Category Archives: In the News

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

      No 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 »

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 »

Constantine, Putin, Trump and the co-opting of religion

The Australian kangaroo and the American white-tailed deer are said to have evolved to dominate a very similar ecological niche. Both comprise the greatest number of large, undomesticated, plant-eating mammals on their respective continents, and both are amazingly adaptable to the pressures of human appropriation of the land. They are both, however, less adaptable to the threat of the automobile…. Read more »

Update: The gun violence lottery

      No Comments on Update: The gun violence lottery

The most-viewed post in the short history of this blog was a February post entitled “The gun violence lottery”. In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, I posited a rather cold math question: What if there is no single “cause” of mass shootings in the U.S. beyond “an unsecured gun was available, and we have millions of unsecured guns… Read more »

A moral conversation about immigration

      2 Comments on A moral conversation about immigration

The debate about immigration and asylum, especially on the southern border of the United States, has reached a fever pitch, and is even on the cusp of civil disturbance. In the language of a previous post, the moral conversation is NOT happening here, either between people or even, I would argue, inside the heads of most people. In that post… Read more »

The math of changing your mind – part 2

      No Comments on The math of changing your mind – part 2

A recent post looked at the concept of Markov chains to help us see the process by which people change allegiance from one restaurant to another, or one political position to another. This post follows up with some of the math behind Markov chains and gives you access to a spreadsheet to let you experiment with the concept. If any… Read more »

The math of changing your mind – part 1

      4 Comments on The math of changing your mind – part 1

In a recent post I explored the idea of collective delusion, where our self-concept of things like our susceptibility to advertising or the under-estimates of our gambling losses are betrayed by the total size of the advertising and gambling markets. In this post, I will look at how collective delusion can extend to our most fervently-held political convictions and the… Read more »