Mouser's View

Looking to be offended? You’ve come to the right place.


October 2015

Math class is still tough

[Time for a long weekend. Don’t forget to be PC on Halloween, and remember that your jack o’lantern causes global warming. This post originally appeared Aug. 14.]

In the summer of 1992, Teen Talk Barbie was programmed to say a phrase the PC police immediately jumped on: “Math class is tough.”

How dare Barbie insinuate that women had inferior math skills? (Never mind that the doll’s other possible comments included stereotypical things like “Will we ever have enough clothes?” Even then, it was about the narrative.)

Newspaper columns were written. The matter was dissected on cable TV. The American Association of University Women expressed outrage.

Because 270 comments were available and each doll could only be programmed to play four, only a small percentage of Teen Talk Barbies talked about math. Of course, Mattel Inc. immediately said anyone who was offended by their Teen Talk Barbie could exchange it for another. The president of the company wrote a groveling letter to the academics.

The fields of science, technology, engineering and math (collectively known as STEM) have traditionally been male-dominated. The gender disparity has been studied endlessly. Some conclude women are steered away from such subjects early by their parents; others have attempted to prove prejudice among teachers or bias by men in tech professions. It has even been theorized that smart women are repulsed by the notion of hanging around with nerds.

Now a London-based information technology website, The Register, reports that two economics professors examined U.S. students’ math qualifications and the entrance requirements required to study STEM subjects in college.

Their conclusion: There are fewer women in STEM professions because … too many apparently hate math, starting at an early age.

At age 56 (first sold in ’59) and looking trim and terrific as ever, Barbie will now accept your apologies.

Reining in the highwaymen

The subject of police departments as revenue collection agencies is getting a bigger airing in state legislatures. The latest example comes from Missouri, where a municipality in St. Louis County has been forced to curtail its lucrative speed trap near the airport.

Currently, Missouri towns cannot take in more than 30% of their revenue from traffic fines. Next year that figure drops to 20%, with a special limit for St. Louis County – 12.5%. That is a political reaction to the riots in the town of Ferguson.

The municipality with the notorious speed trap is St. Ann, population 13,000, which stepped up traffic enforcement after a mall closed, ending a reliable stream of sales tax revenue.

The Huffington Post reported that St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez expressed “mixed feelings” about the legislation.

Chief Jimenez: “I jumped out ahead because I knew I was losing $1.5 million out of my budget [when the legislation kicks in]. I had to lay off 10 officers. Half of them were able to retire.”

The story also quoted St. Ann Mayor Michael Corcoran: “People act like our city survived off those funds off the highway and that’s clearly not the case.”

He said St. Ann is “on solid ground” financially, but then took a shot at the state Legislature: “Some of these neighboring communities are not going to survive. … And then what happens?”

I conclude with some mixed feelings. Sorrow for the laid-off officers and their families … and contempt for jurisdictions that blatantly police for profit. More state legislatures are going to act, and some LEOs may find themselves down to a single bullet, like Barney Fife.

Fat cartoons = fat kids?

You are doing a disservice to your kid if you let him/her watch Homer Simpson.

Not because Homer is a dim bulb. Because he’s fat.


Science is on my side, doubters (but remember it could get overturned next year).

Researchers at the University of Colorado showed cartoon characters to children 6 to 14. Some saw characters drawn at normal weight. Others saw overweight characters. Depictions were discussed. Then, yay, candy and cookies came out.

The kids who saw the fat character ate almost twice as many sweets as the ones who saw the thin character or no character at all.

“The fact that just the exposure to apparently overweight characters leads kids to choose and eat quite a bit more non-nutritious food is really interesting,” lead study author Margaret C. Campbell told CBS News.

The study was published online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

The fallout will be predictable. Michelle Obama’s school lunches will become more draconian. Fox will order another crash diet for Homer. Disney will hang tough with Winnie the Pooh because a skinny bear just looks sickly.

Fat Albert? We won’t be seeing him anyway.

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