I don’t math good

My son is in this phase where he takes small numbers and turns them into giant ones. “Here, have two pancakes,” I say. “What about 10,000 pancakes?” he says. Sorry, kid, I don’t have enough flour. I have hopes he’ll grow out of it, but maybe not. Consider this nugget from Rand Paul:

For every Kentuckian that has enrolled in Obamacare, 40 have been dropped from their coverage.

Holy crap! That’s huge! That’s a disaster! That’s … mathematically impossible!

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OK, I am now sick of hearing about “privilege.”

The first time I heard the word privilege used in place of an -ist word, I thought it was a great refinement. Instead of “racist” you can have “white privilege.” Instead of being “weightist” you can “thin privilege,” instead of being a “male chauvinist” you have “male privilege.” It works for just about everything, and as such it’s been overused.

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Gov. McDonnell indicted on federal corruption charges

The Roanoke Times-Dispatch reports that former governor McDonnell and his wife have finally been indicted:

The indictment, spelled out in an extensive document filed by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District, paints a detailed portrait of how the governor and his wife accepted more than $135,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans from then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., in addition to golf outings and other things of value, in exchange for the first couple’s assistance in promoting his struggling Henrico-based company’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

A lot of this came to light during the latest gubernatorial election, and there was a lot of speculation that McDonnell would resign or be removed from office before the election. It’s probably a good thing that neither of those came to pass; a handful of months of a Cuccinelli administration followed by McAuliffe would have made for some serious chaos in the state capitol.

In any case, I am adding McDonnell’s administration to my list of examples why we should not elect anti-government types; they have too many opportunities to orchestrate the corruption and incompetence they warn about.

Pro-poverty

Josh Barro, writing for Business Insider, says the Republican anti-poverty agenda doesn’t exist:

Some want to pick up Jack Kemp’s “baton” of talking about social mobility and free enterprise. Social conservatives want to talk about the importance of families to alleviating poverty. Rand Paul wants to add more “anti-government broadsides” to the message.

I suggested on Twitter that the GOP’s difficulties came from actually being pro-poverty, which struck some people as being kinda mean. But exploitation of poverty is not unusual, especially not in the part of the country I come from. The coal fields did, after all, inspire this song:

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It’s time to bring back rhetoric

That’s what English professor Joe Kirby says. One of the great disappointments of my education is that my English degree taught me how to read academically, but it did a rather poor job of teaching me how to write or persuade.

But the discipline rhetoric, as Kirby notes, has more or less fallen out of favor. I suspect we have the scientific method to thank for that. We’ve replaced rhetoric with rational and logical argument, only to find out no one is persuaded by facts.

I think loss of rhetoric is a significant contributing factor in our current polarized political climate. We’ve lost the ability to persuade except through fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And we so expect rational argument to be persuasive that, when it isn’t, we think other people are being deliberately obtuse and we start calling them names.

New Years Resolution: Learn more about rhetoric.

Photo Source: An agora in Izmir, Turkey by F Mira, Creative Commons.

Image Credits: F Mira

The one about ducks

It’s my Christmas vacation, so lets take a break from code to talk about Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s problems. A&E, anticipating public reaction to Robertson’s anti-gay comments, suspended him. Which, I think, caused a lot of liberals to nod. But more surprisingly, it caused a lot of conservatives to start howling about freedom of speech.

Here, for example, is Bobby Jindal:

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Small Business Saturday

Today is “Small Business Saturday,” which is when all moral people do their shopping — as opposed to the greedy grasping capitalists who spent all their money at large chains on Black Friday.

I kid.

Here’s a poster:

Let’s talk a little about this poster. First of all, notice the small “American Express” logo in the bottom right corner. “Small Business Saturday,” part of the “Shop Small” campaign, is run by American Express and sponsored by Foursquare, Twitter, and the USPS. None of these are small, local businesses, and — of course — credit card fees collected by American Express do not stay in the community.

The figure cited is from the most recent American Booksellers Association / Civic Economics Impact Study. I can’t find this study published online, but last year’s was a survey of 106 retailers and 28 restaurants. So it had a small sample size and the data was self-reported, two things that are red flags in my book. Unless this year’s survey was much larger, I don’t think you can really draw any general conclusions from it.

Regardless of the quality of the survey, there’s nothing to tell us how good “over fifty percent” is. Do small businesses over-perform big box stores by a little or a lot? You might be inclined to think it’s “a lot,” but many small businesses buy a lot of their goods from outside community borders, rent from landlords who might not even live in the same state, and send credit card fees out to the megabanks.

Money from large retailers stay in the community, too. They have to employ a lot of people who live in the region, pay local utilities, and pay for local advertising, goods, and services as well. I don’t know how much of Target’s, Best Buy’s, or McDonald’s money stays in the community, but I bet it’s quite a lot.