Mind over machine? It just doesn’t matter

Michael Ramirez cartoon

Artificial intelligence beats human intelligence again.

According to an Associated Press report, some college students have come up with a computer plug-in called “Open Mind” that will detect fake or biased news online.

“The plug-in uses existing sentiment analysis technology to analyze any story that might appear in a newsfeed, identifying the major players and any political slant,” the story relates. “It then can suggest to the reader other stories on the same topic that have an alternate viewpoint.”

One of the students noted that, if there is an article that is very pro-Trump, then, “We would then try to give you something more left of center. We can go out and find for you that alternative article.”

Talk about a senseless and futile gesture. People don’t want balanced news accounts. They want their biases to be stroked and bucked up and enhanced by more of the same.

I call it the Amazon Effect.

Computerized marketing works by reinforcing your previous choices by offering more of the same: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought …” Click on a book by conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin and your helpful algorithm suggests books by Thomas Sowell, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove. Type in the name of any liberal writer and you get the obverse of the coin.

About a decade ago the speaker at a national convention of newspaper editors was one of the gurus of computer-age marketing, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the ubiquitous Google. (By the way, Open Mind is an extension for Google’s Chrome browser.)

Schmidt noted that the computer can offer to broaden your exposure as well as narrow it. Obviously, for every synonym there is an antonym. It makes no difference to the machine.

The Google guy noted that, when people were given an option of “show me an opposing view,” two-thirds would never look at it.

He also observed that of the news reporting online at that time, fully 80 percent of stories contained no original content, while of the remaining 20 percent, half came from newspapers. There might be some original reporting now, but the biases are doubtlessly still there or more so.

Has the lack of human intelligence foiled artificial intelligence again?

 

Newspaper column: Tax reform debate falls down a rabbit hole

If you are trying to follow the debate in Washington about tax reform in its various and evolving iterations, you are likely to come away muttering: Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.

This past week the House passed its version of tax reform by a vote of 227-205 with not a single Democrat voting aye. The 13 Republicans who voted nay on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are mostly from high tax states such as California, New York and New Jersey, where constituents would no longer be able to deduct high state and local income and sales taxes.

Also this past week and on a party line vote of 14-12, the Senate Finance Committee, where Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller is a member, passed a slightly different tax reform bill with the same name.

Nevada’s Democratic delegates to D.C. were all singing from the same hymnal.

Democrat Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who represents northern Clark County and the southern portion of rural Nevada, declared the House bill “nothing more than a handout to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans that unfairly sticks working and middle-class families with the bill.”

Kihuen said the bill also will increase taxes by an average of $680 for 113,000 middle- and low-income Nevada families.

This figure apparently comes from the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which calculated that in 2027 about 11 percent of Nevadans in the lowest 60 percent of earners would see taxes increase by $680. Kihuen neglected to mention that in that year 89 percent of those Nevadans in that earning range would still have a tax cut of $490, according to ITEP.

Nor does he mention that ITEP calculates that in 2018 only 3 percent of those lower tier earners would have a tax hike of $460, while 79 percent would see a tax cut of $610. How these number were derived is not explained.

The average tax cut for 84 percent of all Nevadans in 2018 would be $2,670, according to ITEP. Yes, the tax cut for the richest 1 percent would amount to more than $100,000. The poorest 20 percent would only save $270.

Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto chimed in by claiming the House bill would raise taxes on 36 million working and middle class families, without bothering to mention that in 2017 there were more than 145 million IRS tax returns filed.

Democrat Rep. Dina Titus of Las Vegas lamented, “Of the 50,000 constituents in my district who itemize their taxes, the majority earns less than $75,000 per year.” She failed to note that the standard deduction is being doubled and thus eliminates the need for itemizing for many of them. Nor did she mention that only 25 percent of Nevadans’ tax returns are itemized.

First-term Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen of Henderson, who has already announced she is a candidate for Heller’s Senate seat, wailed, “This partisan plan adds $1.5 trillion to our deficit and could trigger a $25 billion cut from Medicare as well as further cuts to other programs, unfairly shifting costs onto Nevadans who rely on commonsense tax reliefs policies that help those saddled with high-cost medical expenses, students struggling to pay off their college loans, and teachers trying to buy basic supplies for their classrooms.”

But Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, counters that such deficit claims fail to take into account the anticipated growth in GDP that should increase wages and jobs and actually grow federal tax revenue.

“Even a 1% increase in GDP generates about $3 trillion in revenue over 10 years — more than covering the anticipated $1.5 trillion deficit,” Amodei reported in an email. “The accuracy of this projection can be further evidenced by going back to the Clinton Administration where GDP growth was at 3.9% – the highest it’s ever been under the last five administrations – and the government was operating under a surplus.”

The congressman also pointed out that for those in his district with an annual income of around $64,000 the federal tax cut effect is more than $1,200 a year with the new brackets and increased standard deductions.

Amodei and Sen. Heller both cited the calculations by the Tax Foundation which estimates that both the House and Senate bills could bring 8,000 additional jobs to Nevada and boost middle-class income by $2,500 a year.

What are you going to believe? Historic precedence or cherry-picked examples of a handful of outliers?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

ObamaCare repeal will not result in people dying in the streets

The Congressional Budget Office is out today with its doom and gloom projections of what would happen if ObamaCare is repealed:

The number of people who are uninsured would increase by 18 million in the first new plan year following enactment of the bill. Later, after the elimination of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility and of subsidies for insurance purchased through the ACA marketplaces, that number would increase to 27 million, and then to 32 million in 2026.

B Premiums in the nongroup market (for individual policies purchased through the marketplaces or directly from insurers) would increase by 20 percent to 25 percent—relative to projections under current law—in the first new plan year following enactment. The increase would reach about 50 percent in the year following the elimination of the Medicaid expansion and the marketplace subsidies, and premiums would about double by 2026.

One problem with this is that it is based on a law proposed a year ago that would repeal mandates and penalties under the law, but would leave in place so-called insurance market reforms, such as barring insurers from varying premiums based on an individual’s health care costs, requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions and requiring coverage of things like maternity care.

The CBO itself noted: “The number of people without health insurance would be smaller if, in addition to the changes in H.R. 3762, the insurance market reforms mentioned above were also repealed. In that case, the increase in the number of uninsured people would be about 21 million in the year following the elimination of the Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies; that figure would rise to about 23 million in 2026.”
Another problem with the projection is that CBO projections about ObamaCare have been remarkably inaccurate.
For example, the CBO 2010 projection of ObamaCare enrollment in 2016 overshot the mark by 120 percent, according to Forbes, and the CBO projected the Medicaid expansion would be much smaller and less expensive than it really is.
Cato’s Michael Tanner notes that ObamaCare’s health insurance coverage expansion was mostly due to Medicaid expansion and not through subsidies for private insurance.
Having insurance doesn’t necessarily mean having health care.
“There is ample evidence to suggest that Medicaid provides little if any benefit,” Tanner writes. “One notable experiment in Oregon found no improvements in health outcomes from Medicaid enrollment. But regardless, repeal of ObamaCare is unlikely to have any short-term impact on Medicaid.”
Tanner concludes:

The only workable answer is to take otherwise uninsurable people out of the traditional insurance market altogether and subsidize their coverage separately.

This may be done through the expansion and subsidy of state high-risk pools, much the way states handle auto insurance for high-risk drivers. Or sick individuals may be taken out of the insurance system altogether, with their health care paid for through a reformed Medicaid program.

However these changes play out, it’s important to realize that no one is going to have their health insurance suddenly snatched away. Some people may have to get their health care in different ways, and some, who can afford it, may have to pay more.

But the predictions that replacing ObamaCare will mean uninsured Americans dropping dead in the street are worth little more than fake news.

Don’t buy the vision of people dying in the streets.

Ramirez cartoon

Ramirez cartoon

Does Trump have GOP nomination sewn up?

NY Times graphic

NY Times graphic    http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york

It’s all over but the crying, right?

Donald Trump snatched up at least 89 of the 95 Republican delegates up for grabs in his home state of New York Tuesday, though John Kasich did manage to stick a finger in his eye by winning the three delegates from Trump’s home borough, Manhattan.

Ted Cruz got blanked and faces bleak chances in other New England vicinity states next week — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. In fact, Cruz is mathematically now eliminated from any chance of winning the nomination on the first ballot.

Delegate total graphic from R-J today.

Meanwhile, Trump has far more delegates than anyone else and is only 392 from the majority needed to win on the first ballot. But he does not have a majority of the delegates awarded so far. Uncommitted delegates and delegates committed to other candidates total 950, compared to Trump’s 845.

And while Trump continues to whine about the rigged delegate procedures that allow Cruz to take all the delegates in places like Wyoming and Colorado by actually, you know, showing up, it should be noted that the winner-take-all rules are benefiting Trump. In New York he gets 60 percent of the vote but at least 94 percent of the delegates. One person, one vote?

And if Trump doesn’t get to 1,237 by the convention, don’t forget how it turned out in the second Republican National Convention in 1860.

Ramirez cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

Loser Trump cries foul when the rules don’t suit him

Ramirez cartoon from today’s IBD

Donald Trump again and again has shown himself to be nothing more than a simpering, sniveling, preposterous posturing popinjay and whining windbag who is too lazy to learn the rules of the game and then calls foul when others play by them.

After losing in Wisconsin Trump called Ted Cruz a Trojan Horse for the GOP establishment.

When Cruz swept the delegates at the Colorado state GOP convention, Trump tweeted, “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

The Colorado Republican Party canceled its straw poll last August when the national party ruled straw polls must be binding.

But oblivious Trump tweeted moments later, “How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger — totally unfair!”

A Trump aide accused Cruz of using Gestapo tactics.

A Wall Street Journal editorial points out that “Cruz cleaned up in Colorado because his campaign was paying attention to the process. Whatever one thinks of the Texan’s appeal as a candidate, his campaign is organized and focused on winning the required 1,237 delegate majority. This speaks well of his ability to lead a complex organization.”

The editorial notes that Trump has been running a one-man show from his Boeing 757, relying on massive rallies and free media.

Speaking of fairness, Investor’s Business Daily points out editorially that the winner-take-all state rules have resulted in Trump winning only 37 percent of all the votes cast but has secured 45 percent of the delegates.

In Missouri it was announced today that Trump beat Cruz by just 0.2 percentage points — 40.9 percent to 40.7, but Trump gets 37 delegates to Cruz’s 15.

Those are the rules and nobody else is complaining about them. They knew the rules going in and are abiding by them. There’s no whining in politics.

IBD concludes, “If he can’t understand the challenges that he faces as a candidate or be flexible enough to respond to a shifting landscape, and if he can’t assemble the best and brightest people needed to win — no matter the rules — what does that say about his claims that he can do a great job running the country?”

To counter Trump’s whining about the rules, WSJ quoted an opinion from the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes, and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform.”

Scalia added that “party conventions, with their attendant ‘smoke-filled rooms’ and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates.”

Smoke-filled rooms. Bring them back.

 

 

 

This president can cause whiplash … Is that covered by ObamaCare?

Columnist Derek Hunter calls him President “But,” and cites several examples of Obama saying one thing and thing contradicting himself in the same sentence.

“We’re a nation of laws, but…” Hunter quotes the president as saying, quickly followed by, “we are also respecting the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants.”

Hunter reaches the obvious conclusion, “We’re either a nation of laws or we aren’t. And increasingly we aren’t.”

As a senator Obama also demanded that FCC rulemaking be transparent, but he wanted net neutrality be passed without anyone knowing what was in the rules.

He insisted he could not change immigration law, but

Obama refused to meet with the Israeli prime minister lest he be seen as influencing the election there, but former campaign staffers of his are in Israel working to defeat the prime minister.

If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, but

As a senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, but …

He campaigned against the Bush tax cuts, but extended them.

He promised to cut the deficit in half in four years, but increased it by trillions.

Obama promised to televised debates on health care, but

Obama said there were shovel ready jobs, but

Benghazi was the result of a riot over a Youtube video, but

He promised to accept public financing for his 2008 campaign, but changed his mind so he could accept more donation.

He said there would be no lobbyists in the White House, but

Obama pledged to release photos of detainee abuse, but

He said  Israel “has the right to defend itself” against attack, but …

Obama hinted that he opposed the manufacture of assault weapons in the U.S., but then said it should be OK, but then proposed banning assault weapon ammo manufacture.

Ramirez cartoon from IBD