Category Archives: In the News

Why there is always a winner, but it’s probably not you

I’d like to move away from the topic of lotteries, but not yet, because this is the window through which most people normally experience a very counter-intuitive mathematical law concerning probability and randomness. Indeed, the worldwide lottery business is primarily based on the assumption that the operators know this law and you don’t. Setting up a truly-random and fair lottery… Read more »

Income inequality and the Rule of 72 – part 1

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Income inequality is an issue fraught with political stake-in-the-ground positioning, but there is some very basic math that, if understood, deflates a lot of the political grandstanding from either side. If we get the math out of the way then perhaps the policy implications and choices become clearer. The first principle applied here is that nature itself does not usually… Read more »

Progressive or conservative? No, “payday lender.”

I have been working on a three-part post about the math of “income inequality” which goes online tomorrow and over the next week. I think it takes an important and different tack from other viewpoints. Hint: the newest tax law will only make income inequality worse. I am still banging my head trying to pin the “Tax Cuts and Jobs… Read more »

Here is how to compare U.S. and British health care

Recent headlines highlight problems in delivering appropriate patient care in the United Kingdom as this flu season overwhelms the National Health Service. [1] While this certainly does put a lot of British citizens at risk, the usual trashing of the British health care system by elements of the American press is, as usual, grossly misplaced. I have lived under the… Read more »

When Norway was a s***hole (and why it’s not now)

I posted recently about how “chain migration,” currently under attack by our President, was the norm in how our immigrant forebears assimilated into the United States, even those from places other than the countries he described as “s***holes.” I also shared, in a recent book review, how my grandfather came from Sweden in 1901 at the age of 19, escaping… Read more »

Here is how you really simplify taxes

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In an earlier post from January 9, I noted how the most recent change to the U. S. tax code makes compliance more complex, not less, for many taxpayers, and certainly for businesses. In this post, I will lay out some opportunities for truly reducing tax complexity. For the vast majority of ordinary taxpayers, the “quick-hit” route to simplification is obvious…. Read more »

Chain migration the old way

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I recently watched an advertisement on Tampa’s WFLA-TV warning me against this danger called “chain migration,” and the racist dogwhistle rang so loudly that my hearing aids picked it up. These advertisements are sponsored by a PAC called NumbersUSA.com, which is really just one guy, Roy Beck, and some anonymous, very rich donors. Beck, it turns out, has a long… Read more »

Why your taxes won’t get simpler

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A major part of the public relations sell accompanying the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” was the idea that Americans would be soon be submitting their taxes on a postcard. The mock-up of the postcard was trumpeted by politicians well after it became patently obvious to most tax professionals that this was not going to happen. In this… Read more »

Yes, Virginia, we still draw lots

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The November 2017 Virginia House of Delegates election between Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican David Yancey famously ended in a tie after a disputed recount. The race was especially critical because the party in control of the legislature was dependent on this one election. [1] But what does the basic probability of random error tell us about the outcome of… Read more »

Introduction to this blog

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A Virginia House of Delegates election held in November 2017, between Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican David Yancey, is the perfect example of the type of news story I will be expounding upon and expanding upon in this blog. This election ended close enough for a recount. The recount first declared Simonds the winner by one vote, and then a… Read more »