Category Archives: In the News

The anniversary of a big experiment in randomness

December 1, 2018 is the 49th anniversary of a major sociological experiment in randomness conducted by the United States government, and it is one that changed the fates of hundreds of thousands of young men and their families. On December 1, 1969, the first televised Selective Service draft, also the first nationwide randomized draft since World War II, was conducted… Read more »

David’s Bridal gets milked to near-death

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At the outset, I will admit that I have never gone into a David’s Bridal store, but there are commonalities in its announcement of entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection that closely mirror other dominant retailers recently in trouble like Sports Authority, Toys-R-Us (both now defunct) and Guitar Center (still around but struggling). Most news stories about these firms focus on the changing… Read more »

Listen to the actuaries if not the scientists

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While I still don’t understand why most Republicans continue to see science and scientists as the enemy, especially in the area of climate change, let me suggest that if you don’t want to hear what the scientists have to say, would you perhaps listen to the actuaries instead? I’ve known a number of actuaries over the years, and I have… Read more »

Are there viable alternatives to the university diploma?

Are there viable alternatives to the credentialing/degree system widely employed in American higher education? Is there innovation in the wings that both enables a more cost-effective education credentialing process and also puts at risk scores of traditional educational institutions? That is the subject of this post. In earlier posts I have been exploring the financial implications of “free college for… Read more »

Voting is (unfortunately) just an ‘ordinary liberty’

In the mess around apparent voter suppression and messy counts endemic to this past midterm election, a fundamental misunderstanding of our constitutional rights is played out frequently by media commenters who ought to know better. In brief, the U.S. is not quite the democracy that you likely thought it was, and perhaps it is time that we did something about… Read more »

Education and the ‘third rail’ of athletics

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The prior post in this series on the math of “free college for all” was about the application of the “fixed-cost dilemma” to higher education funding, which unavoidably skews the financial choices made by college and university administrators based on the accounting treatment of fixed versus incremental costs in their institutions. There is no better place to look at this… Read more »

The “Big-box Challenge” and why Lowes is closing stores

The big-box hardware retailer Lowes has announced that it will soon close 51 “underperforming” stores. The financial comparison of Lowes with its competitor Home Depot provides an interesting look at what I call the “Big-box Challenge,” the risky financial bet that has been a boon to many chains, but at the same time has dragged others, like Borders bookstores and Sports… Read more »

A handy tool for election night nail-biters

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Here is a link to a handy online tool I have used over the last few elections to determine how much hope or threat there is in a close election. Bookmark it for use as the returns roll in. A common scenario is that your candidate is down by a few points, with some of the vote still not counted…. Read more »

Stochastic terrorism part 2 – the mass shooting lottery

In the aftermath of each new tragedy of mass gun violence, people always look for a cause. There are likely many “causes” of mass gun violence, but the math points to a clear, correlated “temperature” that summarizes all of the causes and spits out violent acts that are at the same time random, yet probabilistically predictable. In the prior post in this… Read more »

Stochastic terrorism part 1 – The sand pile effect

I have written in the past comparing the math behind American gun violence as unnervingly similar to the random-but-probabilistic math of lotteries. Another descriptor for this phenomenon pops up from time to time, and it has again after the mail bombs and the tragic Pittsburgh synagogue killings of this past week, and that is the term stochastic terrorism. What is… Read more »