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CSotD: Counting on things that just ain’t so

John Auchter states one of our major problems, though he’s being a bit unfair about it.

He’s right that we have at best a tenuous grip on math and a firm prejudice towards believing what we want to believe.

One of the more popular social media posts is when the poster states that they’ve never used algebra in their life, which is ridiculous because we solve for X every day, whether it’s buying paint or cutting a recipe in half or figuring out how long it will take to get somewhere.

I finally figured out that they mean they’ve never used trig, which may well be true, but it’s silly not to know the difference.

That said, the blame for the confusion in Auchter’s cartoon is not with the listeners but with the reporters, who are indeed famously, embarrassingly innumerate.

So when X-number of health care workers resign rather than getting vaccinated, it never occurs to the reporter to find out how many of them are currently employed, and, as a result, the news consumer doesn’t have any perspective on what that raw number means.

It may be done on purpose, but my experience among journalists makes me confident that it’s almost always a matter of perfectly sincere ignorance.

 

Of course, innumeracy and the resulting illogic is not confined to journalists, and Rob Tornoe points out the flood of sports-betting sites now advertising during football games.

The claims and near-promises he cites are not exaggerations, and you’d think these places were in business to lose money, the way they suggest that you’ll be a consistent winner.

Which is related to the wise observation that all those beautiful buildings in Las Vegas are built with the money of losers.

It reminds me of an on-line scam from the Olden Days, in which a fellow would spam a few thousand people with free betting tips on the week’s games, with one magical sure-fire, can’t-miss pick. A few weeks into the season, he’d start charging for that final pick.

The scam was that he’d pick one team for half his list and the other team for the other half. The losers would quit sending him money, but the winners would trust him even more. He’d do this every week, and, while he’d be cutting his list of suckers in half each time, the winners would be that much more blown away by his insights.

Then the price would go up at play-offs time and he’d cash in.

It’s a good scam, but there’s a much better way to run it. To wit —

 

RJ Matson suggests that the Republican approach to voting rights is to not hand them out, and there’s something of that sports tipster in their approach, even including some indication that GOP extremism costs it to lose some voters while cementing the loyalty of others.

But they’re playing a longer game than that scammer and they’re certainly not losing half their adherents with each empty promise.

What I find intriguing about their opposition to the Freedom to Vote proposition is that they could just stick with their states-rights argument, though their opposition to independent redistricting and their historical undermining of the Voting Rights Act makes it a harder sell.

But unlike that scammer who alienates half his crowd with each pick, the Republicans keep their vows less specific and, instead, flex their muscles to build credibility with a constituency that becomes increasingly loyal without becoming noticeably divided.

They may not offer the same get-rich-quick promises as the sports betting companies, but they certainly do pledge to build pie in the sky for those who stick with them.

And, like those fabulous Vegas casinos, they have piled up plenty for themselves in the process.

 

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Matt Wuerker – Politico)

(Ann Telnaes)

And speaking of bringing in the greenbacks, does anyone really believe that Joe Manchin has any loyalty to the Democratic Party?

He owns a coal company and his daughter feeds at the trough of Big Pharma. For conservatives to mewl and puke over Hunter Biden selling a few paintings while Heather Bresch was multiplying the price of EpiPens is a clear case of straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

It makes you wonder why the Democrats continue to wheedle and beg with Manchin when it’s clear that his loyalties are solidly elsewhere.

The obvious answer to all this is to get money out of politics, which would be easy enough with an amendment.

You’d just need to persuade two-thirds of Congress to wipe the gravy off their lips long enough to vote for it.

 

Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Gary Varvel – Creators)

 

(Mike Lester – AMS)

Another crisis is Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg taking paternity leave to spend time with the two sibling infants he and his husband have adopted.

The wisecrack in Lester’s cartoon suggests that Buttigieg is getting special consideration because he’s gay and people are afraid to criticize him for fear of being called bigots, which has a grain of truth in it, but, then again, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, “He who hath smelt it is most assuredly also he who hath dealt it.”

 

Paternity leave is relatively widespread around the globe, by the way, and may even be more common now than this three-year-old map suggests.

However, rather than opening a discussion of whether it is manly to spend time with a new baby, it would probably be more productive to ask if the supply chain crisis doesn’t require canceling the paternity leave, implied by Lester and more directly asked by Varvel.

It’s a good question, which can be solved with a visit to Google News, where you’ll find that Buttigieg has been actively dealing with the supply chain crisis despite not being physically present in the office every day from nine to five.

Having just spent a year proving that people can work efficiently from home, this should not come as a surprise, but apparently it was absolutely flabbergasting to Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson, who — under the apparent impression that Buttigieg works alone at the Transportation Department — pressed WH Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the matter.

Which is, indeed, how you get the answer:

 

Community Comments

#1 Mary McNeil
October/21/2021
@ 9:02 am

‘Emerald, dear, STFU!” which explains why I am not anybody’s press secretary.

#2 Mike Peterson
October/21/2021
@ 9:40 am

By the end, it did sound like she was dealing with a five year old. “Let’s give someone else a chance!”

#3 Bob Harris
October/21/2021
@ 1:37 pm

The betting tip scam analogy would be closer to the current republican MO if the tipster told all her marks her past predictions — the ones she’d sent them — had been correct 95% of the time.

And if the marks believed her.

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