Friday, October 30, 2020

Science of Nerdiness; Statistics

Here is an interesting article from Scientific American. It gives a plausible explanation for my being nerdy. 😲 Maybe that should be my being "dopey."  😋

A friend and professor is near completing a college-level textbook about statistical literacy. He already has a well-known publisher. Nerdy me is reviewing and proofreading it for him. His website is among the external links in the Wikipedia article. 

Statistical literacy is important. Many people accept questionable statistics. Numbers add an aura of being  objective. It is sometimes said, "Numbers don't lie." That's literally true, but liars may use numbers (link). And people may be duped by statistics-based arguments such as this one by David Leonhardt of the The New York Times.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." -- Mark Twain

Monday, October 26, 2020

Joe Biden’s public option

Another pile of ambiguity that Joe Biden promotes is the so-called “public option.” This will allegedly improve Obamacare, but is not as extreme as Medicare for All. Strong critics call it socialism, which Biden says is false. A more accurate description would be “toddler socialism”, and it is widely known that most toddlers grow into adults. Another term is “creeping socialism,” although “fast crawl socialism” would better fit Biden’s “plan.” It isn’t quite Medicare for All as advocated by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Joe Biden loudly denies that, despite his plan’s strong push in the same direction. This Vox article about Biden’s “public option” offers a passing explanation. This Biden page tries to explain it.

The essence of the public option is that a person less than age 65 can enroll in Medicare. How much below age 65 and how much would the premium be? The answers to these questions are typically deemed unimportant details. However, the adage "the devil is in the details" applies. The Biden page above includes multiple answers – “premium-free” for some and tax credits for others, which in effect reduce premiums. Full-blown, the answer is a hodge-podge due to state variations and subsidies via Medicaid or other government assistance (existing or per future legislation).

Something to keep in mind is the premium that people now covered by Medicare (or Medicare Advantage) pay. The basic amount for 2020 is $144.60 monthly. Higher income people pay as much as $491.60 monthly (IRMAA, link). That is for Part B. Most people pay $0 for Part A, but a few pay something ($252 to $458 monthly).

Imagine that Joe Biden’s plan were implemented. Mary Doe age 62 takes the public option and qualifies for paying a $0 premium. Three years later when Mary Doe qualifies for Medicare, her premium will jump to the Part B basic amount, now $144.60. That could be quite a shock for some people, so it’s reasonable to expect that Biden’s plan would contain some “transition rules” (probably complicated) to ease Mary’s burden.

More people going on Medicare, with the CMS’s low reimbursement rates paid to medical providers, will put upward pressure on prices for any private or employer-paid insurance – mostly that provided by employers. For inpatient services, private payers and employers recently paid prices that were 231 percent of Medicare reimbursement, while for outpatient these entities paid 267 percent of Medicare reimbursement (link).

Since employees generally pay around 20% of the cost of employer-provided coverage, the employee cost will go up as well. Then they might choose to switch to the public option. And very likely as in Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s proposals, the government would confiscate the employer’s “cost savings” when the employee opts out of the employer’s health insurance plan. With rising costs, more employers could drop their plans, pushing all of their employees toward the public option. All that is part of the unspoken future reality of Biden’s plan – push more and more people into government-run healthcare. In other words, fast-crawl socialism. Since “socialism” is vague, with different meanings to different people, better and clearer is “fast-crawl authoritarianism.” Biden’s authoritarianism is more institutional than personal, but nevertheless authoritarian. To him government knows best and is the preferred means for anything regarded as "social." 

Sleepy Joe himself says nothing at all about most of the above to the general public. As far as I know, he has said nothing about taxing employers the way Sanders and Warren did. The Biden plan linked above says nil about it. Maybe he doesn’t even understand "his" own plan. Many politicians' foresight is very short-range. I’d guess that Sleepy Joe himself is not even the author of "his" plan. Some staffers wrote it. I bet he knows less about what’s in “his” plan than Nancy Pelosi knew about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) when she said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."

Sanders' and Warren's Medicare for All would in effect force everyone to take the public "option" (in quotes because there would no option.) Of course, there is no assurance whatever that Sleepy Joe, if elected, would not quickly substitute some form of Medicare for All for the "public option" plan he promotes while campaigning, especially if pushed by Congressional Democrats. He is an accomplished flip-flopper. He might even follow the pattern of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He could appoint Kamala Harris -- who advocated Medicare for All while a presidential candidate -- healthcare czar.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Hyperbole, truthfulness, half-truths, lying, Donald Trump, Joe Biden

Let’s consider hyperbole, truthfulness, half-truths, and lying regarding President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Trump stretches the truth or uses hyperbole very often. Doing so supports his bombastic narcissism. When he does, the mainstream media folk call it a “lie,” which is itself either hyperbole or an outright lie. For example, if Trump overstates GDP growth as 3% when its actually 2%, CNN and other media outlets don’t say he stretched the truth, but that he lied.

Joe Biden isn’t untruthful as often as Trump stretches the truth, uses hyperbole  or lies. But when Biden lies, it is usually a whopper and/or relies on nitpicking. If Trump says something about Biden that isn’t purely truthful, Biden will jump on the untruthful bit and claim “That is NOT true,” insinuating that everything Trump said is a lie. Similarly, suppose Trump were to say, “The Bidens have received millions of dollars in corrupt payoffs.” It’s clear that Trump did not mean only Joe. Yet Joe would likely respond with “I did not receive a penny,” insinuating that Trump’s claim is 100% false. Biden used this tactic multiple times during their second debate.

Whenever Biden talks about what he would do as president, it’s near impossible for him not to lie, because he flip-flops and contradicts himself so much from one day to the next. Whenever Biden talks about what Trump did or wants to do, it is typically a whopper. 

A prime example is pre-existing conditions regarding health insurance coverage. Trump has said numerous times that he would not allow insurers to reject applicants with pre-existing conditions, without contradicting that at other times. As far as I know, Trump has never even hinted he approves allowing insurers to terminate existing health insurance coverage because the insured has a pre-existing condition. Yet Biden said in the Oct 22 debate about Trump:

“Lastly, we're going to make sure we're in a situation that we've actually protect pre existing -- there's no way he can protect pre existing conditions. None, zero, you can't do it in the ether. … [H]e’s already cost the American people because of his terrible handling of the COVID virus and economic spillover. 10 million people have lost their private insurance, and he wants to take away 22 million more people who have been under Obamacare, and over 110 million people with pre-existing conditions.“

Kamala Harris in her debate with Pence said Trump was out to take away insurance from people with pre-existing conditions.

It would be hard to find bigger lies than these. Firstly, pre-existing conditions pertain to less than 10% of the population with insurance, plus the uninsured. The insured part is applying for individual policies for people under age 65 directly purchasable from insurers and outside the Obamacare exchanges. Nobody can be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions when applying for health coverage via Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage policies, Medicare supplement policies when first eligible (usually age 65), an Obamacare exchange, CHIP, or an employer plan. All told, that’s most of the population for whom pre-existing conditions is not an issue. However, Biden and Harris exaggerate it to the entire population. 

Biden has said many times he would ban fracking, and as about as often not ban fracking, that it is impossible from him to not contradict himself, i.e lie. He is all for renewable energy (wind, solar) and anti-fossil fuels. He says he wants to end or transition from using fossil fuels. So where will people get gasoline for their cars, and gas or most electricity for their homes? How will that affect airplanes flying? Blank-out. Ceasing or transitioning from using fossil fuels entails fewer jobs that rely on fossil fuels. Biden loves to “advertise” millions of new jobs in renewable energy while blanking out the simultaneous loss of jobs that depend on fossil fuels. He wants to end subsidies of oil and gas, yet says nil about ending subsidies for wind and solar, which are many, many times greater. Ditto for Harris. They can’t have their cake and eat it, too.

Biden says out of one side of his mouth that he will reverse the Trump tax cuts, but says out of the other side of his mouth that he will not raise taxes on people with incomes less than $400,000. These claims are mutually contradictory. Reversing the Trump tax cuts necessarily raises taxes on many with incomes less than $400,000. So together or saying only the latter, Biden's claim is a big fat lie. 

Of course, CNN, Lesley Stahl, the Washington Compost, New York Times, and numerous other media people or outlets don’t challenge the lies and half-truths of Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. They let it pass without comment, maybe due to poor understanding of the two's gibberish.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Wokeness - Andrew Sullvan

I posted about the New Discourses website and "wokeness" on August 9.

Andrew Sullivan's blog The Weekly Dish dated October 18 is also about wokeness. He asks why is wokeness or Critical Race Theory (CRT) winning?

His main answers are:

- It is emotional. 

- It’s super-easy. 

- There’s the deep relationship between CRT and one of the most powerful human drives: tribalism.

- Social aspiration.

-There’s little doubt that there is a religious component to wokeness.

- But what also make CRT so successful is ruthlessness. Those who hold a view of the world in which only power, and the struggle for power, matters, have few qualms in exercising it.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Black Rednecks and White Liberals #2

‘The Real History of Slavery’ is the third essay of Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals. The following is paraphrased or quoted from it. Quotes are in all italics.

Slavery was an evil of greater scope than most people imagine and its place in history is radically different from the way it is usually portrayed. Mention slavery and immediately the image that arises is that of Africans and their descendants enslaved by the whites in the Southern United States. A somewhat broader perspective includes slavery by Europeans or a slaves elsewhere in the Americas. Clearly, the ability to score ideological points against American society or Western civilization, or to induce guilt and thereby extract benefits from the white population today, are greatly enhanced by making enslavement appear to be a peculiarly American, or a peculiarly white, crime.

Almost any library can show the incredibly lopsided coverage of slavery in the United States or Western hemisphere as compared to the meager writings on the even larger number of African enslaved in Islamic countries, not to mention the vast number of Europeans also enslaved in centuries past in the Islamic world and within Europe itself. At least a millions Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates alone from 1500-1800, and some European slaves were still being sold on auction blocks in Egypt, years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the United States.

During the Middle Ages, Slavs were so widely used as slaves in both Europe and the Islamic world that the word “slave” was derived from Slav in English, other European languages, and Arabic. Nor have Asians and Polynesians been exempt from either being enslaved or enslaving others. Slavery was also common China and India for centuries.

For most of its long history, slavery was not the enslavement of racially different people for the simple reason that it wasn’t possible to go to another continent to get slaves and transport them en masse across an ocean. People were enslaved because they were vulnerable, not because of how they looked.

How and why did slavery end in most of the world?

Far from being targeted by Europeans for racial reasons, Africa became a large source of slaves after Europeans ended enslaving other Europeans. The anti-slavery ideology behindthis began to develop in 18th century Britain, when the British Empire led the world in slave trading.

Contrary to the myth created by Alex Haley in Roots, Africans were by no means innocent to slave trading. West Africa became one of the great slave trading regions, before, during and after the white man arrived.

Slavery ending in the U.S. due to the Civil War was unique. The same didn’t happen elsewhere.

Moral, philosophical objections to slavery was a development in the Western world of the 18th century. There was near none before then.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Black Rednecks and White Liberals #1

Black Rednecks and White Liberals is the title of a book by Thomas Sowell. It is also the title of the first essay, from which the following is paraphrased or quoted.

“Black rednecks” are the subset of blacks who copy the habits and adopt the culture of white rednecks.

Long before “black pride” became a fashionable phrase, there was cracker pride – much the same kind. “It was not pride in any particular achievement or set of behavioral standards or moral principles adhered to. Instead it was a touchiness about anything that might be even remotely construed as a personal slight, much less an insult, combined with a willingness to erupt into violence over it. New Englanders were baffled by this kind of pride among crackers.”

The people who migrated from different parts of the British Isles took their habits with them to different parts of the U.S. Most who settled in New England were from the lowland southeastern half of Britain. Many who settled in the South migrated from other parts of the British Isles. Even where there was no conflict or hostility, Southerners often showed a reckless disregard for human life like they did from whence they came.

The violence for which white Southerners became most known and notorious was lynching. But most victims of lynching in the antebellum South were white. It was only after the Civil War that most lynching victims were black.

Observers of the white population of the antebellum South commented on the white redneck poverty and their lack of industriousness or entrepreneurship. For example, while the South abounded in cattle, the reported production of dairy products was small compared to that in the northern states. Literacy in the South was much lower than in the North.

Much of the cultural pattern of Southern rednecks became the cultural heritage of Southern blacks. The culture of Northern blacks were much closer to that of Northern whites.

White liberals in many roles – as intellectuals, politicians, celebrities, judges, teachers – have aided and abetted the perpetuation of a counterproductive and self-destructive lifestyle among black rednecks. It has been reinforced by the welfare state and other white liberal policies.

Blaming others for anything in which blacks lag is standard operating procedure among white liberals. For example, riots by blacks are blamed on whites. Why it is not a problem for blacks from the Caribbean or Asians goes unexplained.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The V.P. Debate -- NY Times

David Leonhardt of the NY Times opines on the Oct. 7 debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. Finding a more biased opinion favoring Harris would not be easy. Here is a transcript of the debate.

Both Harris and Leonhardt insist Biden will only raise income taxes on incomes of more than $400,000 a year. They ignore Biden's saying that he will reverse Trump's tax cuts. So both are lying and Pence noted it in the debate. His saying "on day one" is of no consequence.

Harris: "On day one, Joe Biden will repeal that tax bill."

Two minutes later, Pence: "Senator Harris tell you, on day one Joe Biden's gonna raise your taxes."

Harris: "That’s not what I said."

Two minutes later, Harris again blatantly contradicts herself: "Biden has been very clear. He will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year."

Harris absurdly claimed that Trump/Pence will take away health insurance from people who have pre-existing conditions. Harris' vague lie said, "you have Donald Trump who is in court right now trying to get rid of – trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which means that you will lose protections, if you have pre-existing conditions. ... If you have a pre-existing condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they're coming for you."

Leonhardt says, "The administration has repeatedly attempted to take health insurance away from Americans." It includes a link to a tweet that is a big lie.

Trump/Pence have not done or advocated such a thing. They got rid of one small part of the Affordable Care Act, the mandate to buy health insurance and penalties for non-compliance. They did nothing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges or hamper people with pre-existing conditions. Insurers on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges cannot refuse an applicant for pre-existing conditions and are prevented by law from ending somebody's coverage because the insured has pre-existing conditions.

Insurers who sell Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement policies cannot refuse coverage to a person when they first become eligible for Medicare. Medicare itself does not deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. These rules concerning Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement policies existed long before the Affordable Care Act. A total repeal of the Affordable Care Act would not change these facts.

There are plenty of other lies, distortions, and half-truths from Harris that Leonhardt omitted. An annoying one was Harris's portrayal of the response in the U.S. to the coronavirus as being dictated and entirely controlled by Trump and Pence. Harris completely ignored the role of the CDC, FDA, state governments, and governors such as Cuomo of New York, Whitmer of Michigan, and Murphy of New Jersey, all Democrats who forced nursing homes to take Covid patients. Pence did not invoke this.

There are plenty of other lies, distortions, and half-truths in Harris's claims and Leonhardt's article, about which I am refraining from saying more.

Leonhardt: "Post-debate instant polls: 59 percent thought Harris won, 38 percent thought Pence won, CNN’s poll found."  Gimme a break. Consider the source. There are plenty of polls saying that Pence won.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Nobel Laureate on the Morality of Markets

This video is an interview with Vernon Smith. It's 56 minutes at normal speed. Smith is a slow talker. With the Settings control that looks like a gear, it can be played faster.

I recommend not downplaying his references to auction markets near the start. They exist far more than auctions per se. The trading of stocks and many commodities are in essence auction markets. In some markets there are parties who are mostly buyers and mostly sellers. For example, in the crude oil market, extractors are sellers and refiners are buyers.

Smith makes an interesting analogy between (1) government and its citizens and (2) parents and children. Government and parents exercise top-down control. Citizens and children adapt and cooperate on their own autonomously. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Dependent Rational Animals #3

In my final post about Dependent Rational Animals I will not give summaries for the remaining chapters and only list their titles.

Chapter 5. How impoverished is the world of the nonhuman animal?

Chapter 6. Reasons for action

Chapter 7. Vulnerability, flourishing, goods, and ‘good’

Chapter 8, How do we become independent practical reasoners?

Chapter 9. Social relationships, practical reasoning, common goods, and individual goods

Chapter 10. The virtues of acknowledged dependence

Chapter 11. The political and social structures of the common good

Chapter 12. Proxies, friends, truthfulness

Chapter 13. Moral commitment and rational enquiry

Lest anyone conclude that MacIntyre’s saying a lot about dependency implies or even suggests he uses it as a bridge to altruism as conceived by Auguste Comte or Ayn Rand, a deontological ethics, or utilitarianism, that is not the case. He is a virtue ethicist in the tradition of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Virtue ethics identifies the central question of morality as having to do with the habits and knowledge concerning how to live a good life. His approach seeks to demonstrate that good judgment emanates from good character.  

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Dependent Rational Animals #2

Some key points from Chapter 2 of Dependent Rational Animals follow.

Aristotle made the distinction between the living and the inanimate, putting humans with other animals except for humans being the only rational ones. Both perceive. Later philosophers tied language use with rationality. It has been commonly argued that nonhuman animals do not possess the requisite kind of language for other capacities. That is, nonhuman animals cannot have thoughts, must lack beliefs, cannot act for reasons and in their encounters with the objects of their experience must be innocent of concepts.

The title of Chapter 3 is The intelligence of dolphins.

The title of  Chapter 4 is Can animals without language have beliefs?