Don’t Panic Because Nate Silver Predicts Republicans Will Take Senate

I was traveling yesterday and when I finally got on line saw a lot of panic over Nate Silver predicting that the Republicans were favored to take control of the Senate. I don’t find this terribly significant.

We already knew that there was a real possibility that the Republicans could take control of the Senate and Silver’s prediction does not provide any new information. Silver making the prediction does not mean it is any more likely to occur than it was last week. He was way off in predicting a 61 percent chance the Republicans would take control of the Senate in 2012. I hope he is wrong again.

As I noted recently, Nate Silver’s predictions in the 2012 presidential election were similar to those from other sources (ignoring the Republicans who made predictions contrary to polling results). His predictions for the Senate in 2012 were also comparable to predictions being made by others at that point. His prediction for the Senate in 2014 is comparable to predictions already made by others.

There is real reason to fear that the Republicans will take control of the Senate is year, but the news of Nate Silver predicting this does not alter what we knew before he made this prediction and does not mean that it is any more likely to occur.

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Quote of the Day: Jimmy Fallon On Mark Zuckerberg Complaining About NSA Surveillance

“Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently called President Obama directly to complain about NSA and how it spies on ordinary Americans. That’s right, the guy who runs Facebook got mad at the NSA for spying on people. Talk about the pot unfriending the kettle!” –Jimmy Fallon

“Zuckerberg criticized the NSA and called the government a threat to the Internet. Then he went back to running a website where you list everyone you’ve ever met, every place you’ve been, every place you’re going, what you had eat, your ex-girlfriends and your ex-boyfriends, which bands you like…” –Jimmy Fallon

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Nate Silver Opens FiveThirtyEight With Questions Raised About Data Journalism

Nate Silver’s new site, FiveThirtyEight.com, opened this week and I must say I have been underwhelmed. Certainly check it out yourself and come to your own conclusion, but so far I hardly see the posts there as adding anything of value to online sources than we had in the past. I think this is largely because Nate Silver’s numbers driven type of analysis applies far better to sports coverage and polling than it does to many of the other topics which the new site attempts to cover.

Certainly other areas also involve analysis driven by numbers. If one is to run a web site based upon claims of superior analysis of the numbers, it is also important that the numbers be well established as correct. Think Progress has raised questions about FiveThirtyEight’s science writer on climate change. This also shows that it is important to read analysis which does more than just present numbers. As I learned back in college statistics, statistics is the science which shows that the average human has one testicle and one breast.

I don’t intend to downplay the value of Nate Silver’s polling analysis, but it was hardly unique in predicting the elections. Yes, he did far better than the many Republicans who predicted Romney victories based upon opinions rather than fact, but he was not the only one. Besides watching Nate Silver’s site, I also watched a couple sites which took an aggregate of polling results to show who was leading. This provided essentially the same results. It was also easy to predict based upon past results and limited knowledge of the states which states were tending in a different direction.

Nate Silver described his vision for his site here. I certainly appreciate the use of data to substantiate opinions, but so far the posts there have not really provided terribly meaningful data in other areas. Perhaps it will improve over time, but he would have been smarter to have a really major article telling us something we don’t know based upon the numbers to initiate the new site. First impressions are important.

Needless to say, his criticism of opinion articles hasn’t been accepted very well by some opinion writers. Paul Krugman hardly ignores facts and figures but has somehow been cast as the opposing model to Nate Silver’s. Krugman responded to Silver’s criticism of opinion writers:

Nate’s manifesto proclaims his intention to be a fox, who knows many things, rather than a hedgehog, who knows just one big thing; i.e., a pundit who repeats the same assertions in every column. I’m fine with that.

But you can’t be an effective fox just by letting the data speak for itself — because it never does. You use data to inform your analysis, you let it tell you that your pet hypothesis is wrong, but data are never a substitute for hard thinking. If you think the data are speaking for themselves, what you’re really doing is implicit theorizing, which is a really bad idea (because you can’t test your assumptions if you don’t even know what you’re assuming.)

Leon Wieseltier discussed the importance of opinion writers, concluding:

Since an open society stands or falls on the quality of its citizens’ opinions, the refinement of their opinions, and more generally of the process of opinion-formation, is a primary activity of its intellectuals and its journalists. In such an enterprise, the insistence upon a solid evidentiary foundation for judgments—the combating of ignorance, which is another spectacular influence of the new technology—is obviously important. Just as obviously, this evidentiary foundation may include quantitative measurements; but only if such measurements are appropriate to the particular subject about which a particular judgment is being made. The assumption that it is appropriate to all subjects and all judgments—this auctoritas ex numero—is not at all obvious. Many of the issues that we debate are not issues of fact but issues of value. There is no numerical answer to the question of whether men should be allowed to marry men, and the question of whether the government should help the weak, and the question of whether we should intervene against genocide. And so the intimidation by quantification practiced by Silver and the other data mullahs must be resisted. Up with the facts! Down with the cult of facts!

An opinion with a justification may be described as a belief. The justification that transforms an opinion into a belief may in some instances be empirical, but in many instances, in the morally and philosophically significant instances, it will not be empirical, it will be rational, achieved in the establishment of the truth of concepts or ideas by the methods of argument and the interpretation of experience. A certain kind of journalistic commentary, when it is done rightly, is a popular version of the same project, an application of thoughtfully (and sometimes wittily) held principles to public affairs, and is therefore an essential service to a free society. The intellectual predispositions that Silver ridicules as “priors” are nothing more than beliefs. What is so sinister about beliefs? He should be a little more wary of scorning them, even in degraded form: without beliefs we are nothing but data, himself included, and we deserve to be considered not only from the standpoint of our manipulability. I am sorry that he finds George Will and Paul Krugman repetitious, but should they revise their beliefs so as not to bore him? Repetition is one of the essential instruments of persuasion, and persuasion is one of the essential activities of a democracy. I do not expect Silver to relinquish his positivism—a prior if ever there was one—because I find it tedious.

Silver proclaimed in the interview that “we’re not trying to do advocacy here. We’re trying to just do analysis. We’re not trying to sway public opinion on anything except trying to make them more numerate.” His distinction between analysis and advocacy is a little innocent. (Like the insistence of the man who went from the Times to ESPN that he is an “outsider.”) Is numeracy really what American public discourse most urgently lacks? And why would one boast of having no interest in the great disputations about injustice and inequality? Neutrality is an evasion of responsibility, unless everything is like sports. Like Ezra Klein, whom he admires, Nate Silver had made a success out of an escape into diffidence. What is it about conviction that frightens these people?

I have many recent posts on health care reform. Yes, many parts of the issue can be quantified. I could concentrate on the number of people who were without coverage because of preexisting conditions and the number who lost coverage due to being dropped when ill. Numbers are also important when looking at Republican horror stories and the truth about how much money people are really saving under the Affordable Care Act. These are important parts of the story, but not the full story. We also must consider explanations as to how the health care system works and opinions as to how it should. The same is true in many other areas. Facts and numbers are important, but so are analysis, opinions and values.

Update:

This is an argument where neither side is entirely right or wrong. There is even a counter argument to Wieseltier’s assertion that, “There is no numerical answer to the question of whether men should be allowed to marry men.” Steve M wrote:

But there is very much a “numerical answer to the question of whether men should be allowed to marry men” — or at least the opponents of gay marriage strongly suggest that there is. Those opponents argue that gay marriage harms society — specifically, they say that children suffer harm from not having two opposite-sex parents. How do we know this is nonsense? We can look at the lives of children raised by gay couples and compare their well-being to that of children raised by married heterosexuals. If gay marriage were harming the children of gay couples, we’d know it, but it isn’t. And it’s good that we have studies showing a lack of harm, because if we were high-mided and Wieseltierian and chose to remain above the tawdry collection of data on this subject, the anti-gay right would generate all sorts of anti-gay-marriage data and drive the debate with it. (Perhaps Wieseltier needs to be reminded of the preposterous statistics about gay people’s health that have been circulating online and elsewhere for several decades — “the lifespan of a homosexual is on average 24 years shorter than that of a heterosexual” and all that.)

While I agree with Steve regarding the numbers involved, the fact remains that any discussion of gay marriage does also involve values–in this case the values of individual choice and separation of church and state in opposition of conservative values on this issue.

The debate between Krugman and Silver is one where neither side is entirely right or wrong and the differences between the sides are exaggerated when this turns into a blog debate. I don’t think that either Paul Krugman objects to presenting the numbers or that Nate Silver really thinks that everything comes down to the numbers.

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Predictions As To The Demise Of The Health Insurance Industry

Ezekiel-Emanuel

I’ve been seeing a prediction from Ezekiel Emanual recently that insurance companies will be replaced by Accountable Care Organizations and hospital systems in various medical publications recently and now that The New Republic has picked up on this it is starting to be discussed in the blogosphere. Accountable Care Organizations are basically organizations of hospitals and physicians which form a network to provide care to Medicare patients, receiving financial rewards if able to provide the care more economically.

Conservatives are reacting with their usual knee jerk panic and ignorance. The Gateway Pundit, for example, writes, “Despite all of the accumulating evidence that government will be unable to manage the health care system in America, Emanuel is sticking to his guns and hoping for demise of insurance companies.” This evaluation is wrong on so many levels. First of all, the organizations which Emanual foresees as replacing insurance companies are private organizations, not government. Secondly, historical information has shown that government programs such as Medicare have been more efficient than insurance companies in managing health care in America. Thirdly, assuming that the blogger is referring to the problems with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act, the problems have been due to the use of private insurance companies to continue to provide insurance coverage. One lesson from the events of the past few months has been to verify that a single payer system would be far more efficient and easier to establish, regardless of whether this is the desired model.

Conservative blogs have also been quick to claim high rates of happiness with insurance companies prior to Obamacare but that is misleading as most people did not realize how vulnerable they were to problems such as insurance policies being revoked when people became ill and to caps on insurance coverage. Regardless, these problems have been eliminated under the Affordable Care Act and therefore are no longer an issue with regards to whether it is desirable to see insurance companies be replaced.

It is certainly possible that Emanual’s prediction will take place but personally I wouldn’t be so quick to predict the demise of the health insurance industry. I’ve seen a lot of changes in health care during my career. Lots of fads come and go. The insurance companies always seem to remain around. I’m not as certain as today’s fads such as Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations. ACO’s have not been around long enough to say for certain what will become of them, but so far the outcomes have not been what would be expected of an idea successful enough to begin to replace health insurance companies.

There are two different ACO models which vary in terms of how much risk they accept. The more they are willing to risk being out money if costs remain high, the higher their potential rewards. Many ACO’s which started out in the high risk model converted to the lower risk model after they were initially formed. Neither model has shown much success yet. While I receive lots of bonuses from various plans which are adopting pay for performance models, I have yet to see a dime from the ACO I belong to, and neither are many other physicians. Again it is still early, but this does not make me see a strong future for ACO’s at this time.

Hospital systems offering their own insurance policies isn’t a new idea. They have been doing it for a while, and I am seeing an increase in this. Success has been variable. They still have to compete with insurance companies, which have many more years experience in developing insurance products and marketing them. I suspect that plans marketed directly by hospital systems to both business and to individuals (through the exchanges) will grow over the next couple of years but I’m skeptical as to whether they will replace insurance companies. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see insurance companies profit from this trend, offering their services to assist hospital systems and ACO’s which desire to put out a plan under their name.

Again, maybe Emanual is right. If I had to bet on one or the other, my bet is that insurance companies will be around longer than Accountable Care Organizations.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Sarah Palin Saw A Russian Invasion Of Ukraine From Her House

I really wouldn’t mind if Sarah Palin just made her amusing quip about the Ukraine crisis saying “Yes, I could see this one from Alaska” on her Facebook page. It is understandable that she would react this way, both in response to criticism for giving a foreign crisis example of Russia invading Ukraine in 2008 and for the impression of her by Tina Fey. Palin and other conservatives just should be happy with a quick quip such as this an not overplay their hand and pretend that Sarah Palin really had the slightest idea as to what she was talking about.

Steve M. reviewed this in far more detail than is probably needed considering that nobody really needs an explanation as to why Palin is not really an expert on Russian policy, or anything else. Steve pointed out that Palin, or actually her speech writer as this was in a prepared speech, raised the possibility of Russia invading Ukraine during the first six months of his presidency to test Obama. That would be the first six months of his first term. In the same speech Palin criticized Obama for his statement during the campaign that he might go into Pakistan to go after known terrorist targets without their permission. In other words, she attacked Obama for doing what he did to kill Osama bin Laden.

With the full context, Sarah Palin doesn’t look all that bright on foreign policy but thanks for helping us recall Tina Fey’s spot-on impressions. The video and transcript of her routine in which she had Palin say “And I can see Russia from my house” can be found here.

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Liberals Like Cats And Messy Desks

cats

Tests to tell if someone is liberal or conservative are of uncertain significance but often amusing enough to take a look at. From a survey, Time has found, among other things, that liberals are more likely to like cats than conservatives.

Cats are less likely to follow authority. It does make sense that liberals would have a greater affinity for these freedom-loving animals, while conservatives, who are more into authority and imposing their rules upon others (regardless of their rhetoric) might not like them as much. Other questions show a similar distinction with liberals being more supportive of liberty while conservatives being more interested in authority. For example, conservative authoritarianism leads to a preference for more neat and tidy desks.

If we were to follow the logic that liberals prefer cats more than conservatives due to their preference for liberty, then we might think that libertarians would be ever bigger lovers of this anarchic animal. It turns out that libertarians fall between liberals and conservatives on each question. With a little thought about the state of the libertarian movement, this actually makes sense. Libertarians include those who are true opponents of restrictions on liberty, but many other libertarians are basically conservatives who have smoked marijuana. They have hung out with Republicans for so long that it has become difficult to tell them apart. Some libertarians, such as Ron Paul, share many views with the religious right. Plus, as I have noted in the past, Ron Paul’s views would lead to a less free society. Anyone know his opinion of cats? In researching the question I did find a Cats and Kitties for Dr. Ron Paul Facebook Page, but that doesn’t tell me if the attraction is mutual. I wonder what additional information I can find over at FriendFace.

Of course this data is open to other interpretations. Allahpundit at Hot Air wonders if the survey shows that liberals like cats more than conservatives  because women tend to like cats and more women are liberals than conservatives. It is also possible that cats work better as pets among liberals who are more likely to live in urban areas. Similarly,  the tendency for conservatives to be older than liberals might explain why they are more likely to use Internet Explorer, but it appears that Allahpundit might be as quick to write someone out of the conservative movement for using IE as for supporting a tax increase.

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The Past Week In Conservative Stupidity

Over a year ago Bobby Jindal warned that Republicans “must stop being the stupid party.” They have not been doing particularly well at following his advice. To extrapolate this to the conservative movement, this week provided two more examples of what can only be labeled as stupidity dominating conservative conversation–the intentional misinterpretation of the Congressional Budget Office report on the Affordable Care Act and reaction to Olympic coverage from Russia.

This is not to say that all conservatives believe these things or are stupid. However, the prevalence of stupidity does seem to have increased tremendously in the conservative movement and Republican Party in recent years. Even ignoring the easy targets such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, the caliber of conservative discourse generally seen today is far different from what came from past conservatives such as William F. Buckely, Jr., who also fought to keep the Birchers and other predecessors of today’s Tea Party out of the GOP. Barry Goldwater might have many views which liberals find objectionable, but he also warned about what would happen if the religious right took control of the Republican Party. Even Ronald Reagan was not so foolish as to oppose any tax increase or to prevent increases in the debt ceiling to allow the Unites States to honor its debts.

It is understandable that some conservatives might have been misled by the initial headlines on the report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Many journalists, overly influenced by conservative arguments and lacking adequate understanding of health care policy, initially were inaccurate in their coverage. Once the report was more fully evaluated, it was clear that the CBO report actually showed that there is no evidence of an increase in unemployment due to the Affordable Care Act as Republicans had been predicting would occur.  Instead the portions of the report on employment showed that Obamacare was projected to be successful in one of its goals--saving people from the “insurance trap.”

Until the Affordable Care Act came into effect many people continued in jobs they did not want because they would be unable to obtain health insurance if they left their current job. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is no longer tied to employment. Now people are free to retire at an earlier age if they desire, instead of waiting until age 65 when they qualify for Medicare. They are also free to leave large corporations to work for small businesses, or perhaps even start a business of their own. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wrote about projections for an increase in entrepreneurship and self-employment last May. The CBO report confirms that they were correct. This can help boost the economy.

While an initial mistake regarding this might have been unintentional, there has subsequently been many corrections. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post,  corrected errors in reporting in writing, “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs”.  Kessler concluded with saying, “we award Three Pinocchios to anyone who deliberately gets this wrong.” Factcheck.org also corrected the misconceptions.

As some people leave jobs they no longer want or need, their jobs can open up for others. In testimony before the House Budget Committee, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed that the CBO report suggests the Affordable Care Act will reduce unemployment. Even Paul Ryan corrected fellow Republicans on this point. Besides reducing unemployment, the CBO report showed that, while Republicans had been demanding an end to the risk corridors in order to agree to an increase in the debt limit, the risk corridors actually wind up saving the government eight billion dollars. The CBO projects a deficit of $514 billion in 2014, representing three percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This is down from 2009 when deficit was at 10.1 percent of GDP, and more in line with the average size of the deficit compared to GDP over the past forty years.

Conservatives are rarely willing to give up on their criticism of the Affordable Care Act even when contradicted by the facts. They continue to repeat fallacious arguments about death panels or their false claim that Obamacare constitutes a government takeover of health care. Finding that those who received cancellation notices from insurance companies generally received better coverage at a lower price under the Affordable Care Act did not end their claims of people supposedly losing their insurance under Obamacare.

Conservatives remain unwilling to give up the argument about people leaving their jobs, spinning it to suggest that the Affordable Care Act encourages people to be lazy parasites on society instead of working, ignoring the actual types of people this is likely to affect. Conservatives have been presenting “horror stories” of people allegedly harmed by the Affordable Care Act which typically turn out to be untrue once the details are examined. Finally we are seeing newspaper reports emphasizing the positive aspect of freeing people from the “insurance trap.”

While conservative columnists such as Ross Douthat fear that Obamacare will lead to a “strong work disincentive while looking at a population of childless, able-bodied, mostly working-class adults,” these are not the type of people I am seeing as benefiting by freedom from the “insurance trap.” If the health care debate is turning into one of anecdotal cases, I’m thinking of an affluent friend who, because of health history, cannot obtain insurance on the individual market so his wife has been working full time in a job purely for the health insurance, even though they have no need for the income beyond the benefits. I have a patient who was left without insurance when her husband retired in his early sixties and then struggled to pay her medical bills. As of January she finally has comprehensive coverage she can afford. These are the types of people who are benefiting from the supposed disincentive to work under Obamacare.

In theory there is a risk that “able-bodied, mostly working-class adults” might have less incentive to work, but I hardly think that providing affordable health care is enough to do this on a widespread level. Far more able-bodied adults are not working because jobs are not available. Besides making more jobs available, the Affordable Care Act can help relieve this problem in another way. In addition to freeing people to retire in their early sixties or leave jobs held solely for the insurance, people will be able to start small businesses without losing health insurance. In Republican-speak, this should also be beneficial to the economy due to making more “job creators.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wrote about projections for an increase in entrepreneurship and self-employment last May. The CBO report confirms that they were correct, and to a greater degree than previously projected.

Conservatives were wrong about this argument, and now appear stupid, and dishonest, when they continue to repeat the same mistakes. I spent more space on this first example than intended, but in retrospect this is an important point which deserves repeated explanations as long as conservatives are claiming that this positive aspect of the Affordable Care Act is somehow undesirable.

The second example is bizarre outrage from the right wing over the video below which comes from NBC’s coverage of the Olympic games:

Their objection is to this line: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.”

This is being spun by right wing bloggers as praise for Communism, including by FoxMarco Rubio, along with other conservatives commenting, does not appear to understand what pivotal means. The word refers to points which are critical or vitally important. The Russian Revolution was a pivotal point in their history, along with the history of the world. Similarly, Hitler’s rise to power was a pivotal moment. Both 9/11 and Katrina were pivotal moments during the Bush years.  The computer problems during the first month of the exchanges has unfortunately become a pivotal moment for the Obama administration. The word pivotal says nothing about whether the events were good or bad.

This was one line in a video narrated by Peter Dinklage as introduction to NBC’s sports coverage of the Olympics. If this was a political documentary we would expect information on the horrors of communism. This is unnecessary, and probably out of place, in sports coverage, especially if they desire to be polite and avoid criticism of the host country over a political system which has been overthrown (even if the current regime is repeating many of the same mistakes as under Communism).

I suspect this is outrage is partially motivated by the desire of conservatives to falsely paint liberals as socialists or Communists, such as with the absurd claims that a moderate such as Barack Obama is a socialist. To the conservative mind, the mainstream media represents liberals, especially when they fail to differentiate the evening commentary shows on MSNBC from the rest of NBC. There are rare examples, such as the absurd argument I noted a couple of weeks ago at Salon to nationalize the news media, but putting aside such outliers, there no meaningful interest in Marxist-style socialism or Communism on the left. In contrast, I would think that today’s Republicans would love modern Russia. Between its homophobia and substitution of a plutocracy for a working market economy, Russia has become an example of the end-result of the Republican platform.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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In Defense Of Online Reviews

The Daily Mail warns us: Don’t trust online reviews! A fifth are left by people who have NEVER tried the product.

In general, on topics far beyond this one, I’d warn against trusting The Daily Mail.

I do almost all of my shopping online as I simply do not have the time to go to stores, and rarely even make it out of the office before most stores are closed. Other than quickly running into a grocery store, I can’t recall the last time I was in a retail store. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I’ll even order items under $10 online, knowing that I will receive them in two days without any shipping costs. Amazon shows that I have placed 83 orders in the past six months, including orders for both home and office, but not including additional orders placed by others in my family.

Reviews are not needed for many items, but in other cases they are extremely valuable, especially when buying items which I have not seen. Sure, some are fake, but the article exaggerates the problem. The survey cited shows that over a fifth of responders have at some time reviewed an item they have not tried, not that a fifth of reviews posted are fake. Many are intentionally left as spoofs, and are easy to spot.

With a little common sense, it is not hard to go through the reviews and determine if they are worth considering. Many are a quick couple of sentences which may or may not provide useful information, but quite often there are reviews from users which are as detailed as a professionally published review. As they are reviews from someone actually using a product on a regular basis, as opposed to a brief time by a professional reviewer, they often do a better job of giving me the information I want to decide upon a purchase. Someone providing such detail is unlikely to be able to fake the review, and any attempts would be contradicted by other reviewers should they provide inaccurate information. In addition, reviews on sites such as Amazon often include updates as someone has used a product longer, and often include comments and questions to elaborate on the information. Having the reviews from many users provides further information, increasing the chances that the overall reviews are providing an accurate assessment. Plus I can quickly pull up additional reviews from additional sites, such as checking the comments on New Egg when buying electronics.

Amazon also indicates whether someone has actually purchased a product from them, and other sites do the same. Of course it is possible for someone to still write a good review if they purchased the product elsewhere. There are additional warning signs. I have sometimes seen products start out only receiving good reviews, often with similar comments. In such cases they are often followed by a comment from someone else pointing out that the reviewers do not have a history of leaving other reviews, raising suspicion. Unfortunately this also sometimes leads to arguments in comments with someone insisting their review is real and readers will have to decide for themselves whether to trust the review.

This doesn’t mean that there might not be problems with online reviews. Reports that many of the reviews on Yelp are fake is of greater concern as it wouldn’t be difficult to write a review which sounds legitimate for a restaurant which one has not actually gone to. Restaurant review sites also have the opportunity these days to provide some confirmation of legitimacy to their ads by having reviewers sign in at a restaurant on their cell phone to show they were there, even if the review is completed later.  Similarly, sites such as Trip Adviser might indicate whether a person had checked in at a hotel they review. Online reviews are a useful item on the internet, and technology can help make them more reliable.

Update: In the discussion of this post on Facebook, someone brought up reputation management firms which offer to scrub unfavorable reviews from the internet and write favorable ones. This could definitely throw off the value of online reviews, but not to the point where it would be necessary to stop using them.

These companies primarily “remove” unfavorable reviews by flooding the internet with favorable mention of a client so that these come up at the top of a Google search rather than unfavorable sites. This would not remove unfavorable reviews which someone writes at a site such as Amazon or Yelp. By working with information supplied by the company (and perhaps buying their own product) they could conceivalbly get away with posting favorable reviews listed as from verified purchasers with enough detail to sound real. This could tilt ratings, but if a product has problems which the planted reviews leave out, or if the planted review is unrealistically favorable, there could still be red flags when compared to other reviews from real users.

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Medicaid Is Not The Route To A Single-Payer Plan

Corrente is a far left blog which I generally have little interest in, but there are bound to be times when our interests overlap. Today I must say they are right while Paul Krugman and several other liberal writers/bloggers, who I would generally side with over Corrente, are wrong. Paul Krugman and some other liberal writers have been praising Medicaid expansion as if it is a path towards a single-payer plan. A writer at Corrente counters with a post saying that Paul Krugman is wrong about Medicaid.

The writer describe some of their negative experiences in a Medicaid program and concluded:

This is not the system Krugman imagines. He’s not alone; most Democrats and many people who describe themselves as progressive are celebrating the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare as an extraordinary advance. In terms of coverage, they’re right. In terms of steering the country toward health care equity, they’re wrong. Medicaid patients are too often treated as second-class citizens, and the problem is likely to worsen without the kind of drastic reform I mentioned earlier.

There are at present about 150 million Americans being served by at least a half-dozen single-payer systems. We need to take the most popular of those systems and expand it to provide cradle-to-grave coverage for everyone in the country, and improve it to achieve the health care equity that Americans deserve and that President Obama has described as a basic human right. We need Medicare for all.

Medicaid, as the author acknowledged, varies from state to state and even within different parts of states. Some people will have better or worse experience, but the fact remains that in general Medicaid patients are second-class citizens in the health care system. Access to care does vary, but is far different from the health care experiences of most Americans who have insurance or are covered by Medicare. My office receives quite a few calls each week from both people on Medicaid who do not have physicians and from those who desire to get away from the second-class care they often receive in the clinics which will see them. While better than no coverage, to those who have better coverage Medicaid would represent all the horrors of government run health care which the right has been crying about.

I bet that Krugman, and those who echo his views, would change their minds very quickly if they had to give up their private physicians and obtain all their care through Medicaid clinics.

The blogger at Corrente is also correct that, while Medicare is not perfect, Medicare for all would be a much better model for a single-payer plan. It is far better than Medicaid, while still keeping costs down.

I must conclude by also pointing out that Medicaid expansion is not without benefits. Having Medicaid is still far better than having no coverage, despite misinterpretations being spread by conservatives regarding studies of Medicaid expansion in Oregon. I previously discussed this topic here. When the Affordable Care Act was being considered in Congress while the Democrats technically had sixty votes, there weren’t sixty votes for either a pubic option or even a Medicare buy-in, due to opposition by Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson. With limited money to expand health care coverage, and the impossibility of a single-payer system based on Medicare getting through Congress, Medicaid expansion was an understandable compromise to provide some coverage to the working poor. That does not make it a desirable model for moving to a single-payer plan.

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Another Right Wing Fantasy About Liberalism And The Economy

It is amusing to see how the right wing tries to rationalize facts which differ from the false narrative they spread about the left, falsely claiming that most liberal groups are anti-business and pro-socialism. If they act this shocked about the policies of the Obama administration, when corporations are seeing record profits and the stock market is at record levels, imagine their shock if someone who really is far left was ever elected. Powerline has posted a rather bizarre attack on the Center for American Progress and their blog Think Progress.

Think Progress is a center-left blog which concentrates on accumulating multiple links and facts to support liberal positions. They have had a number of posts recently on problems faced by the working poor, but regardless of where one stands on this issue, it is hardly an all-out attack on capitalism. A relatively centrist support for continuation of most aspects of our economic system, while promoting some reforms, is not surprising in light of the donors to the organization. John Hinderaker’s spin:

The Center for American Progress is a left-wing organization that is closely associated with the Obama administration. Its principal product is a web site called Think Progress. Think Progress is part of the internet cesspool that modern liberalism has become. Written by hack left-wing bloggers, it is bitterly hostile to free enterprise. It is a low-rent site that traffics in the most absurd smears and conspiracy theories. Many have wondered for some years who finances far-left web sites like Think Progress. As of today, we know at least part of the answer, as CAP released its corporate donor list for the first time.

CAP says that individuals and foundations account for more than 90% of its funding, and corporations only around 6%. It would be interesting to see the individual and foundation donor list; my guess is that left-wing foundations, most of which spend money left by dead conservatives, would loom large. But what corporations fund Think Progress’s anti-free enterprise propaganda? The full list is here; it includes:

* Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists.
* American Iron and Steel Institute
* America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP
* Apple Inc.
* AT&T
* Bank of America
* Blackstone, one of the largest multinational private equity firms
* Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
* Citigroup
* The Coca-Cola Company
* Comcast NBCUniversal
* CVS Caremark Inc.
* Eli Lilly and Company
* Facebook
* GE
* Goldman Sachs
* Google
* Japan Bank for International Cooperation
* Microsoft Corporation
* Northrop Grumman, defense contractor
* PepsiCo
* Samsung
* Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States
* Time Warner Inc.
* Walmart
* Wells Fargo

There are some far left blogs which actually are a cesspool, are hostile to free enterprise, contain smears, and/or contain conspiracy theories. In other words, in many ways some far left blogs are comparable to blogs of the far right (except that far more blogs on the far right are a cesspool of irrationality). Think Progress hardly fits into this category, but as most conservatives are unlikely to do any fact-checking or read Think Progress, I imagine Hinderaker can get away with writing whatever he wishes on his blog.

A reasonable person might see this list and conclude that the American left is not really hostile to either free-enterprise or corporate America. Hinderaker’s interpretation is that “CAP’s disclosure is a timely reminder that large corporations are not, in general, supporters of free enterprise. Many of them love to partner with government to suppress innovation and competition.” There is certainly some truth to this. Corporations, along with most people in the real world, realize that many aspects of the far right’s view of the economy do not work in the real world. To a certain degree it is also likely a case of corporations contributing to both sides of the political spectrum in the hopes of getting what they want from government. Amusingly, Hinderaker promotes the Koch brothers as some sort of exception, buying their public statements in support of laissez faire capitalism while ignoring how the Koch brothers, like most businessmen, have taken advantage of government to boost their profits. For the right wing, where rhetoric trumps both principles and facts, it is commonly how you say something or who you are aligned with as opposed to what you really support which counts.

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