The Tax On People Who Are Bad at Math

May 26, 2015

The Lottery: The Tax On People Who Are Bad at Math
Ambrose Bierce defined the lottery as “a tax on people who are bad at math,” but it’s really a tax on the dreams of the poor.

Last year, Americans spent $70 billion on state-sponsored lottery tickets, more than on books, video games, movies and sporting events combined. The poorest third of households buy half of all lottery tickets, and state lotteries advertise most aggressively in poor neighborhoods, Derek Thompson points out in The Atlantic.

“It’s not that poor people don’t understand that the lottery has a near-zero chance of making them dynastically wealthy. It’s that they think everything else has an actually-zero chance. ….  State lotteries, in other words, don’t just prey on poor people’s dreams—they do that for everyone—but rather on desperate dreams.”

— “Why you should never, ever play the lottery,” Matt O’Brien, Washington Post

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Memorial Day 2015

May 25, 2015

Memorial 2015

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday once known as Decoration Day, the time to remember those who fell in defense of their country.  Memorial Day is now officially observed on a Monday to form a three-day holiday weekend, and the original significance has been distilled down to a 60-second Moment of Remembrance.

But there are 259,199 more minutes to a three-day weekend, and human nature abhors a semantic vacuum, so the holiday has acquired meanings in other realms:

Ceremony: Solemn ritual processions.

Ritual garb: White footwear.

Nutrition: Ceremonial meals.

Transportation: The Brickyard.

Economics:  Door-Busters.

Calendar: Memorial Day is the official Unofficial Start of Summer.

The National Moment of Remembrance is at 3:00 PM to 3:01 PM (local time in each time zone) on Monday, May 25, 2015. U.S. Code, Title 36,114, Stat. 3078, Sec.(2)(7): “… reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that that day is intended to be.”

For more about the origins of Memorial Day, see Burying the Dead but Not the Past by Dr. Caroline Janney.

Related:

“Why Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day (but shouldn’t be),” Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

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Luciano Pavarotti & James Brown

May 24, 2015

James Brown performed with Luciano Pavarotti on May 28, 2002 at a concert in the latter’s home town, Modena, Italy. The Godfather of Soul was 69 and Maestro Pavarotti was 67.

Each year from 1992 to 2003 the operatic tenor held “Pavarotti & Friends” concerts with guest performers from all musical genres to raise funds for people in need due to disaster or conflict, and this one benefited the people of war-torn Angola. Other guest performers included Andrea Bocelli, Grace Jones, Gino Paoli, Lou Reed, Sting, and Zucchero.

“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” was written by Betty Jean Newsome and originally recorded by Mr. Brown in 1966.

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Cults of Silicon Valley

May 22, 2015

Cults of Silicon Valley

“In 2015, cults are being discovered and rebranded in Silicon Valley as a way of modeling the twenty-first century corporation. ‘You should run your startup like a cult,’ one of Silicon Valley’s most successful investors, Peter Thiel, advises …. For Thiel it is the very excesses of cultish sociality, that have typically been proscribed and demonized, that make it useful for business. ‘Taking a merely professional view of the workplace, in which free agents check in and out on a transactional basis, is worse than cold: It’s not even rational,’ Thiel argues, working to transform the cult from a social model typically associated with irrational, decadent, violent excess to what Thiel argues is the most rational way to model a startup business.”

— “Cults at Scale: Silicon Valley and the Mystical Corporate Aesthetic,” Kate Losse, DisMagazine.com

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The Thrill Is Gone

May 19, 2015

“The Thrill Is Gone,” written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, recorded by Mr. Hawkins in 1951.  The record went to Number 6 on the R&B chart, and disc jockey Riley B. King played Hawkins’ record on WDIA Radio. Mr. King soon left broadcasting for a full-time career as a musician, performing as B.B. King.

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Gun enthusiast Ted Nugent to Play Concert in Waco a Week After Shootout Kills 9

May 18, 2015

Gun enthusiast Ted Nugent to Play Concert in Waco a Week After Shootout Kills 9
Next week rock guitarist and gun-happy NRA Board Member Ted Nugent will play a concert in Waco, a few blocks from the site of the biker gang gunfight that killed nine people and injured 18 on Sunday. Mr. Nugent lives nearby. The shootout started at the Twin Peaks Restaurant, where Thursday is Bike Night.

192 people were arrested and their bail set at $1 million each.  The biker gangs have allegedly sanctioned executions of Waco police.

More:

“Rocker Ted Nugent to play solo show at Waco Hippodrome,” Carl Hoover, Waco Tribune

“A former undercover agent explains what’s behind the Waco biker gang shootout,” Libby Nelson, Vox

“How the Bandidos became one of the world’s most feared biker gangs, Michael E. Miller, Washington Post

“Texas Lawmakers Talk About Expanding Gun Rights Day After Mass Shooting,” Ahiza Garcia, TPM Livewire

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No Drone Zone

May 17, 2015

No Drone Zone

Hey kids! The folks at the Federal Aviation Administration remind you that you can’t fly drones in and around Washington, DC.  It’s a No Drone Zone.

More:

“Drone Operator Detained in Front of White House,” Julie Zauzmer and Mark Berman, Washington Post

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B.B. King, 1925 — 2015

May 15, 2015

B.B. King, 1925 -- 2015

Influential singer and guitarist Riley B. King died yesterday at the age of 89. He popularized electric Blues guitar and the Urban Blues musical style, performing under the name he adopted as a disc-jockey on WDIA radio in Memphis, B.B. King.

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Johnny Gimble, 1926 — 2015

May 15, 2015

Johnny Gimble, 1926 -- 2015

Award-winning Western Swing fiddler Johnny Gimble died last week at the age of 88. For many years he played with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and was a first-call Nashville session musician. More recently he played and recorded with Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel.

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Bayou Bakery Opens on the Hill

May 13, 2015

Bayou Bakery Opens on the Hill

Celebrity chef David Guas has a new DC outpost of his Arlington café on Capitol Hill. The Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery has just opened at 901 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, in the carriage house of the historic Old Naval Hospital, built in 1866.

The carriage house has some more recent history. In 1990 the nonprofit Community Action Group began operating out of it. CAG, affiliated with Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church, an African American parish, ran a program helping homeless men and women with drug addictions find treatment, housing, and employment. In 2007, when the city and private donors paid millions to turn the main building into the Hill Center, a nonprofit facility teaching kiddie yoga and French cooking, the program for the homeless was evicted from the carriage house to make space for a profit-making restaurant.

Bon appétit.

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