Write to Your Representative About TPP!

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the country. It is time to write your Congressional Representative about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I’ve heard some whispers that fast-track authority has enough votes in the House. This is it, my friends. This is the last stand. If we don’t stop this in the House, then we are going to get the TPP. And as I’ve said before, it isn’t going to be a major thing. The American worker has already been harmed almost as much as she can be. But this is yet another step in the wrong direction.

So all you have to do is call or write your Representative. But I know that most people don’t know their Representatives. So you can use the Find Your Representative tool on the House of Representatives’ website. All you need to know is your zip code. In some cases, there will be more than one Representative. It is perhaps best to get your “zip code plus 4,” which you can can look up at the USPS website. Regardless, it isn’t hard. And it is really important — for the country.

As to what to say or write, it doesn’t much matter. Just say you are against it. I’ve included the letter that I sent to my Representative, Mike Thompson. Feel free to use any part of it. The main thing is to make contact. We don’t need this “trade” deal.

Dear Representative Thompson:

I know you are leaning against providing the president with fast-track authority for the TPP. I hope you will decide against it. There are many things I don’t like about the treaty, in as much as I am able to know about it. I am especially concerned about ever more restrictions on intellectual property rights. And I say that as a writer who gets (small) royalty checks every year. But as everyone knows, “life plus 70 years” was created for the good of corporations, not creative people. And applying stricter IP laws overseas will just leave less money for those people to buy other goods we export that employ more people.

But my biggest concern is simply that we have an economy where all productivity gains go to the very top. So even if TPP increases GDP, what good is it if those gains are not widely shared? No one (most especially the president) has ever dealt with this criticism. And I think it is because the powers that are pushing TPP don’t care. They are living in the past when increased GDP really was good for all. It isn’t anymore. And that disconnect between productivity and shared gain is what we need to deal with now. We can look at new trade deals after we see some improvement on economic inequality.

One other issue is that Obama’s term is almost up. It is very likely that it will be the next president who actually makes the deal. While I certainly hope that this president will be Hillary Clinton or another Democrat, it could certainly be a Republican. I don’t like the idea of President Walker pushing for changes in an already questionable treaty.

For these reasons and more, I encourage you to vote against providing fast track authority for TPP.

Sincerely,
Frank Moraes

Are you still here?! Isn’t there something you should be doing?

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Partisan Polarization on Economic Issues

Joshua HuderJoshua Huder over at Rule 22 wrote an interesting, but I think ultimately misleading article, Left or Right? Who’s Further From the Middle? It has to do with this recent dust up over Peter Wehner’s ridiculous claim that the Republicans haven’t gotten any more conservative while Democrats have become way more liberal. Some people have used the standard Voteview graph that shows both parties getting further away from the center, but the Republicans doing so in a much bigger way. Huder pointed out that this only represents roll call votes, and so is a skewed sample. I’ll come back to that issue in a moment.

The obvious response to this idea is that the roll call votes still tell us a lot. And Huder doesn’t disagree with that. His whole article, however, is basically an apologia for the Republicans. He certainly wouldn’t agree with that characterization. But all he’s really doing is making a political science argument that there are incentives for Congressional Republicans to push for roll call votes that allow them to show how conservative they are to their base. Fair enough. But the issue is not how conservative Congressional Republicans are in their heart of hearts. The issue is how conservative the party itself is.

All Huder adds to the discussion is that Republican politicians have reasons for what they do. This is obvious. I think we’ve been arguing this for a long time. The narrative goes something like the following. Congressional Republicans come largely from very safe districts and states. Thus, any candidate who wins the nomination will win the general election. Thus, Republican condidates compete with each other to see who can be the most conservative — the most pure. This situation is made all the worse with conservative groups like the NRA that “score” votes. But claiming that Congressional Republicans are rational to appeal to their crazy base misses the point.

Here is the Voteview graph that I mentioned above. There are a couple of things worth mentioning about it. The first is that it doesn’t show any real movement at all for northern Democrats. So the entire “liberal trend” is based upon southern Democrats. And as we know, there aren’t that many southern Democrats. Those that used to be southern Democrats are now Republicans who are as crazy or crazier than any of the other Republicans. So the Democrats, even by this accounting, are no more liberal than they were in 1960:

House Polarization - Voteview

But I think this graph is distorted in a way that no one talks about. I’m interested in what has happened to the Democrats regarding economic issues. Voteview did provide a graph on social issues. And in that one, we’ve seen that the House Democrats have gotten much more liberal. I suspect that on the issue of foreign policy, Democrats are roughly as liberal now as they have been. This implies that on economic issues, Democrats have become more conservative. This is certainly what I’ve noticed based on observations over the years.

The point is that becoming more liberal regarding LGBT rights is great, but it isn’t compensation for allowing the minimum wage to atrophy. Or for pushing more job killing “trade” deals like the TPP. Or abandoning the labor union movement. These are the issues that most matter not just to me but to the American people. And largely the Democratic Party has managed to maintain its status as the liberal party based upon social issues. This is a major problem. We shouldn’t allow the party to do that because it really hurts the country in terms of economic debate.

So I think the discussion should be what has happened to the parties regarding economic issues. And in that regard, the Democrats have gotten more conservative. And the Republicans have gotten absurdly more conservative. So the Democratic shift with regard to these issues has actually made the extreme shift of the Republicans seem more reasonable than it actually is. People arguing that the Democrats have become more liberal should either stick to discussing social issues or be laughed out of polite society.

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Morning Music: Joe Scarborough

Joe ScarboroughDigby posted the following video under the headline, Everybody Thinks They’re a Singing Star. It is Joe Scarborough singing a song called, “Reason to Believe.” It is not the great Tim Hardin song. It is rather a country song written by the ex-politician and current television pundit. It’s not a terrible song, but it is most clearly the sort of thing that is only released when the “artist” is already famous.

Huffington Post called it a powerful antiwar song, when it was first released. That’s what you get from the media when you are well connected: flattering lies. The song is not at all antiwar. It is sung from the perspective of a parent who has a child fighting in one of our recent post-9/11 wars. The parent doesn’t like that the child is in harm’s way, but still finds a “reason to believe.” Pretty much, the song comes down to this: it sure is sad that there are evil people in the world that require us to be constantly at war.

What’s sad about it is that there are so many sing-songwriters who are vastly superior to Scarborough. But they don’t even get their music produced, much less released by a major record company, much less get booked on The View. But the way to approach this sort of thing is most definitely not to claim that it is garbage. It isn’t. See that guy there playing the the mandolin? He’s great. See the woman singing backup? She’s great. Hear the invisible violin player? Great as well. But what this shows is the absurdity of meritocracy. Even if you think that Scarborough was great as a politician or a television host, he clearly isn’t great as a singer-songwriter. Yet there he is.

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Anniversary Post: Pearl Hart

Pearl HartLet’s just call this Pearl Hart Day. On this day in 1899, she committed one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies. She was a colorful character.

Born sometime around 1871, Hart was raised in an upper middle class home in Canada. In her late teens, while at boarding school, she fell in love with a bad boy. The two of them had two children, which Pearl quickly shipped off to be raised by her mother. And the two of them had an turbulent relationship, finally splitting up in 1893. She then made her way to Colorado.

For a while, she made a living doing various things. It would seem that she primarily got by based upon her looks — even working as a prostitute and madam at one point. But one day, Hart received news that her mother was ill and she needed to come home. Around this time, she hooked up with a guy named Joe Boot. The two of them tried to make some money by mining for gold, but that didn’t work. So they came up with the idea of robbing the stagecoach.

Apparently, stagecoach robberies were such a thing of the past that there was no shotgun man on the vehicle. So the two of them managed to rob it and get away with $431.20 — well in excess of $10,000 today. But within a week, a posse managed to track them down and bring them to jail. Hart escaped before the trial, but was caught two weeks later. At the trial, she gave an impassioned speech about how she wasn’t a criminal and only did what she did to get home to see her dying mother. And the jury found them both not guilty.

The two were quickly arrested again on another charge, mail tampering. It sounds like a set-up to me. Regardless, Joe Boot was given a 30 year sentence. Hart was given just 5 years. But within two years, Joe boot escaped and was never heard from again. It was doubtless easier for a single man to get away than it ever was for a woman. What’s more, Pearl Hart had been widely photographed, so people knew what she looked like. However, she was given a pardon by the governor after two years under the condition that she get the hell out of the territory.

After her life of crime, she went on to star in a show where her robbery was recreated and then she spoke of the horrors of her life in prison. (It doesn’t sound like it was that bad; it sounds like she managed the situation rather well.) She would later do various things, including work for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. And then, after 1928, she disappeared from the historical record. It is thought she lived into the 1950s and maybe even to 1960.

Happy Pearl Hart Day!

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Fourth Series of Ballykissangel

Ballykissangel Fourth SeriesAs some of you may know, I’m a big fan of Ballykissangel — the BBC show about a little Irish village filled with curious people. From an American standpoint, it is an Irish Northern Exposure — but without a tenth the annoyances. But here’s something that is very interesting: the show was on for six series, but I’ve only ever watched the first three. The third series ends tragically, with the two main characters leaving the show. It would have been as if Joel and Maggie left Northern Exposure. But not completely, because Ballykissangel does a better job of creating a sense of community as opposed to a collection of oddballs.

Over the weekend, I watched the fourth series — all 12 50-minute episodes. And the producers do manage to reinvent the show and make it compelling without destroying what was good before. Unfortunately, they do it in such a way that they still manage to harm it. The first episode, “All Bar One,” does an excellent job of acknowledging the past. But it does it with an awful clunky plot, and a change of the character of Niamh. In the first three series, she was the female beta to Assumpta’s alpha. But Niamh was always a strong character and turning her into some kind of vaguely discontented would-be business woman just seemed bizarre.

I understand the need glamorize her, so I had no problem when Niamh was given a proper haircut and shot in a way to highlight her beauty. Just the same, she was paired with the more traditionally glamorous Victoria Smurfit, playing Orla, the New Age liberal sister of the priest. And the show never quite figures out what it wants to do with her. She seems to be there primarily to set up the end of season with a conflict between Niamh and her husband, Ambrose, as she falls in love with new community member Sean Dillon.

If all this sounds confusing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The series seems to be trying to do a lot of different things. The most obvious of these was to get rid of the Ambrose character. The actor who played him, Peter Hanly (who you probably remember as the very weak Prince Edward in Braveheart), may have wanted to leave the series. He certainly said he did. But it seems more likely the show was just trying to provide a relationship with some sexual tension to replace that between Father Clifford and Assumpta during the first three seasons.

But therein lies the problem. I didn’t notice any sexual tension until the last couple of episodes of the series. It seems more likely that a contract dispute took place between the producers and Peter Hanly. Maybe he didn’t like being sidelined in the series and they pushed him so they could do what they had long wanted. Regardless, the last couple of episodes seem to have been quickly rewritten to end that story line. Then claims were made that the whole thing had been brewing the whole series. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. I’ve never found the Niamh and Ambrose relationship particularly engaging.

Interestingly, after being the dominant force during the first three series, creator Kieran Prendiville disappears completely from the fourth series. And as far as I can tell, that’s true of the fifth as well. He does seem to come back to finish off the sixth series, writing almost all of the episodes. But I can’t help but think that he is ultimately what gave the show its heart. The fourth season is certainly good, and the actors are fantastic, but much of it comes off as wooden and formulaic.

Afterword

One episode of the fourth series was especially good, “Births, Deaths and Marriages.” It brings together the wonderful sense of community that most defines the show. And in this episode, Niamh completely takes on the role that Assumpta did as community leader. It is somewhat spoiled by her breaking down in a clumsy attempt to set up the series finale. But that is small.


See also: Confused High Jinks on Ballykissangel.

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The Death of Antitrust

Robert ReichLast week’s settlement between the Justice Department and five giant banks reveals the appalling weakness of modern antitrust.

The banks had engaged in the biggest price-fixing conspiracy in modern history. Their self-described “cartel” used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency exchange market. It was a “brazen display of collusion” that went on for years, said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

But there will be no trial, no executive will go to jail, the banks can continue to gamble in the same currency markets, and the fines — although large — are a fraction of the banks’ potential gains and will be treated by the banks as costs of doing business.

America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits.

No longer…

—Robert Reich
Whatever Happened to Antitrust?

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Bigots Demagogue California Drought

Welcome to California Now Go HomeLiving here in the future ghost state of California, I have a special fascination with water. But I’m hardly alone. It’s interesting to watch the local news and see people upset that it is not going to rain. People here are far past being concerned about their weekend plans. As our drought drags on, people see it as more and more of an existential threat. And while I’m pleased that people really are taking the situation seriously, fear is not the best of motivators. It tends to act as a cancer, and so it isn’t surprising that we are seeing people use the current crisis for some nefarious ends.

This last week, Kate Linthicum reported, Group says California Immigration Policies Contributed to Drought. It seems that a group called Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS — get it?!) is demagoguing the issue real good. They’ve produced a series of commercials. In one, there is a whiny little boy who asks, “If Californians are having fewer children, why is it so crowded?” It continues on with the boy asking other questions including, “Why isn’t there enough water?” A man in voice-over explains, “Over 98% of California’s population growth is from immigration. Let’s slow immigration and save some of California for tomorrow.” Meanwhile, the little boy looks dejectedly into the camera.

What’s amazing about this commercial is that it could have run in the 1930s. Now the subtext is, “Let’s get the spicks!” But in the 1930s, it would have been, “Let’s get the Okies!” Linthicum reported that earlier this month, the group asked its Facebook followers to “like” the statement that “California’s drought could have been prevented with responsible immigration policies and limited population growth.” And that is, you know, totally crazy in addition to be bigoted and generally evil. Even if no humans lived in California, it would still be going through its worst drought on record. What’s more, only 10% of California water use is from urban use. So the CAPS claim is just as wrong as it could possibly be.

Michael Hiltzik provided some great data about water use in California. It turns out that per capita water use among urban residents is way down: from 232 gallons per day in 1995 to 178 in 2010. That doesn’t even include the current drought, so I assume that number is even lower today. But even more amazing is that California’s total water use — with a huge increase in population and agricultural productivity — has actually gone down in an absolute sense: from 35 billion gallons per day in 1990 to 31 billion in 2010. That actually shocks me; I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

Linthicum quoted one expert who noted that if Californians actually care about the drought, they should be campaigning against lawns, not immigrants. Hiltzik put it well:

More to the point, if you’re searching for profligate water users, immigrant communities, which are typically low-income, are the wrong place to look. Figures released last year by the State Water Resources Control Board showed that water use in upscale communities, where homes typically feature broad expanses of overwatered turf, outstripped that of urban low-income municipalities several times over.

But of course, CAPS is most definitely not interested in the drought. The group has been around since 1986. It’s like Matt Yglesias’s analogy about Quakers wanting to balance the budget with military cuts: CAPS is just using drought to push their real issue. And their issue is the same one that Californians have had for decades: I’ve got mine so stay away. It’s sad. But it has nothing to do with environmentalism.

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Mythology and the Acceptance of Police Brutality

Police AbuseI’ve been thinking a lot about the mythology of American policing and how it allows our criminal justice system to stay so messed up. And over at Vox, Redditt Hudson wrote an article that touches on this issue, I’m a Black Ex-Cop, and This Is the Real Truth About Race and Policing. He worked for five years for the St Louis Police Department, and since then, he seems to work in criminal justice reform. So he’s not exactly your typical police officer. But still, he’s been in the field. And I think he has a good take on American policing. In particular, he seems to be able to distinguish between the reality and the myth of the police. And that is refreshing indeed.

Fundamentally, I think it is the mythology of policing that is so dangerous. It is what allows police to think that they live in a world that is especially dangerous. And that leads to officers like Michael Brelo to jump up on the hood of a car and fire 15 more shots — past the 122 already fired — at an unarmed couple in their car. And it is what leads to judges thinking the whole thing was a-okay. Because, you know, Brelo was “fearing for his life.” This isn’t a story of the real world: a civil servant doing a (at worst) modestly dangerous job. This is a story of Odysseus struggling to make his way in a world of the Sirens and Cyclops.

The standard line whenever a police officer does something unconscionable is, “While the vast majority of police officers are dedicated professionals, this officer blah, blah, blah…” Every time we talk about misbehavior of an officer, we are expected to preface it with this disclaimer. But Hudson’s accounting sounds far more reasonable. No, it isn’t the “vast majority” of police officers. It is instead:

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

Clearly, this isn’t based upon a study. It is just Hudson’s impression. But regardless what the number are, this is the makeup. There are a relatively small number of “good” and “bad” officers and then there are a whole bunch in the middle that go with the flow. This is why certain departments become hotbeds of racism and why a strong administrative effort to clean up a department really can work. But if you asked me, I would say that it is more like 5% of the officers who will always do the right thing. Let’s call them the Eagle Scouts. Clearly, the probability distribution of police officers abusing their power will be heavily tilted away from the Eagle Scouts — that is, there are more “bad” than “good” officers.

Another thing that Hudson noted is that racism against African Americans is not just something that white officers do. He sees the problem as being fundamentally one of abuse of authority. So the racism is systemic: it is acceptable to abuse black and brown people. So officers, regardless of what race they identify with, will abuse black and brown people because they know they can get away with that. They know they can’t go out and abuse students at Stanford.

How the mythology plays into this is in how it allows the officers in that big middle group to justify abusing their power — although it is probably a potent justification for the people who were attracted to police work because of the power. I’m sure that the officers who killed Freddie Gray thought that somehow what they were doing was justified because they have such dangerous jobs and because all the world is evil and all that other garbage that we allow them to go on thinking.

I remember something that Jim Hogshire said in his excellent book, You Are Going to Prison. He was talking about prison rape and how it was accepted by the prison authorities — part of the mechanism of control. He noted that if a warden wanted prison rape stopped today it would stop today. Well, that’s what I think about police brutality. The reason it continues on is because of us. We don’t want to give up our mythology of policing. Maybe it would help if we just got explicit about it, “While most police officers are demigods who exist in a dangerous but magical world…”


See also: Most Dangerous Jobs.

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Morning Music: the Wisdom of Sly Stone

Stand! - Sly and the Family Stone“We’ve got to live together!” So said Sly Stone and if you can’t trust him, who can you trust? Rarely has there been such a brilliant musician. And I always go to musicians to learn the basic lessons of life. That line is from the song “Everyday People” off the Sly and the Family Stone album, Stand! — one of the greatest musical accomplishments of the last century.

So it is really very simple. There is the long hair who doesn’t like the short hair. There is the yellow one who won’t accept the black one. There is even the fat one who is trying to be the skinny one — even though she shouldn’t (she should just try to get a bit more exercise). All of that’s made up people! As the great man said, “We’ve got to live together!”

Actually, “Everyday People” is just the start of this. It is followed by “Dance to the Music” and then “I Want To Take You Higher.” There is much wisdom throughout.

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Anniversary Post: PGA Tour Inc v Martin

Casey MartinOn this day in 2001, the case PGA Tour Inc v Martin was decided. This was when Casey Martin sued the PGA for the right to compete in their golf tournaments using a golf cart. According to the official rules, golfers must walk the course. But Martin was born with Klippel–Trénaunay syndrome, which made it difficult to walk. He sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act and won. I’m mixed on this issue. On the one hand, I’m glad for Martin and I think he should have been able to play using a golf cart. On the other hand, why in the hell is a silly sporting event making its way to the Supreme Court?

But speaking of silly, Scalia and Thomas dissented in this case. (I’m sure Alito would have too, had he been on the court at that time.) They argued Martin should have to walk because of… Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” I’ve always (really: always) thought it was a stupid story. What I most remember from it is the ballet where the dancers are weighted down so as to equalize their abilities. The story satirizes attempts to mandate egalitarianism. The problem is that every conservative on the planet uses this childish short story as the ultimate slippery slope result of any and all attempts to create a more equal society.

I’ve always felt that Vonnegut was an overrated writer. I still admire him, but people think him far more clever than he ever was. And “Harrison Bergeron” is him at his worst and most facile. There is literally no point to the story. It is more or less Atlas Shrugged without the “happy” ending. The thinking that goes into the story is the same kind of sub-Nietzschean nonsense that Ayn Rand peddled. But what are we to think? That feeding poor children will lead to the elimination of talents? Had Vonnegut thought the whole thing through, he would have realized that such “egalitarian” laws would naturally make people seek out endeavors where they would not need to be handicapped. But of course, diving into the questions he raised was never his thing.

Vonnegut certainly must have hated the way his story was used, at the same time it reinforced his generally low appraisal of humanity. But it isn’t surprising that minds as simplistic as Scalia and Thomas (neither would need radio device to disrupt their thoughts if they lived in the world of “Harrison Bergeron”) would grab on to the most careless and simplistic of Vonnegut’s allegories. But at least seven of the justices sided with Casey Martin. Of course, today, it would only be five or maybe six.

Happy anniversary to PGA Tour Inc v Martin. In another ten years, it may well be overturned!

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This Is Not a Math Joke

Math Joke - The Simpsons

This is a still from The Simpsons episode “Mathlete’s Feat.” This is what society thinks of people like me. Not that I’m complaining! I like that the episode makes fun of education fads. At least I think it does. It is hard to tell anymore. The Simpsons has been thoroughly infected by the Family Guy “anything for a joke” philosophy, so the episodes don’t hang together the way they once did. Still, it was nice to see a couple of shots taken at the idea that technology can serve as a substitute for good education. But even with that, it wasn’t a sharp attack — just silly people casting off one orthodoxy for another.

But this image struck me because of the “math joke.” The screen at first showed Homer apparently laughing at the joke. It lasted a long time, I assume to give the audience the chance to “get” the joke. Then it pulled back and we saw that actually Homer was laughing at the dog with a box on its head. Why exactly that is funny, I’m not sure. But roughly the same thing can be said for the math joke.

Of course, the purpose of such “jokes” is not to be funny but to be clever. But there is something very subgenius about the whole thing, if you ask me. The joke here is that the math symbols are supposed to read out, “I ate some pie.” But that doesn’t exactly pop out of it.

When I am confronted with such a thing, I just read it out literally. And frankly, I think that is all that ought to be necessary. But that doesn’t work at all here. I read it as, “Imaginary unit eight summation pi.” And from there I quickly managed “ate some pie.” But even that seemed stupid because I don’t recall ever using the phrase “sum whatever.” I might use “sum of whatever.” Okay: I am a super pedant. But I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. It is vaguely clever, the same way it was when we were kids spelling words with upside down calculators. (That is: not very.)

The question is what one is supposed to make of that square root of negative one. It is the imaginary unit: the most basic imaginary number — beloved by differential equations everywhere. And obviously, yes: the imaginary unit is always referred to as i. To be a pedant, that’s i and not I. But okay. What bothers me is exactly what would bother Bill Clinton: what the definition of is is. Note that “two cubed” and “sigma pi” are puns — they depend upon the sound of what they are. The “square root of negative one” is not i; it is represented by i.

But even if we grant that this is a joke, ultimately, it isn’t a math joke. It’s just a joke that only people with a little mathematical education will be able to get. A joke in the Greek language is not necessarily a “Greek joke.” A math joke is something that deals with, well, math. For example, here’s a joke that people loved in graduate school but always seemed pretty dumb to me:

A biologist, a chemist, and a statistician are out hunting. The biologist shoots at a deer and misses 5 feet to the left, the chemist takes a shot and misses 5 feet to the right, and the statistician yells, “We got ‘im!”

I think I take a certain personal affront to this “math joke” on The Simpsons because the real object of the joke is nerds themselves. This has always been my problem with the television show The Big Bang Theory. So what you have is a joke that is funny because there are these weird people out there who supposedly find it funny. And actually, there aren’t. “I ate some pie” is funny in the same way as this riddle I learned in the second grade. Question: what state is round on the edges and high in the middle? Answer: Ohio! It’s funny because… Actually, it wasn’t even funny in second grade.


See also: Why I Don’t Like The Big Bang Theory.

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The “Objective” Media Take on Bernie Sanders

Jonathan TopazThese weren’t your everyday Americans who came out to support Bernie Sanders on Tuesday.

The self-described democratic socialist kicked off his long-shot run for the White House in his adopted hometown of Burlington, a lakeside city full of characters who might not have passed the pre-selection process for Hillary Clinton’s tour of round tables.

And while Sanders, the state’s independent US Senator, may be way behind in national presidential polls, in Burlington, he’s a local hero.

In the afternoon, a “people’s assembly” of hundreds of Sanders supporters gathered in City Hall Park, where dreadlocked guitarists played in the morning and patrons browsed at the nearby Hempest, which advertises itself as the largest organic hemp product store in the world.

—Jonathan Topaz
It’s Not Your Everyday Americans at Bernie Sanders’ Kickoff Rally


Note: I get the impression that Topaz actually likes Sanders a lot. And at least he’s covering him. I think this style is just God mandated in the Village.

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