Category Archives: In the News

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 »

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 »

Why you don’t want “across-state-lines” health insurance

One of the first recommendations Republicans typically make in their “Replace ObamaCare” proposals is to give the health insurance companies the ability to “sell across state lines,” which they are convinced will drive down premiums. Insurers are already free to do this, but they need to live by the local regulations in each state in which they sell. There’s the… Read more »

Why Republicans want to drive the ACA off the cliff

The Republican Party, from the White House to the Congress to the “red” state houses, remains bound and determined to crash President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. They could not accomplish this through repeated congressional repeal votes, so their last hope is a multi-state lawsuit which the Barr Department of Justice has determined not to fight, in an alarming abrogation… Read more »

Death, public policy and probability

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A recent study of brain scans in 125 people from multiple locations in the U.S. and Europe suggests a set of patterns of brain activity that are closely linked to differentiating human consciousness from unconsciousness, which has been an elusive Holy Grail for neuroscientists. [1] While the patterns are not yet “sufficient proof” of consciousness, this finding gives us one… Read more »

The new religious Machiavellians

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The characteristic of the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian super-loyal endorsers of “Everything Trump” that continues to confound me most is how they have appeared to toss over three thousand years of classical Judeo-Christian moral/ethical thought in exchange for a decidedly-secular Renaissance ethical model, the famous one expounded by the Italian politician Niccolò Machiavelli. [1] Machiavelli’s famous dictum of “the end… Read more »

“Rent-seeking” and the socialist corporation

Charges of “socialist” seem to be emerging as primary attack strategy by Republicans toward Democrats as the 2020 elections fire up. It is, in my view, all an inane “Humpty Dumpty” twisting of the terms capitalist and socialist to mean “whatever I choose them to mean” in order to raise the ire of captive television and online audiences. In addition,… Read more »

Mind-body dualism and religion – the hard debate

In a prior post, I noted that the most-cited debate between science and religion, that of Darwinian evolution, is “the easy problem to solve” in this face-off. Millions of Christians and major denominational bodies have already come to a reconciliation with the science, simply by understanding, as St. Augustine of Hippo recognized by the early 5th century, that the short… Read more »