Richard Lindgren

Let’s pretend rural Iowa is Mars

Richard Lindgren: A “Mars-on-Earth New City” project is far easier to do, much cheaper, and with much more immediate societal benefit if you pick a spot in America’s struggling heartland. -promoted by Laura Belin

So, I have watched the bizarre unpiloted, billion-dollar carnival ride that took Jeff Bezos into the barest edge of “space.” We are looking at spending more billions of dollars as a collective society to pursue a goal of living on the moon or Mars, for some just for the pursuit of scientific knowledge, but also because some fear that a future Earth may cease to be inhabitable.

Here is a simple brain game: What if we pretended that some place on Earth with challenges to daily habitability is a viable way-station for Mars, and spend our research dollars there instead? I nominate rural southern Iowa, where storm clouds hover over the future. I’m serious.

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When public health gets political

Richard Lindgren: The “commonweal” of public health has taken a back seat to political resentment and anti-science myths propagated by social media. -promoted by Laura Belin

Despite a strong start at vaccinating its populace against COVID-19, my former home state of Iowa has begun to slip in the national rankings in its percentage of vaccinated residents. In Texas, some hospital workers have taken their management to court to fight suspensions for refusing the vaccine, despite experiencing over 52,000 deaths of Texans from COVID in those same hospitals.

What is going on here? Sometimes a simple scatter-graph tells a great story:

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Chasing Benford's Law down an election rabbit hole

Richard Lindgren first posted this essay at Godplaysdice.com. Radiolab has now uploaded a good podcast with similar conclusions. -promoted by Laura Belin

Benford’s Law is a fun statistical phenomenon that my own blog has explored a couple of times, most notably here, because of its usefulness in financial auditing. 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 at some clarity.

We will start out with a good application of Benford’s Law, but if you want to skip right to the bad election vote-counting use, just drop down to the second header.

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Donald Trump's tax problems revisited

Richard Lindgren: “When I run the numbers, Donald Trump appears to own, to use a phrase a business colleague described him with in the 1990s Atlantic City era, a ‘zero-billion-dollar business.’” -promoted by Laura Belin

Ever since I began my own blog in January of 2018, Donald Trump’s “not-normal” finances have been in my head and have been discussed numerous times. Now that the media frenzy over his Covid diagnosis has abated somewhat, perhaps we can get back to Trump’s financial frauds. In light of the recent excellent reporting from the New York Times and others, this is a look back at what I got right and what I got wrong in some early posts about Trump’s wealth and taxes.

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When Chuck Grassley was "pwned" by the televangelists

Richard Lindgren reviews Senator Chuck Grassley’s probe of self-dealing by tax-exempt televangelists, which fizzled out with little to show for years of work. -promoted by Laura Belin

In a recent Bleeding Heartland piece, Laura Belin contrasted U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s aggressive attack on then-Vice President Al Gore’s use of a government telephone in 1997 to make fundraising calls to his silence after repeated and blatant Trump administration violations of the Hatch Act. This flouting of laws and norms culminated in President Trump pulling out all stops to use the White House grounds and hundreds of federal employees to publicly accept the 2020 Republican nomination for President.

In the internet gaming language of “leetspeak,” the notoriously frugal and “by the book” Grassley has repeatedly been “pwned,” (intentionally misspelled, but pronounced “owned”) which means to be embarrassingly dominated and defeated by another “gamer.”

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Living Shirley Jackson's story 'The Lottery' in real time

Richard Lindgren: Governor Kim Reynolds lost a good two months of time pretending that her state was immune from the virus when she could have been turning over rocks testing for emerging hot spots. -promoted by Laura Belin

I do not live in Iowa anymore, although I did spend a lot of my years in a very rural part of the state. I still have grandchildren in Iowa and I can’t help but watch with horror the slow-rolling disaster that is the “economic re-opening” of the state by Governor Kim Reynolds. It has brought from the deep recesses of my mind a classic short story written by Shirley Jackson, and I have realized that we are living this tale in real-time.

“The Lottery” was first published in 1948. During my youth, this work became a part of every American Literature curriculum. I confess that I neither understood the story nor grasped its importance until now.

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