Joe Biden more than quadruples the female population of the U.S.

Look, anybody can have a slip of the tongue, especially one whose job calls for talking a heckuva lot. But in my experience, most people have a little monitor in their heads and when something comes out really wrong the monitor says, "Wait! Can that be right?"

Not Joe. (The most optimistic construction I can think of is that Joe's monitor was . . . resting.)

"For Whom the Ringtone Tolls"

James Lileks is irritated by all the robocalls he's getting. (Me, too.)

Every other month you read a piece about the FTC devising new regulations to prevent telemarketing scam calls, and it’s never what you want to hear. 

What they say: “We are working with the telecoms to develop a robust database and protocols that will deal with VOIP spoofing.” Half the people who hear it think Voip Spoofing is a Dutchman who makes the calls. Do you know where Mijnheer Spoofing lives? Can’t you arrest him? 

What we want to hear: “At dawn today a volley of Tomahawk missiles destroyed the call centers in several cities. The offices were unoccupied, except for upper management. We called them several times to warn them to leave, but apparently they thought it was a robocall and let it go to voicemail, so that’s on them.”

"Las Vegas: The Allure of the Ersatz"

An unusual perspective on Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is the most honest city in America. It is full of fakery and phoniness — a faux-Egyptian pyramid, an ersatz Eiffel Tower, a miniature New York City skyline — but the fakery and phoniness it is full of are honest fakery and phoniness, cheerful and unpretentious and silly. In that sense, it isn’t fakery at all — it’s fake fakery. 

"Kardashian Index"

Arguments for and against the "Kardashian Index".

. . . I think it’s time that we develop a metric that will clearly indicate if a scientist has an overblown public profile so that we can adjust our expectations of them accordingly. In order to quantify the problem and to devise a solution, I have compared the numbers of followers that research scientists have on twitter with the number of citations they have for their peer-reviewed work.

"Don’t eat the marshmallow: Students from a ‘no excuses’ charter grow up to tell the tale"

A story every advocate and opponent of charter schools should read. It beautifully makes the point that charters aren't for everybody: there will be students who don't like them, teachers who don't fit, and charters that don't succeed.  

But for the students who a charter is right for, the results can be glorious. 

I maintain that charters are not solely about test scores or college acceptance. They are about choice. Why shouldn't parents/guardians have the choice to send their children to a charter school?

Link courtesy of my older daughter.


"Asset Backward: State pension funds keep increasing risky investments—as pension debt mounts."

At the risk of being monomaniacal here is yet another link to a discussion of government pensions. (It may be the last one for a while; I'll try.) And call me a crazy pessimist, but I don't think this ends well:

Since 2001, the study found, most government pension funds have boosted their share of investments in riskier financial vehicles, from volatile stocks to real estate. During this period, pension funds achieved median annualized returns of just 6.4 percent, well below the goal of 7.5 percent to 8 percent returns. Only one pension system has met its investing goals since 2001. No wonder, then, that the indebtedness of state systems increased from $33 billion to a staggering $1.5 trillion.

It's not a big deal, but Andrew Yang's "contest" is overstated

How many stories are out there about how Andrew Yang's $1000/month Freedom Dividend is going to have ten winners? Here's one:
But here's the "prize description" in the contest rules on Mr. Yang's campaign site: 
"PRIZE DESCRIPTION: One (1) winner will receive one thousand dollars ($1000) per month for twelve (12) months.

"The total approximate retail value of the Prize is $12,000, and the provision of the Prize by Sponsor will comply with federal election law." 

(I note in passing that the contest rules state that 10 "potential winners" will be identified. Call me cynical, but the specifcation of how the ten winners will be narrowed down to one single winner leaves plenty of wiggle room to allow a suitably impoverished and grateful person to be the winner. It wouldn't do to have a millionaire win, now would it?)

Would a Republican candidate get away with this? No need to reply; I know the answer.

"Big Labor’s Minimum-Wage Remorse"

You just can't make this stuff up:

Big Labor has had big success getting politicians to raise the minimum wage, despite warnings that it could lead to more automation. Well, what do you know, now the Oregon AFL-CIO wants voters to limit self-checkout kiosks in grocery stores. . . .

The draft initiative claims “grocery stores provide many people with their primary place of social connection and sense of community,” but self-service checkouts add “to social isolation and related negative health consequences” for shoppers. It claims the kiosks “contribute to retail workers feeling devalued” and heighten the risk of everything from shoplifting to underage drinking. Oh, and self-checkout stations also intensify “efficiency pressures on workers.”