Category Archives: In the News

Brett Kavanaugh, moral luck and the veil of ignorance

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In this blog I have visited several times the intersection of mathematical probability with what we often call “divine justice” (also known as theodicy). For instance, the odds being diagnosed with any of several types of cancer resemble statistically the winning of a cruel lottery, with statistical annual diagnosis rates per 100,000 people eerily unchanged from year to year. Or take… Read more »

Three options between the ACA and Medicare-for-all

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When the topic of “Medicare-for-all” comes up in social media, my mantra has been that there are at least a dozen feasible alternatives, mostly implemented in Europe, on the market spectrum between the current U.S. healthcare system and Medicare-for-all that are worth examining for their adaptability to the American model. In this post I will look at a few, although… Read more »

Ethics, legality and Iowa’s governor

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Note: This is a cross-post from the excellent Bleeding Heartland blog. A recent AP news story parsed through the repeated practice of Kim Reynolds, current governor of Iowa, of taking trips using planes owned by businessmen who do substantial business with the state. The most recent incident, involving a vendor handling state workers’ compensation claims, was approved by the executive director of… Read more »

Politics informed by math #1 – Voter fraud

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This is a first in a series of posts looking at issues in the current political landscape where a better understanding of some basic math principles would likely change the direction of the discussion. We are an innumerate nation (the mathematical equivalent of illiterate). When we make political decisions based on bad math we are harming our fellow citizens, and… Read more »

Stock buybacks and income inequality

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In an earlier post I began a discussion on the recent upsurge in corporate stock buybacks, looking at this financial strategy from a basic probabilistic perspective of “good move/bad move.” In this follow-up, I want to explore the impact of stock buybacks as an exacerbation of the continuing problem of income equality in the United States. In that earlier post… Read more »

Rolling the dice on stock buybacks

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A recent opinion piece in the New York Times suggested that we need restrict stock buybacks in order to “save the economy.” [1] While the authors make some good points about long-term effects, I want to lay out a more basic position here. The fundamental problem with stock buybacks is that they are wise financial moves at most 50% of… Read more »

Why taxing churches is harder than you think – part 2

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In Part One of this series of posts, I described how, except for a few notorious churches, enforcing a corporate income tax levy on these organizations would not likely have much impact, nor raise substantial money. In this second part, I will look at the issue of property taxes and tax-free housing allowances granted to many ministers, as well as… Read more »

Why taxing churches is harder than you think – part 1

On Monday, August 27, President Trump met with Christian Evangelical leaders and openly urged them to get more political in this fall’s mid-term election, basically encouraging them to break the law. Indeed, he bragged (inaccurately) that he had “gotten rid of” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 tax law provision of tax law allows the stripping of a church’s or not-for-profit… Read more »

The “values voter” – Whose values?

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In a post a while back I wrote about the concept of “Big Picture” ethics, or meta-ethics, where making moral decisions determined by either by “the rules” or “the goals” become secondary behind a larger, generalized conception of principles or virtues that attempt to reconcile conflicting ideas and filter out the worst choices. One of the primary vectors of meta-ethics… Read more »

Why “pension plan socialism” never happened

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In 1976, management guru Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005) published a thought-provoking “vision for the future” entitled The Unseen Revolution: How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America. [1] In that book he looked at the implications of the then-growing trend for “defined benefit” pension plans owning a greater and greater share of corporate capital, and the social implications for that shift…. Read more »