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

THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2016

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!

THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2016

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

PATRICK L. SMITH
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!

THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2016

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!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016

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!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016

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!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016

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:

A CLEAR EXPLANATION THAT ANYONE CAN UNDERSTAND

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.

Devolution watch: Maddow's problem with the truth!

TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2016

The bullroar never stops:
Just for today, we can't face returning to Rachel Maddow's April 15 jihad against Candidate Kasich.

The jihad started with a false claim about a major bill signing—a bill signing which involved Governor Kasich and some "grown-ass white men."

Soon, the jihad moved to a string of allegedly horrible statements by Kasich, statements involving women. Yesterday, we showed you the first of these horrible statements. It was part of a trivial event from 2011—a five-year-old event which was mildly embarrassing, but also just massively pointless.

This is the way we rubes get played by the new and devolved Rachel Maddow. The dissembling is constant on her program. The bullshit never stops.

We'll return to Kasich tomorrow. For today, consider last Friday's masterful snark concerning Governor Snyder.

Last Monday, Snyder did something which was perhaps a bit odd; he accepted The Flint Drinking Water Challenge. Some residents had challenged him to drink their still-problematic water. In response, he went to the home of two Flint residents, drank some water from the tap, filled gallon jugs with their water, and said that he would drink their water for the next month.

Is it safe for Snyder to do that? Is it safe for him to encourage Flint residents to return to drinking their city's water as long as their faucets are equipped with filters?

We'd like to see an expert address those very basic questions. Maddow prefers to play the roles of propagandist, dissembler and fool.

Last Friday night, the devolving cable star mocked Snyder in the way shown below. Even as she was mocking Snyder, she may have been playing us rubes.

You can take your choice about this snark. Maddow didn't know what she was talking about, or she was just lying again:
MADDOW (4/22/16): Hey, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is going to Europe, for a week.

Aaaah. Of course he is!

When we last saw him, Governor Rick Snyder was at this nice house in Flint, Michigan, taking away gallon jugs of water from the kitchen faucet of this family to show how safe he thought it was to drink water from the tap in Flint, Michigan, as long as you pour it through a filter.

The governor said he would be drinking Flint water not just that one day in that nice lady's kitchen in Flint. He said he would be taking Flint water away and drinking it for thirty days.

But now, as the governor jets off to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands, his spokesperson is now clarifying that when Governor Rick Snyder said he'd be drinking Flint water for thirty days, umm, he didn't mean thirty days in a row.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

So this European jaunt will not feature state-paid water carriers bringing those jugs of Flint water with him everywhere he goes. He apparently will resume his publicity stunt about Flint water when he comes back.
As usual, Maddow was being hilarious with her masterful snark. Rolling her eyes at the governor's flip, she offered this masterful quip:

"When Governor Rick Snyder said he'd be drinking Flint water for thirty days, umm, he didn't mean thirty days in a row."

Snyder's spokesman was now "clarifying" this point, the less than obsessively honest star wittily maddowsplained.

Hilarious! She also damned Snyder's plan to drink the water as a "publicity stunt." More on that below.

As usual, Maddow was being hilarious, and also wonderfully snarky. That said, here's the problem:

On Monday, when Snyder launched his "publicity stunt," it was clearly stated that he wouldn't be drinking Flint water when he traveled. Here's the way the stunt was reported in Tuesday's Detroit Free Press, headline included:
EGAN (4/19/16): Snyder: At work, at home, I'll drink Flint water

Gov. Rick Snyder said he visited a Flint home on Monday and drank filtered water out of the family's kitchen tap, adding that he plans to continue drinking filtered Flint tap water for the next 30 days to show it is safe.

Snyder told reporters in Flint that he filled three gallon jugs with the water. "I'm going to start drinking that tonight and do it for the next 30 days," Snyder said during a visit to a water distribution station at Greater Holy Temple Church in Flint.

Asked if his family also would be drinking the water, Snyder said his wife "Sue is on board with this." His three children no longer live at home.

Snyder's actions Monday followed developments Friday, when the governor encouraged Flint residents to start using more filtered tap water instead of bottled water and was told by a state official that Flint residents wanted him to start drinking the tap water first.

"I completely understand why some Flint residents are hesitant to drink the water and I am hopeful I can alleviate some of the skepticism and mistrust by putting words to action," Snyder said. "Flint residents made it clear that they would like to see me personally drink the water, so today I am fulfilling that request. And I will continue drinking Flint water at work and at home for at least 30 days."

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said two media outlets were invited to the home to watch Snyder drink the water. Snyder's office later releasing photos of him drinking the tap water.

The governor said he won't always be able to drink the Flint tap water when he is traveling, but he plans to drink it when he is at his downtown Ann Arbor home and when he is at work in his office in the Romney Building in Lansing.
Oops. The part about not drinking Flint water when he was traveling had been explained on Day One. Snyder said he would drink Flint water "at work and at home," but not "when he is traveling."

Maddow and her gonzo staff managed to blow right past that. (The staffers specialize in laughing off camera at Maddow's masterful jokes.) Maddow also failed to mention a statement by Snyder's spokesman, in which it was explained that TSA rules would make it impossible to take Flint water abroad.

Snyder also said that he would extend his Flint Challenge a week to make up for the business trip. Maddow didn't mention that either. In the tribalized world of a life form like Maddow, it's better for us not to know.

Did Maddow know she was giving a false impression when she so masterfully snarked? We have no idea. Let's just say it has been a long time since she and her devolving program tried to get basic facts right.

Let's turn to a question that actually matters. Should Snyder be encouraging Flint residents to return to drinking tap water, as long as they're using a filter? That would be a very good question to pose to an actual expert. Maddow's too lazy and too uncaring to waste her time doing that.

She also disappeared one of the apparent reasons for Snyder's decision to take the waters. When Flint residents don't use their water at all, this slows the ability of the city's restored corrosion control program to recoat the city's lead pipes, restoring them to safe status.

"Many residents have resisted using any tap water, filtered or not, and experts warn that a drop in water use may slow Flint’s recovery," the New York Times reported on April 19. Elsewhere, it has been speculated that this is one of the reasons for Snyder's decision to take the waters in his "publicity stunt."

It would be interesting to hear what an expert would say about these matters. Is it safe for residents to to drink Flint water now if they're using a filter? Is it wise for Snyder to encourage them to do so? To what extent is the restoration of safety delayed when people don't use their water at all? Is Snyder's "publicity stunt" a good idea?

We'd like to hear an expert answer those questions. Maddow is too lazy, uncaring and propagandistic to waste her time with that.

We're not sure we've ever seen a program devolve in the way Maddow's program has. We continue to wonder if something is "wrong" with this program's multimillionaire big gigantic huge star.

Whatever the answer, her program has devolved to the point where it's bullshit pretty much all the way down. Tomorrow, we'll return to the Kasich jihad, to the allegedly horrible things the grown-ass fellow said.

Silence of the journalists watch: We finally watched Gone Girl!

TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2016

The deference of the lambs:
Over the weekend, we noticed that the 2014 film, Gone Girl, was available as part of On Demand's ballyhooed annual Watchathon.

We decided to watch it. We were surprised by what we saw.

First, we were surprised by the way the film derived its juice from the Insanely Jealous Crazy Woman stereotype—the same portrait exploited by Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle before it.

Did insanely jealous, crazy Glenn Close boil a bunny to help sell a film? In Gone Girl, insanely jealous, crazy Rosamund Pike goes her several times better.

We were surprised by the extent to which this absurdly improbable film works from that ugly old libel. We were even more surprised when we went back and reread the reviews.

We seemed to recall a somewhat puzzling real-time discussion about the gender politics of Gone Girl. When we started rereading the reviews after watching the film this weekend, we were surprised to see that the reviewers hadn't seemed to notice the fact that the Pike character was built on that ugly old, bunny-boiling portrait.

Eventually, we turned to David Edelstein, writing for Vulture. We've loved Edelstein ever since his review of In America back in 2003. That said, even Edelstein started off suggesting that the characters played by Ben Affleck and Pike in Gone Girl are pretty much two of a kind:

"Fincher and his cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth, shoot their characters from just below eye level. The angles [are] just slanted enough to catch the ceilings, to suggest how hemmed in these people are by circumstance and stupid choices and a house...that’s like purgatory in beige."

Here's the problem with that formulation. While one of these characters may perhaps be "hemmed in by circumstance and stupid choices and a house that’s like purgatory in beige," the other character is a crazy psychopath who 1) successfully frames her husband for murder, actually getting him arrested; 2) plans to kill herself after her husband is executed, just to drive home her point about the way he has misused her; and 3) viciously murders a former boyfriend to create a cover story after her initial scheme starts breaking down.

The husband in Gone Girl is unattractive. The wife is completely insane, in the familiar old way. We were amazed by the way the reviewers kept erasing the latter fact. Eventually, the highlighted statement by Edelstein seemed to confirm a suspicion:
EDELSTEIN (10/1/14): I never thought I’d write these words, but [Affleck] carries the movie. He’s terrific. Fincher exploits—and helps him ­transcend—his most common failing, a certain handsome-lug lack of commitment... Affleck’s Nick doesn’t mourn convincingly or look remotely ­honest—even when he tells the truth. In one scene, his hotshot lawyer (a genial Tyler Perry) rehearses him for a TV appearance and pelts Nick with candy when he sounds like he’s lying. He gets pelted a lot. It’s an almost impossible task to get Affleck’s Nick to sound like he’s speaking from the heart, and you can see the frustration in Affleck’s eyes at his own inability to get fully into the role. He’s trying to connect his face with his head and falling short.

About Pike I must—at the behest of the movie’s publicists—say less, although her acting is also a study in acting. In those few moments when the mask slips, she’s tight, frightened, childishly vulnerable, desperately grasping for a sense of control that the universe has denied her. I loved looking at her.
Edelstein tells us quite a bit about "Affleck's Nick." About Pike and her character, he says he "must say less." He says he must say less "at the behest of the movie's publicists!"

What an astounding admission! This journalist said less than he was inclined to say "at the behest of the publicists" from the industry he covers!

Did everyone else downplay the crazy bunny-boiling portrait at the heart of Gone Girl "at the behest of the publicists?" Over the years, we've noted that reviewers often seem to defer to major directors in various standardized ways. Was this an especially egregious example?

We call it egregious because this film's reworking of the Insanely Jealous Crazy Woman stereotype was ugly, and cried out for comment. As Edelstein ended his review, it almost seemed that he wanted to complain but couldn't quite make himself do it. This was his closing paragraph:
EDELSTEIN: I can’t leave Gone Girl without going back to its depiction of women, though here I risk the dreaded “spoiler.” (Stop reading if you wish.) The timing for a film that ­features instances of trumped-up sexual assaults could hardly be worse, and while it’s nowhere near as extreme as Fatal Attraction—which discredited feminist shibboleths by putting them in the mouth of a psychopath—the movie, like the novel, plays to the stereotype of weak men entrapped by pretend-­helpless women. The Spider Woman is, of course, a noir archetype, and I’m not prepared to renounce my affection for ­Double Indemnity and its ilk. But I can’t say those movies don’t have real-world ­consequences, and coming in the middle of mounting outrage over the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, I’d hate to see the likes of Rush Limbaugh buoyed by the film’s bloodcurdling specimen of a predatory slut. For the rest of us, it’s preferable to view Gone Girl as a profoundly cynical portrait of all sides of all relationships: First you’re blind to the truth of other people, then you see and wish you could go back to being blind. See it with your sweetie!
We're finally told, though only in passing, that the film in question offers a "bloodcurdling specimen of a predatory sl*t." (We don't recommend the term.)

Meanwhile, are you shitting us? Edelstein thought the movie he was reviewing didn't put "feminist shibboleths in the mouth of a psychopath?" The Glenn Close character was a psychopath, but this character wasn't?

Gone Girl is a ludicrous film. It ends with the Insanely Jealous Crazy Woman making a falsifiable claim; she claims that the ex-boyfriend she viciously killed abducted her from her home. As viewers, we know this claim is false; we also know that half of American law enforcement is present as she makes this claim, and some of them already know or suspect that she's totally crazy.

But so what? No one tries to confirm or falsify this claim. The police simply give up and go home, and her husband meekly resumes living with someone he knows to be a killer. This is the kind of stupid shit we're asked to swallow all through this ridiculous movie.

That said, the recurrent stupidity of this film isn't its defining characteristic. That would be its use of an ugly old libel straight outta Fatal Attraction. Meek reviewers across the board agreed not to notice that problem. Edelstein seems to have told us why—the publicists told them to chill.

(He then blames his silence on Rush Limbaugh, who he wouldn't want to enable. "It’s preferable to view Gone Girl as a profoundly cynical portrait of all sides of all relationships," he says, describing the very approach that makes the reviews seem so strange.)

The publicists told Edelstein to hush his mouth! Increasingly, this is the way our discourse works in a wide array of areas. Increasingly, it's corporate scripting all the way down, corporate scripting helped along by the deference of the lambs.

EINSTEIN'S OWN WORDS: Fortune-tellers arrested in Gotham!

TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2016

Part 1—We think of that Nova broadcast:
In this morning's New York Times, Michael Wilson pens an intriguing report about the arrest of two "self-proclaimed fortunetellers."

On Sunday, the second self-proclaimed fortuneteller was led away from a Times Square shop in handcuffs. Apparently, it's now against the law in New York to engage in conduct like this:
WILSON (4/26/16): Ms. Delmaro, 27, was arrested in May and charged with taking money, sometimes in increments as high as $100,000, from a marketing executive from England temporarily working in New York. The man, Niall Rice, 33, had met a woman in a drug rehabilitation facility in Arizona months earlier and had fallen in love, but she broke it off. Distraught, he first visited a different psychic in Manhattan, then Ms. Delmaro.

When Mr. Rice came to learn that the object of his affections had died of an overdose, Ms. Delmaro continued to promise a reunion with the woman, who she said had been reincarnated into a new body—with the help of special crystals, a time machine and an 80-mile bridge made of gold.

Mr. Rice eventually went to the police and pressed charges. He told detectives he paid $713,975 to the two psychics. He said in an interview in November that he was depressed and desperate at the time, and that he thought he would get his money back in the end.
Apparently, New York City police have come to believe that Delmaro and her mother-in-law were deliberately scamming their clients—that they can't deliver the types of results they have repeatedly promised.

Wilson's report is intriguing. At this point, though, we'll make an admission:

When we read Wilson's report this morning, we thought of the many people, down through the year, who have claimed to make Einstein easy.

We thought of Nova's hour-long broadcast, Inside Einstein's Mind, in which the PBS program seemed to offer an explanation of special relativity.

(The program aired last November. To watch the whole program, click here.)

We even thought of Walter Isaacson's 2007 best-seller, Einstein: His Life and Universe, in which the former Rhodes scholar seemed to explain the same part of Einstein's work, with the ballyhooed assistance of eighteen physics professors.

Let's offer a quick review:

Albert Einstein propounded the special theory of relativity in the year 1905, when he was just 26. In 1916, he published a book intended for general readers, in which he attempted to explain the special and general theories.

To peruse that book, click here.

Over the course of the past hundred years, professors, journalists and publishers have offered Einstein-made-easy work. In these presentations, they've attempted to explain, or they have pretended to attempt to explain, Einstein's revolutionary work.

We'll admit it! When we read today about those fortunetellers in chains, our thoughts drifted off, if only briefly, to this century of high-minded work.

Did these people really believe that they could make Einstein easy? Let's review what Nova said in its broadcast last fall.

The broadcast was written and directed by Jamie Lochhead. The program seems to constitute his first writer credit for Nova.

His previous effort as a director was for the three-part BBC series, The Wonder of Dogs, which appeared in 2013. Another director credit that year: Easter Eggs Live, a British series in which "Mark Evans explores the weird, wonderful world of eggs."

Did Lochhead believe that he'd made Einstein easy? To be honest, we don't really doubt that he did. At any rate, here's what his Nova program said about special relativity:

About ten minutes into that program, Nova's narrator pictured a man standing on a railroad platform and a woman moving past on an extremely fast train.

(For the relevant transcript, click here.)

As the woman's train is passing the man, lightning strikes occur on either side of the man, up and down the line. We're told that the man is standing exactly halfway between the two strikes. When the lightning strikes occur, the woman on the fast-moving train is directly adjacent to him.

Because he's halfway between the two strikes, the light from the two lightning strikes reach the man simultaneously—at the exact same time. But because the woman has sped ahead, toward one strike and away from the other, the light from one strike will reach her sooner than the light from the other strike.

"For the woman on the train, time elapses between the two strikes," the Nova narrator says. (He's already deep in an array of conceptual weeds.) "For the man on the platform, there is no time between the strikes."

"The simple thought has mind-blowing significance," the Nova narrator says as he continues. He draws these mind-blowing conclusions from that simple example:

"There's no such thing as simultaneity."

"Simultaneity, and the flow of time itself, depends on how you're moving."

"The flow of time is different for an observer that is moving versus one that is standing still."

Let's make another confession. When we read about those fortunetellers, we briefly recalled those statements. That said, similar statements have been sold to us rubes over the past hundred years!

In recent weeks, we've explored the way the logic of this presentation breaks down. We imagined a second man, Man B, standing way down at the end of the railway platform, in the direction the train was going.

Man B is standing stock still, like the first man on the platform. But for him, "time elapses between the two strikes," as it does for the woman on the fast-moving train.

We also imagined a Woman B, riding in the caboose of the train. She is moving at very high speed, just like the original woman who is riding in a middle car on the train.

Woman B is moving at very high speed. But she draws adjacent to the original man on the platform just as the light from the two strikes arrives. For her, as for the original man, "there is no time between the strikes." (To simplify our presentation, we're agreeing to use Nova's shaky formulations.)

As we've noted in previous weeks, we don't understand the point Nova was trying to make in that part of its broadcast. Do you know who else didn't understand?

Everyone else who watched the program! Everyone else—and you!

When we watched that Nova program, it struck us as one of the most obvious non-explanation explanations we had ever seen. Sadly though, this sort of thing has been quite routine in the past hundred years as professors and journalists have pretended to make Einstein easy.

We can't explain that presentation by Nova—and dear reader, neither can you! In fairness, though, we note a key point:

In that part of its broadcast, Nova was working directly from Chapters 8 and 9 of Einstein's 1916 book!

That book was written for general readers. Its chapters were very brief.

Early on, in Chapters 8 and 9, Einstein presented the famous scenario with the railway platform, the fast-moving train and the lightning strikes. For the past hundred years, programs like Nova have rushed along like that fast-moving train, pretending they knew how to make sense of the words Einstein wrote.

Was Einstein able to make Einstein easy? In the next two days, we'll look at Chapters 8 and 9 of that historic book, his book for general readers.

The chapters in question are very brief. One hundred years later, we don't understand what those chapters say, and neither, dear reader, do you!

Tomorrow: Chapter 8, "On the Idea of Time in Physics"