Category Archives: In the News

Science, religion and evolution – the “fightin’ words”

Human language is how we are supposed to communicate with each other, but during my experience living in the United Kingdom, I had some co-workers who spoke in forms of English so different from my Midwestern US flatness that I was able to capture, at best, about fifty percent of the meaning between accent and idiom differences. The debate between… Read more »

In an instant – the probability of February 29

If your birthday or wedding anniversary is February 29, your special day will pass this year in an infinitesimal moment at midnight. [1] The year 2019, when this is posted, is not a leap year, but given any random year, we usually think that the probability of it being a leap year, with a February 29, is one in four,… Read more »

Postage stamps and other big numbers

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A continuing theme of this blog is that humans have a difficult time grasping some basic math, even if their futures depend on it. A combination of “scare quote” stories I have read recently about the size of the national debt as well as discovering the new price of first-class postage stamps (now 55 cents) set my mind on the… Read more »

“Testosterone Rex” meets the U.S. Congress

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There has been no more interesting contrast in recent history than to see side-by-side photos of the swearing in of the 2019 U.S. House of Representatives. On one side, a diverse mix of young and old, men and women, and of various ethnicity. On the other side, a bunch of mostly-old white men like me, all dressed in dark suits:… Read more »

Can self-driving cars be moral?

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Caltech physicist Sean Carroll presents one of the best science podcasts, called Mindscape, and a recent episode featured philosopher Derek Leben. Leben has been researching how self-driving vehicles might be programmed when faced with what we would typically call a moral dilemma if faced by a human. For instance, if there were no choice but to swerve the car into a brick… Read more »

The math behind Elizabeth Warren’s “wealth tax”

Elizabeth Warren has come out of the presidential primary gate swinging with a proposal for a 2% wealth tax on assets over $50 million, rising to 3% on assets over $1 billion. Despite the freak-out by conservative pundits, I’d like, in this post, to put these numbers in perspective with a bit of basic math. This, in short, is not… Read more »

Parsing policy proposals – Defense

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This is the third in a series about how to parse the varying policy proposals for the United States government emerging in advance of the 2020 election. The subject here is how to weed-whack your way through the often-inflated rhetoric on defense and defense spending to find the meat of the proposal. Parse #1 – The great Keynesian jobs program… Read more »

Parsing policy proposals – Healthcare

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This is a second part in a series where I am looking at the “parsing” process I go through in evaluating stated policy positions from the various candidates or interest groups. The direction of healthcare will be front and center in the 2020 election, and we are finally beginning to see some proposals with meat (and a lot of proposals… Read more »

Parsing policy proposals – Revenue

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Well, we are off to the races for the 2020 elections. My hope against likely reality is that the media would focus on policy proposals by the candidates rather than personality, but so far the new year is starting on the latter trend. This is the first post in a series that will look at my own process for parsing… Read more »

Justice and the parsing of ethical language

Let me suggest that you cannot really understand the disputes in the U.S. Department of Justice over the recusal of Matthew Whitaker or William Barr on issues relating to Robert Mueller’s investigation without parsing three variants of “ethical language” that are in play. People are talking past one another on this topic, and in this post I will try to… Read more »