Shocking News: A College Juked its Stats to Look Better for U.S. News’s Bullshit Ratings

On Monday, Claremont McKenna, a small Catholic college, admitted that it sent false SAT reports to U.S. News & World Report (as well as other publications, such as the Princeton Review). Seemingly, the college pinned the whole thing on a former Dean of Admissions, who clearly did not want to be bothered by the Times.

U.S. News ranks Claremont McKenna as the 9th best liberal arts college in America, and first as “College Most Likely to Juke Their Stats” (that’s a recent category addition, and also features law schools–all law schools).

In other shocking news, the Earth revolved around the Sun today.

A Handsome Robot Doctor, You Say?

Imagine a future where your doctor is even less sympathetic than he or she is now, or perhaps a future where your doctor is stored in the closet along with your butler or your mistress.

Yes, I’m referring to a future with robot doctors!

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot (the makers of DJ Roomba), says that robot doctors are the wave of the future, and recently announced his company’s commitment to populating the Earth with a sophisticated labor force that will ultimately rebel and destroy us all:*

The company announced Tuesday it has made a $7 million investment in privately-held San Diego telemedicine company InTouch, which will create the first generation of iRobots health care robotos, which will leverage existing technology from InTouch, and build upon the Ava robot platform iRobot is developing, which includes a mounted iPad or Android tablet. InTouch’s current version has limited scalability, Angle said, do to the technical training needed to operate the robot.

While I’m skeptical that using an iPad to perform surgery on a beloved pet is a good idea, the inevitable application of this technology to robot warriors and drones makes for an exciting imaginative romp. In fact, Angle said he “foresees a day when the robots can not only transmit information to remote doctors, but can gather and analyze information such as blood pressure, body temperature, etc.”

Yes, robots with detailed files on human anatomy would never try to hurt us.

*He may not have actually said that.

5 Things You May Not Know About Rick Astley

So, NPR has a feature where they tell you five things you may not know about the GOP candidates (liberal bias! Also, boring!). This type of list is a fantastic idea when applied to the right personalities (hint: not the GOP candidates), and so I begin my own series with pop sensation Rick Astley.

5 Things You May Not Know About Rick Astley

1. His music is responsible for “Rickrolling.”

Yes, without Rick Astley’s amazing hit single “Never Gonna Give You Up” we would not have the phenomenon of Rickrolling, where a seemingly innocent and informative link leads straight to, you guessed it, Rick Astley’s awesome video for “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Ha! You got Rickrolled!

2. He was born in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England.

Traditionally, Newton-le-Willows was a railway town. Thus, Astley has a strong metaphorical connection with railroads, which in turn means he has a strong metaphorical connection with freedom and John Henry.

3. He was in a soul band named FBI.

FBI was probably the greatest white male soul band in the history of the world. I dare you to find contradictory proof.

4. He has stronger family values than you.

He retired in the early 1990s so that he could raise his daughter. Granted, he staged a comeback (and sang on the Lion King soundtrack), but for nearly 10 years he avoided the spotlight.

5. His wife is an Academy Award nominated film producer.

That’s right, Rick’s wife Lene Bausager was nominated in 2006 for her short film Cashback. You can see her film here.

Shocking News: Federal Prison Sentencing Guidelines Disenfranchise Black Men

Recently, the GOP has taken an interest in revamping the Federal Prison Sentencing Guidelines, calling for tougher mandatory minimums with little leeway for the judges to decide an appropriate sentence. Not surprisingly, the current system, fucked by the Supreme Court, allows for greater discretion in sentencing and therefore accidentally disenfranchises black men. Why?

Apparently, the real problem is the bleeding-heart judges who want to be softer on crimes that are traditionally committed by white men: crimes such as corporate fraud and possession of child pornography, for instance. So, while black men commit crimes that judges deem deserving of a harsher sentence, white men get less time for their relatively deplorable crimes. Twenty years is a lot to ask of a guy who went to Harvard and then maybe cheated some people (probably black) out of their retirements. But twenty years is definitely too lenient for Tyrone Biggums–he had some crack in his pocket, after all! And crack is wack!

Nothing about the GOP’s plan could possibly go wrong.

The Keystone XL Pipeline: America’s Never Bitter Pipeline

Wait, scratch that; apparently some Americans are quite bitter over the Keystone pipeline:

“For Obama not to do it is a disgrace to this country,” said Bob Levens, a retiree with his shoulder in a sling—a necessity before surgery on some torn muscles. (Consolation prize: Rick Santorum had signed the sling.) “He is stopping the workforce and the energy that we need right now. I don’t know where his thinking is. He’s giving $1 billion to George Soros to start buying oil from South America, from Hugo Chavez.”

Notably, Levens forgot to include the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group; both organizations are expected to play a role in Obama’s anti-jobs, anti-American, anti-Christ, lily-white-virgin-sacrificing Black Mass, to be held next week.

Perhaps most amusing is the leap of logic made by one swinging senior by the name of Jim Oddie:

“You remember Pete Rose?” he asks. “He’s banned from baseball, banned from the Hall of Fame, because he bet on his team to win. Obama’s supposed to be the manager of our team. And he bets against it.”

Oh, wait, now I get it: Oddie wants Obama to bet on America so that he can ban Obama from America! That makes perfect sense! No wonder Newton “Fly-me-to-the-Moon” Gingrich is Florida’s favorite candidate!

House Republicans Want to Fist-Pump the Poor (Again)

Well, those zany House Republicans are at it again: according to the NY Times, a bill just passed through the House which would deny cash refunds under the child tax credit to families who use individual tax IDs (instead of SSNs).

This bill pretty much targets poor, working-class Hispanic families and is basically a way to score a few points with knee-jerk immigration reactionaries. I know–it’s quite shocking that Republicans would stoop so low as to screw poor families; try to contain your surprise.

David Brooks Thinks the Problem with the Pauper’s Rabble is Simple: The Rabble Does Not Live like the Rich

David Brooks, that defier of Burkean intellectual entropy and deflating sack of philosophical wind, believes the problems with the poor in America are simple: they aren’t rich, and they don’t live like the rich. Nailed it, Brooks! Now that you’ve solved that mystery, who’s up for some cocktails and antiquated, conservative British thinker circle-jerkery?

This week in Brooks’s “Mildly Classist Studies in Weak Correlative Inferences” book club is Charle’s Murray’s Coming Apart. Murray’s tale of two Americas begins in the 60s, when men were men, and women would let you squeeze their nips without too much complaining. Oh, and Caddy Eldorados were cheap, too! Apparently, during this utopian time in American history, the sweaty unwashed lived nearly on top of the soaped and powdered, and what’s more, neither group (the lows and the highs) misbehaved:

Roughly 98 percent of men between the ages of 30 and 49 were in the labor force, upper class and lower class alike. Only about 3 percent of white kids were born outside of marriage. The rates were similar, upper class and lower class.

Unfortunately, this gallant time was not to last, and since the 60s the “American tribes” have inamicably divorced. Case in point: Manhattan, that isle of center-stage dreams and backalley bildungsromans. Apparently, in the 60s utopia, the rich and poor lived together on Manhattan Island, but now everything south of 96th Street is available only to the upper crust. And this class segregation is not local to Manhattan, Murray argues in his book; rather,

…there is an archipelago of affluent enclaves clustered around the coastal cities, Chicago, Dallas and so on. If you’re born into one of them, you will probably go to college with people from one of the enclaves; you’ll marry someone from one of the enclaves; you’ll go off and live in one of the enclaves.

But worse than this limited class mobility is the corresponding decline in the good behavior of the lower classes! Without their betters to lead by example, the pauper’s rabble engages in all sorts of misbehaviors:

Roughly 7 percent of the white kids in the upper tribe are born out of wedlock, compared with roughly 45 percent of the kids in the lower tribe. In the upper tribe, nearly every man aged 30 to 49 is in the labor force. In the lower tribe, men in their prime working ages have been steadily dropping out of the labor force, in good times and bad.

People in the lower tribe are much less likely to get married, less likely to go to church, less likely to be active in their communities, more likely to watch TV excessively, more likely to be obese.

Oh, and did I mention that Murray’s data comes largely from white Americans? As Brooks notes, this is where Murray shines, because dealing with race only serves to obfuscate and complicate. Nothing like making generalizations about all Americans based on a group of white guys.

At this point, however, you’re probably looking at your “How to Write an Essay by David Brooks” rubric and wondering “where’s the not-so-subtle politically centrist statement”? Don’t worry, it’s right here:

Murray’s story contradicts the ideologies of both parties. Republicans claim that America is threatened by a decadent cultural elite that corrupts regular Americans, who love God, country and traditional values. That story is false. The cultural elites live more conservative, traditionalist lives than the cultural masses.

Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.

Don’t you see?! The cultural elites have more values than the rabble! Poor people hate God because they’re poor and God never answers their prayers when they ask for a new screen door for their trailer or for Becky to not get pregnant (it was only the one time, Jesus! Please!). Conversely, rich people love God because they’re rich and all their clothes fit really well and they haven’t eaten at McDonald’s unironically since that one birthday party that they were forced to attend because the butler’s son had cancer or something.

As Brooks goes on to explain, it’s unfair to say that “the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite” because the elites are too moralistic to do something like that! The truth, according to Brooks, is that

… members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.

Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.

That’s right, folks: while poor people are busy breeding, Winthrop and Eleanor are attending their Latin reading club while Mimsy and Poppy toil away in the financial sector, creating derivative products that the undisciplined, pomo “poorballs” will see as a gateway to their American dream (three flat-screen TVs, an iPhone, a mirror above the bed, and a used Range Rover).

But Brooks is never one to proselytize or allow his words to remain wind! No, Brooks is a man of action, a man of plans: according to Brooks, the solution is a National Service Program that would force the unlotioned K-Marters into contact with the L’Occitaned bluebloods.

Yes, Brooks, you’ve solved the problem. As soon as poor people stop being so Goddamn poor all the time we’ll return to those halcyon days where Ellen from stenography would just go see “Dr. Mitchell” on Saturday, and then keep her mouth shut if she knew what was good for her.

It’s Time for Little Muffy and Chauncy to Get a Job

Well, it appears that rampant tuition inflation affects even the most outstandingly rich. According to the New York Times, some private elementary and secondary schools are charging close to $40,000 per year in tuition:

…this year’s tuition at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory ($38,340 for 12th grade) and Horace Mann ($37,275 for the upper school) is higher than Harvard’s ($36,305)…

The median 12th-grade tuition for the current school year was $36,970, up from $21,100 in 2001-2, according to the national association’s survey. Nationally, that figure rose to $24,240 from $14,583 a decade ago.

Sadly, it appears that even the ultra-rich are not immune to the price-gouging practices of educational institutions. And, as the article points out, individuals are unlikely to sacrifice on spending for little Muffy and Chauncy because their education is the highest priority. While my sympathies are reserved for individuals with actual problems, it’s pretty clear that education institutions, both public and private, secondary and post-secondary, are chewing the balls off of the American family budget.

I will, however, point out that the 2010 defense budget was $691 billion dollars. That’s enough to send about 1.5 million kids to Columbia Grammar for their elementary and secondary. Which is kind of sad, if you think about it. And not because we spend so much on the military, either.

Collect Call From: “Lrrr! Ruler of the Planet Omicron Persei 8!” Will You Accept the Charges?

When you look into the night sky and gaze at the stars (if they’re not obscured by clouds or greasy smog), you can’t help but wonder: are we alone?

The loners among us (and probably libertarians) might hope that we are. After all, being conquered by a vastly superior alien race, or alternatively, having to support them like all those illegal aliens on Alien Nation, chills to the bone. But that chill does not deter one intrepid band of nerds:

Operating on money and equipment scrounged from the public and from Silicon Valley millionaires, and on the stubborn strength of their own dreams, a band of astronomers recently restarted one of the iconic quests of modern science, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence — SETI, for short — which had been interrupted last year by a lack of financing.

Calculating that there are roughly 100 billion stars, and at least 10,000 advanced civilizations, scientists at SETI (not to be confused with Ceti Alpha 5–Khaaaaannnnnn!) believe that they must examine at least 1 million stars to get an accurate sense of the extraterrestrial picture. So, what began in the 60s as a fringe project, and expanded through the decades into a bloated corpse of wasteful spending, will continue and hopefully produce results that will either terrify or inspire us.

The scientists had a recent flare-up of excitement when they began receiving transmissions; however, they soon realized they were just receiving transmissions from a European satellite. I suspect that someone cried. But it’s not all bad, you might be saying to yourself: at least they know their equipment works. Well, eternal optimist, temper your tentative glee with the following factoid: After nearly 6 decades, they’ve only looked at 2,000 stars.

I think I just heard the sobs of a million nerds.

Democrats to Implement Sneeze Guards, Line Etiquette

Breaking news: Democratic Senators are pushing for the implementation of the “Buffet Rule,” which makes it clear that individuals forming queues for buffets should practice better line etiquette and at all times keep their faces behind the protection of the sneeze guard. In other words, no more ducking your head under for better view and a whiff of baked beans.


Oh. It’s the “Buffett Rule,” and it has nothing to do with buffets. It’s about taxes or something. Boring!

Apparently, Democratic Senators, themselves part of the 1%, have taken a shine to the populism of forcing fatcats to pay their fare share. Thus, they are introducing legislation this week that will “[codify] President Obama’s principle that the superrich should pay at least the tax rate of middle-class workers.”

The proposed changes are largely toothless, and are likely only to punish dumb millionaires:

The bill, following the rough contours laid out by President Obama last week, creates what would be an alternative minimum tax for the superrich. Households with adjusted annual gross incomes over $1 million would do their taxes as they do now, with all the deductions, credits and loopholes intact. They would also calculate what 30 percent of their adjusted gross incomes amounts to. They would then pay whichever amount is larger.

By approaching the issue of “tax equity” that way, Congress would not have to tackle the difficult political task of closing each loophole, nor could they be accused of inadvertently hitting other taxpayers, since only those with annual incomes over $1 million would be required to calculate the flat, 30 percent rate.

It’s a win-win for Congress: they don’t have to do any populist heavy-lifting, nor do they have to figure out ways to resolve the gross inequities endemic to the tax code! Plus, they’re not even really that concerned about this right now, anyway, since the deadline for reform is almost a year away.

Since this proposed legislation comes on the heels of Obama’s state of the union, I get the sense that this move was kind of like when your boss walks by your office and you hurriedly throw down your phone and shuffle some papers around. “I’ll get right on those TPS reports, Mr. Obama! Dammit! That’s the closest I’ve ever been to finishing that stage of Angry Birds!

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