Trump’s border wall as a platonic ideal

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We’ve heard a lot about the border wall in the last week — especially since Donald Trump has shut down the government until he gets funding for it. The messaging around the wall reveals that to Trump and his administration and his followers, it is a philosophical worry-stone, not a physical construct. For Trump to … Continued

Jim Mattis’ resignation letter: clear, but not straightforward

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Very soon after Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the US troops now in Syria and many of those in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis resigned. Let’s read between the lines in his resignation letter. Resignation letters in the Trump administration tend to be short and uncontroversial. If you’re not leaving because … Continued

Venezuela’s 1 million percent inflation and other realities of exponential growth

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Venezuela’s financial implosion is devastating. People are starving. The government is printing money to cover budget gaps. And the IMF estimates that inflation will top 1 million percent. But what would it take to get 1 million percent inflation? Before reading on, take this poll. (If you know the formulas for compounding, please don’t use … Continued

How Venn diagrams work, a tutorial for outgoing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker

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Republican Scott Walker won’t be governor of Wisconsin for much longer; Democrat Tony Evers beat him in the recent election.┬áBut in the lame duck session of the Wisconsin legislature, Republicans passed bills that will limit the the powers of the incoming governor. Walker used the world’s dumbest Venn diagram to explain why the bills aren’t … Continued

Lord save us from official morons with Twitter

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Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, doesn’t get how Twitter works. He thinks the technology is biased against him. Look: if you don’t know how to use a tool properly, own up to it and get help. Don’t flail around blaming technology for your own ignorance. Giuliani tweeted this: Mueller filed an indictment just as the … Continued

The U.S. government’s Climate Assessment gets off to a poor start

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Last week the U.S. Federal Government issued its fourth report on the Climate, as mandated every four years since 1990. Despite its being released on the day after Thanksgiving, it got plenty of airplay. But the report itself could do a lot better job of summarizing its pointed conclusions in a way that anyone, even … Continued

Trump’s Saudi Arabia statement: Realpolitik for kindergarteners

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Saudis murdered the Washington Post columnist Jamal Kashoggi in their Turkish embassy. Now President Trump is making the case that we must stand by Saudi Arabia. The term for this sort of strategy is “realpolitik” — but the level of such arguments is typically intellectual, not playground taunts. What is realpolitik? It is international relations … Continued