without the tigers. Why not? All of his other words today come from somewhere else, strung together with incoherent mumbling.

    Thus proving that Somerby has nothing left to say to anyone

    1. If he didn’t want to repeat his claims about Trump he should have just not posted.

    2. Pres. Clinton was a beaver enthusiast.

    3. I suppose you think that is funny. Eleven year olds laugh at beaver jokes. Trump is not just a beaver enthusiast but also a beaver rapist and abuser. Do you find that funny too?

      Clinton was highly rated as a president (#19), according to historians (C-SPAN). Trump was nearly the worst president ever (#41 out of 44). At liberal blogs like this one (Somerby claims to be liberal) commenters tend to respect and like Clinton. That's why your stupid beaver joke falls flat here. Why wouldn't a heterosexual man be a "beaver enthusiast" as you crudely put it? Trump is excrement on the soles of our shoes and no one here likes or respects him. Even Somerby calls him names like sociopath and crazy. Making a beaver joke about Trump would be sinister, creepy.

      So why don't you take yourself off to whatever bar someone like you haunts in the daytime? You aren't wanted here.

    4. anonymouse 10:56pm, pull your panties out of your crack. You’ll feel better.

    5. If you have to pretend to be a woman, couldn't you also pretend to be a lady?

    6. Cecelia, I don't admire you any more.

    7. Anonymouse 11:34am, we were fated to move on.

    8. There is no commenter at 11:34. Who are you talking to?

      Cecelia wastes almost as much space here as Somerby does. Why does she feel the need to post every passing idiocy that flows through her head? To prove she isn't a beaver?

    9. Anonymouse 11:39am, because you are there.

    10. Lame response.

    11. A couple of days ago, a commenter friendly to Cecelia said she was a male chimpanzee.

    12. Chimpanzee? I thought she called me a male gorilla.

      That may be delusions of grandeur on my part.

    13. There is a sexual assault in the US every 6 minutes, often involving a minor.

      But to a commenter who snickeringly pretends to be a woman, everything is just a big joke.

    14. There’s a sexual assault on a minor every six minutes, yet you spend all your time here doing non sequiturs and pretending to be sentient.

    15. 3:53 let slip their inner voice to themselves. Right wingers are losing it lately.

    16. Cecelia and Rob Schindler in “Hot Chick II”

    17. Anonymouse 4:53pm, so you haven’t cooled down since the first one.

  3. Talk about booing and jeering:

    "Two Kelowna (Canada) moms are speaking out after their 9-year-old daughter was verbally assaulted at a track and field event on Thursday at Kelowna's Apple Bowl.

    The mothers, who choose not to identify their daughter, say she was competing in a shot-put event when a grandfather of one of the other participants started yelling at her.

    "She went to step up to compete for the grade four shot-put final, and right before she went to throw, a grandfather of a student said, 'Hey, this is supposed to be a girls' event, and why are you letting boys compete.' My daughter is cisgender, born female, uses she/her pronouns. She has a pixie haircut," said mom Heidi Star.

    Star says the man then carried on to demand certification to prove that her daughter was born female.

    "He stopped the entire event. He also pointed at another girl who also had short hair. He then piped in and said, 'Well, if she is not a boy, then she is obviously trans.'"

    Star said the man's wife then started calling her "a genital mutilator, a groomer, and a pedophile."

    Central Okanagan School District superintendent Kevin Kaardal confirmed with Castanet that steps are being taken to ban the man from all school-related events.

    "Staff intervened and actually moved the shot-put away from where he was. The gentleman was not a part of our school district. We are taking steps to ensure he is not able to be on our school property or attend events in the future."

    The young girl cried throughout the event and couldn't focus on the final she had qualified for.

    These stupid culture war issues are harming children.

  4. "NONRATIONAL ANIMALS: The night they booed and hissed and jeered!"

    If Somerby is hearing beavers boo hiss and jeer, he needs to take that up with his doctor.

  5. Some malicious person bet Somerby that he could link any two subjects in an essay. He picked beavers and Al Gore and the result is what you see today. Chat GPT could have done a better job of it.

  6. Idée fixe : an idea that dominates one's mind especially for a prolonged period : obsession. See also: Gore, Albert.

  7. Somberly let’s a “tell” slip today:

    “For ourselves, we had received a phone call from just outside the Dartmouth press room that very night. When we picked up, a major (Republican) journalist described the astonishing conduct which had just occurred.”


    1. Yep. A Gaff in the true sense?

  8. Joe Biden is a prudent steward.

  9. Hillary never even took classified documents. Pence and Biden promptly returned theirs. Only Trump willfully kept them.

  10. Sorry Bob, Rational objective journalism died when it lost Tim Russert, prematurely, too many years ago. He went after all stooges before him and bared them before us all. All were fair game…tho he was always gentlemanly in doing so.

  11. Also, Pence and Biden were not the president of the country went they grabbed their classified documents, thus their acts were criminally more acute than what Trump procured. Hillary, well, Hillary had no right to delete, bleach and destroy her blackberry. Crooked got away with it tho. What a country!

    1. As much as you would like to ignore the contents of the indictment, the rest of us can read. None of the above had a right to haul off documents, irrespective of their position, including POTUS. Only one was indicted for retaining government property after being repeatedly told to return such. This is not hard stuff, especially having been explained on this site within the last few days. You can perhaps will yourself to ignore the obvious here, but don't be so foolish as to think others are so gullible as to follow your preposterous logic.

    2. 7:51, when you change cell phone, all the data gets transferred to the new phone, she turned over all her State Department emails, even though the SD already had most of the ones that needed to be preserved and the others weren't even public records by definition.