The helpless gun violence theodicy of “thoughts and prayers”

In a recent post I looked at the theodicy expressed or implied by people as they sought to explain some “larger meaning” in hurricanes and other natural disasters. Theodicy is literally “the justice of God,” or figuratively the broader question of “Why do bad things (or good things) happen in this world?” That latter interpretation has come to include both… Read more »

Hurricane Dorian: Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’ and prayin’

Dorian-Saturday

Residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast (where I live) have woken up on Saturday morning to find their prayers answered, as Hurricane Dorian’s projected path has taken a sharp right turn. Fervent prayers from Florida’s northern Atlantic coast, on the other hand, are apparently still stuck in limbo. Those sentences are an expression of theodicy, “the justice of God,” or the… Read more »

Marginal investors and the sport of curling

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I have long compared professional investment advising to the sport of curling. The financial market is this heavy stone sliding down what seems like an inexorable path toward some destined end. But instead of the sport’s two sweepers trying as a team to influence the “curl,” or the direction of that stone, the capital markets employ tens of thousands of… Read more »

How credit card debt makes income inequality worse

Debt leverage

Debt financing is commonly called leverage for a good reason: The lever is one of the classic “six simple machines” we learned about in school. Using a long stick and a fulcrum, a lever trades distance moved for force, enabling the lifting of a heavy object, or, in a financial example, the purchase of a new car with little money… Read more »

Gun math you should have learned on Sesame Street

Two horrible mass shootings in a short amount of time this past weekend in El Paso and Dayton have unleashed the normal bad arguments and excuses. This a quick post about how to parse the worst ideas from the better ones. It starts with an annoying but important earworm from Sesame Street: One of these things is not like the… Read more »

The three languages of right and wrong

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You likely don’t realize it, but whenever you talk about issues of “right” and “wrong,” you are at least “bi-lingual,” and often “tri-lingual.” Just as many Americans unconsciously and fluidly slip between speaking English and Spanish in a linguistic hybrid, most of us intermix at least three “cultural languages” when expressing our views on morality and the law. [1] I… Read more »

Applying John Rawls’ “maximin principle” on the border

The refugee crisis on the southern U.S. border confirms to me how impotent religion is in addressing the most pressing social and moral problems of our day, taking a back seat to political ideology and innate human “fear of the other.” The current administration’s policies of child separation, indeterminate detention, and harsh detention conditions for people convicted of no crime… Read more »

The elusive and infinitesimal “cause” of gun violence – part 2

In a prior post I looked at the “infinitesimal phenomenon” in gun violence occurrences, where the closer you look for “the one cause” of any gun event, the more it slips away. Yet, in aggregate and over time, the causes are clearly real. In this continuation, we’ll look at why gun violence statistics are so constant over time, or if… Read more »