THE REIGN OF INANE: Shed been tortured by the problem all year. Darlings! Before the Queen of Mean got the chance to trash John Edwards appalling wife, the spouse in question announced she had cancer, making the assignment so much harder. So the queen contented herself with trashing Michelle Obama—although she did find a novel way to criticize Edwards bitch-daughter. See THE DAILY HOWLER 4/23/07.
The Clintons, of course, were a constant, a given—vile targets sent here by God.
But you see the shape of the problem with Edwards. During Campaign 04, our queen had slimed the appalling Judith Steinberg, Howard Deans wife (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/21/07), then had gone after the she-bitch Heinz Kerry. But right until this very day, she hadnt found an appropriate way to get into Goody Edwards grill! Today, though, with caucuses bearing down, she finally managed the perfect construction. Finally! Forced to journey to darkest Iowa, she felt her resentment boil over:
DOWD (1/2/08): The presidential anglers here are dancing on the head of a pin. The Democratic race—three lawyers married to lawyers who talk too much—is very tight and very volatile. Even the jittery pack of seasoned political operatives gazing into their BlackBerrys doesn't seem to have a clue which way the Iowa snowdrifts are blowing.
Darlings! At last! And it truly felt good! The she-bitch Edwards talks too much—and, beyond that, shes even a lawyer! This morning, even her cancer cant save Edwards from the wrath of Maureen Dowds god! And soon, our nations top Antoinette was going where her own illness leads her:
DOWD: Has Hillary truly changed, and grown from her mistakes? Has she learned to be less stubborn and imperious and secretive and vindictive and entitled? Or has she merely learned to mask her off-putting and self-sabotaging qualities better? If elected, would the old Hillary pop up, dragging us back to the dysfunctional Clinton kingdom? She is speaking in a soft, measured voice in these final days, so that, as with Daisy Buchanan, you have to lean in to listen. But is she really different than she was in the years when she was so careless about the people around her getting hurt by the Clinton legal whirlwind that she was dubbed the Daisy Buchanan of the boomer set?
Lets put it this way: If youre a Democrat, and a woman—and if youre married—Maureen Dowd doesnt like you too much.
As usual, no she-bitch Republican wives are mentioned in todays inane column. But so it goes, as our tortured democracy limps ahead in its new year.
For ourselves, we spent our sabbatical curled up in New Hampshire with Rebecca Goldsteins alleged easy-reader, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel. (Just click here.) Were fascinated by Einstein-(and Godel)-made-easy books; were always amazed, not that the authors cant make Einstein (or Godel) easy, but that they never seem to realize how badly theyve failed at their (presumably difficult) task. After more than a week with this book, we could give you a few scripted phrases to explain Godels theorems—but, to be honest, wed have no real idea what these scripted words meant. As Wittgenstein semi-explained, the ability to overlook such incomprehension enables a great deal of traditional philosophy—and much metamathematics. Approaching this topic with little prior knowledge, we were perhaps most surprised to read this:
GOLDSTEIN (pages 49-50): Paradoxes, in the technical sense, are those catastrophes of reason whereby the mind is compelled by logic itself to draw contradictory conclusions. Many are of the self-referential variety; troubles arise because some linguistic item—a description, a sentence—potentially refers to itself. The most ancient of these paradoxes in known as the liars paradox, its lineage going back to the ancient Greeks. It is centered on the self-referential sentence: This very sentence is false. This sentence must be, like all other sentences, either true or false. But if it is true, then it is false, since that is what is says; and if it is false, well then, it is true, since, again, that is what it says. It must, then, be both true and false, and that is a severe problem. The mind crashes.
Paradoxes like the liars play a technical role in the proof that Godel devised for his extraordinary first completeness theorem. Godel was able to take the structure of self-referential paradoxicality—the sort of structure that causes our minds to crash when considering This very sentence is false—and turn it into an extraordinary proof for one of the most surprising results in the history of mathematics.
The mind crashes all right! Why, thats what weve been describing all along! And its been almost ten years now!
On the simplest level, we have no idea why Goldstein would say that all sentences must be either true or false. On another level, we were amazed to see that nonsense like this is still being treated so reverentially. Goldstein, page 50: Godel was able to twist the intelligence-mortifying material of paradox into a proof that leads us to deep insights into the nature of truth, and knowledge, and certainty. Goldstein, page 90: Paradoxes have often been found lurking about in the deepest places of thought. Also, alas, in the shallows.
But this is how our modern logicians tend to twiddle their high-minded thumbs. These are the people who didnt come forward, in the mid-1990s, to untangle the two-year debate about Medicare. (Were Republicans cutting Medicare? Or were they simply reducing the rate at which the program would grow?) Talk about a liars paradox! Bill Clinton was widely defined as a liar in the course of that bungled debate, even though he was speaking quite accurately—and even though his accusers were inventing new language (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/99). But our logicians didnt help us straighten that out. They were busy in their aeries, bungling more antique nonsense.
So yes, there may be various reigns of inane in the palaces of upper-class culture. Why have Dowd and her fatuous cohort been free to be so inane for so long? Short story: The people who are (theoretically) able to challenge their work havent bothered themselves to do so. Theyve left this task to the career liberal world—and these people have chosen to avert their gaze from this cohorts Reign of Inane. (Al Franken, and no one else, untangled that mid-90s paradox—the one in which Clinton was defined as a liar even while telling the truth.) In the next two days, well take a look at where this puts us as our brilliant new year dawns. Enjoy 2008, everybody! Dowds gang will extend its Reign of Inane—and in a wide array of settings, insider liberals will agree not to notice.
Talk about a liars paradox! Big Dems have been defined as liars for years—even as theyve told us the truth! And, of course, their wives are a gang of giant she-bitches. Deans wife, youll recall, wouldnt talk enough. Todays wives? Theyre talking too much!
WE IRISH: Across the room was our nephew, Brendan Barrington, calmly thumbing his Cheever. Why not support his finest venture? After all, as the Sunday Tribune opined, The Dublin Review is the nearest thing we Irish have got to the untouchable New Yorker. We Irish—how we love the phrase! You know what to do—just click here.