Trump real estate finance – a primer

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I heard a legal podcaster comment recently that, while she understood Bob Mueller’s investigations into obstruction of justice, she was having a hard time getting her head around the financial crime allegations floating around the Trump election and presidency. In general, the media, with some exceptions, has not asked good questions about where the Trump and Kushner wealth came from,… Read more »

Ethics from the bottom up

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I have studied ethics for many years now, including formal academic work. I started from the usual place, which was an assumption that you will find some higher-order “correct ethical decision” for every dilemma if you can analyze it properly “top-down” and apply the correct philosophical or theological model. Over the years I have more often preferred to turn this… Read more »

Diversions: The T.A.M.I. Show

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I don’t collect much, but I have long accumulated audio recordings from the 1963-1967 British Invasion era, and even that collection is now mostly digital. High-quality film or video of live performances by these groups during those years remain quite rare. Several reasons account for this. One is that the video recording technology was still pretty crude and film was… Read more »

A legislator’s guide to tax reform

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The Iowa state legislature is back at the table trying to tackle tax reform for the umpteenth time. Prior business tax preferences have not had their anticipated effect of raising total revenues. Indeed, the total cash available for crucial government spending has fallen well short of the estimates of the Republican-dominated revenue prediction team for the last several years. So,… Read more »

Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal

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In a recent post I wrote about the split among neuroscientists between the “determinists” and the “compatibilists.” The former see choice/free will/volition as an illusion created by our brains, while the latter see an active role for our “minds” in determining our future actions, although not necessarily as the “master decision-maker” that our personal “homunculus” often perceives. In that post… Read more »

The “double taxation” myth

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The debate over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 resurrected a lot of conflicted thinking about what a corporation is and is not. It has become a common talking point that corporate profits are “double taxed,” first at the corporate level and then as part of the owner’s income. This particular code revision has expanded this theme in… Read more »

Ethics or morality – Is there a difference?

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – – that’s all.’ —Lewis Carroll, Through… Read more »

The power of “magic spells”

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I don’t believe in magic. But I have become convinced that some very real psychological state exists that can only be a “magic spell” without the magic. I have watched friends and relatives become so enraptured with Donald Trump that they have cast aside many of their most treasured religious and cultural norms in order to attest to the man’s… Read more »

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »