Crime stats: Leaving the banks unguarded?!

Below are some bank robbery stats from 2011 that seem super weird to me -- why would there be so few guards in banks versus other security measures? I'm sure there's selection bias in that thieves would tend to plan more robberies in institutions under less guard, but still... is this ratio somewhat typical? Wouldn't it make more sense to increase the numbers of security personnel at banks more broadly instead of solutions that don't seem to deter theft (and apparently aren't terribly effective at apprehending the suspects, either -- see the dollar totals in charts 3 and 4 below for a look at how little the police are able to recoup; security cameras are easily thwarted by disguise). Security Devices Maintained by Victim Institutio...

Making sense of Election 2016: Peak Meaninglessness

Every political pundit (or even remotely connected cultural pundit) is tying themselves up in knots to find the reason(s) -- we know it's complex, yet cannot seem to stop ourselves from Finding The One True Reason behind all things -- behind the sheer absurdity of this U.S. presidential election. No one can find the meaning in Election 2016, because we appear to have hit Peak Meaninglessness. It is the moral equivalent of the 2007-8 financial disaster we also fomented: overweaning hubris and overconfidence in our ability to book tomorrow's profits, today. We so strongly believe in the Power of Progress to make us better people that, combined with our increasing impatience for the Glorious Future, we simply demand to leverage our Future ...

Culture is collective neurosis

There's a popular and somewhat understandable misperception of culture as a vehicle of reproducing "normalcy" throughout society. However, each historical era makes the cognitive mistake of assuming its particular version of Normal is, well, Normal. And that all eras which came before -- that were obviously ruled by stupid people who could not understand the kind of objective truths we are now privy to in the New Modern era -- were a series of mass delusions in which people fooled themselves into thinking they had The Answers, when they so clearly didn't. Because The Problems continue apace. The twisted social psychological paradox we have not yet managed to escape is our abject failure to understand that we Moderns, too, are trapped wi...

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: Find out what it means to me

In response to this well-intentioned article defending the absurdity of tricking third-graders into thinking they are bad at math, thanks to the Orwellian imposition of the Gates-led Common Core standards -- and specifically, the exhortation to "Respect the Teachers" instead of questioning them: "No. Question *everything*. We should be teaching our children to do the same, versus bowing obsequiously to the whims of authority. We should also be teaching them that having respect for people isn’t mutually exclusive with questioning them." >> Read the rest of this well-intentioned rant against the (hopefully!) unintentionally crushing of our children's souls, complete with a raging case of Excessive Parentheticals -- if you dare!

Racism *and* predatory lending, a stellar "business-savvy" 1-2 punch from Toyota

Oh look, Yet Another Case of "financing while brown" -- this time from Toyota: "Here’s how the markup worked: Auto dealers often offer in-house financing. And when a person chooses that route, the dealer sends the buyer’s credit score and other loan risk factors to, in this case Toyota Motor Credit Corporation. The dealer learns the rates the buyer has qualified for, but then is allowed increase it, as the dealer sees fit. That inflated rate can translate into profit for the dealer. It’s usually a small amount—Toyota allowed its dealers to increase rates up to 2.5 percent. But that adds up over years of interest. The CFPB found that, when the dealer was allowed to decide which customers to charge more, people of color, regardless of th...

Diversity unhinges our hidden assumptions of harmony

Diversity unhinges us because it unmasks our hidden assumption that if we all look the same, we will think the same and thereby avoid conflict. Deep down, we still secretly hope that we can avoid having to deal with our differences by magically generating conformity. Our unspoken wish is that, by being identical, we achieve the harmony and collective togetherness we so deeply crave -- the collective harmony we mistake for God.

People resist what they do not choose

Missed in the hubbub about the (rightly) criticized PR gaffe of George Lucas is the kernel of truth in his statement: that whether you're being paid $4 billion or $0.00 to SHOO! go away, you're going to resent being shown the door. Even when you knew it was coming -- and especially when you didn't. And/or expected the opposite. Now imagine if you didn't feel like you had any agency whatsoever in the transaction. People resist what they do not choose. Yet resistance to being dictated to is a good thing. It's how we know we still live in a civil society -- which, frankly, can no longer be taken for granted these days. Ask yourself the question now and then. Ask it of others. Ask it of people from different walks of life. Remember the ...