The latest "killing" in Arkansas!

SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 2017

And the three or four which produced it:
In yesterday's award-winning post, we discussed Rachel Maddow's heroic treatment of Arkansas' recent "killings."

Later, we had occasion to read the New York Times' front-page report about the most recent "killing." We thought it was superb journalism, of a type you won't encounter on Maddow's corporate-funded TV show.

For ourselves, we oppose capital punishment; in fact, we always have. We also oppose the kind of "journalism" practiced on the Maddow program. We thought the Times provided the kind of work you'll never encounter there.

What type of journalism did the Times provide in its front-page report? Let's start with this:

In the case of the most recent "killing," it described the three or four killings or deaths which had gone before it.

According to the New York Times, the state of Arkansas "executed" Kenneth D. Williams this Thursday night. We're opposed to all executions.

At the same time, we favor journalism of this type,
in which people were allowed to hear what Williams did in 1998:
BLINDER AND FERNANDEZ (4/28/17): The state built its death chamber in 1978, and Mr. Williams was born the next year. In 1998, he emptied a revolver after a robbery in neighboring Jefferson County, killing a 19-year-old woman, Dominique Nicole Hurd. When Mr. Williams was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison, he mocked Ms. Hurd’s relatives, turning to them and saying, “You thought I was going to die, didn’t you?”

He was sent to Cummins and, weeks after his arrival, escaped by hiding inside a 500-gallon tank that was brimming with hog slop. [Cecil] Boren was in his yard, working while his wife was at church, when Mr. Williams arrived. The fugitive entered the house, stole one of Mr. Boren’s guns, shot him seven times, seized his victim’s wallet and drove off in his truck.

In Missouri the next day, Mr. Williams led the police on a high-speed pursuit that ended when he struck a water truck, killing its driver. Sentenced to death for Mr. Boren’s murder, Mr. Williams later wrote a letter to The Pine Bluff Commercial, an Arkansas newspaper, and confessed to another killing that had been unsolved.
Who was Cecil Boren? According to the Times, he was, at the time of his death, "a former Internal Revenue Service worker who had been an assistant warden at the Cummins Unit, the prison where Mr. Williams awaited his execution [last week]."

Who was 19-year-old Dominique Hurd? Your question is very important.

You can see a photo, and read about her, at this memorial scholarship site. We can offer no photograph of the relatives Williams crazily mocked.

If the world operated on our views, there would have been no execution this week. In typical award-winning fashion, we're inclined to believe that, when Person A murders Person B, each person's life has been lost.

Person A's life had perhaps been lost at some earlier point. We don't know why Williams did the things he did, but we wouldn't have executed him for it.

That said, Williams wasn't the only player in this gruesome drama. Yesterday morning, the New York Times did what Maddow will never do:

The Times let you ponder, if just for a moment, the three or four people whom Williams killed or caused to die in the crimes for which he was later sentenced to death. The Times also told you how these events are viewed by the survivors of three of Williams' victims.

Those survivors have different outlooks. At least one family asked the governor to cancel this week's execution:
BLINDER AND FERNANDEZ: The daughter of Michael Greenwood, the man killed during the pursuit in Missouri, urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop the execution. “We are in no way asking you to ignore the pain felt by the victims of Mr. Williams’s other crimes,” Kayla Greenwood wrote in a letter this week. “We know what they are going through, but ours is a pain that we have decided not to try and cure by seeking an execution.”
For much more on Kayla Greenwood (and her mother), see below. As a general matter, Maddow doesn't degrade herself by mentioning people like them.

Kayla Greenwood and her family weren't seeking Williams' death. According to the New York Times, other survivors felt differently about the impending execution:
BLINDER AND FERNANDEZ: Mr. Boren’s widow declined to be interviewed. Her family opposed clemency for Mr. Williams.

Vickie Williams, Ms. Hurd’s mother and no relation to Mr. Williams, said her daughter had ambitions of being a neonatologist as a biology and premedical student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where she was known as Nicky. Ms. Williams said she did not plan to attend the execution, but she supported it.

“He did not receive the death penalty for killing Nicky,” she wrote in an email. “If proper justice was served, others may not have lost their lives.
The justice system is very confusing. Everyone has rights except for the families of victims.”
Once again, for a photo of Nicky Hurd, you can just click here.

Meanwhile, is her mother right? Does everyone have rights except the families of victims?

We'll guess that's an overstatement. That said, victims and their families don't exist on the Maddow Show, which mainly exists to announce the moral greatness of the program's weirdly unbalanced, bizarrely self-involved multimillionaire host.

(You know? The one who weirdly grins and chuckles all night? Because the consultants said?)

The Times report also describes the thinking of some local residents who aren't related to the people Williams killed. They all seem to support capital punishment, certainly so in this case.

In that judgment, those Arkansans are expressing a view which people have held since the dawn of time. At the present time, that view is shared by a handful of others, including Clinton and Clinton, Obama, Gore, Kerry and Biden, just to pull names from a hat.

On Maddow's show in recent weeks, you weren't required to hear about what Williams crazily did. You did hear Maddow suggest that Arkansas was rushing the "killing" of Williams through. You weren't told that his case had been in the courts for nineteen years.

(Most excitingly, you were also told that Justice Gorsuch "voted for his first killing." This brave declaration was designed to give you an especially cheap tribal thrill, in line with corporate strategy for Maddow's embarrassing program.)

You didn't hear about Dominique Hurd, the 19-year-old who wasn't going to be a Rhodes scholar from a school like Stanford. You didn't hear about her mother. You didn't hear about Mrs. Boren, who became a widow in 1998. You didn't hear about Kayla Greenwood and her mother (much more on them below).

Why didn't you hear about these people? Let's think back to the spring of 2009, when you heard about folk of their general type on the Maddow Show. That's when Maddow spent two weeks dropping dick jokes on the heads of such throw-away people—people from the comically lesser ends of the earth.

(And yes, this very much does explain who you meet on this program.)

Last night, Maddow performed overt journalistic malpractice concerning Flynn and Pence. Last Friday, she staged her silly exhibition about the state of Arkansas' "killings." (It's one of her trademarked plays.)

Increasingly, Maddow is a clown, a devolving basket case, a journalistic con man. She now struts and frets and plays the fool pretty much every night. That stupid old DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS is totally gone.

Night after night, she mocked these people in 2009; night after night, she was even willing to pretend that she was embarrassed to do so. In these ways, our multimillionaire corporate stars helped put Donald J. Trump where he currently is.

For ourselves, we oppose capital punishment. Does Maddow? She's so busy acting out, we never quite hear her say that.

More on Kayla Greenwood: For (much, much) more on Kayla Greenwood (and her mother), you can just click here.

You can see a photo of Greenwood at age 5, just before her father was killed. You can see a photo of her younger brother, with whom her mother was pregnant.

"Regular people" do remarkable things, as you can see at that link. You will never learn such facts on a certain cable TV show, a show designed to churn good ratings, thus pleasing the corporate suits.

The program exists to promote its host and to Hannityize our tribe. In such ways, we self-impressed liberals have worked quite hard to put Donald Trump where he is.

Maddow in the "killing" fields!

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2017

Our own self-satisfied cant:
Oh what the heck! Let's journey with Rachel Maddow to the "killing" fields, as inspired by recent events in Arkansas.

For ourselves, we're opposed to capital punishment. We can't recall ever making that decision. It seems that we have always been opposed to capital punishment.

Rachel Maddow seems to oppose capital punishment too. We say "seems" because, as part of her devolving post-journalistic style, she rarely develops information or arguments concerning the practice.

A few years ago, it became clear that Maddow opposes botched executions. But does she oppose executions in general, and if so, why? In place of presentations which would speak to such questions, Maddow simply tends to emote, as she did, one week ago, in a trademarked Maddovian manner.

Note the brave, and highly dramatic, exciting choice of words. This is standard practice for Maddow:
MADDOW (4/21/17): And thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour.

So this was supposed to be the week when Arkansas held two back-to-back double-header executions. Arkansas has not killed any of its prisoners in more than twelve years, but they decided that that they would try to kill eight of them in a row, all in a rush, eight men, eight prisoners. They were going to kill eight of them, two per night, in four different doubleheader executions spread across a week and a half.

And the urgency for that was because one of the drugs they wanted to use for these executions is getting close to its sell-by date. It will, it will not be legal to use that drug to kill people after the drug expires at the end of this month.

And you know, from a bureaucratic perspective on the part of the state, that must make some sort of sense on paper, right? You know, "Oh, hey, got to hurry, we can't use this stuff to kill anyone after April. So let's kill everyone in April then. Let's kill them all. Now."

From the perspective of one of the people who's going to be killed though, you could see how that might seem like a fairly random factor deciding whether you are going to live or die, right? If the state didn't have this expiration date thing going on in that one drug that they didn't notice before, there'd be no chance that all of these guys would be on deck to be killed all at once. But that's the reason they're trying to kill 'em all right now.

Stephen Breyer is a moderate liberal justice on the Supreme Court, but he has decided to make a real hollering legacy out of his time on the Court by dissenting and dissenting and dissenting again when it comes to the vagaries and the strangeness and the bias in our nation's system of killing men and women who are prisoners.

So that's where we were as of last night. Arkansas wanted to kill eight men over the course of ten days. They wanted to have already killed four of them by this time tonight. But over the course of this week, three of their four planned killings got blocked by the courts.

And then, last night, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the fate of the fourth man, at the very last minute last night, a few landmarks were reached.

Number one, the new justice, Neil Gorsuch, voted to kill his first man. He voted to kill, and it was a deciding vote, and that was his first significant vote on the United States Supreme Court.

Number two, Justice Stephen Breyer dissented again, short, sharp and to the point. It was less than two pages. It's pretty remarkable stuff, very straightforward, not particularly legalistic argument. He just puts it out there.

[...]

But Justice Breyer's opinion was a dissent. His side lost. The Neil Gorsuch side won, and Arkansas went ahead with one of the four killings they wanted to accomplish this week. The death warrants to kill Ledell Lee expired at midnight Central time. Less than an hour before that warrant expired, the United States Supreme Court voted five to four to let them kill him.

By 11:26 Central time, the Supreme Court decision had been conveyed to Arkansas and announced to the people who are at the prison. Eighteen minutes later, they started injecting Ledell Lee at 11:44. And then by 11:56, they said he was dead.

So that's important, that timing there just made it. The warrant that made it legal to kill him expired four minutes after they said he died.

Now Arkansas still wants to kill all the other prisoners that it can next week, before the expiration date on one of their drugs makes the rest of those executions illegal too. So they're hurrying.

And one of one of the things we'll be watching in the news this weekend is the continuing legal wrangling to see how many more of these guys they're going to be able to kill.
To watch this full segment, click here.

For ourselves, we're opposed to all executions. But do you see the way this lazy corporate multimillionaire works?

Rachel Maddow thrills us rubes by saying "kill," not "execute." That's as far as her ultimate laziness seems to take her.

Presumably, we're supposed to get a tribal charge by hearing her talk that way. What we hear when she stages these screeds is a multimillionaire corporate star who's too lazy to do real work.

We're opposed to capital punishment. Other people—Barack Obama, let's say—are not.

Rather than develop information or marshal arguments about the practice, Maddow tends to posture and preen. We're supposed to get a special thrill when she says things like this:

"The new justice, Neil Gorsuch, voted to kill his first man."

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Presumably, that's supposed to give us rubes an especially big tribal charge.

Maddow's work gets worse and worse all the time. (Did you see her flip, this Tuesday night, on that "Flynn was on the Turkish government payroll" matter?) Plainly, we liberals aren't able to discern this fact, and our career liberal pundits are never going to tell us. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!

Watching her show, we liberals get ourselves Hannityized. Her devolving work is making it clear:

In the end, We simply aren't much sharper than They are. This helps explain how we've ended up with Donald J. Trump where he is.

Question for the fourth graders: Children, please address these questions:

Does the Supreme Court "vote to kill people?" Or does the Court vote on the constitutionality and legality of some such decision?

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Con men of the world, unite!

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2017

Interlude—Enduring deep grief through Fermat:
In 2012, Jim Holt published Why Does the World Exist? An Existentialist Detective Story.

Almost surely, it's one of the most fraudulent books ever published. Inevitably, the New York Times selected it as one of the ten best books of the year.

Why do we say "inevitably?" Consider the embarrassing flow of the past five years.

When Holt's ridiculous book about "the mystery of existence" appeared, it was reviewed in the Times' Sunday Book Review by Sarah Bakewell, "an author of non-fiction" who "currently lives in London."

Bakewell gave the book the mandated, standard respectful review, describing Holt as "an elegant and witty writer comfortably at home in the problem’s weird interzone between philosophy and scientific cosmology."

Things spiraled downward from there, leading to the book's selection as one of the year's ten best. Four years later, inevitably, it happened all over again!

In 2016, Bakewell came along with her own ridiculous book, At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails [sic]. It's one of the most ridiculous books we've ever read. Inevitably, the New York Times selected it as one of the year's ten best.

Con men of the world, unite! To publish a book which will be judged by the Times as among the year's ten best, you need only follow these simple rules:

Trick up a book about existentialism with the good solid fun of "apricot cocktails," or with the time-honored allure of a "detective story." Your spectacular intellectual incompetence will be completely overlooked. Gotham savants will declare your book among the year's ten best!

To what extent is Holt's ridiculous book tricked up with silly externalia? Consider the part of the book which he has declared to be the best—the part of the book where he describes the death of his pet dachshund, Renzo.

(Yes, there is such a part of the book. It's the "Interlude" following Chapter 8, a mini-chapter entitled "Nausea.")

How silly do the endless, self-referential parts of this silly book really get? At the start of "Nausea," Holt has jetted to Austin to meet with physicist Steven Weinberg, part of his quest to determine "why the world exists."

(He's searching for three or four Einsteins.)

According to Holt, he emerged from the plane in his linen suit, "elegantly rumpled as always." Before asking "the concierge at my hotel for advice on where to dine," Holt wanders about among the crowd at an outdoor music festival.

No, he doesn't run into Terry Malick; if only he had! Instead, Holt tells us what follows. We didn't make this up:
HOLT (page 149): Making my way through the cacophonous crowd under the hot sun, I pretended that I was Roquentin, the existential hero of Sartre's novel Nausea. I tried to summon up the disgust that he would feel at the surfeit of Being that overflowed the streets of Austin—at its sticky thickness, its grossness, its absurd contingency. Whence did it all spring? How did the ignoble mess around me triumph over pristine Nothingness?
Holt's musings become more puerile from there. As readers, we are apparently asked to believe that this foolishness really occurred—which is possible, of course, in the sense that everything is.

Con men of the world, unite! To the people who ponder books at our nation's most elite newspaper, nonsense like this propels a book to the top of the annual pile.

Not only do the savants believe that this nonsense really occurred. They seem to believe that the behavior and thinking Holt describes is profound in some way. It's all part of the quest!

Such judgments afford us a horrible look behind a cultural curtain. They help explain how we've reached the point where Donald J. Trump is now president, with our culture lying in ruins.

Behind that curtain, within a bubble, nonsense like this is seen as a form of deep thought. We offer mild words of dissent:

Holt was perhaps 58 years of age when he jetted to Austin. Why in the world would a man of that age engage in such ludicrous piddle? Alternately, why in the world would he type this up and claim that it actually happened?

Why on earth would a grown man pretend that he wandered the streets of Austin that way? Perhaps that gentleman knows the shape of a winning literary con! Just consider what Holt said a bit later in this ridiculous chapter.

After dining in Austin that night, Holt learns that Renzo has had a medical event in New York. The next day, he cancels his appointment with Weinberg. He flies home, holds Renzo in his arms for ten days, then agrees that Renzo must be euthanized.

Many pet owners have had such experiences. The good con man must distinguish himself from all these regular folk.

What makes Holt stand out from the crowd with all its sticky thickness? Amazingly but undeniably, Holt goes on to say this:
HOLT (page 152): The vet in charge of all this looked like a young Goldie Hawn. She and her assistant took turns with me stroking Renzo during the preparations. I did not want to break down sobbing in front of them.

Fortunately, I have a good trick for maintaining my outward composure in such situations. It involves a beautiful little theorem about prime numbers, originally due to Fermat...
Mercifully, we never learn who or what the vet's assistant looked like. Instead, we're subjected to an excruciating account of the good trick Holt allegedly uses to maintain his outward composure in such situations.

Holt goes on, at considerable length, explaining the "good trick" involving the "beautiful little theorem" he tracks to Fermat, who is name-dropped for the first time way back on page 37.

Out of respect for the mortality of our own last few brain cells, we aren't going to describe the trick in which Holt allegedly engaged while Renzo was being euthanized. Let's leave it at this:

As he ran through all the prime numbers, performing a mathematical test, Holt "made it past 193 and was still dry-eyed at the moment the vet gave Renzo the final injection."

We won't describe Holt's wonderful trick to the extent that he does. We will describe the role such episodes play in this fraudulent book.

Duh! The con men who author books of this type must start by convincing you, the mark, that they are more lofty than you are. Holt runs this con all through his book, nowhere in a sillier fashion than in this mini-chapter.

In the passage posted above, Holt describes one part of his personal behavior—behavior which, as you can see, is remarkably fey and outre. Such episodes will convince the trusting reader that the con man who wrote this book is truly a man set apart.

More commonly, Holt works the con throughout the book by name-dropping every famous thinker who ever existed, along with the names of quite a few thinkers who aren't famous. More potently, he litters his book with mathematical and "philosophical" sophistry and cant.

These droppings lie beyond the intellectual experience of the typical college graduate. Such a person is thereby left with no obvious way to challenge or doubt the manifest bullshit she is being handed.

We say "she" for a reason. In Part 1 of this report, we discussed the way a young journalist, one year out of Princeton, reacted to Holt's book.

She'd been assigned to discuss a book she couldn't possibly hope to critique. Making things worse, the New York journalistic elite was widely vouching for the status of the book's ridiculous author.

All through Holt's ridiculous book, that young woman encountered flimflams of a "philosophical" bent. Like the vast bulk of Holt's potential readers, this young woman wasn't equipped to challenge these shameless cons.

In our next report, we'll look at some of the mathematical nonsense this young woman encountered in the earlier parts of Holt's book. We'll also look at the way Holt buries a remarkable lede in Chapter 10 of his book—a remarkable lede about the "philosophical" beliefs of the majority of the world's mathematicians.

(How crazy are mathematicians' beliefs? Get ready to think Ben Carson!)

For today, let's restrict ourselves to the best part of Holt's book—the part where he walks around pretending to be the nausea-infested Roquentin, then turns to Fermat for help when he and his Goldie Hawn look-alike are comforting his dying dog.

Apparently, the New York Times believed the things this fellow said about this ridiculous episode. To Holt's credit, he worked the con all the way through this mini-chapter.

Holt is a shameless self-fantasizer. Here's the way the mini-chapter about Renzo and nausea ends:
HOLT (page 153): The vet and her assistant left me alone in the room so I could sit for a while with Renzo's lifeless body. I opened his mouth and looked at his teeth, something he would never let me do when he was alive. I tried to close his eyes. After a few more minutes, I left the room and paid the bill, which included a "communal cremation" with other dogs that had been put down. Then, carrying only Renzo's blanket, I walked home.

The next day, I called Steven Weinberg at his home in Austin to ask him about why the world exists.
Con men of the world, take note! Melodrama gives way to heroism as Holt pushes on with his quest.

Con men of the world of books are willing to play these games. So are the con men of cable TV, a group we'll return to next week.

At the New York Times, the nation's journalistic elite thinks this is good solid deep stuff. We're peeking behind the curtain this week, observing an intellectual breakdown which has our self-impressed liberal tribe on the canvas, back-flat, looking up.

Tomorrow: That Princeton kid encounters a set of mathematical and "philosophical" cons

Tomasky says Comey didn't fear Dems!

THURSDAY, APRIL 27, 2017

The long list hardy stops there:
Last Sunday, the New York Times did a long, front-page piece about James B. Comey's serial intrusions on last year's election.

The first such intrusion occurred on July 5, 2016; it included inaccurate and highly misleading statements about Clinton's behavior by the man who is most often referred to as "Comey the God." Two more intrusions occurred late in the campaign.

Why did Comey feel free to stage these intrusions? In this recent piece, the Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky offers a key takeaway from the Times report.

According to Tomasky, Comey feared what Republicans would do if he didn't interefere. By way ofcontrast, he didn't fear what Dems would do if he did interfere:
TOMASKY (4/24/17): [H]ere’s another takeaway for you, and I haven’t seen anyone make this point, and it’s an important one: If the Times is to be believed—and stories like this one, based on 30 interviews, might get some facts wrong but are generally accurate in the gist of what they convey—Comey was often motivated by fear. Fear of how a certain group would react.

We see in three instances that he feared the wrath of the Republicans.
One, if he didn’t break precedent and speak harshly of Clinton while officially exonerating her last summer. So he spoke harshly. Two, if he didn’t announce in late October that the investigation was reopened. So he announced the investigation (which, as we learned too late, again amounted to nothing) was reopened.

And three, if the Republicans in Congress decided post-election to include him and the bureau in its inevitable Clinton witch hunts. So he beat them to the witch hunt.

[...]

We also see at least one instance in which he feared the anger of his own agents (again, with respect to speaking harshly of Clinton last summer. And we know...he had reason to fear them, as agents leaked freely to Rudy Giuliani, who then broadcast them on Fox News).

We even see one instance when he feared the Russians—he knew they had a certain pivotal document, and he was afraid at one point that they would leak it.

So fear of political fallout seems to have motivated almost everything he did. Kevin Drum made this point over the weekend.

But Drum didn’t emphasize what is to me the most telling thing, which is that there is one group Comey appears not to have feared at all: Democrats.


[...]

[N]owhere does the article say that Comey feared how Democrats would react if he raked Clinton over the rhetorical coals without bringing charges. Of course he didn’t! Democrats don’t scare anybody.
Comey feared almost everyone, Tomasky says. He especially feared Republican pushback if he didn't slime Clinton.

According to Tomasky, he didn't fear pushback from Democrats. And Tomasky says this made perfect sense. Democrats don't push back!

For ourselves, we don't know who James B. Comey feared. We have little faith in giant Times reports.

Sadly, we do know this. There's another group Comey had no reason to fear: liberal and pseudoliberal pundits!

Comey the God had no reason to fear our fiery liberal pundits! More specificaly, he had no reason to fear Tomasky himself, or Kevin Drum, who seconded Tomasky's assessment.

According to the Times report, Comey was spooked at one time by fury from the National Review. No such fury was coming at him from our hapless tribal weaklings over here on the "left."

After Tomasky's piece appeared, we reviewed the reactions from Tomasky and Drum after Comey's initial intrusion. Pretty much as we had remembered, the boys ran off and hid in the woods. On the Maddow Show, things were much worse.

Good God! The corporate world's most effective car salesman was enjoying a well-deserved vacation on the week of July 5. Steve Kornacki guest-hosted that week—and for two straight nights after Comey's intrusion, he strongly defended Comey's behavior and attacked Candidate Clinton.

Rachel returned, relaxed and refreshed, on Monday, July 11. She never mentioned Comey's name again until late October. There was exactly zero reaction from our tribe's number-one con man.

The children have behaved this way for the past twenty-five years. Back in the Clinton/Gore years, one generation rolled over and died. They've been replaced by the Maddows and them. Last summer, this new gang of careful corporate players carefully followed suit.

For twenty-five years, con men like Comey the God demonized Clinton, Gore, Clinton. People like Tomasky, Drum and Maddow persistently refused to fight, in much the way their predecessors had refused to fight before them.

For this reason, Candidate Clinton was fighting twenty-plus years of demonization as she entered the race. Mix that with her lousy campaign and we got the outcome our corporate children have been seeking for the past twenty-five years.

Rachel would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before she'd ever take the lead in challenging an establishment figure like Comey. She doesn't play it that way, and we're too dumb to notice. By last summer, Drum was feeding us the race-baiting bullshit our tribe so enjoys, thus hiding his failure to fight.

Go ahead—search the Web the way we did! You'll see Tomasky and Drum failing to go after Comey last summer. Even after Slate's Fred Kaplan detailed the bullshit in Comey's report, the 90-pound weaklings we love Over Here refused to go after the God.

(All through the fall of 2012, they had played the same cowardly game as Susan Rice was crazily slimed and the Benghazi story was born. The bullshit they enabled that year helped defeat Clinton last fall.)

It was all Comey's fault, one ardent pundit now cries. Look who's talking, our analysts typically say.

Final point: Comey's July 5 non-indictment indictment was full of bullshit and embellishment. By now, this basic fact has completely disappeared.

You've seen no one mention that fact in the wake of the Times report. The Times forgot to mention it too. This is precisely what it means to be James Comey the God.

No one is reminding you of that part of Comey's behavior, in part because no one discussed it in the first place. They were too busy telling you that The Others are racists and that Professor Wang was sure that Trump couldn't win.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Things were going well!

We're stupid and feeble and thoroughly hapless. On the brighter side, very good jobs at very good pay go to those who behave.

None of this will matter a whit. We've discussed this game since 1998. This con game will go on forever.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: An early clip from the text-in-itself!

THURSDAY, APRIL 27, 2017

Part 4—The need to explain what you mean:
The alleged philosopher Jim Holt was off on a hero "quest."

He set himself on the hero quest at the start of his ridiculous book, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. Inevitably, the book would be chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year.

Alas! The silliest newspaper in the land never doesn't do this!

What was this philosopher's quest? Inanely, he decided to jet around the upper-class world in search of three or four Einsteins. According to Holt, he would then "arrange them in the right order," settling a question with which he had struggled since he was maybe like ten.

Holt assumed that readers wouldn't notice the sheer absurdity of his plan. Correctly, he further seemed to assume that reviewers wouldn't note the nonsensical nature of his quest—further, that they wouldn't note the fact that he seemed to have embellished the televised conversation from which he'd drawn the inspiration for his quest.

Question:

Have we ever fact-checked a peculiar claim from a heralded book and found that it wasn't embellished? When we fact-checked the troubling incident at the start of Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent heartfelt letter to his son, we found that Coates was basically making it up. Long ago and far away, we'd had similar experiences fact-checking mammoth best-sellers by such redoubtable stars as Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter.

(Coulter had been praised in a New York Times review for the huge number of footnotes supporting her claims. Again and again and again and again, we found that the footnotes didn't check out.)

Coulter's footnotes were impressively numerous, but they didn't support the claims to which they'd been appended! When you draw back the curtain on modern elite journalistic culture, you find that basic thoughts like that don't occur to the pitiful souls who conduct their own quests at the New York Times, eventually leading to Donald J. Trump and his future war.

Whatever! In the case of the philosopher Holt, he decided to jet to the finest salons looking for three or four Einsteins. He described that quest on his book's page 11, as we explained in yesterday's award-winning effort.

Before reaching that point, Holt had already displayed the type of pseudo-philosophical flimflam which would suffuse his book. In the process, he convinced at least one young Princeton grad that his work was "over her head."

Briefly, then, let's turn to Holt's text-in-itself! In this way, we'll start to see what the New York Times takes to be deep thought.

We'll start at the top of page 8. Quickly, let's review:

As a teen, Holt abandoned the thought that God created the world. Why then do we have something rather than nothing? Decades later, Holt still wanted to know.

On page 7, he said how "unnerving" our world will be if we can't untangle that riddle. Atop page 8, he offered this:
HOLT (page 8): This dilemma has lurked in the suburbs of my mind ever since I first hit upon the mystery of being. And it has moved me to ponder just what "being" amounts to.
This dilemma had moved Holt "to ponder what 'being' amounts to." At moments like this, young journalists start thinking that work of this type is "over their heads."

Ideally, they shouldn't have that reaction. Ever so briefly, here's why:

Imagine that someone walks and offers you a question. This is what your interlocutor asks, using his hands to form scare quotes:

What does "being" amount to?

Imagine that someone poses that question. Almost surely, the obvious answer is this:

I don't get it. What do you mean?

The person who asks a question like that needs to explain what he means. It shouldn't be up to a young journalist to figure out what he meant.

In the end, the chances are good that a fellow like Holt won't be able to explain what he means. But it's very much up to him to explain. It isn't the job of a young Princeton grad to decipher his Delphic musings.

All through Holt's ridiculous book, Holt fails to explain what he means. He offers various Delphic thoughts and, because he's a "philosophical" made man, upper-end book reviewers give him extremely wide berth.

That doesn't mean he's saying things that make definable sense. Consider the first block of text, right there on page 8, where he takes us on a flight.

What does "being" amount to? After posing that riddle, Holt notes that philosophers since Descartes have tended to refer to two "ultimate constituents of reality"—basically, to matter and mind. ("Physical matter" and "consciousness," Holt also says on page 8.)

This is fairly basic stuff. Sadly, it leads to this:
HOLT (pages 8-9): If that's all there is to reality—matter-stuff and mind-stuff, with a web of causal relations between them—then the mystery of being looks hopeless indeed. But perhaps this dualistic ontology is too impoverished. I myself began to suspect as much when, following my teenage flirtation with existentialism, I became infatuated with pure mathematics. The sort of entities mathematicians spend their days pondering—not just numbers and circles, but n-dimensional manifolds and Galois systems and crystalline cohomologies—are nowhere found within the realm of space and time. They're clearly not material things. Nor do they seem to be mental. There is no way, for example, that the finite mind of a mathematician could contain an infinity of numbers. Then do mathematical entities really exist? Well, that depends on what you mean by "existence." Plato certainly thought they existed. In fact, he held that mathematical objects, being timeless and unchanging, were more real than the world of things we perceive with our senses. The same was true, he held, of abstract ideas like Goodness and Beauty. To Plato, such "Forms" constituted genuine reality. Everything else was mere appearance.

We might not want to go that far in revising our notion of reality. Goodness, Beauty, mathematical entities, logical laws: these are not quite something, the way mind-stuff and matter-stuff are. Yet they are not exactly nothing either. Might they somehow play a role in explaining why there is something rather than nothing?
Piddle-pure nonsense of this type pervades Holt's useless text. Unfortunately, it's the type of sophistry which makes journalists, young and old, imagine that Holt is working on a lofty plane.

Holt's text is full of formulations which badly need explaining. We'll offer some advice:

Try to ignore the way Holt mentions obscure "mathematical entities" like Galois systems. This is a form of name-dropping. Its basic function is to signal that you're out of your depth as you try to decipher this text.

Try not to be distracted! Let's note some of the claims in that passage which don't quite seem to make sense:

Numbers and circles "are nowhere found within the realm of space and time?"

In fact, numbers are found on every page in Holt's ridiculous book! Whatever it is he's trying to say, he hasn't explained it yet. There's no reason to think that he could explain if he decided to try.

"There is no way that the finite mind of a mathematician could contain an infinity of numbers?"

In what way does anyone's mind "contain" any numbers at all? How many numbers does the average mathematician's mind "contain?"

Does a mathematician's mind "contain" those numbers all the time, or only when she's working with the numbers in question? As a more general matter, do you have any idea what somebody means when he starts talking like this?

"Do mathematical entities really exist? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'existence.' "

It also depends on what you mean by "really," the pseudo-philosopher's favorite flimflam term. But since Holt is the one who's presenting this point, it's up to him to explain it.

(For the record, Holt has identified numbers as a type of "mathematical entity." As of this morning, we can report that such "entities" clearly exist on the front of every house on our block!)

"Do mathematical entities really exist? Plato certainly thought they existed."

Plato believed more crazy things than you could fit in a phone book. (More recently, Newton kept trying to turn lead into gold. He also believed in witchcraft.)

The various things Plato said form an important part of our impoverished intellectual history. But it's hard to know why you'd offer him as an expert witness, some 2500 years later.

The fog continues from there. Mathematical entities aren't quite something, the savant says. Yet they aren't exactly nothing either!

Might they somehow play a role in explaining why there's something rather than nothing? Holt is flirting with massive claptrap as he spreads this familiar old porridge around.

As he does, untutored journalists mistakenly think they're being exposed to "the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today," to conversations that go "over their heads." If you doubt that, just click here.

Those journalists are being exposed to nothing of the sort. Tomorrow, we'll show you more of Holt's world-class claptrap. Then, we'll show you his chapter 10, in which he ginormously buries his lede, while giving us an embarrassing look behind a cultural curtain.

Did Holt know he was doing that? As he conducted his search for his three or four Einsteins, there is no sign that he did.

Tomorrow: Two-thirds of mathematicians say...

Coming next week: Behind the curtain at the daily Times