Thursday, October 30, 2014

Connecticut Early Voting Amendment, Question 1

Eli,

For reasons I don't understand, this ballot measure seems to divide along party lines.

The official question is:
Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?
The "Further explanation" of the ballot summary states:
The state constitution contains provisions regarding the administration of elections in Connecticut, including requiring voters to cast their ballots at their polling place on election day, unless they qualify to vote by absentee ballot. Under the constitution, voters may qualify for an absentee ballot if they will be out of town, are sick or have a physical disability, or the tenets of their religion prohibit secular activity on election day. Because these restrictions are in the constitution, the General Assembly does not currently have the authority to pass a law that changes them. The constitutional amendment would eliminate these restrictions.
Voteyesct.org seems to summarize the argument as I've heard it stated:

This year, there will be a Constitutional Amendment (Question 1) on the Connecticut ballot. The purpose is to improve voter turnout by removing impediments that often discourage and deter eligible voters from voting.

Voting YES can help families, commuters, employees, employers, seniors and students – anyone eligible to vote. 

As Americans, voting is among our most fundamental rights. Especially in Connecticut – the Constitution State – eliminating obstacles so that residents can exercise that right is why Question 1 is so important.
The purpose is to improve voter turnout and removing the current restrictions will increase voter turnout. There should be a lot of data on this, and my simple google search of the term: "early voting voter turnout," showed the first entry a 2007 study by Gronke et al finding:

In conclusion, we remain skeptical of those who advocate in favor of early voting reforms primarily on the basis of increased turnout. Both these results, and prior work in political science, simply do not support these claims. There may be good reasons to adopt early voting—more accurate ballot counting, reduced administrative costs and headaches, and increased voter satisfaction—but boosting turnout is not one of them.
The second hit on the search returned a 2013 Pew study claiming:
Reformers hate it when this happens:  The country’s most widely adopted reform designed to make voting easier may lower the chances that an individual voter will go to the polls, according to a new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.
 There may be many good reasons to vote for this amendment, but increasing voter turnout isn't one of them.

Bill


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

Eli,

Mrs. Clinton is taking a lot of unjustified (in my view) flak for her comment, "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

She was making completely silly remarks about the minimum wage, then the "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs,” then some straw man remarks on trickle down economics. If I were to take issue with anything she said it would be the nonsense that somehow price increases for labor has no impact on demand at the low end of the wage scale.

I think there is great validity in the assertion, "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.” A corporation doesn't create a job then hand it out like a lollipop to deserving beggars. Jobs are created by a transaction. Corporations hire workers because they need the workers and agree upon the price. At a certain price, the corporation NEEDS the worker. The worker agrees to work at that price. Without the agreement, the transaction, there is no job.

My daughter, fresh out of college created a job, in partnership with her current employer. The employer got her time and skills. She got money and benefits. The transaction created the job. If the price she demanded was $1 million dollars per year there would not have been job creation. If the employer offered $5,000 per year there would not have been job creation. They met somewhere between the extremes and a job was created.

(Parenthetically, putting a floor on the transaction price is why mandatory mum wages result in job destruction).

My son, working at a minimum wage job went through the same negotiation, as did I. Corporations don't create jobs on their own. I would prefer the critics focus on Mrs. Clinton's blather about the minimum wage.

Bill



"Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S."

Eli,

Because terrorists use the US Post Office to communicate, of course. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.
The audit found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.

In a show of bipartisanship both Republicans and Democrats support trampling on our Fourth Amendment rights.

Bill

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The US Army PANICS over Ebola

Eli,

Politico's "Morning Defense" email reports:

EBOLA-FIGHTING TROOPS IN 'CONTROLLED MONITORING PERIOD' IN ITALY: A two-star Army general is among a dozen soldiers being isolated in Italy after returning from Ebola-stricken West Africa, although there are no signs of infection, the Pentagon said yesterday. They are the first troops to be placed into what's effectively a 21-day quarantine under a new Army policy that calls for isolating and monitoring the health of all soldiers who have deployed to the Ebola zone.

Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the head of U.S. Army Africa, and 11 of his staff members were put under "enhanced monitoring" when they returned to their headquarters after traveling to Liberia to help kick off President Barack Obama's military response to the Ebola outbreak. Another group of soldiers also due back at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza also is to be put under similar monitoring, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon. Soldiers based in the U.S. will also get the same kind of "enhanced" response when they return, he said.
 Quarantines aren't necessary for doctors and nurses coming in contact with ebola patients. But they are necessary for soldiers. Got it?

Bill

I'm Not Worried About Ebola Because: SCIENCE!

Eli,


I don't understand why so many are dismissive of the concerns and fears (not panic, not hysteria) rational people have over the spread of ebola.

According to the CDC Q&As on Transmission:

Can Ebola spread by coughing? By sneezing?

Unlike respiratory illnesses like measles or chickenpox, which can be transmitted by virus particles that remain suspended in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids of a person who has symptoms of Ebola disease. Although coughing and sneezing are not common symptoms of Ebola, if a symptomatic patient with Ebola coughs or sneezes on someone, and saliva or mucus come into contact with that person’s eyes, nose or mouth, these fluids may transmit the disease.

What does “direct contact” mean?

Direct contact means that body fluids (blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine, or feces) from an infected person (alive or dead) have touched someone’s eyes, nose, or mouth or an open cut, wound, or abrasion.

How long does Ebola live outside the body?

Ebola is killed with hospital-grade disinfectants (such as household bleach). Ebola on dry surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature.
So if a doctor, for instance, returns from treating ebola patients, and has the virus, and then goes out into the public and let's say, rides the subway, or goes to a bowling alley, a rational person might be legitamtely concerned about the ebola virus spreading.

I can't find the following on any CDC or WHO website so it comes mostly from what they seem to be implying and conversations with a colleague who has a Masters Degree in Molecular Pharamacology. The reason I don't need to be worried about this doctor infecting me is because the "viral load" isn't big enough to cause infection. And we know this because the signal a carrier of the virus has reached the "viral load" is when he/she starts showing symptoms.

But hold on. Is the dangerous viral load level always and everywhere the same? Are the young, old, or sick capable of getting the virus at lower viral loads? Is there a gender or racial susceptibility or resistance that lowers or raises the levels at which the viral load becomes capable of transmission? If

And it's not just those with symptoms that are capable of spreading the virus. The dead no longer have fevers, and they are capable of spreading the virus. Also, according to WHO:

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus... Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery.

The CDC sites the following as signs and symptoms of Ebola:
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Do I need ALL of these symptoms before my viral load reaches transmissable levels? If my fever is 100 my viral load is OK, but at 100.1 it isn't?

All these people who tell me not to be worried because: Science! are not mitigating my concerns. They are hiding behind a word, almost an incantation for them, rather than addressing questions I have about the way this virus spreads. 

Bill




Friday, October 17, 2014

Michelle Nunn Won't Admit She's a Democrat

Eli,

Michelle Nunn, like more than a few Democrats running for office is trying her best to avoid being labeled with that toxic term, "Democrat." It's amusing to me since she is Sam Nunn's daughter. And for decades Sam Nunn was the Democratic senator from Georgia. It's also amusing since it is the conventional wisdom that the Republicans have the tarnished brand. I'm not so sure of that.

From the Wall Street Journal
ATLANTA— Sam Nunn, one of the last Georgia Democrats to serve a full term in the Senate, had just finished watching his granddaughter win a soccer game when he turned his attention to a more pressing family contest: his daughter Michelle’s run for U.S. senator.

“Keep reminding voters that President Obama’s term is up in two years, but you’ll be an independent and long-term investment,” he counseled his daughter, who is running as a Democrat for an open Senate seat now held by the Republicans....

As Ms. Nunn strives to break Republicans’ stranglehold on statewide races in the South in recent years, her party affiliation is missing in action. Her campaign website doesn’t divulge that she is running as a Democrat, and bumper stickers, buttons and most materials don’t list her party. During two recent campaign swings, she didn’t mention her party affiliation and used the word “Democrat” only once. She is positioning herself as a bipartisan whose experience running a service organization associated with a Republican president shows she knows how to bridge divides.  

Bill


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let's Not Forget Obamacare

Eli,

With the world coming apart at the seams it has been mostly quiet on the Obamacare front. One of the smarter, and non-partisan, observers of Obamacare, Bob Laszewski had this op-ed in USA Today.

Obamacare is in hiding until after the election: How our government is obscuring facts about your health insurance until after the election.

In addition to a reminder to insurance executives that they:
"will not use, disclose, post to a public forum, or in any way share Test Data with any person or entity, included but not limited to media..." This includes any "results of this testing exercise and any information describing or otherwise relating to the performance or functionality" of the Obamacare enrollment and eligibility system
Laszewski continues:

Last month the administration announced that 7.3 million people were insured under Obamacare as of mid-August. That was the first announcement of enrollment made by the administration since April. They provided just one number and no backup and admitted that they had been collecting enrollment data from insurers all along. They conveniently reported this figure just before enrollment is expected to take a big fall when thousands of people hit the deadline to clear up discrepancies in their income and legal resident status or risk losing subsidies or coverage altogether. We still don't know how many lost coverage or are still in limbo.

The administration has trumpeted the low average health insurer rate increases for 2015. But these low average increases have more often been low because the majority of insurers who did not get much enrollment have cut their rates while the insurers that got most of the enrollment have raised their rates. But current participants in the 36 federally run state insurance exchanges and most state-run exchanges won't see their own renewal rates until the open enrollment is about to begin. In short, the administration is comparing different plans with different benefits between 2014 and 2015. Those who want to keep the same plan might have big price increases.
Some on the right are also making much of risk corridors which compensate insurance companies if they mis-price policies, (too dumb to fail?), which is an incentive to lower premiums in order to capture market share and let the government pick up the tab.

It's hard to see this law surviving in anywhere near its current form no matter who wins the election.

Bill