Monthly Archives: May 2019

Waste, fraud, abuse, and orders of magnitude

Federal Budget

I never cease to be amazed at how petty and venal the level of corruption is inside the Trump Cabinet. The most recent example is HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s $8,812 dishwasher. And who can forget EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s use of staff to search Washington for his favorite body lotion? From the point of view of basic math, however, this… Read more »

Magicians don’t believe in magic

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What do magicians Penn and Teller have in common with many politicians, psychics and preachers? Well, they don’t really believe in the “magic” they are selling. The difference is that Penn and Teller have always told us exactly this upfront, and then fool us anyway. The performances of Penn and Teller are an interesting contrast to those of illusionist and… Read more »

Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

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A long-standing battle between two different philosophies of “doing statistics” appears to play itself out in trying to understand how the human brain exercises volition (or “choice”, or “free will”), and it appears that our brains have decided to stand with the “Bayesians.” All life on this planet naturally seeks to “change the odds” of its own survival and procreation…. Read more »

A refresher on Trump real estate finance

With the recent New York Times publication of an investigation into Donald Trump’s early-1990s taxes, a lot of bad information has bounced around social media from both Trump’s supporters and his detractors. I wrote a four-part “primer” about how Trump real estate finance works last April, plus a follow-up in May, but this post is a “TL;DR” for those who… Read more »

Stop calling them “healthcare insurance companies”

If we are really going to make improvements to healthcare system in the United States, let me suggest that we start by stopping something. We are obscuring a huge reality when we refer to Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare and their ilk as “healthcare insurance companies,” and we need to change that terminology in order to really understand what is going… Read more »