The long-lasting effects of institutionalized racism

That excellent radio program This American Life just recently won the first-ever Pulitzer prize for excellence in journalism awarded to a radio program. It is well deserved because it is a truly outstanding program. The show they won the prize for dealt with the terrible plight of the migrants who have been turned away at the US-Mexico border because of the cruelty of Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. They rebroadcast that program last week after winning the prize and you can listen to it here. Back in 2005, I wrote to the program offering to nominate them for a prize for their coverage of the terrible treatment meted out to poor people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. You can listen to that program here.
[Read more…]

A fun party exercise illustrates a mathematics theorem

I know, I know, that parties seem to have become extinct but let us assume that at some point we will again begin to have gatherings of more than just the people in our own households. When that happens, here is a fun exercise you can do. Define as mutual acquaintances as any two people who have met at least once before this occasion, and mutual strangers as any two people who have just met for the first time. It actually does not have to be done at parties but with any group of six or more people.
[Read more…]

The Biden problem

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have never been a fan of former senator, vice-president, and now presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. I strongly favored Bernie Sanders and Biden was way down the list of the many people who sought the nomination. Biden has always seemed to me to be shallow, lacking a central core of convictions, and thus easily swayed by pressure groups, lobbyists, and those whom he considers more powerful than him. He has been, like the Democratic party establishment, a loyal servant of the business class, especially those in the financial sector. His home state of Delaware is the choice of tax-evading and money-laundering companies because of its very loose regulatory structure.
[Read more…]


Get Fuzzy is a funny cartoon strip that takes place in an apartment occupied by a loner Rob, his lovable but dimwitted and gullible dog Satchel, and a sociopathic cat Bucky who loves to torment and exploit Satchel and who often has his weird cat friends over.

I have not seen either the stage production or the film version of the musical Cats but know enough to decide that it is not to my taste and also appreciate the humor of this recent strip.

(Get Fuzzy)

Here is an actual performance of the song from the 1998 stage production.

Building slack into systems

What the covid-19 pandemic has revealed, at least as far as the US is concerned, is how delicately balanced the supply and distribution systems are. As long as things are normal, everything appears to run smoothly. But given a large enough disruption, the system can not only not cope, it cannot reconfigure itself quickly enough to meet the challenge. In this case, we have discovered that the supply of goods and services is highly dependent on a just-in-time supply chains for each item that are finely tuned for maximum efficiency and eliminate the need for costly stockpiling of supplies. But the sudden change in the way people live and work has resulted in shortages in some areas along with gluts in others, with no means for quickly redistributing the resources to reach a new equilibrium.
[Read more…]

Another inspector general replaced by a crony

Trump has fired another government watchdog, this time the inspector general who was investigating transportation secretary Elaine Chao for taking actions that benefit her husband Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who has been fiercely shielding Trump from facing any consequences of his corruption and venality. It is a circle of corruption and cover up. The replacement is, of course, a loyalist.
[Read more…]

Everything is now part of the culture wars

Trump’s policies on dealing with the pandemic have been disastrous from the start. After not recognizing the need to take action for about a month early on, a delay that is estimated to have resulted in about 36,000 additional deaths. He has also not provided funding for widespread testing, apparently fearing that would increase the numbers and make him look bad, touted bizarre and even dangerous treatments for covid-19, promised unrealistically quick discoveries of a vaccine, and urged the reopening the country earlier than health experts recommend.
[Read more…]