Postage stamps and other big numbers

      No Comments on Postage stamps and other big numbers

A continuing theme of this blog is that humans have a difficult time grasping some basic math, even if their futures depend on it. A combination of “scare quote” stories I have read recently about the size of the national debt as well as discovering the new price of first-class postage stamps (now 55 cents) set my mind on the… Read more »

“Testosterone Rex” meets the U.S. Congress

      No Comments on “Testosterone Rex” meets the U.S. Congress

There has been no more interesting contrast in recent history than to see side-by-side photos of the swearing in of the 2019 U.S. House of Representatives. On one side, a diverse mix of young and old, men and women, and of various ethnicity. On the other side, a bunch of mostly-old white men like me, all dressed in dark suits:… Read more »

Can self-driving cars be moral?

      1 Comment on Can self-driving cars be moral?

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll presents one of the best science podcasts, called Mindscape, and a recent episode featured philosopher Derek Leben. Leben has been researching how self-driving vehicles might be programmed when faced with what we would typically call a moral dilemma if faced by a human. For instance, if there were no choice but to swerve the car into a brick… Read more »

The math behind Elizabeth Warren’s “wealth tax”

Elizabeth Warren has come out of the presidential primary gate swinging with a proposal for a 2% wealth tax on assets over $50 million, rising to 3% on assets over $1 billion. Despite the freak-out by conservative pundits, I’d like, in this post, to put these numbers in perspective with a bit of basic math. This, in short, is not… Read more »

Parsing policy proposals – Defense

      No Comments on Parsing policy proposals – Defense

This is the third in a series about how to parse the varying policy proposals for the United States government emerging in advance of the 2020 election. The subject here is how to weed-whack your way through the often-inflated rhetoric on defense and defense spending to find the meat of the proposal. Parse #1 – The great Keynesian jobs program… Read more »

Parsing policy proposals – Healthcare

      No Comments on Parsing policy proposals – Healthcare

This is a second part in a series where I am looking at the “parsing” process I go through in evaluating stated policy positions from the various candidates or interest groups. The direction of healthcare will be front and center in the 2020 election, and we are finally beginning to see some proposals with meat (and a lot of proposals… Read more »

What’s past is prologue – vectors into the future

We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again, And by that destiny to perform an act Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come In yours and my discharge. — Antonio, in The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1 (William Shakespeare, 1610) A freshman college course in Analytic Geometry helped to land me, several years later, onto a project team in… Read more »

Parsing policy proposals – Revenue

      No Comments on Parsing policy proposals – Revenue

Well, we are off to the races for the 2020 elections. My hope against likely reality is that the media would focus on policy proposals by the candidates rather than personality, but so far the new year is starting on the latter trend. This is the first post in a series that will look at my own process for parsing… Read more »

Justice and the parsing of ethical language

Let me suggest that you cannot really understand the disputes in the U.S. Department of Justice over the recusal of Matthew Whitaker or William Barr on issues relating to Robert Mueller’s investigation without parsing three variants of “ethical language” that are in play. People are talking past one another on this topic, and in this post I will try to… Read more »

Gods gone but not forgotten – Hail Janus!

Happy Janus day 1, in the New Year of 2019 AD or CE as you prefer. January is, of course, named after that Roman demigod Janus, the ruler of beginnings and endings. Humans have a way of discarding old gods while still letting them direct our lives, and Janus is a good example of that. Much of what we call “tradition”… Read more »