Maddow watch: You actually aren't your neighbor's keeper!

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016

Don't take a neighbor to lunch:
It's hard to believe how bad it can get when Candidate Kasich starts talking.

Five years ago, in a split-second encounter, he mistook a young guy's girl friend for the young guy's mother. And dear God! When he won the Ohio primary last month, he stooped so low that he was caught making these remarks in his victory speech:
KASICH (3/15/16): Now, I want you to know the campaign goes on, and I also want you to know that it's been my intention to make you proud. It's been my intention to have young people all across this country watch somebody enter into politics—even though I labored in obscurity for so long—people counting me out, people in Ohio saying, "Why don't they ever call on him?" Okay? We get all that. But we put one foot in front of the other.

And I want to remind you again tonight that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land...We can go to Washington in the first 100 days and fix these problems with a shock and awe agenda that can pass. I think we can rally the people in Washington because I'm going to remind them that, before we're Republicans and Democrats, we're Americans. And we have an obligation to our children. But I really, really, really believe this and want you to know this.

And maybe in many respects, this is why I have been given a chance to stand here tonight and have earned a victory. You know, the lord has made everybody here special. I have been telling people this all across the country. Nobody, sir, has ever been made like you before, and no one will ever be like you again. And young lady, you're here a moment in time, and your job is to find that purpose that you have. Your job is to live life a little bit bigger than yourself. Your job is to be a center of healing and justice and hope in whatever way we can.

If we're a schoolteacher, we give up money to change lives. If we're a nurse, we work 15 extra minutes, when we're dead on our feet, because we want to assure a family that things are going to be okay. And if we are a neighbor, that means that widow, who was married for 50 years, who no one calls any more—you want to change the world? You take her to dinner on Saturday night. She'll wear that dress she hasn't worn in six months. I trust you to do it.

See, what I learned as a boy, what I learned from my mother and father, is that the spirit—it doesn't rest in a big-time politician and a big-wig. You hired us to do the job. To create an environment of economic growth and opportunity. But that's not where our spirit is. Our spirit is in us.

Believing that through our efforts—that in whatever part of the world that we live, that we can change the world, that we can carve out a better future.
For CNN's transcript, click here.

It's hard to believe that a person would stand up in public and actually say things like that. That he would praise teachers and nurses. That he would actually tell the public to care for an elderly neighbor.

Luckily, Rachel Maddow called Candidate Kasich to task for those remarks in the opening segment of her April 15 program. Sadly, Maddow didn't have time to "decode" all the ugliness in Kasich's speech. And so, she pulled out one short chunk, letting the ugliness of that remark stand for all the rest.

This is the short chunk Maddow played. She aired videotape of this chunk of that speech, edited down like this:
KASICH: And if we are a neighbor, that means that widow, who was married for 50 years, who no one calls any more—you want to change the world? You take her to dinner on Saturday night. She'll wear that dress she hasn't worn in six months. I trust you.
That's the chunk Maddow played. Weirdly but rather typically, it seems that "I trust you to do it" even got edited down to the slightly puzzling "I trust you" stub, which made the remarks sound stranger.

To watch Maddow's full segment, click here.

Why did Maddow play that chunk of Kasich's speech? She included it in "our child's treasury of John Kasich engaging with women voters," the seven-part parade of alleged horribles which was accompanied by this chyron:


As it turned out, Kasich's advice about that elderly widow was part of his "long history of condescension toward women!" That's why our own multimillionaire corporate hustler decided to show it that night!

In fairness, let's include a bit of context. Earlier in the segment, Maddow's viewers had been warned about the "incredibly awkward things" Kasich had been "accumulating almost a reputation for saying." Apparently, Kasich's ugly remark about the elderly widow was one of the many examples which prove that Kasich is "a statewide elected official who says stuff that you can't believe he's actually saying. Sometimes he's offending women. Sometimes he's just being radically offensive."

Apparently, Kasich's comment about the widow was an example of this troubling behavior! So was his utterly pointless mistake when he thought, five years ago, that somebody's girl friend was, instead, his mother.

As we watched, we couldn't help forming a question: How long could Kasich's "long history of condescension toward women" actually be? If these were the most offensive examples Maddow and her horrible staff could find, just how awful could Kasich have been during his long career?

How offensive has Kasich been? How rich in condescension? Maddow's "child's treasury" contained only seven examples. In one example, Kasich was urging people to be their neighbor's keeper. In another, he made an embarrassing but pointless mistake about the identity of a person on whom he had never laid eyes.

This left only five more examples of his "long history of condescension." With a thirty-year career to choose from, Maddow came up with other underwhelming examples, including one time when Kasich had dared to ask a woman if she'd ever been on a diet.

Through skillful editing, Maddow staffers kept viewers from seeing the point of Kasich's query; Kasich went on to compare the way we tend to backslide on diets to the way a government can fall off the wagon when it comes to disciplined spending. In his extended comments, Kasich seemed to suggest that he had fallen off the wagon once or twice when it came to dieting. But in the increasingly crazy Empire of Maddow, he had uttered another condescending remark, illustrating a crazy new rule:

Can we talk? In the crazy Empire of Maddow, men and women are no longer allowed to mention the practice of going on diets! Does any reactionary religious regime practice separation of men and women to a greater extent than this? In the increasingly crazy Empire of Maddow, it's now an example of condescension if a man dares to speak to an unclean woman that way!

How long is Candidate Kasich's "long history of condescension?" The history didn't seem very long by the time Maddow had finished playing tape of these stupid examples—examples which said more about her unpleasant heart and dishonest mind than they said about Kasich.

Rachel Maddow has become a dishonest, self-absorbed person. In its relatively short history, cable news has produced a few genuine demagogues. For our money, the worst to date have been Sean Hannity and the ugly version of Chris Matthews which did so much harm from 1998 to 2008, until Matthews reinvented himself in line with changed corporate policy.

Bill O'Reilly can be crazy too, but he doesn't rise to the level of Hannity, or to the level of the Matthews who did so much harm by running errands for his corporate owner, Jack Welch. That said, we'd have to say that the increasingly dishonest Maddow is rapidly finding her way into the Hannity ranks.

She has almost totally lost her way, helped along by her stooges and staff. Like Hannity, Maddow now seems to be devoted to making her viewers dumb and tribal, apparently to serve the end of her own massive profit and fame.

Is there anything worse than a corporate multimillionaire who toys with her viewers this way? That said, it turns out that you aren't your neighbor's keeper! A self-obsessed person who's lost her way was happy to tell us that night!

Judged by journalistic standards, Rachel Maddow ought to be off the air. Her program is rapidly devolving into a weeklong con. It seems to us that something has perhaps gone "wrong" inside her devolving head. But her conduct on that show has become fake and faux and ugly in its desire to help us learn how to loathe.

In our view, Maddow is sliding in the direction of the all-time worst in cable. Are Hannity and the former Matthews actually the worst of all time?

Mugging and clowning and pimping herself, a less than obsessively honest hack is moving up on the inside.

For the record: Much more was wrong with that Kasich segment. In its essence, Rachel Maddow's TV show has become both dumb and dishonest. Trusting viewers serve as her marks.

We've seen this very bad movie before. We've seen it done by Rush and Sean. We've seen this game played Over There.

Degradation of standards watch: The Post rejects an invented fact!

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016

The New York Times' downward spiral:
In today's featured editorial, the Washington Post discusses Donald J. Trump's foreign policy speech. Their headline was less than flattering:

"Trump’s incoherent, inconsistent, incomprehensible foreign policy"

At one point, the editors did something strange. They rejected an important fact which Donald J. Trump has invented:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (4/29/16): Mr. Trump blamed previous administrations for making a mess of the Middle East—a reasonable claim, but one he littered with false assertions. He again claimed, against the known record, to have opposed the Iraq War well before it began. He said, falsely, that the Islamic State was exporting oil from Libya. Then there were the flagrant lies that “there are scores of recent migrants inside our borders charged with terrorism” and that “for every case known to the public, there are dozens and dozens more.”
To their credit, the editors explicitly rejected the phony fact which Donald J. Trump has invented. Yesterday, the constantly ludicrous New York Times took a different approach.

Yesterday, the New York Times vouched for Trump's invented fact. It did so in paragraph 2 of a news report which topped the paper's front page. For the ugly details, click here.

How pathetic is the Times? Routinely, they amaze. Even more amazing is the way the liberal world accepts these constant behaviors, including the recitation of phony facts which may turn a White House campaign.

Last night, none of our corporate liberal stars challenged the way the New York Times pimped that invented fact. Instead, they served us our nightly tribal porridge on Our Own Liberal Channel.

Push back at the New York Times? It simply isn't done! Dearest darlings, use your heads! Careers and social standing very much hang in the balance!

The claim that Donald J. Trump opposed Iraq could help him reach the White House. Despite that fact, our heroes will do as they've always done. Meekly, they'll hang back from fighting invented facts. They'll keep serving us the tribal gruel which feels so good going down.

Concerning the Times, the Times is routinely amazing. Has any newspaper ever assembled such a gang of reliable flyweights to cover a nation's events?

We thought of the failure of the Times when we read David Brooks' column this morning. Brooks was savaging Candidate Trump. This is the way he began:
BROOKS (4/29/16): Donald Trump now looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee. So for those of us appalled by this prospect—what are we supposed to do?

Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.
Brooks assumes that Trump will be slaughtered. We don't think that's clear.

Other than that, it's plainly true! In many ways, Candidate Trump has been and is involved in a "degradation of standards."

That said, this ongoing degradation began long ago. It began long before Donald J. Trump entered this White House campaign.

Many folk other than Donald J. Trump have been involved in this downward spiral. Routinely, this degradation of standards has been conducted at Brooks' own glorious newspaper.

The degradation of standards was visible on the front page of yesterday's Times. It was also pushed in your face all through last night's Maddow Show.

Donald J. Trump didn't start this spiral. Many "journalists" have been, and currently are, involved in this dangerous fail.

EINSTEIN'S OWN WORDS: Ruminations on a fast-moving train!

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016

Interlude—Truthfully, clear as mud:
One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein wrote a brief book aimed at general readers.

To peruse the entire book, click here. In the preface to the book, Einstein stated his general intention:

"The present book is intended, as far as possible, to give an exact insight into the theory of Relativity to those readers who, from a general scientific and philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical apparatus of theoretical physics," Einstein wrote.

"The book presumes a standard of education corresponding to that of a university matriculation examination," he further said. "Despite the shortness of the book," he said its presentations would require "a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader."

Albert Einstein wasn't claiming that he could make Einstein easy. In truth, much of his historic book is about as clear as mud, at least for the general reader for whom the book was intended.

That wasn't Einstein's "fault." By all accounts, he had spent the previous twenty years exploring, examining and challenging the established state of physics as it had developed since Newton. He hadn't spent time developing skills as a writer of popular science.

He didn't hold an advanced degree in magazine writing, the way some of "these kids today" do. Judging from appearances, he hadn't spent a lot of time wondering how to explain his revolutionary work to us bantamweights and rubes.

What made him think that his brief book would make sense to general readers? According to Walter Isaacson, he read the text of the book to his niece, who was 16 years old.

His niece was baffled by the book, Isaacson says, but she didn't want to say so to her famous uncle. In this wonderfully comical way, history's greatest physicist got the idea that his book would make sense to us, the unwashed and clueless.

One hundred years later, that judgment is still mistaken. The humor enters the story when our leading professors, publishers and journalists can't discern or refuse to acknowledge this unmistakable fact.

In yesterday's award-winning post, we reviewed the text of Einstein's very brief Chapter 8. In that chapter, he imagines a pair of lightning strikes and develops "a definition of simultaneity such that this definition supplies us with the method by means of which, in the present case, [we] can decide by experiment whether or not both the lightning strokes occurred simultaneously."

In that brief chapter, Einstein's writing is somewhat fuzzy, but his basic rumination is simple. In his next chapter, which is even shorter, he introduces a fast-moving train—and his work becomes clear as mud.

We'll go first! One hundred years later, we have no idea what point Einstein was making in that three-page chapter, which runs perhaps one thousand words.

We don't know what point he was making and, dear reader, neither do you! In our view, neither did Isaacson when he tried to explain that material in his 2007 best-seller, Einstein: His Life and Universe.

Neither did the PBS program Nova, when it tried to explain the same material in last November's hour-long broadcast, Inside Einstein's Mind.

At roughly the ten-minute make of its broadcast, Nova tried to explain what Einstein was saying in chapters 8 and 9 of his historic book. Ninety-nine years later, Nova's presentation was less clear than your typical puddle of mud. Truthfully, though, so was Einstein's own work, back in 1916!

It shouldn't be shocking to think that Einstein may not have been a skilled popular writer. The humor enters our tale when professors and journalists, one hundred years later, are still unable to notice this fact, or perhaps refuse to acknowledge it.

We had planned to move on today to the text of Einstein's Chapter 9, in which he discusses the fast-moving train which Nova explained so poorly. Reading back through Einstein's chapter this morning, we noticed again that its text is very unclear.

It can be extremely hard to unpack such balls of confusion. One hundred years later, we're therefore going to postpone our reading until Monday.

It's easy to create incoherence; it's hard to untangle such webs. In the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein described the matter thusly:

"We feel as if we had to repair a torn spider's web with our fingers."

Wittgenstein wasn't trying to untangle confusing accounts of modern physics, but he was discussing a near relation. He was discussing so-called philosophical problems, the kinds of confusions which "only occur in doing philosophy."

It's hard to untangle certain kinds of confusion and incoherence. One hundred years later, no general reader will be able to explain what Einstein meant in his brief chapter 9.

That said, Nova and Isaacson can't explain what he meant either! For ourselves, we're going to take a few more days before we walk you through its text. One hundred years later, we want to address that particular "web" in the clearest possible way.

You won't understand Einstein's Chapter 9! If you read it and think you do understand, we'll suggest that you haven't read with sufficient care.

One hundred years later, the professors and publishers still seem inclined to defer to Einstein's greatness. They still haven't noticed the ways in which his discussion of that fast-moving train just doesn't seem to make sense.

One hundred years later, has anyone ever explained that chapter? In fairness, high-profile programs like Nova will always go out and pretend.

Coming Monday: That very brief chapter 9

Departing editor watch: The New York Times scolds those people down there!


As we say, not as we do:
As a general matter, we haven't been fans of the New York Times editorial page under Andrew Rosenthal, who will soon be leaving his post.

We thought yesterday's featured editorial provided a good example of the "Rosenthal drift." Starting in its first paragraph, the editorial scolded North Carolina for its deeply regressive, restrictive voting law:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (4/27/16): Late Monday, a federal district judge upheld one of the most regressive and restrictive voting laws in the country—a 2013 North Carolina law that eliminated same-day voter registration and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds; cut back on early voting by a week; barred counting votes cast outside voters’ home precincts; and required voters to show identification at the polls.

State lawmakers said these changes were necessary to reduce fraud and inefficiency in elections—though there is no evidence of voter fraud to combat or inefficiency to cure. The Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Advancement Project, among others, sued on the grounds that the law illegally discriminates against minority voters.

Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, accepted the state’s baseless rationales for the law, even as he dismissed or ignored the obvious political realities behind its passage...
The editorial continued from there. We were struck by that opening paragraph.

Don't get us wrong! We're inclined to think that early voting is a good idea. We'd favor more inclusive ID requirements, as opposed to requirements which would tend to exclude voters.

That said, we couldn't help noting the way this editorial was lecturing North Carolina. The Times seemed to be telling the regressive southern state to do as we Yankee fans say, not as we Yankee fans do.

As you may know, the home base of the New York Times is in the state of New York. That's where our problem with this editorial started.

Has North Carolina "cut back on early voting by a week?" The state of New York doesn't allow early voting at all!

Has North Carolina eliminated same-day voter registration and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds? Were those actions included in "one of the most regressive and restrictive voting laws in the country?"

Maybe! But the state of New York doesn't allow same-day registration or preregistration either!

Was it just our imagination? Were the New Yorkers scolding the Tarheels for doing the same things New Yorkers do? Citizens, we're just asking! But that's almost the way it felt!

In fairness, the state of New York doesn't have voter ID requirements; North Carolina does. As for "barring counting votes cast outside voters’ home precincts," we're not sure how to search for that. We aren't even sure what it means.

At any rate, let's review. North Carolina reduced early voting; New York doesn't have it at all! Rosenthal was still able to see which of the states is vile!

By the way, conservatives see this sort of thing and know it for what it is. Do as we say, not as we do! It's history's oldest known rule!

Invented fact watch: Donald J. Trump has invented a fact!


The New York Times makes it official:
Donald J. Trump is one step closer to making it into the White House.

We say that because the rising star has invented an important fact. Confirmation of his invented fact appears in today's New York Times.

The invented fact is announced at the top of the front page of this morning's hard-copy Times. It appears in paragraph 2 of a news report about Candidate Trump's foreign policy speech.

The front-page report was written by Mark Landler and, inevitably, the hapless Ashley Parker. This is the way their report begins, right at the very top of the hard-copy Times' front page:
LANDLER AND PARKER (4/28/16): Donald J. Trump, exuding confidence after his resounding primary victories in the East, promised a foreign policy on Wednesday that he said would put “America first.” He castigated President Obama and Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and a possible opponent in the general election, for what he described as a string of missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals.

Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation’s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.
There it sits, in paragraph 2, at the top of the Times front page. According to Landler and Parker, Donald J. Trump reminded his audience "that he had opposed the Iraq war."

Is it true? Did the aforementioned Donald J. Trump "oppose the Iraq war?"

Trump has been making this claim since last summer. He delivered an especially ornate version of this bogus claim at the second Republican debate, way back last September.

Did Trump oppose the war in Iraq? he has made this claim again and again, sometimes with Anderson Cooper offering his thousand-yard stare. For months, it has been clear that Trump hopes to use this phony claim in a general election campaign against Candidate Clinton, who is said to have voted "for the war in Iraq."

It's also clear that Donald J. Trump didn't oppose the war in Iraq. Fact-checkers have reached this conclusion again and again. That even includes a fact-check by a newspaper called the New York Times—a fact-check which, in best Times fashion, doesn't carry a date.

There is zero evidence that Donald J. Trump opposed the war in Iraq. At that GOP debate last fall, he said "I'll give you twenty-five different stories" to that effect, seeming to mean news reports.

In fact, no such report has ever turned up. There is zero evidence suggesting that Trump opposed the war in Iraq.

That said, dearest darlings, so what? Trump has been claiming that he opposed the war; at "newspapers" like the New York Times, this claim has now been confirmed as an established fact. It appears today at the top of page one, in paragraph 2 of a major news report.

This claim is untrue. In our world, though, Trump's false claim is now an established establishment fact.

You'd think an entity like the Times would be embarrassed by this sort of thing. Thinking that, you'd be wrong. As a foreign affairs reporter, Landler should be scandalized to see his name on such manifest nonsense. That said, Parker is one of the Times' endless roster of world-class flyweight trivia peddlers. We will assume that she provided the invention of this latest new fact.

Please understand—this invented fact actually could send Donald J. Trump to the White House. Invented facts tend to spread quite fast. To cite one example, the hapless entity still called Salon is pimping this headline today:
WEDNESDAY, APR 27, 2016 07:00 PM EDT

Trump opposed Iraq. Hillary voted for war: Let’s take his foreign policy vision seriously
Trump gets some things very wrong. But today's speech was still daring, spot on and important contrast with Hillary

As is so often the case with Salon, nothing in Smith's report says that Trump opposed the war in Iraq. Some "editor" decided to stick that in the headline anyway. This is the norm at Salon.

Whether at the Times or the new Salon, we the people are getting our pockets picked today. Rather, we're having something stuck into the pockets and cubbyholes of our spotless minds.

Last summer, Donald J. Trump set out to invent a fact. He hopes to ride that fact to the White House. The New York Times and the new Salon have now christened his bogus new fact.

Just for the record: For liberals, it does no good to complain about this sort of thing from the Times.

In the journalism business, liberal and mainstream careers tend to run through the Times. Your favorite heroes will never complain about this latest gong-show by the glorious dispenser of salaries and reputations.

Rachel won't say a word tonight. In all probability, Hayes won't go there either.

EINSTEIN'S OWN WORDS: How to assess two (or more) lightning strikes!


Part 3—In search of simultaneity:
How did Albert Einstein explain "special relativity" in his own brief book, the one aimed at general readers?

You're asking a very good question! The book was published one hundred years ago, in the year 1916. Last November, the PBS program Nova worked directly from its pages as it explained the "mind-blowing" significance of special relativity during an hour-long broadcast.

Nova described a "brilliant thought experiment," a chain of reasoning Einstein described in Chapters 8 and 9 of his brief book. In 2007, Walter Isaacson had worked from the same material when he explained "the great conceptual step" Einstein took when he formulated the special theory of relativity.

Question: Based upon that Nova program or that best-selling book, can you explain special relativity? Assuming that Einstein did produce a great conceptual step, can you explain what that giant step was? Can you explain why it's mind-blowing?

We'll go first. We can't explain that conceptual step. We'll bet a railway platform and two lightning strikes that you can't explain it either!

Bantamweights of the world, unite! This is where Einstein's own words theoretically ought to come in!

Nova and Isaacson were both working from two brief chapters in Einstein's book for general readers. If their presentations don't seem to make sense, what did Einstein say? How did Einstein explain the rumination involving that very fast train and those lightning strikes?

What did Einstein say, in his own words? For today, we'll review his very brief Chapter 8. Tomorrow, we'll move ahead to his brief Chapter 9. To peruse his whole book, click here.

Yesterday, we showed you how Einstein's Chapter 8 started. Again, the chapter is very brief. Chapter title included, this is the first of only three chunks we'll have to look at today:
VIII On the Idea of Time in Physics

Lightning has struck the rails on our railway embankment at two places A and B far distant from each other. I make the additional assertion that these two lightning flashes occurred simultaneously.
If now I ask you whether there is sense in this statement, you will answer my question with a decided “Yes.” But if I now approach you with the request to explain to me the sense of the statement more precisely, you find after some consideration that the answer to this question is not so easy as it appears at first sight.
Einstein is asking a slightly puzzling question, and making a slightly puzzling statement, as his brief chapter starts.

He tells an interlocutor that two lightning flashes have "occurred simultaneously." He then asks his friend to "explain the sense of the statement more precisely." He suggests that "the answer to this question is not so easy as it appears."

Einstein has some explaining to do! In fact, the meaning of his statement seems to be perfectly clear. If we say that two lightning flashes (or two lightning strikes) have occurred simultaneously, we typically mean that the two events happened at the same time.

That's the simple-minded, everyday meaning of Einstein's simple-seeming statement. Where could a possible problem arise? Continuing directly, Einstein starts to explain:
After some time perhaps the following answer would occur to you: “The significance of the statement is clear in itself and needs no further explanation; of course it would require some consideration if I were to be commissioned to determine by observations whether in the actual case the two events took place simultaneously or not.” I cannot be satisfied with this answer for the following reason. Supposing that as a result of ingenious considerations an able meteorologist were to discover that the lightning must always strike the places A and B simultaneously, then we should be faced with the task of testing whether or not this theoretical result is in accordance with the reality. We encounter the same difficulty with all physical statements in which the conception “simultaneous” plays a part. The concept does not exist for the physicist until he has the possibility of discovering whether or not it is fulfilled in an actual case. We thus require a definition of simultaneity such that this definition supplies us with the method by means of which, in the present case, he can decide by experiment whether or not both the lightning strokes occurred simultaneously.
Please note: Einstein is now describing a slightly odd situation.

In this slightly odd situation, we're trying to determine if two lightning strikes are actually simultaneous. The slight oddness comes from this:

A meteorologist has somewhat implausibly claimed that "lightning must always strike the places A and B simultaneously." To test this unusual-sounding claim, Einstein seems to say that we need to come up with a method to demonstrate that two such strikes really did occur simultaneously.

Please note: Einstein seems to be using some slightly unusual language. It seems that he is saying that we need to devise a method to test this unusual-sounding claim. As a matter of fact, he uses that very word.

But instead of simply saying that we need to devise a method, Einstein tells his interlocutor that we need a definition—"a definition of simultaneity such that this definition supplies us with the method by means of which" we can decide whether the two lightning strikes did occur simultaneously.

That seems like clumsy language. We don't know why Einstein states his point that way.

At any rate, Einstein proceeds to describe a method which would let us settle the question at hand. When he continues, he describes the way we would have to proceed.

In an act of generosity, he lets his interlocutor come up with the method which would settle the case:
After thinking the matter over for some time you then offer the following suggestion with which to test simultaneity. By measuring along the rails, the connecting line AB should be measured up and an observer placed at the mid-point M of the distance AB. This observer should be supplied with an arrangement (e.g. two mirrors inclined at 90°) which allows him visually to observe both places A and B at the same time. If the observer perceives the two flashes of lightning at the same time, then they are simultaneous.
Eureka! We'll place an observer exactly halfway between points A and B.

Einstein's description is still a bit fuzzy, but this seems to be what occurs:

Apparently, we imagine that this observer sees lightning strikes occur at points A and B. If he perceives the two flashes at the same time, this means that "they" (the lightning flashes? the lightning strikes?) are simultaneous.

Einstein's formulations are a bit fuzzy, but the physics here is quite simple. We seem to know where the two lightning strikes have occurred. We also know that our observer is located halfway between them.

In that circumstance, we would naturally judge that the strikes were simultaneous if the light from the strikes reached us at the same time. (If we were closer to place A and farther from place B, we wouldn't make that same judgment.)

The situation being described is a bit artificial. That said, nothing seems to be difficult or complex about what Einstein has said.

In Chapter 9, he goes on to refer to this formulation as "the most natural definition of simultaneity." If you're halfway between two events, and you see the events at the same time, it would be natural to declare that the events were simultaneous.

A few additional points are made in this very brief Chapter 8. Einstein answers a few half-hearted objections from his interlocutor. He notes that this method for judging simultaneity can be used in the case of two or more events.

That said, we've now covered Einstein's basic work in this very brief chapter. Chapter 9 lies ahead.

Why does Einstein keep describing a method of assessing simultaneity as a "definition?" In his biography of Einstein, Isaacson refers to this "definition" as an "operational definition." He seems to relate Einstein's formulation to some of the philosophers to whom Einstein had been exposed at this time.

At any rate, Einstein mainly crafts this "most natural definition of simultaneity" in his very brief Chapter 8. In Chapter 9, his fast-moving train will appear.

So will a degree of confusion, possibly even incoherence. One hundred years later, our elite professors, journalists and publishers haven't yet puzzled it out.

Tomorrow: The arrival of the fast train

Same old story watch: Trump reads foreign policy speech!


Like Candidate Bush before him:
Understandably, Kevin Drum is rolling his eyes about the foreign policy speech delivered by Candidate Trump.

Drum's post starts like this. We include Drum's italics:
DRUM (4/27/16): I kinda sorta listened to Donald Trump's foreign policy speech this morning. You know, the one we were all looking forward to because it was written by an actual speechwriter and would be delivered via teleprompter. That's Trump being presidential, I guess.

So how did Trump do? That depends on your expectations. For a guy who never uses a teleprompter, not bad. By normal standards, though, he sounded about like a sixth grader reciting a speech from note cards. On content, it was the same deal.
As noted, Trump was merely reading a speech. Your neighbor could have read the same speech. The fact that Trump has read a speech doesn't tell us what he actually knows about foreign policy. It remains to be seen if the national press will note this obvious point.

In November 1999, the national press avoided this obvious point when Candidate George W. Bush delivered his first foreign policy address. Candidate's Trump's daring performance today recalls this earlier affair.

Candidate Bush had read a speech concerning foreign affairs. Your neighbor could have read it too. But at that time, the national press was displaying a very friendly feeling toward the affable Texan.

At our companion site, How He Got There, we've offered a brief account of the way Candidate Bush was hailed for having successfully read a foreign policy speech. Recently, Bush had flunked an embarrassing "pop quiz" about the names of foreign leaders.

With very few exceptions, mainstream pundits took Bush's side in the matter of the pop quiz attack. All was completely forgiven now—now that he had successfully read a foreign policy speech:
From Chapter 5, How He Got There:
Was the press corps “conducting an inquisition?” Were Bush's mistakes being “broadcast in tongues?” By November 1999, this early boast was barely a memory, and Bush would soon be absolved of all taint from the awkward “pop quiz” incident.

On November 19, the Texan delivered his first major foreign policy address, taking no questions from reporters. Two days later, on CNN’s Late Edition, USA Today’s Susan Page reacted to Bush’s address by declaring the pop quiz episode closed. “I think that with the foreign policy speech he gave this week, he's gotten over that damage from that pop quiz,” Page, a major press figure, opined. She then advanced an odd assessment. “I don't think Americans want to necessarily like the president who is the most qualified on foreign policy,” she said. “They want to choose one who is sufficient on foreign policy. And I think that's a standard he probably met in that speech.”

No inquisition was underway here! According to Page, voters only wanted a president who was sufficient on foreign affairs–and Page said Bush had met that standard by giving his address. But in fact, Bush had merely read a speech, a task any adult could have accomplished. How strong was his personal grasp of foreign affairs? Plainly, there was no way to know from watching him read his address. But the limitations of this event were also glossed in the New York Times, which had assigned its fabled veteran, Johnny Apple, to cover Bush again. Once again, Apple gushed over a skillful reading performance by the Texan (see chapter 4). “Mr. Bush delivered his 35-minute speech with considerable aplomb,” Apple declared on the Times front page, “turning in a well-versed, well-drilled performance that on several occasions rose to a presidential level.”

Back in August, Apple had openly fawned over Bush in a lengthy profile. Now, he applied the same low standard Page would advance one day later. A few days later, Morton Kondracke lowered the bar even more, in an unintentionally comical assessment of the Texan’s address. “Critics can say it doesn't take a genius to read a speech written by others,” Kondracke wrote, in Roll Call and the Washington Times. “But Mr. Bush deserves credit for picking as advisers the best thinkers and operatives from the Reagan and Bush administrations and excluding all the kooks, dimwits and connivers of the era.”

Bush had hired no dimwits or kooks! He deserved credit for this good judgment! In this way, major stars of the mainstream press defined an extremely low standard for Bush. But a vastly different set of standards still obtained for Candidate Gore, the Democratic front-runner...
Bush was hailed for having read a speech about foreign affairs. In these ways, a clownish press corps was building a road to Iraq.

Today, Candidate Trump took a great leap forward. He showed he can read a speech too.

Maddow watch: John Kasich and the elderly neighbor!


Another disgusting offense:
Rachel Maddow's cable show has descended into the mire.

The corporate star who fronts the program now typically spins her viewers throughout the bulk of the week.

She avoids almost all matters of substance. Instead, she has descended to the world's oldest, ugliest play. Persistently, she teaches us liberals that we should learn to loathe Those People, The Others, the ones Over There.

Routinely, she offers highly selective presentations to help us learn to loathe more fully. Not uncommonly, she simply misstates basic facts to give us this ugly old pleasure.

As we noted in last week's reports, her programs from April 11-15 were about as bad as corporate "cable news" gets. She capped her week with an opening segment that Friday night in which we liberals were taught to loathe Candidate Kasich, especially for the horrible things he routinely says to and about women.

Is it true? Does Kasich routinely say horrible things to and about women? Judging from Maddow's examples, we'd have to say he apparently doesn't. But Maddow was pushing her ugly old theme very hard. The effort began with her opening claim, a claim which was fueled by some unfortunate language and by a helpful misstatement.

According to Maddow, Kasich had been surrounded by "a bunch of grown-ass white men" when he signed an anti-abortion bill in 2011. Even worse, he had let a four-year-old boy sit on his lap and help him sign the bill. Kasich and the grown-ass men "also brought in a little boy who the governor invited to sit on his lap and dot the 'I' in the word Kasich as the menfolk of Ohio got together to show the boy folk of Ohio how women's pregnancy can be controlled by the law," the big giant cable star raged.

In fact, the bill in question was the state of Ohio's giant 2013 budget bill. But so what? The urge to loathin' became much stronger when helped by Maddow's fake fact.

That bungled claim about the "grown-ass white men" was the start of Maddow's rant. She went on to describe Kasich's alleged misconduct toward women.

How does Kasich behave when speaking to and about women? In this passage, Maddow's portrait got its start:
MADDOW (4/15/16): When Governor John Kasich of Ohio did this in 2011, it was, at one level, it was sort of just the same thing that other Republican governors do with anti-abortion bills in other states. But in another way it was an Ohio-specific expression of—sort of an extension of John Kasich's general tone-deafness when it comes to issues related to women of all kinds.

So John Kasich has introduced himself basically to the people of Ohio as a statewide elected official in Ohio who says stuff that you can't believe he's actually saying. Sometimes he's offending women. Sometimes he's just being radically offensive.
According to Maddow, Kasich "says stuff that you can't believe he's actually saying. Sometimes he's offending women. Sometimes he's just being radically offensive."

John Kasich actually has made some awkward remarks on occasion down through the years. He's a bit like the GOP version of Joe Biden, as we noted on Monday.

Over here in our liberal tribe, we tend to treat Biden's awkward moments as signs of his lovable authenticity. In this segment, Maddow was being a great deal less kind.

"Compared to Candidates Trump and Cruz, Kasich is viewed broadly as sort of the normal one, the calm one, the one who says only predictable things," Maddow said at one point.

"That may be true in relation to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump," she said as she continued. "It's not at all the reputation that he has earned in Ohio."

What sort of reputation does Kasich have in Ohio? In 2014, he won re-election by a 31-point margin. In a poll last fall, his job approval was very high in the state. His performance was more approved than disapproved by 62-29 percent.

As she continued, Maddow forgot to mention these facts. Instead, she kept conveying a rather different impression. Soon, she was describing the reputation Kasich has allegedly earned on the presidential trail:
MADDOW: Even if you don't care about his time as governor of Ohio, on the campaign trail, while he has been running for president, he has slowly been accumulating quite a record, now almost a reputation, for saying just incredibly awkward things.

And he says awkward things sometimes when he's fired up and angry. But he even says incredibly awkward things sometimes when he was trying to be nice.
Has Kasich been developing a reputation for saying just incredibly awkward things? As she continued, Maddow said this reputation especially involves the things he says when he talks to or about women.

This led to a special Friday night gift. Maddow said we'd get to enjoy her "child's treasury of John Kasich engaging with women voters:"
MADDOW: John Kasich ran for state legislature in Ohio starting in the '70s. He won nine straight congressional races in Ohio. He won two races for governor in Ohio. This is the second time he's running for president. And that is an impressive amount of electoral experience.

It also marks him out though as somebody who has gone astonishingly far in politics, given what tends to happen when he talks to people, or about them, particularly when those people are women. It doesn't have to be women, but it's usually women.

Behold, happy Friday night! This is our child's treasury of John Kasich engaging with women voters.
According to Maddow, Kasich has gone astonishingly far in politics "given what tends to happen when he talks to people, or about them, particularly when those people are women."

We almost agree with that statement! Maddow's basic claim in that passage does seem almost astonishing.

It would be quite surprising if a politician was that popular in his home state if he was constantly saying things to women which were "tone deaf," "incredibly awkward" and even "radically offensive." We leaned forward in our seats, eager to hear Maddow's examples.

Kasich has had a long career. Maddow's staff had gone back to 2011 and 2012 for two of the seven examples their boss then presented.

As such, Maddow gave seven examples from the past five years of Kasich's long career. In the first of these offensive statements, Kasich mistakenly took a young man's girl friend for the young man's mom.

We showed you that, her first example, in our Monday post. As Maddow continued, we marveled at the extent to which this sick millionaire now loves the task of teaching us liberals how to loathe The Others.

We'll review more of Maddow's examples in the next day or two. Maddow was even upset because Kasich once said that we should care for our elderly neighbors.

Rachel Maddow is running a school for soul-sick tribal loathing. Personally, we wouldn't vote for Kasich. But if we were running a cable news channel, we wouldn't let this devolving, soul-sick star go back on the air.

It isn't good to teach people to loathe. It isn't good when a corporate star keeps conning her liberal viewers.

EINSTEIN'S OWN WORDS: On first looking into what Einstein said!


Part 2—Chapter 8, one hundred years later:
Exactly one hundred years ago, Albert Einstein wrote a brief book aimed at general readers.

If you enjoy doing math in your head, you already know the year in question. Einstein's brief book appeared in 1916, bearing this title:

Relativity: The Special and the General Theory

To peruse that brief book, just click here. Our hardback edition bears this claim, right on ITS front cover:


By "anyone," the publisher may have meant this: "Anyone except you and your friends and everyone else you know."

Presumably, there wasn't sufficient room to get all that on the cover. Reluctantly, the publisher agreed to edit it down.

Albert Einstein's brief book was designed to explain his revolutionary work, which is generally referred to as "relativity." One hundred years later, we pose a basic question:

Do you have any idea how to explain "special relativity," the theory Einstein propounded in 1905 in his "most famous [scientific] paper?"

In our view, pursuit of that question could be revealing. Here's why:

It has now been a hundred years since Einstein explained this part of his work in his brief book for general readers. In 2007, Walter Isaacson revisited that part of Einstein's brief book in his best-selling biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe.

Did we mention the fact that Isaacson's best-selling book was a major best-seller? (The book provides a fascinating, lucid account of Einstein's life.)

Last November, the PBS program Nova covered the same material in an hour-long broadcast, Inside Einstein's Mind. Like Isaacson, the Nova program worked directly from Einstein's brief book as it discussed the "mind-blowing significance" of the ideas which emerged from special relativity.

Nova is a high-profile PBS program. Having said that, we repeat our question:

Do you have the slightest idea how to explain special relativity? Could you bear up under mild questioning about the "mind-blowing" conclusions concerning which Nova postured?

We're willing to suggest that the answer is almost certainly no. One hundred years later, we're going to say that very few people have any idea how to explain the "astonishing conclusion" and "great conceptual step" (Isaacson's terms) which emerged from that part of Einstein's work.

No one knows how to explain this first part of Einstein's work! In large part, that's because of our "culture of incoherence," a culture which is observed all through the academy and the publishing industry.

Last November, Nova's treatment of special relativity was essentially incoherent. As usual, everyone agreed not to notice.

This is the way our culture works in a wide array of areas. This culture becomes especially comical in our Einstein-made-easy work.

That said, the confusion surrounding Einstein's work may stem from a more primal source. It may begin with Einstein's brief book, which may not have been preternaturally clear. This helps establish an obvious point:

Albert Einstein didn't get famous as a writer of popular science! He wasn't Dr. Seuss with a whole lot of physics. When it came to explaining his work to us bantamweights, he may not even have been Bill Nye the science guy.

That said, let's be clear on one point. Isaacson and PBS have now had a hundred years to notice the fact that Einstein's brief book may not have been overwhelmingly clear. The fact that they haven't noticed this problem is a comical part of the world we've described as the "culture of incoherence."

In an earlier report, we discussed the comical way Einstein—he wasn't a writer of popular science!—assured himself that his brief book would make sense to general readers.

Einstein wasn't a writer of popular science! We'd have to say he proved that point with the method he choice back in 1916—the method he chose to assure himself that his work would be clear to us rubes.

Einstein's book wasn't especially clear in that way. Just consider the two brief chapters from which Isaacson and Nova worked as they described the "brilliant thought experiment" (Nova) which led to the "great conceptual step" (Isaacson) at the heart of special relativity, one of the most famous theories in the history of science.

In Chapters 8 and 9 of his brief book, Einstein sketched the "thought experiment" to which Isaacson and Nova referred. (That term was used by Isaacson and Nova. It isn't used in the standard translation of Einstein's book.)

As Isaacson and Nova would do, Einstein described an extremely fast-moving train passing a "railway embankment." He also described the two lightning strikes cited by Isaacson and Nova. (Maddeningly, they're called lightning strokes in the standard translation.)

In two brief chapters, 8 and 9, Einstein sketched this famous scenario. What the heck! Let's look at Einstein's actual words as he starts his very brief Chapter 8.

Chapter title included:
VIII On the Idea of Time in Physics

Lightning has struck the rails on our railway embankment at two places A and B far distant from each other. I make the additional assertion that these two lightning flashes occurred simultaneously. If now I ask you whether there is sense in this statement, you will answer my question with a decided “Yes.” But if I now approach you with the request to explain to me the sense of the statement more precisely, you find after some consideration that the answer to this question is not so easy as it appears at first sight.
With that slightly puzzling passage, Einstein began a rumination on the concept of "simultaneity." One hundred years later, Isaacson and Nova can't explain that rumination, and everyone else has agreed not to notice or mention that fact.

Why do we say that passage is slightly puzzling? Here's why:

Einstein starts by telling his interlocutor that two lightning flashes have "occurred simultaneously." This seems like a simple statement concerning an everyday occurrence. But Einstein proceeds to ask his friend "to explain the sense of the statement more precisely."

Most likely, the friend won't know what Einstein means. The burden, of course, is on Einstein here. He will need to explain what he means by this request.

Einstein proceeds to do so in a very brief Chapter 8. This leads to Chapter 9, in which we're introduced to that fast-moving train, which is passing the railway embankment at the time of those two lightning strikes.

It's these brief chapters, 8 and 9, from which Isaacson and Nova were working when they tried to explain the "mind-blowing" conclusions at the heart of special relativity. Tomorrow, we'll run through that brief Chapter 8.

On Friday, we'll read Chapter 9.

Tomorrow: Einstein explains

Thoughts on the cutting of slack: We know, we know! We're moving along somewhat slowly as we work through this material.

Readers, it's been a hundred years! We think you can wait one day.