gary's choices: Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran


Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has been perfectly clear. He wants the United States to go to war with Iran on Israel’s behalf, or, failing that, to define exactly when and how we would start our third war in the Middle East since 2001. President Obama has received these blandishments with a…

Economic Insecurity and Technology

In 2010, 20% of Americans lost 25% of their income due to a decline in income or a spike in medical spending or a combination of the two. The percentage has nearly doubled since 1985.

How might economic insecurity effect demand for technology?

Have we pushed Iran toward a nuclear future?


Hossein Moussavian, the former Iranian nuclear negotiator, now at Princeton, has written an important interpretation of the West’s approach to the Iranian nuclear question. According to Moussavian, writing in Arms Control Today, the US strategy has rejected repeated offers to cap Iran’s nuclear development and install maximum transparency. Instead, the US and its allies have insisted on zero enrichment, in effect demanding that Iran totally dismantle its nuclear program. Iran refused.

The results have been a steady increase in Iran’s nuclear progress on all fronts. And, as Iran’s gradual mastering of the nuclear fuel cycle has grown, the price of any settlement has increased.

Today we find ourselves in the position of imposing crushing sanctions on Iran, while Iran stubbornly digs in to uphold its national pride. This all-or-nothing approach is painting both parties into their respective corners, leaving only economic collapse or war as the way out.

Moussavian reviews, from a distinctly Iranian perspective, the ways in which the US and other negotiators have actually made the problem more severe. He downplays the negative role that Iran has played at various time, but his overall analysis is indisputable — that our tough negotiating posture and our rejection of repeated offers from the Iranian side have in fact led us to the exact opposite of what we claimed we wanted. Despite more than a decade of harsh talk and ever-increasing economic sanctions, Iran’s nuclear program today is larger and more capable than ever. 

With that as our dismal track record, it is fair to ask whether More of the Same is a formula for future success.

Simply Statistics: Obamacare is not going to solve the health care crisis, but a new initiative, led by a statistician, may help


Obamacare may help protect a vulnerable section of our population, but it does nothing to solve the real problem with health care in the US: it is unsustainably expensive and getting worst. In the graph below (left) per capita medical expenditures for several countries are plotted against time….

Very interesting.

Ms. Lauryn Hill: It was reported yesterday that Ms. Lauryn Hill has been charged with...


It was reported yesterday that Ms. Lauryn Hill has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor failure to file taxes. These charges were incurred for the years of 2005-2007, during a time in which Ms. Hill had removed herself and her family from society, in order to keep them safe, healthy,…

Umm… okay.

I’ve plotted this with a log scale on the vertical axis, so the slope indicates the (exponential) rate of growth. The slope does not change very much over time, though it seems to become less steep as time goes on. 

Cosma Shalizi has one of the best blogs on the internet. He also has a tumblr.