+1
pick on,
a. Informal. to criticize or blame; tease; harass.
b. to single out; choose: The professor always picks on me to translate long passages.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=pick+on&r=66 )

Now, which 'pick on' is this here?

In general, when you are looking at a large number of values, mean, mode and median will not be too far apart - clumped together somewhere in the middle. But the differences can be significant. Take the average income: a politician who wants to talk up the nation's prosperity would be well advised to talk in terms of the mean rather than the median, because a single multi-millionaire will outweigh hundreds of low earners, bumping up the average considerably. A politician who wants to make out that the nation is going to hell in a hand-basket may pick on the median, because Bill Gates's trillions at the top would be cancelled out by a lone beggar at the bottom.

Or, is it a little bit of both (a ) and (b )?
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Comments  
Takapick on,
a. Informal. to criticize or blame; tease; harass.
b. to single out; choose: The professor always picks on me to translate long passages.


Or, is it a little bit of both (a ) and (b )?
A - is how I would interpret it.
Oh, interesting, Philip. I would written it as "select" and not "pick on," so for me, it's b, choose. I can see how with the "going to hell in a handbasket" part of the sentence, the politician might want to "criticize" the median income.
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A politician who wants to make out that the nation is going to hell in a hand-basket may pick on the median, because Bill Gates's trillions at the top would be cancelled out by a lone beggar at the bottom.

It makes sense to me.

A politician who wants to make people believe falsely that their strong economy is in a bad shape may choose that value of incomes which divide the higher half of values of incomes from the lower half of incomes. The arithmetic mean would be in all probability a higher value than the median if, say, 20% of the population were filthy rich, 60% average and 10% low earners. The median, without doubt, would be an average value; the mean, depending on how many Bill gates were there, in all probability, would be a very high value.
b. to single out; choose:
A politician [who wants to make out that the nation is going to hell in a hand-basket] may pick on the median,
I can't imagine why the author used on there. Such a politician may [select / choose / pick] the median, but not pick on the median. At least I would not have used on if I had written this. Until I saw the definitions above, I was not even aware that pick on meant anything but single out, torment, and criticize!

CJ
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pick on seems fine: to single out for a particular purpose or for special attention (MWOD)
I think I would choose "choose" too (i.e. not the "with hostile intent" meaning).

(I don't know whether the "on" has a slight intensifying effect, to give a sense of "pick deliberately and towards a particular end".)

MrP
Philip
Takapick on,
a. Informal. to criticize or blame; tease; harass.
b. to single out; choose: The professor always picks on me to translate long passages.


Or, is it a little bit of both (a ) and (b )?
A - is how I would interpret it.
Philip, could you tell me why you thought it was (a )?
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