Donald Trump's latest protestations about having to fight the "crooked media" remind me of a famous passage from §5.62 of the Tractatus:
Was der Solips
Donald Trump's latest protestations about having to fight the "crooked media" remind me of a famous passage from §5.62 of the Tractatus:
Was der Solipsismus nämlich m e i n t, ist ganz richtig, nur lässt es sich nicht s a g e n, sondern es zeigt sich. Dass die Welt m e i n e Welt ist, das zeigt sich darin, dass die Grenzen d e r Sprache (der Sprache, die allein ich verstehe) die Grenzen m e i n e r Welt bedeuten.
In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself. That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand) mean the limits of my world.
Donald, I believe I understand what you wish to say. Everyone else is crooked; everyone else is a loser; only you are exempt. But somehow you are unable to express these self-evident truths except in your internal language. Frustrating, isn't it? ...more
The central message of this book, I understand from the other reviews, is that Mr. Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump is a crooked liar. I have mailed the pubThe central message of this book, I understand from the other reviews, is that Mr. Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump is a crooked liar. I have mailed the publisher to ask whether they can send me a review copy. Synthetic a priori statements have long been one of my passions. ...more
Yesterday afternoon, we watched The Fencer, Klaus Härö's moving reconstruction of what it was like to live in a corner of the Soviet Union under the lYesterday afternoon, we watched The Fencer, Klaus Härö's moving reconstruction of what it was like to live in a corner of the Soviet Union under the last years of Stalin's reign. The film does an amazing job of showing you both the terror of knowing you can be picked up at any moment by the secret police and taken to the Gulag, and the unparalleled seriousness and dedication that made the Soviet Union a world leader in science, art and sport. Endel, the hero, is stuck in a third-rate school in rural Estonia with no resources or budget, but he doesn't see why that should stop him from training his young protegés to become master fencers. They want to learn. He owes it to them to give them the best education he can manage. What else would he do?
Today, I finished the last few pages of Mikhail Chetverik's 500 page monograph on Alekhine's Defense and experienced an odd resonance with Härö's movie. The book, I learned on the last page, is based on a book written by Vladimir Bagirov, the Latvian grandmaster who was the greatest exponent ever of this offbeat opening. Bagirov submitted his manuscript to Fizkultura i sport in 1982, but it was never published - why, I don't know. Chetverik, also an Alekhine's devotee, appears to have spent years of his life on the project of reviving and updating Bagirov's magnum opus. He diffidently says that if the book has merit, it is because he has stood on the shoulders of giants. He doesn't want to take credit. He just owed it to the world to make sure Bagirov's work wasn't lost to posterity. What else would he do?
If you like books about chess openings, this is a very good one. Every line is thoroughly presented both from the White and from the Black side; the coverage is equally suitable for people who want to play the Alekhine's themselves and for people who want to be prepared to play against it. But unlike many authors of modern opening books, Chetverik (drawing heavily, I think, from Bagirov), is not content just to list variations. There is a great deal of explanation of strategic principles, tactical tricks, and traps to watch out for; the fundamental ideas emerge clearly from the mass of detail. Chetverik includes many of his own games. Like his hero, he has been playing the Alekhine's all his life.
As Chetverik says, it is indeed a shame that more people don't use this interesting opening. (Note, by the way, that even if it's currently unpopular it's been adopted by players at the level of Fischer, Larsen, Korchnoi and Carlsen). You can play it in many ways: go into hair-raising complications, or angle for quiet lines where you accept a minimal disadvantage and wait for a chance to break out. I'm seriously thinking about trying it out myself. And reading the book has even improved my Russian. What more can you ask for? ...more
**spoiler alert** My German has improved, and I felt compelled to reread this beautiful and poetic novel. First time round, I had to guess too many wo**spoiler alert** My German has improved, and I felt compelled to reread this beautiful and poetic novel. First time round, I had to guess too many words; now I appreciated it properly.
The simple and powerful story is divided into three books, one for each year of the action. The first book starts in midwinter. Krabat, a fourteen year old boy at the time of the Swedish war, is making a precarious living as a beggar when he has a series of strange dreams. They direct him to the mill at Koselbruch, where he finds he is expected as the new apprentice. He soon discovers that it is no ordinary mill. The grim Master is in reality a black magician. The mill's only client is der Gevatter, a terrifying figure who arrives once a month, on the night of the new moon, with a new load to grind. His cart leaves no marks on the ground.
At first, Krabat is not unduly worried by his ominous surroundings. The food is good, and he is also being instructed in the Black Arts; he enjoys both the feeling of acquiring knowledge and the power it grants him. But as the end of the first year approaches, Tonda, the senior apprentice whom has become Krabat's best friend, becomes increasingly despondent. He will not say what he fears, but tells Krabat he will know soon enough. On New Year's Eve, the apprentices are woken by a terrible cry in the middle of the night. The next morning, they find Tonda dead. Only Krabat is surprised; the others are relieved. In the second year, the cycle is repeated. This time, Michal, the new senior apprentice, is the one found dead on New Year's Eve.
As the third year starts, it appears that the fugue-like pattern will unfold once more. Now Krabat has become older. He looks after the new apprentices who have been recruited to fill the vacancies left by the dead. Over and over again, he finds he is repeating Tonda's and Michal's lines, while the young boys ask the naive questions he once asked. But as the book progresses, the theme of inevitable repetition is countered by another one, which gradually becomes stronger. Krabat has fallen in love with a girl, a beautiful young singer from the nearby village. He can hardly ever meet her, but he has acquired the power of projecting his thoughts into the minds of others. He dreams, and she dreams with him. On the last day of the third year, when Krabat's time is up, the singer comes to the mill and fearlessly demands that he be released. She and Krabat face the Miller together, and their love defeats him.
Having read a little about him, I think this fable, under a fanciful surface, tells the story of the author. He was inducted into the Third Reich's war machine as a young man and sent to the Eastern Front. He fought the Russians, was captured, and spent five years in the hell of the Soviet PoW camps. He was finally released and made his way home, to find that his sweetheart had miraculously waited for him. They were married that year.
I found myself rising through a misty tunnel towards a white light, at first slowly, then with increasing speed. As I asceA Near Near Death Experience
I found myself rising through a misty tunnel towards a white light, at first slowly, then with increasing speed. As I ascended, I felt the bonds that connected me to the everyday world grow weaker and weaker. I looked down, and I could see my body beneath me, but now it seemed unimportant, as though it belonged to someone I didn't even know. All around, I heard an unearthly music. This continued for a time I could not measure, until I unexpectedly emerged into what looked like a larger edition of the Geneva Cantonal Tax Office. I was at the end of a long line, which snaked towards a desk at the far end of the room.
"Where am I?" I whispered to the person in front of me. He seemed familiar. I realised it was my old Goodreads friend BirdBrian.
"We're dead, aren't we?" I asked. BirdBrian shrugged.
"Well, in that case," I said, feeling for some reason that etiquette required it, "I'm sorry for all those those things I said about Donald Trump. Maybe you were right after all."
"Maybe not," said BirdBrian with a hint of embarrassment. "He does in fact appear to have started World War III."
Looking at the other people in the line, I now noticed that many of them had a distinctly charred and radioactive appearance. I cast about for some way to change the subject, but found to my relief that we had already reached the registration desk. Several fat and self-important angels with clipboards were taking notes.
"Next!" called the one closest to me. "Now, who are you?" I gave my name. "And what did you do on Earth?" the angelic bureaucrat continued.
"I like to think I was a writer," I mumbled. The angel smirked at one of his colleagues; another hid his eyes behind his wing. I stared.
"Did you see that?" I whispered to BirdBrian. "He hid his eyes behind his wing! This is Writer's Heaven!"
BirdBrian shrugged again. "I never much liked The Waste Land," he said. But I didn't care.
"Please!" I said, turning back to the angels. "If this is Writer's Heaven, tell me more about it!" The first one, who seemed to be the leader, cleared his throat.
"Actually," he began in an unexpectedly apologetic tone, "I should say now that you may find it a little disappointing."
"Disappointing?" I asked, confused. The angel switched on a projector and opened a PowerPoint presentation; pulling out a laser pointer, he began a lecture he had clearly given many times before.
"You must understand," he said, "that we started off wanting to do this right. We had big plans. We brought in Jorges Luis Borges - nothing but the best, you understand! - and we asked him to construct the Library of Babel. We didn't just want you writers to have every book ever written. We wanted you to have every book that ever could be written."
"Sounds terrific," I agreed. The angel gave me a withering glance.
"The problem," he said, "the problem, as we would have realized if only we'd read Señor Borges' story more carefully, is that virtually all the books that could be written are complete gibberish. Even if you had the whole of eternity to read them - as, you will no doubt have gathered, you do - you would not have the patience to search until you found a paragraph, nay, even a sentence, that you found the least bit interesting."
"Well, uh, I suppose--" I began. The angel cut me off. "Unfortunately", he said, "we had already invested so much of our budget in the Library scheme that there was hardly anything left when we were forced to change plans. We had to radically downsize. It was tough, but we decided in the end that we would just commission a decaying tower block full of neurotic hacks who would churn out substandard genre fiction without pause, for ever."
"Um--" I said. The angel, now speaking very quickly and flipping through the slides at a prodigious rate, wrapped up.
"As I said," he gabbled, "as I said, we started with the best of intentions, but it was impossible to ignore the budgetary constraints. We have rules. So, to cut a long story short, in the end we decided to outsource the whole thing to a Glaswegian tosser called M.J. Nicholls. He said he could deliver on schedule for 10% less than the next closest bidder. He wouldn't actually build the decaying tower block or hire any of the writers, he'd just write a novel about them, but it would be as good as. As good as. And that's what you're going to get to read. Until the End of Time. His book. It's quite a decent piece of work you know."
"I hate to ask," I said hesitantly after a long pause, "but -- but is this really Heaven?"
Then I woke up.
Some Books That House of Writers Resembles
A Postmodern Belch, but less eructative; Infinite Jest, but without the footnotes and the tennis; Ulysses, but without the Irishness and the stream-of-consciousness; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but without the androids; A rebours, but less fin-de-siècle; the collected works of J.G. Ballard, but not collected and not by J.G. Ballard; Gargantua et Pantagruel, but with more lists; A Clockwork Orange, but more violent; Trainspotting, but less tasteful; La disparition, but with more occurrences of the letter 'e'; Twilight, but not YA, not about vampires, not based on Jane Austen and not at all.
A Class Action Suit
LORD JUSTICE COCKLECARROT: Mr M.J. Nicholls and Sagging Meniscus Press, I put it to you that on the 15th of August 2016 you did with malice aforethought and in full cognizance of your actions publish a book entitled The House of Writers which did willfully insult, libel, demean, belittle and calumniate the reputations of Nick Hornby, Jonathan Franzen, Alison Bechdel, E.L. Doctorow, David David Katzman, Zadie Smith, Muriel Barbery, Nick Hornby, Jessica Treat, David Eggars, Marjane Satrapi, Anthony Vacca, Amélie Nothomb, Ian Rankin, Vernon D. Burns, Nick Hornby, Jodie Picoult, William H. Gass, Jonathan Safran Foer, Ben Marcus, Nicole Krauss, Miranda July, Manny Rayner, Michel Houellebecq, J.K. Rowling and Nick Hornby. How do you plead?
COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENCE: Objection! The list just presented mentions Nick Hornby four times, whereas the book in question in fact insults him five times. Hence on the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, not to mention ex specialis derogat legi generali, I submit that the charges laid against my client be deemed null and void.
COCKLECARROT: Objection sustained.
MJ NICHOLLS: Can I countersue?
COCKLECARROT: Quit while you're ahead kid. Case dismissed. ...more
Without having any pretentions to count myself as a philosopher, I like philosophy books and have read a fair number of them. I have gradually come arWithout having any pretentions to count myself as a philosopher, I like philosophy books and have read a fair number of them. I have gradually come around to the point of view that it's wrong to judge a philosophy book, or a philosopher, by deciding whether you agree with them. At least since Socrates, philosophers have primarily been in the business of asking questions rather than providing answers. So what I should really be interested in, it seems to me, is whether the philosopher is asking good questions and forcing me to think in a new way. From this point of view, I would say Simon Evnine's new book is quite successful. He's forced me to think about several interesting questions I'd never considered before, and I have not only been thinking about them all week but also discussing them with people around me. I don't really agree with Simon's answers; as noted, though, that isn't the point.
There are many ways to try and summarize the book's central question, some of them very technical. I think a reasonable approximation, in everyday language, is that it's asking us to consider what a "thing" is. At first blush, this seems absurd, but in fact it's less odd than it seems. The initial example is a bronze statue. You have a quantity of bronze which you cast in a mould to create the statue. The statue is made of the bronze, but you have a clear intuition that it isn't just the bronze, and has an identity of its own. The statue might lose some parts, they might later be replaced, it may change color as the bronze oxidizes over time, but most people would agree that it's definitely the same statue. Why? What is this "statue", that's distinct from its component matter?
It turns out that the question has been discussed a great deal, and many different solutions have been proposed; it's not at all easy to provide a satisfactory answer which agrees with people's intuitive expectations. A whole range of ingenious examples have been constructed to show that things aren't just the matter they're made of. The oldest and most famous one is the Ship of Theseus, which is replaced plank by plank until not one of the original planks is left; but nearly everyone feels that it's still the same ship, a feeling that is strongly reinforced by the more recent discovery that our bodies do exactly the same thing.
Simon's answer, which is explained and justified at great length, is that things essentially depend on minds; in a nice phrase, they are "the impress of mind on matter". The bronze statue acquires its identity from the sculptor's intentions. The sculptor could have used a different mass of bronze, and it would still have been the same statue. (There is another recurrent example where the sculptor instead uses clay as the material, scooping it out of a revolving drum). As an account of what artifacts are, I found this very convincing. Later in the book, Simon extends the analysis to consider actions, and here too it seemed quite reasonable to consider them as projections of mind on the material world.
What I didn't agree with was that this adequately explains what other things are. There is an interesting chapter which considers living beings and tries to use the same approach. Evidently, living beings aren't created by minds. But, as we have now discovered, they are created by the information encoded in their DNA, which has evolved over a long period to perform goal-directed functions; so it has a lot in common with a mind, since there is still the essential component of immaterial information impressing itself on the world. But it still seemed to me that this was only an approximate fit, since evolution is random and contingent, and there is also the question (not discussed, though to me it seems relevant) of how the first living things arose from inorganic matter. And in the following chapter, which dealt with everything else - things which are neither artifacts nor living beings - I definitely parted company with the author. Simon argues that there are no real objects of this kind; in the chapter's main example, there are no "mountains", just "matter arranged mountain-wise". I'm afraid this seems to me an absurd conclusion: something has gone wrong.
Well, what are these other things I am so sure must exist? Two example which to me seem convincing are "stars" and "crystals". A mountain is a more or less arbitrary part of a mountain range, but a star is not like that at all. It is a self-contained entity with a clear identity, which persists over a long period of time despite the fact that its component matter changes. Dust and gas will fall into the star, light and solar wind will leave it, nuclear reactions will change its composition, but it is still the same star. It is held together by powerful forces, primarily gravity and radiation pressure, which give it stability as an individual. But its identity doesn't come from any obvious mind-like source. Similarly, it seems to me that a crystal has a clear identity. It has a shape and internal structure which make it distinct from the matter around it, and it can grow and change over time, but none of this comes from anything like a mind. It is in fact quite difficult to say what the essential difference is between a crystal and a living being. Monod, in Le hasard et la nécessité, offers an intriguing suggestion: they're similar, except that the living creature is a great deal more complicated.
Damn, I'm hooked; I've somehow been conned into feeling that I need to help sort out this annoying problem, which obviously ought to be trivial but somehow isn't. As I know from previous experience, the hallmark of a successful piece of philosophy. And that's where I came in.
(I also have a frivolous review of the book here) ...more
I arrive for the yearly conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Berlin. The very first talk, by the author of this interesting-I arrive for the yearly conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Berlin. The very first talk, by the author of this interesting-looking book, starts with a quotation from Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump. A little later, she uses the picture I put in this review.
Aaargh! It's like the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, you can't get away from him! ...more
There's an interesting article in yesterday's New York Times which explains why all presidential candidates since the 70s have released their tax retuThere's an interesting article in yesterday's New York Times which explains why all presidential candidates since the 70s have released their tax returns. The reason, it turns out, is that Nixon made a determined attempt to cheat on his taxes. This nearly succeeded, until the story leaked that he'd only paid taxes of a few hundred dollars on an income of several hundred thousand dollars. Nixon stonewalled all the way, coming out en route with his most famous quote, "I am not a crook"; but in the end, and after the lengthy investigation detailed in this book, he was forced to pay up.
I am surprised that Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump's supporters consider him more trustworthy than Tricky Dicky Nixon. Or maybe, like me, they just don't remember their history?
I am surprised to find only 76 hits for the useful phrase "Lyin' crooked Donald" - I wonder how long it'll take before it hits three figures? Though n
I am surprised to find only 76 hits for the useful phrase "Lyin' crooked Donald" - I wonder how long it'll take before it hits three figures? Though note that "Lying crooked Donald" (with a G) is already at 1,240.
I'm going to track these numbers and see how they develop over the next three months. And for goodness sakes, please don't mess up my scientific experiment by posting your own examples and skewing the data! If you do, I'll never manage to get the results published... _________________________
A day later, we're up to 82 hits for "Lyin' crooked Donald"! Is it genuine improvement or just a random fluctuation? Only time will tell.
In other news, Hillary comes close to calling Trump "my husband" at a press conference. Shhh! Hillary! You'll give the game away if you're not careful! _________________________
There's no doubt that it's moving - now up to 94! But is the growth rate linear or exponential? Well, I'm sure we'll find out... _________________________
Hey! A mere two days later, and we've hit three figures! But it still seems way too early to be talking about exponential growth. More data needed. _________________________
Three more days, and I now see 125 hits for "Lyin' crooked Donald"! I'm sure it's far more Chrisdeena's doing than mine. I'm helping as much as I can, but I don't have her special talents.
We need 152 to double the original measurement, made on Aug 4. _________________________
Another five days, and it's up to 142. So far, I'm disappointed to say that growth looks like plain old linear, but let's see what happens next... _________________________
Up to 161 - it's doubled in 21 days. So now we need to see what it looks like in another 21 days, Sep 15. Linear growth predicts about 245; exponential, about 340.
Any guesses about what will happen? I'm conservatively putting my money on linear... _________________________
Now 214, and we're not even in September yet. Maybe growth is better than linear.
I would to take this opportunity to welcome Priscilla on Twitter to the Lyin' Crooked Donald Club. It's not too late to join! _________________________
Nope, I was definitely being too pessimistic. Linear growth predicted 245 by Sep 15... but it's only Sep 2, and we're already up to 268. So far at least, exponential is not ruled out.
I will post a couple of graphs soon. _________________________
I don't want to sound like I'm boasting, but five of the top ten hits are to my GR reviews. _________________________
OMG! The target for exponential growth was 340 by Sep 15... and we're already there on Sep 10!
Now, the question is whether it will stay exponential. That requires 680, another doubling, by Oct 6. _________________________
Five days later, we're at 407. I'm starting to feel optimistic about that second doubling by Oct 6... ...more
"His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there," Noddy said angrily. "She had nothing to say. She probably ... maybe she wasn't allowed to"His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there," Noddy said angrily. "She had nothing to say. She probably ... maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. Plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say."
"Noddy misspoke!" interrupted Big Ears. "He has the deepest respect for the golliwog members of Toytown's armed forces, and in particular for the sacrifice made by the late Mr. Humayun Golliwog." But the damage was done. ...more
Du måste ha en plan! chess legend Bent Larsen used to say. You must have a plan! Weak players invariably retort: but suppose it's a bad plan? It doesnDu måste ha en plan! chess legend Bent Larsen used to say. You must have a plan! Weak players invariably retort: but suppose it's a bad plan? It doesn't matter! says Larsen. Even a bad plan is better than no plan at all!
I thought of this rather nice little book yesterday, when Not drew my attention to Blackwell's Paradox; for some reason, I'd never seen it before. It is a very fine paradox indeed, and for a good quarter of an hour I refused to believe the reasoning - I was sure there had to be a trick somewhere. Here's how it goes.
You're given two sealed envelopes, each of which contains a certain amount of money. You're not told anything at all about how much might be in each envelope: it could be three cents or three trillion dollars. You're told to open one of the envelopes and see how much money there is in it. Now you're given a choice. You can either keep the envelope you've looked at, or you can take the other one instead, sight unseen. Is there any strategy which improves your odds to better than fifty-fifty?
Astonishingly, the answer is yes. Before you open the first envelope, you pick a number - any number at all. Call this number X. You arbitrarily decide that all sums of money less than or equal to X are "small", and all sums of money geater than X are "large". Now you open the envelope. If the sum of money inside, according to your new definition, is "large", you keep it. If it's "small", you ask for the second envelope.
There's a really simple argument to show that this must improve your chances. There are only three possibilities. Either a) both sums of money are "large", b) both sums of money are "small", or c) one is "large" and one is "small". If you have case (a) or (b), you're still choosing randomly, so you haven't lost anything. But if you have case (c) you're guaranteed to pick the right envelope, while random choice only gives you a fifty percent chance. Of course, (c) may not come up very often if you pick a bad value for X... but you'll still gain every time it does.
According to this page, six million dollars will go to a charity of his choice if Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump finally releases his tax returns. I suppoAccording to this page, six million dollars will go to a charity of his choice if Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump finally releases his tax returns. I suppose I could add that his stated reasons for not releasing them make no sense, but since nothing he says makes any sense that would be redundant.
Evidently the very real possibilities that Trump doesn't pay tax, hides assets in offshore accounts, and has been accepting tainted money from the Russians are not a problem for his followers. Like the rest of the world, I'm becoming increasingly curious about what would constitute a problem. Will we get to find out? The 2016 election is just the best piece of reality TV ever.
C is for clever Cecily who co-recommended this book She was confident I'd be curious and compelled to take a look This conniving crooked capitalist is aC is for clever Cecily who co-recommended this book She was confident I'd be curious and compelled to take a look This conniving crooked capitalist is a pig - and can he grunt Christ! Who cares if the crass Columbians elect the little Marco Rubio?
[I remembered too late that it was an anti-hate book. Somehow I missed the "anti". I tried to fix it but it still doesn't seem to have come out quite right. Oh well] ...more
I am interested to discover that the doctrine of the One is still alive. It is now going by the name of blobjectivism, and is being met with the usualI am interested to discover that the doctrine of the One is still alive. It is now going by the name of blobjectivism, and is being met with the usual uninformed derision. Only fifteen minutes ago, Matt cruelly dismissed it in the following terms:
I opened the link and closed it right away. I mostly saw ����������� Is this blobjectivism?
Ah, Matt, if only Parmenides of Elea were still with us! He'd put you in your place and tell you that all you need to do is switch the coding to Windows-1252. You can find his sage advice near the end of the famous dialogue with Aristoteles (no relation), but for some reason very few people read that far.
I work with computational linguistics, so it's natural that I've had a long-term interest in semantics. If you want to build software that understandsI work with computational linguistics, so it's natural that I've had a long-term interest in semantics. If you want to build software that understands language and acts on it, it's generally useful to think about what words mean. One of the most interesting things about the current US election campaign is that Donald Trump is often failing to use words to mean the things they usually mean.
A flagrant example of this is when he calls his opponent "crooked" and accuses her of "lying". Now, everyone breaks the law some of the time and tells lies some of the time. Hillary Clinton will too. So what Trump's saying is that she breaks the law a lot compared to some group of people, and lies a lot compared to some group of people. That's how the semantics of this kind of adjective works: there's always an implicit comparison. When you say an elephant is "big", you mean it's bigger than many other elephants. When you say a mouse is "big", you mean it's bigger than many other mice. A small elephant will be bigger than a big mouse.
Given the context, Trump's claim is only relevant if Hillary breaks the law more often than he does and lies more often than he does. We have heard a great deal about the fact that she was careless in setting up her email server, in a way that had security implications, and that she was then less than straightforward about explaining what happened. There are also some other well-rehearsed incidents, for example the time she misreported what happened when she once landed in Bosnia. But the question, as noted, is whether she's more crooked and more untruthful than Trump.
On the subject of "crooked", Trump has had to defend well over a thousand lawsuits. He has many pending right now. Some of them are relatively unimportant (a startling number of people say he has failed to pay them for work they have done), but others are for extremely serious matters including sexual assault, rape of a minor, fraud and racketeering. The last two, in particular, are clearly not politically motivated, since the cases, connected to "Trump University", have been going on since well before his presidential bid. Neither Trump nor Clinton have been found guilty of anything, and strictly speaking they should both be presumed innocent, but the accusations against Trump seem a good deal more serious than those against Hillary.
On "lying", we're fortunate to have the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact site, which fact-checks and rates politicians' statements. Let's look at Hillary's scorecard:
As you see, there's little doubt that Hillary sometimes tells lies. Politifact rate 12% of her statements as "false", and 2% as "pants on fire". They also rate 23% as "true" and 27% as "mostly true". I'm the first to admit that Hillary's performance is unsatisfactory - but, as noted, this is about comparisons, so let's see how she compares against Trump. Here's his Politifact scorecard:
Well, if you thought Hillary was bad, Trump is terrible. He's got 37% "false" and 18% "pants on fire" at one end, and only 4% "true" and 10% "mostly true" at the other. It's not even close. On any sensible interpretation of these figures, Trump is a far, far worse liar than Hillary.
In conclusion, it seems more appropriate, making the relevant comparisons, to call Trump "lyin' crooked Donald". I believe I will start doing that from now on. ...more
Not and I have this long-running argument about translations. In nearly every case, I think it's better to read the original, even if my knowledge ofNot and I have this long-running argument about translations. In nearly every case, I think it's better to read the original, even if my knowledge of the source language isn't particularly good: it means I'm hearing what the author actually said, as opposed to what the translator thought they said. Not disagrees, but I find her arguments unconvincing.
Or, to be more exact, I find her arguments unconvincing in most cases; there are a few rare exceptions. I think this is one of them. Brecht had the wonderful idea of retelling the story of Hitler's rise to power as a mock-Shakespearian tragedy, in the style of Richard III, about a Chicago gangster who takes over the city's vegetable trade. It works extremely well, and the play has huge energy and inventiveness; it's an absolutely first-rate black comedy.
Having just read both the German original and the brilliant translation I found here, it seems to me that that the translation is better. It's possible that this is due to my indifferent German - though, just before, I read Der gute Mensch von Sezuan and greatly enjoyed it. I liked the German version of Arturo Ui too, but it seemed to me that Brecht, genius though he may be, was trying to do something that was basically impossible.
The humour of the play derives from the mixing of several different registers, of which the most important are Shakespeare's magnificent blank verse and the flat, vulgar speech of the Chicago underworld; even if these can be transposed to German (and Brecht gives it his best shot), they are essentially English in their nature. There are other linguistic jokes as well, including substantial borrowings from Faust, and these passages don't work so well in translation. But the core of the play is the contrast between the Bard and Al Capone, and it's hardly surprising that they achieve their full potential in English.
Enough generalities; take a look at some of the passages I liked most, and judge for yourself. To start, a speech by Ui, who's just initiated his hostile takeover of the cauliflower business:
Well, what to do, you must be wondering. So listen to me careful. First things first. The way you're acting just ain't good enough, Hoping that all will turn out hunky-dory, Grinding your lazy bums behind the counter And fainting every time you see a thug. You're disunited, splintered and without Some Big White Chief to give you firm protection. So first comes unity. Then sacrifice.
A stream of invective from a woman who's just seen her husband killed before her eyes by Ui's thugs:
You scum, you monster, oh, you crock of shit! No, even shit would shudder seeing you And if you touched it, cry out, Let me wash! Whoever touches Ui is defiled! You louse of all the lice! And everyone Will let him get away with it! You there, They're hacking us to bloody pieces! Help! It's Ui, Ui, Ui and the rest! Where are you? Help! Will no one stop this pest?
A pathetic piece of equivocation from Betty, who's foolish enough to think she can negotiate with Ui:
Clark has told me That Ui's youthful revels are now ended. - The best of us have gone through Sturm und Drang - He's sown his wild oats, so to speak and shown His manner and his grammar much improved: He hasn't murdered anyone for weeks. Though if you do persist, attacking him, You might revive his baser instincts yet. And put yourself in jeopardy, Ignatius. But if you keep your mouth shut, they'll be nice.
And, finally, the chilling conclusion to the play:
The actor who plays ARTURO UI comes forward and takes off his moustache to speak the epilogue.
If we could learn to look instead of gawking, We'd see the horror in the heart of farce, If only we could act instead of talking, We wouldn't always end up on our arse. This was the thing that nearly had us mastered; Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, The bitch that bore him is in heat again.
Check out this play if you've got nothing better to do over the weekend; it only takes a couple of hours to read. And, oh yes, it's just possible you may find some vague resonances with things that are happening in the world right now. If you're that way inclined. ...more
I had this weird dream last night. I was at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and... here, let me give you my reconstructioI had this weird dream last night. I was at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and... here, let me give you my reconstruction...
HILLARY CLINTON: [on podium, in front of huge crowd] And now, our prosecutor is going to read out a list of indictments against my opponent, Donald Trump. I want you all to say whether you think he's innocent or... GUILTY!
PROSECUTOR: Thank you Hillary. Let's get started. Indictment one: sexual assault. Jill Harth recently accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in 1997. Do you think he's innocent or guilty?
MAN IN CROWD: Some parts of her story ring true, but she's changed it a lot of times.
WOMAN IN CROWD: Yeah, it's hard to know what's going on.
SECOND MAN IN CROWD: And it's all hearsay.
PROSECUTOR: So, what do we think?
CROWD: Presumed innocent!
PROSECUTOR: I can't hear you.
CROWD: PRESUMED INNOCENT!!
PROSECUTOR: Thank you, that's a great answer! And now, indictment two: rape. Katie Johnson, in another recent deposition, claimed that "she was subject to extreme sexual and physical abuse by Donald J. Trump and Jeffrey E. Epstein, including forcible rape during a four month time span, when she was still only a minor of age 13." What do we think? Innocent or guilty?
MAN IN CROWD: This is hearsay too!
WOMAN IN CROWD: But she does have a witness, "Tiffany Doe".
SECOND MAN IN CROWD: It could be politically motivated though. Hard to tell. All the same, she should have her day in court.
PROSECUTOR: So, what do we think?
CROWD: Presumed innocent!
PROSECUTOR: I can't hear you.
CROWD: PRESUMED INNOCENT!!
PROSECUTOR: You're all such terrific guys! So, indictment three: fraud and racketeering. Donald Trump's "Trump University" is the subject of several lawsuits, including two class action suits filed in California and one filed in New York by then-attorney general Eric Schneiderman. The many petitioners claim that they were swindled out of sums of up to $60,000 dollars in exchange for courses that were essentially worthless. What do we think? Innocent or guilty?
MAN IN CROWD: You gotta admit there's a lot of evidence.
WOMAN IN CROWD: I read the playbook when the judge ruled that it could be released. Disgusting.
SECOND MAN IN CROWD: But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I need to hear the other side before I make up my mind. And hey, caveat emptor.
PROSECUTOR: So, what do we want?
CROWD: Due process!
PROSECUTOR: I can't hear you.
CROWD: DUE PROCESS!
PROSECUTOR: I still can't hear you.
CROWD: DUE PROCESS!!!
[A chant starts up]
One, two, three, four We must all respect the law! Six, seven, eight, nine Stay the right side of the line!
HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you, thank you, thank you! See, that's the America I'm fighting for. A country where the rule of law is paramount, where due process is respected, and where everyone is presumed innocent until they're proven guilty. Even Donald Trump. ...more