No Need to Go Wireless


I'm happy to see that HBO has renewed The Wire for a fourth season. The coming story arc apparently will focus on education in general, and on the mess that is the Baltimore school system in particular. (True story: One of my friends here in The City That Bleeds started homeschooling his kids after learning that one had been taught that 3.00 > 3 and that another, an elementary-school boy, wasn't getting a single recess period all day.) Seasons one and two are now available on DVD, and season three—probably the first American TV drama to explicitly advocate drug legalization—will hopefully follow soon.

I interviewed Wire creator David Simon for Reason last year. You can read the conversation here.

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  1. Pardon my computer programming but “3.00” IS greater than “3” if they’re both defined as string variables.

  2. Yes, and “9” is greater than “10”. Somehow I doubt they were dealing with ASCII comparisons.

  3. (a riff on an old math joke)

    3.00 > 3 for sufficiently large values of 3

  4. Yes, Russ, that’s why these young people should be taught to always use a strcomp() function instead of ==. 😉

  5. The greatest show in the history of television, period, gets another season. That is the best news I’ve heard in a long time!

  6. I wish I could find the article I read a few months ago that concerned Simon’s vision for the series. It came out right around the time a bunch of critics realized The Wire might not be renewed. He apparently has arcs in mind for the next two or three seasons, if he gets the chance. Education for the next season, the “culture of violence” for the fifth, I think.


  7. Just read the interview now, this stuck out to me:

    Ed Burns and I spoke at one of those groups. There came this point where a guy said, “Well, what is the solution? Give me the paragraph; give me the lede. What’s the solution, if not drug prohibition?”

    I very painstakingly said: “Look. For 35 years, you’ve systematically deindustrialized these cities. You’ve rendered them inhospitable to the working class, economically. You have marginalized a certain percentage of your population, most of them minority, and placed them in a situation where the only viable economic engine in their hypersegregated neighborhoods is the drug trade. Then you’ve alienated them further by fighting this draconian war in their neighborhoods, and not being able to distinguish between friend or foe and between that which is truly dangerous or that which is just illegal. And you want to sit across the table from me and say ‘What’s the solution?’ and get it in a paragraph? The solution is to undo the last 35 years, brick by brick. How long is that going to take? I don’t know, but until you start it’s only going to get worse.”

    And the guy looked at me and went, “But what’s the solution?” He said it again. Ed Burns restrained me.

    “The guy” had a fair point — Simon here is quick to assign blame and say something needs to be done, but he’s slow to make any sort of recommendations. It’s easy to tell everyone the world is going to hell.

  8. Josh:

    Simon is just saying that there is no solution for ‘us’ to follow. The “solution” isn’t a policy. The first order of business is not to make things worse, and leaving people alone to choose a lifestyle is a good step along those lines. It is not a solution, though.

  9. What school district(s) were these?

  10. What happens when the kid gets taught that 0.999999…. = 1?

  11. Josh,

    “Fair point” my ass. The guy wanted an emotional answer, not a well-analyzed one. And emotional solutions is what we’ve been getting year upon year. How’s that working out for us?

    It’s not like people just started asking “what’s the solution” now. They’ve been asking it for decades, and every time someone asks, someone comes up with a knee-jerk “solution” that sounds good but actually makes things worse when implemented. This goes on in “business analysis” all the time, it’s nothing new. Having no solution is better than having a bad one, though that rarely resonates with voters and other simpletons.

  12. Mo: .99999…. is equal to one, at least if you intend the string of ‘9’s to continue indefinitely.

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