“Ms. Scarlet is committed to making me gain weight,” Professor Plum announced. He paused and then added, “relative to hers.”

He read the mail. (More)

“I’d like to lose a few pounds,” Ms. Scarlet explained. “I looked at last year’s BPI Awards, and they were a bit too wide.”

The staff assured her that the curvaceous and coveted Bippies, for which she modeled, were just fine. Ms. Scarlet smiled but seemed unconvinced as she and Professor Plum left to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar library, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).

In the staff poker game, the Professor of Astrology Janitor was committed to the Jack and Ten of Diamonds despite Chef’s opening raise, which he called. When the flop brought the Ace of Diamonds, Jack of Hearts, and Ten of Clubs, the Professor of Astrology Janitor put in a pot-sized bet with his two pair, thinking Chef had an Ace. When Chef called, the Professor of Astrology Janitor began to worry that she had a suited King-Queen for an Ace-high straight. His worries lessened when the turn brought the Ten of Hearts. He checked, hoping Chef would bet her straight against his full house, but she checked as well. The Six of Diamonds on the river was irrelevant, and the Professor of Astrology Janitor weighed his options. A minimum bet would invite a raise that might be a bluff or a bigger full house, but Chef would fold a straight if the Professor of Astrology Janitor bet too much. He decided a half-pot-sized bet would do.

“Nice catch,” Chef said, showing her mucked King and Queen of Clubs.

The Professor of Astrology Janitor began his plaintive mewling and Chef went to the kitchen to make Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….


Dear Ms. Crissie,

I was disappointed with New York Times economic reporter Annie Lowrey’s rebuttal of what she calls “the policy solution du jour” to the problem of “how to alleviate poverty” – namely, “marriage promotion.” She makes a good case that the argument she’s rebutting is fallacious, then concludes by committing the same fallacy in reverse.

Her argument is “that marriage – or a lack thereof – is not the real problem facing poor parents; being poor is.” The poorer you are, the argument goes, the more the risks of marriage outweigh the rewards.

Lowrey commits the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, or mistaking correlation for causation. If the relationship between poverty and the decline of marriage were a matter of simple cause and effect – one way or the other – then one would expect poverty to have risen dramatically over the past few decades as marriage has declined. But that hasn’t happened.

The decline of marriage among poor and working-class Americans is a result of a variety of social and economic changes. Among them, as Lowrey notes, are “tidal economic forces,” namely “globalization, the decline of labor unions [and] technological change.”

Lowrey quotes W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project: “Unless we improve the fortunes of poor working people, particularly poor working men, we aren’t going to see marriage coming back.” That’s a modest claim – note that he’s describing a necessary condition, not a sufficient one – but it’s hard to disagree: Why should a woman marry a man who doesn’t offer some economic security as part of the bargain?

But President Obama is committed to reducing male wages relative to female ones. In his State of the Union address, he declared: “Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.” Actually, it’s an embarrassment that the president perpetuates this myth–which Slate, in the headline of a 2013 story by feminist author Hanna Rosin bluntly called a “lie.”

James in NY

Dear James,

We applaud your capacity for inverted logic. For example, your correlation vs. causation argument ignores the concentration of single parenthood among the working poor. If poverty causes single parenthood, as many studies show, we would expect to see single parenthood rise primarily in communities where wages have stagnated. Far from a logical fallacy, Ms. Lowrey argues a societal change that even conservative Charles Murray has documented.

However, we note that you gave the game away when you claimed that “President Obama is committed to reducing male wages relative to female ones.” Most of the gender pay gap owes to the “Daddy Bonus” and “Mommy Penalty” – fathers earn more than childless men while mothers earn less than childless women. Raising women’s pay to the levels of men’s pay is only “reducing male wages relative to female ones” if you believe men are entitled to earn more than women. While that may serve conservatism’s commitment to male privilege, it does not serve the interests of women or families.


Dear Ms. Crissie,

It’s c-c-cold-d-d ag-g-gain. H-h-how d-d-do I b-b-bake B-B-B-B-Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread?

Sh-sh-shivering in B-B-Blogistan

Dear Shivering,

Chef chose this alliteratively-named recipe just for you. To make it, first whisk ¾ cup of low-fat buttermilk with ¾ cup of brown sugar, ¼ of canola oil, and 2 eggs in a large bowl and then stir in 1 cup of mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1¼ cups of whole wheat pastry flour, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, ¾ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, then fold in 1¼ cups of blueberries. Pour the batter into a lightly-greased 9×5″ loaf pan and bake at 375°F for 50-60 minutes, the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and let cool for another 2 minutes. Chef serves this with butter and blueberry compote. Bon appétit!



James in NY; as many studies show; Charles Murray; “Daddy Bonus” and “Mommy Penalty”.


Happy Sunday!