There she is, so where’s her scholarship?

A couple of years ago, I had a post on the Miss America pageant, where I was sort of perturbed about the amount of money the pageant said it awarded to the winner.

I’m sure there are lovely prizes, but here’s what gets me. There’s a scholarship involved, and according to news reports, Miss America’s scholarship prize is  $50,000. I know that $50,000 is a lot of money, but as the parent of a child in college, I also know that $50,000 isn’t going to cover costs over the four years it takes to graduate.

It seems like a minor complaint, but let’s break it down in terms of how the real world works.

If your kid is going to a state school and you’re a resident of the state, you probably pay $15,000 a year. That’s considered cheap for a college education, and a Miss America scholarship won’t carry you through graduation. If you’re going to a state school as an out-of-state resident, the cost will run you about $25,000 a year, so being Miss America gets you through your sophomore year. If you go to a private school, you’re talking $40,000 a year, so maybe you make it through freshman year and part of one semester. And if you go to an Ivy, you’re talking in excess of $50,000 a year, so maybe you make it through freshman year, and after that, you’re on your own.

About a week ago, John Oliver took a look at the Miss America pageant, and he’s sort of perturbed about the amount of money the pageant said it awarded overall:

I made my calculations on the back of an envelope. He called the IRS. That was impressive.

And he’s right about Donald Trump.

Casualties of war

We’ve launched a war against Islamic State, and it seems like we’re always at battle, but this chart is surprising (Click to enlarge, via Vox):

lesswargraph.0Fewer people are dying in war than ever before.

It’s amazing, but given all of the horrors we read about every day, current world conflicts are nowhere near as deadly as those of the past on a per capita basis. According to Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, writing in The Wall Street Journal:

Since 1946, several organizations have tracked the number of armed conflicts and their human toll world-wide. The bad news is that for several decades, the decline of interstate wars was accompanied by a bulge of civil wars, as newly independent countries were led by inept governments, challenged by insurgencies and armed by the cold war superpowers.

The less bad news is that civil wars tend to kill far fewer people than wars between states. And the best news is that, since the peak of the cold war in the 1970s and ’80s, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world, and their death tolls have declined even more precipitously.

The rate of documented direct deaths from political violence (war, terrorism, genocide and warlord militias) in the past decade is an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point. Even if we multiplied that rate to account for unrecorded deaths and the victims of war-caused disease and famine, it would not exceed 1%.

Pinker’s explanation for the transition to piece is worth reading, but contrary to what we perceive, the world is a lot more peaceful.

That’s not to say there aren’t dangerous people out there who think the way to achieve their goals is to kill everyone in sight. But institutionally and on a global scale, we’re not the blood thirsty savages we think we are.

Hopefully, we can do better.

Nixon resigns: Aug. 9, 1974

This was the scene 40 years ago today:

The country was in chaos. This was a devastating speech, given by a man who had lost everything. And it was a very moving speech. I don’t know how anyone could watch it then and not cry, no matter how much they hated Richard Milhous Nixon and everything he stood for. He is the father of today’s dysfunctional Republican Party, and he showed you could win elections by cobbling together the racists of the old confederacy and the money men of the North and West.

Not to mention George McGovern was a completely incompetent candidate for the Democrats.

The overwhelmingly stupid thing about Watergate was that Nixon’s people never had to break into the Democratic headquarters in the complex to find out what McGovern was up to. The Democrats had totally blown themselves up in 1972 and there was no way in hell Nixon wasn’t going to win in a landslide.

But the thugs and criminals did their job, and the administration covered it up, and Nixon lied about it.

Want to know what’s more astounding about this? Nixon wasn’t impeached. He resigned before it happened. The last president who was impeached was Bill Clinton, and what he was impeached for, on a scale of impeachable offenses, didn’t even touch the top inch of the ice burg of corruption that was the centerpiece of the Nixon presidency.

Still, Nixon was the most fascinating president of my lifetime. I’ve read biographies and autobiographies about him, trying to make sense of how he got to this point in 1974. And at the end of it all, Nixon is immortalized in this song.

 Even Richard Nixon has got soul.

Homophones: There awl gaze

I’m sorry, but at a certain point, the stupidity is just too much to absorb (from the Salt Lake City Tribune):

Homophones, as any English grammarian can tell you, are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings — such as be and bee, through and threw, which and witch, their and there.

This concept is taught early on to foreign students learning English because it can be confusing to someone whose native language does not have that feature.

But when the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.

Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired.

As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw.

“Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page.

Ewe sea, dam homophones Kant bee taut ore scene. Weir sic of they’re bazaar caul fore aural sects. Their knot strait, sew there fowl. Eye four won saver thee passed.

Butt watt dew ewe wont too ad, Bugs Bunny?