Category Archives: Politics vs. math

Kids, can you say epistemology?

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Blaise Pascal

Zen kōans (similar to parables) are notoriously hard to source, but the “stick” theme is common. This “stick kōan” about accepting reality is of unknown provenance, but it makes its point: The master held out a large bamboo stick and asked the student “Is this stick real?” The student, trying to show his superior understanding, replied, “How can we know… Read more »

Betting your life on “The Truth”

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Junction

One of the unnecessary tragedies arising from the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol was the shooting death of Ashli Babbitt, a documented QAnon conspiracy theorist. Ms. Babbitt was the first to enter through a glass door into the secured House Speaker’s Lobby, which had been smashed by her fellow insurgents. Capitol police assigned to protect the U.S. “line… Read more »

When the Confederate flag is marched through the U.S. Capitol

Trumpist goons.

It has always been about people’s perceived position in the racial/socioeconomic hierarchy that they helped to create. Here is a quote from a person involved in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021: “This is not America,” a woman said to a small group, her voice shaking. “They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM [note:… Read more »

Learning to chill on the Defense budget

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U.S. Defense Spending compared

Simultaneously refusing to extend financial aid to the teetering economic bottom of the U.S. populace, the Senate voted a New Year’s Eve bi-partisan override of President Trump’s veto of the $741 billion defense authorization bill. This bill always sets me off for its size, its over-extended purpose and its embedded corruption, but this year I have decided to take a… Read more »

Probability, uncertainty and inanity with the coronavirus

Bayes theorem

The very bad polling outcomes from the 2020 U.S presidential election pointed out the key differences between two often-confused topics. Pre-election polls are measured in percentages and look like probabilities, but they are really trying to quantify uncertainty, and there is a very big difference between the two that the public largely does not understand. The same confusion has bled… Read more »

Updating the Actuaries Climate Index – Listen up Republicans!

Ever since a data update arrived in my email from the Actuaries Climate Index in August I have been wanting to revisit one of my most re-tweeted posts from two years ago, called “Listen to the actuaries if not the scientists.” The short read here is that the climate continues to change in a dangerous direction, as determined not by… Read more »

When innumeracy kills

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Covid risk of harm

In mid-November a fundamentalist Tulsa megachurch held a packed, largely-maskless Christian concert for 2500 people. I’ll deal with the theological ironies in a later post, but despite their likely support for “Right to Life,” I can confidently say that, statistically, the attendees surely murdered people with the coronavirus that night, perhaps people even not in attendance. Ignorance of basic mathematics… Read more »

Chasing Benford’s Law down an election rabbit hole

Nautilus shell

Benford’s Law is a fun statistical phenomenon that this blog has explored a couple of times, most notably here. Benford has gained a sudden new popularity among 2020 election conspiracy sites, alleging huge vote rigging, but only in states where Donald Trump lost. However, this technique is invariably misused and misunderstood in these applications, and so, this is my attempt… Read more »

Seven bets on your 2021 Medicare supplement

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Medigap thumbnail

We are in that season, especially in Florida where I live, when my mail is flooded daily with Medicare switching come-ons, and every other television commercial seems to be pitching me as well. One of my most-viewed posts from last year was my advice to treat this decision as a series of bets on “your money or your life.” This… Read more »