Monthly Archives: July 2018

The advertising funnel, probability, and you

Why do I keep getting these “Nigerian millionaire” emails? And why do I keep getting “phishing” emails purportedly from my bank? How did millions of Britons fall for categorically false messages on Brexit, and how did millions more Americans abandon their lifelong principles to vote for Trump? This is a story about a very old marketing concept, called the advertising… Read more »

Playing Yahtzee® with God

      No Comments on Playing Yahtzee® with God

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the award-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers, about identical triplets who had been raised separately, only to meet for the first time when they were teenagers. The film first explores the question of why these three men were so similar but ends on asking why their lives turned out so differently. The classic “nature versus… Read more »

Believe because it is absurd?

      No Comments on Believe because it is absurd?

“Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” … “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” – George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four In a series of recent posts, I looked at the process of how a large percentage of… Read more »

Non-profit organizations and expanded political power

I wrote recently about how “creative accounting shenanigans” can enable people to get rich while avoiding taxes using 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations in ways outside of their intended purpose. Now we learn that the IRS has decided to reduce regulations on a related form of not-for-profit entity called a 501(c)(4), making it much easier to hide millions of dollars of “dark… Read more »

Blind spots and political third parties

      No Comments on Blind spots and political third parties

Two recurring themes of this blog are that you need a realistic understanding of how probability works in this world, and that evolution happens to you whether you believe in it or not. Political third parties are my example today of people who suffer because they don’t understand the math of probability, nor understand how the unintended effects of cultural… Read more »

Non-profit accounting for fun and profit

      2 Comments on Non-profit accounting for fun and profit

I had an accounting professor many years ago who would teach the various “creative accounting” shenanigans that clever accountants could use to cover up nefarious business practices. However, he would always precede the lecture with the disclaimer, “Only those of you planning to become auditors should listen to this. The rest of you, close your ears.” I hereby give you… Read more »

Is Iowa government decentralization a fantasy?

Note: This is a cross-post of a story that first ran yesterday in the great Iowa blog Bleeding Heartland. I have lived in Iowa for almost 20 years of my life in total, over several tenures, and for the life of me, I still can’t understand why the voters of the state allow the degree of governmental centralization that exists… Read more »

Why be ethical?

      1 Comment on Why be ethical?

I once viewed the assertion that we should all aspire to be ethical was a no-brainer, a universally-held social norm. I don’t believe so anymore. The election of a demonstrably-unethical businessman as president of the United States in 2016, supported despite his very public immorality by the most visible conservative, self-described religious voices, put the final nail in that coffin…. Read more »

Four economic “games” and higher employee wages

There is a lot of talk this summer about why wages in many industries seem stubbornly resistant to rising, even though we are nearly at full employment, and especially in places like central Iowa. [1] In this post, I will take a different whack at the problem through the lens of economic game theory and probability. In short, we appear… Read more »

“Signaling” our way out of an ethical dilemma

I have asserted in earlier posts about “Why good people disagree” that the human inter-brain “moral conversation” is likely one of biochemical probability evaluation. It is the end result of hundreds of thousands of “moral evaluator” brain neurons, representing the “rules” parts of the brain, the “good ends” parts of the brain, the “empathy” parts of the brain and the… Read more »