blueollie

2016 Democratic Dust up: Hillary-Bernie and Krugman-Reich

When people who are usually allies start arguing politics, it is *probably* primary season.

Bernie Sanders has made some headway in the polls and is a bona-fide threat to sweep both Iowa and New Hampshire (I predict a split) and so his positions are getting some scrutiny.

And yes, the numbers do not add up, as Paul Krugman points out (re: health care):

On health care: leave on one side the virtual impossibility of achieving single-payer. Beyond the politics, the Sanders “plan” isn’t just lacking in detail; as Ezra Klein notes, it both promises more comprehensive coverage than Medicare or for that matter single-payer systems in other countries, and assumes huge cost savings that are at best unlikely given that kind of generosity. This lets Sanders claim that he could make it work with much lower middle-class taxes than would probably be needed in practice.

To be harsh but accurate: the Sanders health plan looks a little bit like a standard Republican tax-cut plan, which relies on fantasies about huge supply-side effects to make the numbers supposedly add up. Only a little bit: after all, this is a plan seeking to provide health care, not lavish windfalls on the rich — and single-payer really does save money, whereas there’s no evidence that tax cuts deliver growth. Still, it’s not the kind of brave truth-telling the Sanders campaign pitch might have led you to expect.

And look: if the political theory behind supporting Sanders is that the American people will vote for radical change if you’re honest about what’s involved, the campaign’s evident unwillingness to fully confront the issues, its reliance on magic asterisks, very much weakens that claim.

I think it fails on both counts: political feasibility (from where WE are right now) and on the technical details. You might say “tax the rich” and that IS a good thing, but the arithmetic doesn’t add up.

Now people like Krugman are catching heat from some:

One of the differences between right and left in America is that the progressive infrastructure includes a contingent of genuine wonks — commentators on policy who really do make models and crunch numbers, and sometimes come up with answers that aren’t fully predictable from their politics. The list includes Ezra Klein, Jonathan Cohn, Jonathan Chait, Mike Konczal, myself some of the time, and others. Right now the wonk brigade has been weighing in on Bernie Sanders, and is in general not too impressed on either financial reform or health care.

And the response of some — only some — Sanders supporters is disappointing, although I guess predictable given that somewhat similar things happened during the 2008 primary. There will, I guess, always be some people who, having made an emotional commitment to a candidate, can’t accept the proposition that someone might share their values but honestly disagree with the candidate’s approach.

Emphasis mine. I’ve seen some of that in my private life too (NOT from my wife; she supports Hillary Clinton).

And now you have people like Robert Reich claiming that Paul Krugman doesn’t “get it”.

Krugman doesn’t get it. I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.

Political “pragmatism” may require accepting “half loaves” – but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful. That’s why the movement must aim high – toward a single-payer universal health, free public higher education, and busting up the biggest banks, for example.

Uh, you can “aim high” but THE NUMBERS HAVE TO ADD UP AND THE PROPOSALS MUST BE HONEST AS TO THE COST. The positions of Sen. Sanders fails on both counts and admitting that is just simple honesty.

January 24, 2016 Posted by | 2016, health care, political/social, politics | , , | Leave a comment

Krugman on Sanders vs. Clinton on health care

Paul Krugman explains what the Democratic health care debate is about. Yes, he has a preference and mine is the same. This is why the pragmatist (“let’s see where we can go from where we are now”) appeals to me more than the bold dreamer.

January 19, 2016 Posted by | health care, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

The 2016 election is heating up: Sanders vs. Clinton and D’s vs R’s

The general election It is often claimed that Barack Obama is on the 2016 general election ballot, in a way that George W. Bush was in 2008. If so, what can we infer at the current time?

jan15obamaapproval2016

(from here) The dotted line is the average Gallup approval rating of the past several presidents (back to Truman) at that time in their administration (including the second, if they had one). The light green line is President Obama’s, which is tracking the average very well (48 percent as of yesterday) and the dark green which had the spikes and falls is President W. Bush’s.

So, at least as of now, President Obama is fairly typical of past presidents.

Now you might be hearing “oh no, Obama’s approval rating plunges” but if all you hear about are the plunges (or dips in the market, etc.), you miss the ups and get a false picture.

011516krugman1-tmagArticle

So, watch for that when the Republicans attack the Democrats.

The Democratic Race The Clinton campaign admit that things are tightening up. What will happen? I don’t know (I am expecting a split between New Hampshire and Iowa) but this is turning into an election.

The Clinton campaign has thrown some punches. One of those is on health care. Where Sen. Sanders wants a single payer plan; a type of “Medicare for all”, the Clinton campaign does correctly point out that means a dismantling of Obamacare (ACA) and…STATES running the system with the federal government stepping in if certain criteria are not met. Factcheck.org calls the attacks “misleading”; I call them “nuanced”. This is similar to what the two candidates want in terms of financial institution regulation. Sen. Sanders wants Glass-Steagall to be revived. Sec. Clinton has a different idea as Paul Krugman points out:

For what it’s worth, Mrs. Clinton had the better case. Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.

Surf to the Krugman article; he goes on to say that those who think that Sec. Clinton is cozy with Wall Street are behind the times; this may have been true in 2008 but it is no longer true.

Right now, big money is hostile to the Democrats.

Social Divide between Clinton and Sanders
Now THIS is starting to look a bit like 2008. I remember the bitter divide between those “latte sipping college types” and the “blue collar” types; the former being with Obama and the latter being with Clinton.

Well, I am seeing this again, albeit in a different way. I am on the Clinton campaign mailing list because I made a campaign contribution (as has my wife).

So, I get this e-mail message from James Carville:

ourgirlhillary

“Our girl Hillary”??? I can see college feminists grinding their teeth on this one. Yes, I “get it”; this sort of language plays well with the sort of crowd that they want to inspire. But it is a faux pas with the academic crowd that I hang with.

I should also be clear: I had more of a personal investment in Barack Obama; he was from my state and a modern professorial type guy. He is cool, calculating and uses Sunday mornings to work out..and he watches football and basketball when he can. I don’t have such a personal investment with Hillary Clinton.

But it is my opinion that she is smart, sober minded, level headed and knows how hard it will be…as she warned in 2008:

I am glad that I voted for Barack Obama, but she did have a better idea of how hard the Republicans would fight Obama and how uncooperative they would be.

Humor This is a silly, which candidate would you want with you in a bar fight post.

January 16, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Democrats, health care, hillary clinton, politics, politics/social | , , , | Leave a comment

Slackers and punishment…

Workout notes early morning: 10K walk in Bradley Park; 5.1 mile plus lower 1.23 mile loop. It was cool and pretty; it would have been peaceful too except our local ROTC contingent saw fit to run around and chant stereotypical military sounding stuff. They might have been more impressive had they not been going 10-11 minutes per mile. They aren’t exactly West Point material.

So, needless to say, I don’t like slackers. But sometimes one can be counterproductive when one attempts to punish them. This New York Times story talks about the poor who get into debt but are then hampered by losing their driver’s license …which makes many jobs off limits to them. I believe in paying one’s debts; perhaps wage garnishments are the way to go.

Charter Schools I have mixed feelings about these; and these can sometimes lead to increased segregation:

Parental preferences are part of the problem. The charter school admissions process is itself race-blind: Schools that are too popular conduct lotteries between their applicants. But if a school isn’t white enough, white parents simply won’t apply.

In previous research, Ladd discovered that white North Carolina parents prefer schools that are less than 20 percent black. This makes it hard to have racially balanced charter schools in a state where more than a quarter of schoolchildren are black.

“Even though black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of black students sets up a tipping point,” the authors write. “Once a school becomes ‘too black,’ it becomes almost all black as white parents avoid it.”

On the upside: this is the type of bipartisanship that I hope to see more of:

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes in the way Medicare pays doctors, clearing the bill for President Obama and resolving an issue that has bedeviled Congress and the Medicare program for more than a decade.

The 92-to-8 vote in the Senate, following passage in the House last month by a vote of 392 to 37, was a major success for Republicans, who devised a solution to a complex policy problem that had frustrated lawmakers of both parties. Mr. Obama has endorsed the bill, saying it “could help slow health care cost growth.”

The bill, drafted in the House in negotiations between Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, through 2017.

Without action by Congress, doctors would have faced a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees on Wednesday or Thursday. Senate leaders cleared the way for final passage by allowing votes on several amendments sought by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics, poverty, walking | | Leave a comment

Numbers, fraudulent and misleading…

Education: yes, if you base teaching performance on the test scores of their students, the teachers will cook the data any way that they can. Given a metric, people will seek to optimize the metric, regardless of end results.

A questionable pro-President Obama claim: This article claims a 22 point improvement in President Obama’s approval ratings:

President Obama’s approval rating has improved by 22 points in the Gallup poll since Republicans won control of Congress. Obama’s opposition to the Republican agenda is making the president more popular while destroying the myth of a GOP mandate.

Really? Well, his approval went from 39 to 50 percent, which IS nice. So where did “22 point improvement” come from? You see, his DISAPPROVAL went down so the difference (approval minus disapproval) went from -17 to +5. Okkkkaaaaayyyyy…

That is an interesting slight of hand. But Rep. Sessions (R-Texas) thinks that 108 billion divided by 12 million is 5 million and not 9000. He called it “simple arithmetic”. Hmmm, for him, not so simple?🙂

That’s ok; Fox News will probably back him up, and NPR will probably try to present “both sides” of this arithmetic issue “well, most math teachers say that the quotient is 9000, but some say 5 million so we’ll give BOTH SIDES an equal opportunity….”

March 26, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics | | Leave a comment

President Obama has some good advice about ebola

Yes, I know; many have tuned him out already. But he really is spot on here in what should be a non-partisan issue.

But we are polarized to the degree that if this message comes from the “social and political opposition”, the other side tunes out.
Dr. Andy (a smart, accomplished person who is confused about politics🙂 ) sent me this link which discusses this polarization.

Yes, there are hard feelings at times and not just on these sorts of issues either. Yes, some ideas are not worthy of respect and people’s evasive behaviors should be called out.

October 18, 2014 Posted by | barback obama, economics, health, health care, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Fracking, economics, Obamacare and religious freedom…

Fracking I’ve never been aboard the “fracking is terrible and should be banned” bandwagon. I’ve always been aboard the “energy companies should do it right” bandwagon, and when the companies get sloppy and take short cuts, accidents happen, often with terrible consequences.

So, this study which showed that water contamination near gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas was NOT due to fracking but instead due to leaky gas wells did not surprise me at all. Yes, there is a problem and it should be fixed. But the technique of fracking isn’t the culprit in these instances.

Of course, this headline is wildly wrong: it should read “no water pollution due to fracking”: (from here)

terribleheadline

Economics Textbook economics is working fine, but too many economists have let ideology trump economic theory:

The big problem with economic policy is not, however, that conventional economics doesn’t tell us what to do. In fact, the world would be in much better shape than it is if real-world policy had reflected the lessons of Econ 101. If we’ve made a hash of things — and we have — the fault lies not in our textbooks, but in ourselves.

Obamacare
Yes, Obamacare is working for many, but those who are benefiting from it will vote for those who want to repeal it anyway:

The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

So now you know why my sympathy for people is limited. I am for Obamacare as I think that it helps the economy. But as for the individuals helped by it: read the above.

I remember reacting with disgust when many who are on the public dole complain about President Obama and the liberals.

I suppose their cluelessness is a bit like this:

Separation of Church and state

Now, of course, what is said here is perfectly legal as a campaign rally is not a government sponsored event. And yes, Senator McCain had not yet arrived when this invocation was given (he was to arrive later via his “Straight Talk Express” bus:

But I’ll speak to my reaction (I was there): I bit my tongue and tried hard to not break out in laughter; to me this is “Zeus vs. Thor” stuff.

My point: while I believe in separation of church and State and believe that the government should not take sides on religion, I am NOT religiously offended at public prayers and the like. I see it as, well the way you might see an exotic (to you) culture going through some sort of ritual.

But the religious might be VERY offended; a prayer in one religion might be “blasphemy” to someone else.
Hence, religious people ought to be MORE in favor of “separation of church and State” than I am. Because if these aren’t separated:

The Satanic Temple is widely known for fighting to place a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma statehouse grounds. And now they’re bringing Satanic materials to kids in Florida, and it’s all thanks to “Christian” extremists.

Had Christian extremists let the school remain a secular place that honored the separation of church and state, the Satanic Temple would not have been able to introduce kids to The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, which will be widely available in Orange County schools.

The activity book asks kids to find ways to be inclusive in order to solve problem. For instance, one set of instructions in the book says, “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.” In addition to the activity book other materials will include “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

A Louisiana state lawmaker learned this the hard way:

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal pushed for a voucher program that would allow state funds to be used to pay for religious schools. It’s unconstitutional, it’s a way to use taxpayer money to fund someone’s faith, and it was a bad idea to begin with.
But it passed.
Now, one of the state legislators, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson), just made a shocking discovery, though: Christianity isn’t the only religion!

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

(of course, she appears to believe that our Founding Founders were Christians; some were but others were not).

September 17, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, health care, morons, politics, religion, science, social/political, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Some GMO, Obamacare and Palestine comments…

Yes, Obamacare is working

Paul Krugman chimes in:

One thing about the Obamacare denialists: they don’t give up. First nobody but the sick would sign up, so we’d have a death spiral. Then it was “OK, a lot of people have signed up, but they won’t pay — and anyway, even more people have lost coverage.” […]

And the response I’m seeing is “It’s not Obamacare, it’s the improving economy”.

But it isn’t. The decline is too sharp, too closely associated with the enrollment period to be driven by the at best gradual improvement in the job market. But wait, there’s more. The Urban Institute breaks down the decline in uninsurance by Medicaid adoption or not, which is closely correlated with the general question of whether states are helping implementation or blocking it. Here’s how it looks:

071314krugman1-blog480

Palestine and Israel This is an interesting article about the situation here. I don’t know what to think: I disapprove of Israeli excesses, but the behavior of the current Islamic republics/theocracies in the region is horrible; so it isn’t as if I am eager to see another one pop up.

I don’t know what the solution is or even if one exists at all.

GMO: the person who posted this Popular Science article is staunchly anti-Monsanto but pro science. The article deals with specific claims made by anti-GMO activists and answers them directly. I can recommend it.

July 13, 2014 Posted by | health care, Middle East, science, social/political, world events | , , | Leave a comment

Whining, politics and science

Gee, when people dismiss crackpot ideas (e. g. engage in global warming denialism) it gives Charles Krauthammer the sadz. No, Mr. Krauthammer: ideas have no inherent right to respect, including…well, some academic ideas like this one (forbidding “triggers”).

Speaking of dumbness: a few of the “in the future predictions” made by the film “Idiocracy” have come true. But…I should point out that some of these predictions were already commonplace prior to the movie. Remember how humans in “civilized” countries used to amuse themselves: public executions, burning animals alive, making people fight to the death, etc.

Politics
Yes, keeping control of the Senate will be an uphill fight for the Democrats, even if some of the “head to head” polls look ok now. There is the problem of the “drag” on the ticket due to the unpopularity of the President in the states in question, many of which are “red” to begin with.

But there is time, and the recent news for Obamacare has been good.

And maybe, just maybe, there is some attention being paid to inequality. Ok, that book by Piketty is rather highbrow.

Science
It is interesting, but being slightly underweight and undereating seems to help with longevity. Is there an evolutionary reason why this is so? There is a new conjecture about this, but the conjecture has detractors:

Why did creatures evolve such a mechanism in the first place? Researchers have declared the most popular theory doesn’t make evolutionary sense, and they’ve proposed a new explanation in its place.

The most prominent theory involves what happens physiologically during times of food scarcity. When the living is good, natural selection favors organisms that invest energy in reproduction. In times of hardship, however, animals have fewer offspring, diverting precious nutrients to cell repair and recycling so they can survive until the famine ends, when reproduction begins anew. Cell repair and recycling appear to be substantial antiaging and anticancer processes, which may explain why underfed lab animals live longer and rarely develop old-age pathologies like cancer and heart disease.

Margo Adler agrees with the basic cellular pathways, but she’s not so sure about the evolutionary logic. Adler, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says this popular idea relies on a big assumption: that natural selection favors this energy switch from reproduction to survival because animals will have more young in the long run—so long as they actually survive and reproduce. “This idea is repeated over and over again in the literature as if it’s true, but it just doesn’t make that much sense for evolutionary reasons,” she says.

The problem, Adler says, is that wild animals don’t have the long, secure lives of their laboratory cousins. Instead, they’re not only endangered by famine but by predators and pathogens, random accidents and rogue weather as well. They also face physiological threats from a restricted diet, including a suppressed immune system, difficulty with healing and greater cold sensitivity. For these reasons, delaying reproduction until food supplies are more plentiful is a huge risk for wild animals. Death could be waiting just around the corner.

Better to reproduce now, Adler says. The new hypothesis she proposes holds that during a famine animals escalate cellular repair and recycling, but they do so for the purpose of having as many progeny as possible during a famine, not afterward. They “make the best of a bad situation” to maximize their fitness in the present. “It’s an efficiency mode that the animal goes into,” she says. Adler and colleague Russell Bonduriansky published their reasoning in the March BioEssays.[…]

Mathematics
This Scientific American article discusses “modular forms” and notes that a current mathematician appears to have solved a riddle proposed by a famous mathematician from yesteryear. As articles about mathematics go, this one is pretty readable.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, economy, education, evolution, health care, mathematics, politics/social, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment