Posts tagged ‘politics’

The Solution To Pre-Existing Conditions

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With a possible repeal of Obamacare finally cresting the horizon, people are beginning agitating to keep pieces of it or taking positions more based on PR than sensible medical or legislative goals.

One of the big issues is, of course, pre-existing conditions. Some people, ostensibly on both sides, are saying “repeal and replace’’, with demands that the replacement includes the provision for covering pre-existing conditions.

What these people either don’t understand or hope we don’t understand, is that the requirement for covering pre-existing conditions is the primary poison pill killing Obamacare.

So, is there a better way? Yes.

It came to me as a product of a piece of simple snark. We should worry about Post-Existing Conditions. I sat with that for a few minutes and realized there’s an actual solution in there. Consider:

A person, let’s call them A, is working at company B which provides health care through company C. To be clear, that means that A has insurance with C, and some fraction of the cost of that insurance is paid by B (with the balance paid by the employee via payroll deductions.

Unfortunately, employee A (or a dependent) is diagnosed with nasty disease D during their employment. They retain their health coverage. But, should they ever want to change to a job at company E, they would then receive health care from F. But F would think of disease D as a pre-existing condition, and so will not cover it.

Let me put some tangible, though not realistic numbers on some of this.

A has insurance with C.
Say cost of insurance is 8000. B pays 5000 of it, and A pays the remaining 3000
If A goes to E, they will have insurance with F. That insurance might cost 6000, of which E would pay 4000 and A would pay the remaining 2000.

Now, imagine that our employee had the option to retain their insurance with C, under B’s plan, though working for E.

E is willing to pay 4000 towards insurance. Insurance with C is 8000, so now A would pay the 4000 difference, rather than the 3000 they were previously paying. However, they would be on the same plan and disease D would not be a pre-existing condition.

This creates a notion that insurance is like roulette. Whoever is covering you when you are diagnosed is perpetually on the hook after that point. While this is a bit distasteful, it is effectively the condition we find ourselves in with handcuffed clients rather than clients with choice.

Looking further down the road if such a scheme were put into place, every insurance company would have legacy patients they might be wishing to pass forward to new employers. This then presents the opportunity for insurance companies to barter their legacies back and forth, bringing employees into the plans actually provided by their current employers. This bartering could be a monetary buy-out to persuade company F to accept pre-existing condition D. Or it could take the form of swapping legacy A from C to F in exchange for swapping some other legacy G from F to C.

All in all, there’s room for this technique to grow in positive ways as insurance companies look to quantify and stabilize the effect of Post-Existing Conditions.

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The Scourge of Pre-News

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It’s been nearly 2 decades since I first noticed a phenomenon I came to call Pre-News.  It was the day before Bill Clinton was to be impeached.  I was weary from the many dramas of the scandals leading to the impeachment and eager to see it finished.  So I was tuned in to a 24/7 news channel to be ready.  At that time, there were 2 such channels available to me: CNN and CNN Headline News.  I was on the Headline News channels and watched, repeated every 30 minutes, as Lynn Russell introduced the report.

So this is what CNN wanted us to know the day before impeachment:

As soon as the vote is done, congressional democrats will form up and march out of the House.  They will exit the capitol and march down the street to <somewhere, I don’t remember, maybe Al Gore’s home?>.  There they will meet with other democrats to show solidarity for President Clinton.

There was no detail on the vote, except on assumption it would pass.  What CNN wanted everyone to know was the top-down importance of protesting the impeachment…because all right-thinking people opposed the impeachment, don’t ya know.

Pre-News started innocently enough, I expect.  From media outlets racing to get a scoop, to live reports, to let’s get that scoop by reporting before it happens, just a bit.

But in the example I gave, they were up to a 24 hour lead time on news, and the trend has continued.

The thing about Pre-News is that, since it hasn’t happened, you can tell the story however you want.  You can put in your slant and bias with little or no complaint because there’s no counter-story yet—there can’t be, there isn’t a story yet.

In our recent election, citizen reporters used social media to bypass the mainstream media lock on information.  The MSM is very unhappy about this and has begun branding this new competition as Fake News.  Social media giants, being deeply embedded with democrats, are looking at censoring things deemed Fake News.  But which news is really fake?

The MSM fed us endless polls guaranteeing a Clinton win.  Frank Luntz even tweeted in the first hour of returns that from that moment on, Trump would never be closer to Hillary in Electoral Votes than he was at that moment.  In the coming days, he ate crow, more gracefully than most in the MSM.

His news, like all the MSM reports on expected election results, was Pre-News and so by definition was also Fake News.  The MSM is going to try to defend themselves by attacking alternative news sources.  They’ve settled on the Fake News attack and will, I expect,  use that until either it works or they get laughed off-stage.

As always, Laughter is the best medicine

One Person, Two Votes

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This needs bumping for those battleground states:

You no doubt are familiar with the phrase “One Person, One Vote.” And when you vote in November, or in your primaries, or any special election, you of course get precisely one vote (barring some form of voter fraud, which I think is one of the worst crimes in our Republic).

 But as a consequence of having a two (major) party system, the math actually works out that you have two votes.  Let’s look at it through the lens of the 2008 election in Minnesota.  Minnesota is a liberal-heavy state and there was little doubt Obama would win the state.  But the Democrat Party in Minnesota did the numbers and found that their Senate candidate (Al Franken) was losing a squeaker of a race.  Note that for this to happen a sizeable number of voters had to vote for Obama but not vote for Franken.
So the Obama campaign sent out social media calls saying that Obama was in danger of losing. A bunch more people rushed to the polls to vote for Obama, and along the way enough of them voted for Franken that he won as well.  This table shows the results after the obligatory recount.
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3rd party candidates garnered 460,225 votes.  No doubt, every single one of those people voted their conscience and had a reason for picking their candidate over Coleman.  But at least two of those parties lean conservative and would have preferred Coleman to Franken.  And no doubt many of their voters would have changed their vote if they’d known it was going to be that close.
So here it is.  460,225 votes went 3rd party, and Franken won the election by 312.
If 313 of those 460,225 voters had gone for Coleman, Franken would not have won (that’s less than 0.1% of the voters).  At the same time, if Obama’s emergency call had brought in 313 fewer last minute voters, Franken would have lost.
And finally, if 157 of those Franken voters had  gone for Coleman instead, Franken would have lost.
Did you see that last one?  157 instead of 313.  Why?  Because in a 2 party system, your vote counts twice.  You register a vote for one person and against the other.  The second candidate has to find a vote to match yours and then another vote to pull ahead 2 votes.
This has been an unconventional election cycle all around, and post-primary healing is not complete.  People who are strongly anti-Hillary have declared themselves #NeverTrump and it’s hard to go back on #Never.
But as I listen and read these #NeverTrump people, I can feel how strongly they oppose Hillary and much of their upset is a belief (or fear) that Trump won’t beat her.  Some even express it as a belief Trump ran to lose, paving the way for Hillary.
Some Republican candidates, after the primaries, have skipped the convention or refused to endorse Trump.  As I write this there’s a furor over Cruz’s speech for not endorsing.  Trump supporters are outraged, Cruz supporters are proud and emboldened.  I take the middle on this.  Cruz gave a good speech supporting the party in general and the down-ballot candidates.  He cannot be faulted for not endorsing Trump after the attacks he withstood.  The Trump supporters should not have booed him as he left, nor been harsh to him or his family after the speech.
However, I have a message for the #NeverTrump people:
Use both of your 2 votes! I understand that you have strong reasons to oppose him.  But if you stay home or vote 3rd party, you’re wasting one of your two votes.  If you really truly don’t want Hillary, I implore you to vote for the Trump/Pence ticket. If this entreaty fails to sway you, please go vote anyway and vote for the  down-ballot Republicans.  Whoever is President, we are going to need them.

An Ongoing Denial of Service Attack

 

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Late last night, the media came out with reports of 4 women who allege that Donald Trump touched them in some sexual way.

12 hours later, people looking into it (not actual reporters), have found that:

Some of the claims match text from previous recorded sexual harassment or assault claims, as though borrowing verbiage to make them credible
One of the claims uses lyrics from a Velvet Underground song
One of the accusers is a Secretary employed by one of the Clinton’s organizations
The claims themselves defy logic—4 victims of a billionaire keep quiet for a decade or 3, skipping out on possible paydays from lawsuits, but then all come forward on the exact same day less than a month before the election

It is, of course, impossible to prove a negative and the clock is ticking on an effort to establish or discredit these claims before election day.  I’ll wager now that if they are all discredited before election day, more women will show up.  I will also wager that comments about the opening of the new Smithsonian Museum focusing on African Americans, which features Anita Hill and ignores Clarence Thomas, was some sort of reassurance to these women as they prepared to make their allegations.

But, it’s a week or two early for a proper October surprise.  Why now?  Well, there’ve been at least 6 different drops of email leaks related to the Clinton campaign in the last few days.  I have not scoured the leaked emails, but it certainly seems to include a number of ethical, and maybe criminal, lapses.

How to stop that getting reported?  With a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.

If you already know what a DoS attack is, skip ahead to the next one-line paragraph.

A DoS is an internet attack on a particular site, for example a web server.  Could be a big server like Microsoft or Google, or a small server like a local pizza restaurant.  The smaller the server, the easier the DoS attack.  Now, every time anyone visits that server, asking for a particular web page, the server notices the request, reads the request, finds the referenced web page, then starts sending it back to the originator of the request.  The process that does this is called a daemon.  It sits on the server waiting for requests.  Usually  many such daemons are waiting there, like taxis at the airport.  Each request is grabbed by a daemon and the next daemon steps forward ready for the next one.

While there is no theoretical maximum number of daemons, there are practical maximums to the number of file requests that can be examined at a time, and the amount of data entering and exiting the server.  So, if enough requests hit a server at the same time, the server will be momentarily too busy to respond to all the requests.  If the high number of requests continues, this becomes a problem.

When the high number of requests is intentional and orchestrated, this is an attack, specifically a Denial of Service attack—so named because a regular user of the web site, trying to reach it during the attack, will be unable to.  The web site is still up.  The attacker may be on a different continent.  But he or she has effectively shut down the server.

If you skipped the DoS description, re-join the discussion here.

The owner of the attacked server has tools to combat a DoS attack, but they take some technical skills and, of course, the owner has to want to.  Well, what owner of an internet server would not want to combat a DoS attack aimed at them?

Before I continue, let me recount a joke from the old British TV show Dave Allen At Large:

A Cardinal rushes up to the Pope and announces that Jesus has just entered Saint Peter’s Square, riding on a donkey.  “What should we do?” he finishes.
The Pope calmly replies, “Look busy”.

So far, over 6000 emails from Hillary crony John Podesta have leaked.  They are news.  But they are getting almost no air-time because the claims against Trump are all that’s being covered (in fact, some at MSNBC and other outlets have come on-air and said, ‘Nothing major in the emails, back to the Trump story.’)  This is, in essence, a Denial of Service attack on the media

As with the owner of the attacked web server, the media has the perfect tool to counteract this DoS attack.  It could simply give equal time to both stories.  But of course, they do not.  They have a story they can grind on to ‘Look Busy’ while burying the stories coming out of the emails.

Is it alarmist to suggest the media is complicit in this?  Well, the leaked emails are showing endless forms of complicity between the Clinton campaign and most every major media outlet there is.  And it’s naming names.  You might think CNN would welcome a chance to cut down its competition a little.  But they are just as vulnerable to the criticism.  So each organization ends up covering for all the others as it covers for itself.

One more thought on the DoS aspect of this.  We usually refer to the server-owner as the victim of a DoS, because their business is being attacked.  The attack takes the form of refusing service to existing or potential customers.  So in another sense, the victim is the customer.

And so it is in the DoS attack with the complicity of the attacked entities.  They still have their business.  They’re selling advertising and people are watching.   They can say they’re just doing their job.

But the customers, the news consumer, is being attacked.  They are being denied the full story of what’s going on.  Most of them don’t even know it, which is how the media wants it (there’s even an email among the leaked group saying precisely that!).

There used to be a time when an oppositional news media challenged and confronted all government agencies, effectively acting as an extra set of checks and balances, in addition to the three branches of Government overseeing each other.  That paradigm is dead—at least so long as the people leading the government share the values of the people managing the media.

To Be Continued….

The most important politician in the country

 

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A polling station at sunrise in Phoenix as voting begins in Arizona’s presidential primary election.

We are about to elect a new President, and tensions are high because the stakes are huge.  The next President will make (or prevent) some stunning changes to our country.  But there is a politician more important than the President.  Who is it?

Boss Tweed is quoted as saying “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”

This year we’ve seen in leaks of DNC emails that the DNC colluded to tip the primary scales in favor of Hillary and against Bernie Sanders.  This is, if anything, the opposite of the Boss Tweed quote—controlling the process of who gets nominated.

But do they control the electing?  No.  And Yes.  Let me tell you a story.

Several years back I had a friend who was a city councillor.  She decided to run for mayor and I did some door-to-door canvassing for her.  Her campaign provided me with all of the fliers she wanted distributed, and they gave me, for every neighborhood I visited, a list of all registered voters.

This list was a huge benefit.  Before approaching a house you could know the people’s names and party affiliation, which was usually enough to start a conversation well.

But the list was interesting.  For most houses there was more than a normal number of people registered.  If the people I talked to were a Mr and/or Mrs Smith, there might be 4 to 6 Smiths registered, with children who register before going off to college, and so on.

Then there’d be more names, from perhaps previous owners, again 4 to 6 of them.  Making 10 or more voters registered at every single address.

Now, think about the actual voting process.  In this town, there’s a list of registered voters outside the polling place so you can find your name and know you’re in the right place.  Then you go in, give your name, the poll workers find you on the same list.  They mark off your name, and you vote.

At the end of the voting day, maybe 10% of the names are filled in, even if turnout was maximized.

Got all that:

Campaigns have list of registered voters

Campaigns know which names are current and, therefore, which are reliably out-dated.

Someone wanting to vote under a false name can confirm the name before entering the polling place

The poll workers, at the time, were not allowed to ask for ID.

Who would do such a thing?  <cough> <sputter>  Gosh, is there a particular party that works against voter ID laws at every turn

So, back to the topic.  Who is the most important politician in the country?  It is your local registrar, who decides what names are on the voting rolls.  What new people are added (remember ACORN adding multiple fake registrations to make a quota?).  What new people are rejected.  What old names are purged.

Every time someone talks about stuff like this we are assured that voting is secure and don’t worry.  Yet in the past 4 days we’ve heard that one immigrant killer had voted in last 3 federal elections, and also that 1000s of fake registrations have been found for immigrants in Virginia.

Election fraud is easy, for those willing to do it.

The county registrar is the first line of defense against election fraud and many of them have no interest in taking the steps to do so, possibly because they support a party that benefits regularly from fraud.

Periodic purges are an important first step.

Voter ID is a necessary step.

Purging all non-voting people might be a thought.

Frankly, I’ve been wondering about a process where registering, even on election day, is ridiculously easy, but the voter rolls are entirely purged after every single election.

While you’re busy voting this Nov 8, supporting (or opposing) a particular Presidential candidate.  Look down the ballot a ways and pay some attention to the registrar.

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Why Trump SHOULD NOT ATTACK Clinton Every Day From Now Until November

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It’s mid-August and there’s panic in the air.  Hillary has a ridiculous political war chest and is spraying ads across Olympics coverage as well as many other television and radio shows.  People frantic for her to lose are stunned that Trump hasn’t collected more money and begun ads to respond.

Trump has shown himself a master of quick-response twitter ripostes.  He picks a moment when he feels a nudge is due, and lets fly with something like a takedown of Hillary’s “I’m With Her” slogan.  Within hours of that attack she debuted a new slogan, “She’s With Us.”  His attacks are simple, effective, and free.

The danger for Trump is in launching such attacks too often.  Remember that Hillary takes Olympic gold in jumping into the victim role.  She first unveiled this skill when Bill’s infidelities came out during his first term as President.  She sat with friendly interviewers and claimed the attacks were all untrue, part of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.”  There was no evidence, but die-hard Democrats didn’t care, they just wanted an excuse for it to be okay to continue supporting Bill.  This defense was so effective that to this day a significant portion of the Democrat base will dismiss out of hand anything said against the Clintons.  Unfortunately, most of the media outlets covering presidential politics also fall into this group.

Another medal-winning victim role event came during her run for Senate in 2000.  Her opponent was Rick Lazio, a man of superior skill but with no hope of competing against the friendly media machine at Hillary’s beck and call.  He tried an unusual maneuver, he offered to her that they pledge  to run an attack-free campaign.  He needed this offer to be public, so he laid it out during their debate.  He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and offered it to her to sign.  Now, of course she would never sign it.  But not signing it made her look bad.  So her story coming out of there was that Lazio, as an insensitive macho man, had invaded her personal space and intimidated her.  Have you seen Rick Lazio?  Macho and intimidating he is not.  But Hillary’s protectors ran with the meme and discredited him. It’s always like this.  A short period when Hillary is knocked back on her heels followed by a deflective manuever from herself or a protector posing her as the victim of an unfair, completely misconstrued, personal attack.  If you’re lucky, there’s a day or two in between.

There are about 90 days until election day.  Imagine this attack and defense cycle repeating every 2 days!  There’s certainly enough material to launch a different attack 45 times, but by the end, the electorate will be numbed by the negativity.

Trump needs to inflame distrust of Hillary without the turnout-reduction that usually follows negative attacks.  He will do better to lunch a handful of multi-pronged attacks on Hillary spaced out over the 90 day window.  The attacks need to embroil her media accomplices and embarrass them into covering some of the real content of each attack. If he does it well, and he is certainly capable, each attack will peel away a few percent of her voters and shift another few percent into a nervous uncertainty, making them the group to peel away in the next attack.

I know: Trump isn’t going to do what any of us are eagerly telling him to do.  He’s going to do it his way.  And if the primaries are any indication, his way is very effective.

How To Read Political Polls

'No, I'm not going to stop back when you have an opinion.'

You’re on some web site looking at a screaming headline about the latest political poll. It might be trumpeting a double digit lead, or a narrow margin, or even a shift—all for or away from your preferred candidate. You get a bit tense. You want your guy* to win, of course. And you’d like the comfort of knowing right now that he will. You click on the link and are bombarded with numbers. Before you give up, and before you get buried, here’s what you need to know to understand such polls.

First, skip the headlines, the tables, and graphs. Start by looking for a text description of how the poll was taken. This is usually buried in the very last paragraph or even the footnotes. Sometimes, when a web site is summarizing someone elses poll, it isn’t even in the article and you have to follow a link to the original poll report. It will tell you how many people were surveyed, how the survey was conducted (online, cell phone, land line phone, in person), and what level of responder was included (likely voter, registered voter, adult)

Take, for example, the punchline from this NBC poll. The footnote reads:

The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll was conducted online May 30 through June 5, 2016 among a national sample of 10,520 adults aged 18 and over, including 9,240 who say they are registered to vote. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. For full results and methodology for this weekly tracking poll, please click here

So this is 10000+ people (a big sample) of adults, who are mostly registered to vote. So what’s with that last bit?

When a survey like this is taken, the first few questions go like this:
How old are you?
Are you registered to vote?
Did you vote in the last election?
How likely are you to vote in the next election?

To be a ‘likely’ voter you have to answer yes to question 3 and give one of the more positive answers to question 4 (i.e very or somewhat likely). When a poll is of registered voters, they answered yes to question 2, but not 3 and 4. When a person is just ‘Adult’, they answered no to question 2 and gave an age old enough to vote.

Now, why would you believe that the opinion of someone who is not going to vote is an accurate reflection of those that are? They aren’t, and polls of just registered voters are notoriously inaccurate. They will tell you they have a margin of error of some small percent. This is based on the number of people polled and reflects the accuracy for comparing to an equivalent sample (i.e. people who likely won’t vote). The polling agency is happy for you to misunderstand the margin of error as meaning its relation to how the election will turn out, but the two are unrelated. My rule of thumb: for polls of registered voters, take the margin of error and multiply by 5. That’s how much the result could really swing by.

Even worse are those who classify as ‘Adults’. So they aren’t registered and didn’t vote last time. They may run out and get registered…or may not. These tend to be younger, less interested, and more liberal people, so their presence usually skews a poll towards whatever liberal candidate or issue is being considered

Now take a look at this poll. The headline screams that Hillary is up 7. The final paragraph reads:

The Fox News Poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). The poll was conducted July 9-12, 2016, by telephone (landline and cellphone) with live interviewers among a sample of 601 Virginia registered voters selected from a statewide voter file and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for the total sample.

But this item is in paragraph 3:

The good news for Trump is that among just those voters “extremely” interested, he’s up by three (45-42 percent). That’s driven by the fact that more Republicans (43 percent) than Democrats (38 percent) say they are extremely interested in the presidential election.

Okay, got that? Headline insists Hillary is up by 7, but for folks really double dog dare ya likely to vote, trump is up 3. But that can’t be the headline because it’s a subset of an already small sample size (survey was 600 people, remember). Good thing they didn’t ask more people.

As I was writing this, a battleground poll came out showing Trump up in Florida. It was a poll of likely voters and gave the first indication of what numbers are like when the simple deceits are not used. But there is still a nasty trick polling companies can use to skew the results of a poll of likely voters. I’ll use some silly numbers to make the point clearly:

suppose the poll included 100 likely voters, 20 of whom are democrats, 10 independents and 70 republicans. Their preferences go like this
Dems go 19 to 1 for Hillary
Independents go 7 to 3 for Hillary
Republicans got 60 to 10 for Trump

So if you put all those together, Trump is ahead 68 to 32. But of course that’s not how the election will turn out because those arent the demographics of the entire electorate or, more accurately, of the actual voters on that single election day. To fix the, the Polling agency has to predict what the composition of the election day turnout will be.

If they select 40%D, 20% I, 40% R, then scale the answers from those groups, the new poll result is Hillary 58 (38+14+6) and Trump 42 (2+6+34). Or they could wiggle their selection to anything they want and can make sound reasonable until they answers say what they (or their employers) think they should say.

In essence, the result of such a poll can still be faked, though the level of fakery is limited compared to other polls, assuming the fakery is to go unnoticed. You may, over time, find some polls that don’t do much fakery of this sort and trust them outright, but you must always consider each individually

So how do you know what the poll results really say? It’s actually quite simple. The candidates pay for unpublished polls that actually tell them the truth. The candidate who looks tense, angry and defensive, or who just changed their campaign strategy? They’re behind in the polls.

*using ‘guy’ for its familiar tone and simplicity, replace with gender-specific term of your choice, if you need to