Krugman Partially Redeems Himself By Following Doctor Who

I’ve disagreed with quite a few of Paul Krugman’s columns and blog posts during the primary battle, objecting to his support for health care mandates, populism, and Hillary Clinton. While I’ve questioned his judgment on a number of items at least he knows enough to correct an error in The New York Times on Doctor Who.

Despite the error about the TARDIS which Krugman corrects, I was glad to see The New York Times devote such a lengthy article in the television section to Russell T. Davies.

Details On Charges Against Arrested Bloggers

After yesterday’s post on arrests of bloggers I was curious about the reasons for the arrests, especially in countries such as Great Britain, France, and the United States. I have found more specifics on bloggers who have been arrested since 2003:

64 individuals have been arrested worldwide, serving a collective 78 years in prison.

15 months is the average jail time for arrested bloggers.

8 years is the longest sentence that the WIA found, given to four unaffiliated Chinese reporters in 2003 for “subverting state power; forming informal discussion group.”

3 countries account for more than half of all blogger arrests: China, Egypt, and Iran.

2007 brought more than half of the blog-related arrests in Egypt. WIA attributes the spike to that year’s local elections, a common catalyst for blog crackdowns, according to the report.

22 percent of those arrested last year were charged with using a blog to organize or cover a protest; 17 percent were for violating cultural norms; another 17 for commenting on public policy; and 11 percent for exposing corruption or human-rights violations.

344 Burmese bloggers have been arrested, according to the Committee to Protect Bloggers, but WIA could not confirm the account. Nonetheless, the report noted this figure, showing that its numbers are only the beginning.

4 unexpected countries showed up on the list: Canada, France, the UK, and the US. The French case was for “posting a blog about his local government’s waste and mismanagement.” The Canadian example was for “taking pictures at a conference for his blog.” The British blogger allegedly incited racial hatred. And the three American arrests were for 1) terrorism, 2) child pornography, and 3) videotaping a burning police car during a G8 summit.

AMA Reviews Costs of Physician Reimbursement

The American Medical Association has looked at the added costs to the health care system caused by difficulties in receiving reimbursement. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Insurance companies often fail to properly reimburse doctors, needlessly adding more than $200 billion a year to the nation’s healthcare tab, the American Medical Assn. said Monday.

An analysis of 3 million medical claims over a six-month period beginning in October also found that doctors in the U.S. spend 14% of the fees they receive from insurers and Medicare on the process of collecting those fees, the AMA said in a report issued at its annual meeting in Chicago.

While all administrative expenses will never be eliminated, cutting down this 14% figure will make a difference in overall health care costs. The AMA compared various insurance companies and Medicare with regards to how well they pay claims. Based upon personal experience, I was not at all surprised by who came out on top and who performed poorly:

For example UnitedHealthcare, whose parent owns California’s PacifiCare, paid physicians the contracted fee 62% of the time. By comparison, Aetna Inc. paid the contracted fee 71% of the time and Medicare paid the set fee 98% of the time.

The article provides a good example of the type of nonsense companies such as UnitedHealthcare specialize in as they often fail to pay claims:

UnitedHealthcare spokesman Gregory Thompson said, “Data show there is often a significant lag time between when services are provided and physician claims are submitted.”

If the fault was really do to physicians then we should be seeing equal delays in payment from all payers, as opposed to finding that certain companies, such as UnitedHealthcare, are paying much more poorly than others. The manner in which Medicare often outperforms private payers is one reason why many physicians, who might have had worries about “socialized medicine” in the past, are now open to single payer systems. Even though Medicare has its problems, a payer who pays 98% of the time is far easier to work with than one who only pays 62% of the time.

Obama Doing Well in Early Red State Polls

Polls this far before an election are not very predictive as many people have not made up their minds and many events to come could influence the results. The national polls also mean little as the electoral college determines the winner based upon individual state results. While polling in individual states can change dramatically between now and the election, current polls look very favorable for Obama.

Ohio was a key state in 2004 and this year it looks like the Buckeye State is going to go blue. Public Policy Polling, which was accurate in their predictions for the Democratic Primary, shows Obama with a 50% to 39% lead over McCain.

Virginia also looks competitive. Rasmussen shows Obama with a one point lead. A Mason-Dixon poll shows McCain only leading by two points in Nevada. Other red states might not be likely to flip, but Obama is doing much better than expected. For example, Rasmussen only gives McCain a ten point lead in Kansas, which might force McCain to devote resources just to hold on to formerly solidly Republican states.

Due to leads in several red states, predictions with regards to the electoral college look very favorable for Obama. Mark Nicholas has listed several:

Obama McCain Net 304 221 Obama +83 300 238 Obama +62
Real Clear Politics 238 190 Obama +48
Rasmussen Reports 260 240 Obama +20
MSNBC 200 200 Tied
CNN 190 194 McCain +4

(The formating isn't working well but hopefully readers can figure out the intent of the columns.)

It is interesting that the two media polls, which have an interest in portraying a close horse race, show the race to be closer than the more independent sites. Naturally CNN, the Conservative News Network, has the most favorable results for McCain. MSNBC, which in recent years has tried moving to the left after their attempts to be a Fox clone failed financially, has them tied as a good representation of their mixed ideological nature.

“Yes We Can” Wins Emmy


The Yes We Can video (above) which I described back in February has won an Emmy. The video includes clips of Barack Obama’s New Hampshire primary night speech combined with various celebrities singing.  CNN reports:

Produced by Black Eyed Peas frontman, the video won in the first time “New Approaches in Daytime Entertainment” category that “recognizes innovative production techniques and the use of media enhancement to support content.”

The video became an internet sensation when it first appeared shortly before Super Tuesday. Among the many celebrities who lent their voices to t project, which was filmed in black and white, are John Legend, Scarlett Johansson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

McCain Camp Resorts to The Politics of Distortion

I had hoped that we might have had a clean campaign stressing the significant differences in views between Barack Obama and John McCain. I have criticized Democrats when they have concentrated on attacking brief quotes from McCain as opposed to a more through review of their differences. I’ve opposed attacking McCain on his quotation of being willing to remain in Iraq for one hundred years without including the full context. While McCain might not have been treated totally fairly in some of these attacks, the McCain campaign is now engaging in an attack upon Obama based upon distortions far worse than any of this.

Political Punch quotes from an interview with Barack Obama in which Obama discusses fighting terrorism while still respecting the Constitution:

TAPPER: Speaking of the Supreme Court, you applauded the decision that the Supreme Court made last week. The Bush administration says, no matter what people think about other programs, other policies they’ve initiated, there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11. And they say the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you opposed, the NSA surveillance program, Guantanamo Bay, and other programs. How do you know that they’re wrong? It’s not possible that they’re right?

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind I haven’t opposed, for example, the national security surveillance program, the NSA program. What I’ve said that we can do it within the constraints of our civil liberties and our Constitution.

TAPPER: They disagree, though.

OBAMA: Well, but the fact that they disagree does not mean that they’re right on this. What it means is, is that they have been willing to skirt basic protections that are in our Constitution, that our founders put in place.

And it is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. And there has been no evidence on their part that we can’t.

And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, “Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.”

So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.

The McCain campaign is distorting this interview by falsely claiming that Obama believes “we should treat terrorists as nothing more than common criminals.” This is a total misrepresentation of what was said. Obama has taken a position similar to other Democrats in advocating fighting terrorism with a combination of military actions and use of law enforcement, while respecting the Constitution. This is a principle which has been discussed since the founding of our nation, such as when Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” This does not mean that he considers terrorists to be nothing more than common criminals.

Law enforcement has been responsible for many of the successes against terrorism, as I’ve previously discussed here, here, here, and here. This has been discussed in previous posts as this dishonest attack on Obama is just a retread of the same dishonest attack used by George Bush against John Kerry. If John McCain desires to show that he is not George Bush he must refrain from engaging in this type of dishonest Bush-style politics.

Polling Independents

It is amazing how quickly the conventional wisdom has changed. In recent elections the conventional wisdom, fueled by Karl Rove’s political theories, was that there were very few voters in the middle and that the way to win was for each party to mobilize their base. This led to the Republican Party moving to the extreme right. The result was predictable to those of us who believed Rove was wrong in the long term. Large numbers of people left the Republican Party as they moved to the extreme right and now identify themselves as independents or Democrats.

The Washington Post shows the new conventional wisdom in writing that, “McCain needs support from independents because in recent elections, partisans have overwhelmingly supported their own party’s candidates, and self-identified Democrats now outnumber Republicans.” Suddenly elections are no longer decided by mobilizing the extremes but once again are decided by which direction the independents go.

This story comes in a report of their recent poll which shows that Obama and McCain are even among independents. This might be accurate in terms of people who at this moment in time consider themselves independents, but it can be misleading if taking a long term view of politics. I’m less interested in those who say they are independents right now as opposed to a larger group of voters who shift party allegiance over the years. Many of the people I would consider independents currently label themselves as Democrats. Such voters considered themselves Republicans or independents in past elections but are no longer included in polls of independents. If these independent voters could be accurately polled, I’m confident that Obama would have a large lead among independents. McCain also gets a boost in a poll of self-identified independents as many people who now call themselves independents are people who were Republicans before George Bush.

While we have only had one election since 1980 without a Bush on the ticket, this election remains heavily influenced by George Bush. It is largely due to the extremism and failed policies of George Bush that many former independents now consider themselves Democrats and that many former Republicans are now independents or Democrats. Bush’s approval has reached a new low at 29% in this poll, with views on Bush influencing views on McCain. While 80% of those who approve of George Bush are backing McCain only 26% of those who disapprove of Bush are supporting him.

Gore Endorses Obama

Above is the video of Al Gore endorsing Barack Obama in Detroit.

Quote of the Day

“I thought I was working for the Jedi Knights and in reality I was working for the Sith Lords”
–David Iglesias on The Daily Show in describing his disappointment with the Justice Department under Roberto Gonzalez