Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: politics

Imbalance in coverage sentiment does not necessarily imply bias

This Harvard Study of negative coverage gets cited a lot as “proof” of the MSM’s bias against Trump. But this argument is a bad interpretation of the study, based on two, major logical-flaws. I wrote this a comment response to someone, but I think it deserves its own post. I think my reasoning is correct. Please let me know where I am wrong. The study being referenced is talked about in this article.

You keep referencing the Harvard Study. I didn’t want to go into this into too much detail because I’m tired of explaining this over and over again. Your reliance on this study is based on two, major logical flaws. I will explain how.
Your reference Harvard study shows that you do not understand what bias, or what it does or does not imply. Bias by itself has no bearing on credibility, and cannot be used as a singular feature to assess it. Case in point:

  • Outlet A that largely reports accurate, positive news about X, has high standards of journalism, and retracts articles when shown to be false
  • Outlet B that largely reports accurate, negative news about X, has high standards of journalism, and retracts articles when shown to be false
  • Outlet C that largely reports positive fake news about X, has little to no standards of journalism, wilfully engages in misinformation and does not retract anything.
  • Outlet D that largely reports negative fake news about X, has little to no standards of journalism, wilfully engages in misinformation and does not retract anything.
  • Outlet E that largely reports both negative and positive fake news about X, has little to no standards of journalism, wilfully engages in misinformation and does not retract anything.

Outlets A and B are biased but credible. Outlets C and D are biased and not credible. Outlet E is non-biased and not credible.
Therefore bias alone does not imply credibility; it may be bias but it can also be something else, which leads us to your second, major logical-flaw: you assume that reality must always reflect 50% positive and 50% negative coverage. This is a ridiculous assumption. A true distribution exists and it may not be a fair (in the mathematical sense) one. Case in point:

  • Person A engages in horrible conduct (any sort of horrible conduct you can think of).
  • Person B is just a regular human being who has made some mistakes, but is largely a good person.
  • Person C largely engages in negative conduct, but has also done some good things (e.g., a mafia don who gives free food to his neighborhood).

Now take each of those persons above, and substitute them for X in the example outlets are shown above. What do you see? The definitions of A, B, and C shows the true distribution of their behavior. The kinds of reporting from A, B, C, D, E can influence a person’s perception of their behavior. What does this mean? That you cannot solely consider those outlets in isolation, using bias, as a metric for credibility. You must consider outside, credible, corroborating sources.

Now in the case of Donald Trump, there is an extremely large amount of corroborating evidence, both from his actual, public, verifiable behavior, and from the comments of his close associates, which point to a general consensus that he is an odious man. He does multiple things on a daily basis that objectively display his lack of fitness for the Office of President; especially his inexperience, incompetence, ignorance, intemperance, lack of intelligence, lack of poise, and complete lack of principles and responsibility.

Comparing the reporting of MSM outlets with corroborating evidence of Trump’s words, behavior, and conduct leads us to the inevitable, logical conclusion that MSM coverage is a close reflection of the true distribution of Trump’s behavior, and one cannot use the mere fact that there is an imbalance in the sentiment of coverage to allege that there is a bias.


The Rand Paul Healthcare Bill

The house withdrew the AHCA today. After seven years of screaming about repealing the ACA, it looks like they can wait longer. I had made some criticisms of Ryan’s plan and so a friend asked me what I thought of Rand Paul’s healthcare bill. There are some good ideas in there, but also some bad ones, and some ones that I’m not so convinced would work out, even though they sound good. So here are my thoughts on it in no particular order.

I liked the Charity and Bad Debt deduction for physicians. Basically, physicians can deduct up to 10% of their gross income for amounts they would have otherwise charged for charitable care or for those with bad debt. I think this may help drive down some healthcare costs, while also helping out people who aren’t able to afford healthcare. But I think this whole issue of healthcare costs itself needs to be looked at more (for example, drug costs).

Paul’s plan is pretty bad for poor or unemployed people in general. It brings back the HIPAA protection for pre-existing conditions, but that is tied to the time you were employed. So if you haven’t been able to get a job for a while, you’re screwed. It also takes away the ACA’s essential health-benefits requirements, community rating restrictions, rating reviews, medical-loss ratio, and other mandates. I think these mandates are necessary because otherwise the system is setup so that it is more profitable for companies to deny coverage than provide it. Not only that, without the individual mandate, healthy or younger people don’t really have any incentive to sign up (not that the individual mandate was doing much in that regard). This means that the individual market is not that profitable for insurance companies, and most Americans get their insurance through employers anyway. So I don’t see how market forces will drive prices down, enough to where younger or healthy people don’t feel like it is such a burden to get insurance, or even to where it is affordable for poor people.

One of Paul’s other proposals is to open competition across state lines. I think that may help drives the prices down a bit, but since purchasing individual-coverage is still largely disincentivized, I still don’t see much change happening. This is also not going to happen immediately, so in the meantime, it will be more profitable for insurance companies to deny coverage to risky (in the sense of costs to the insurer) individuals. This will stress out an already expensive market, because these people will inevitably get sick enough to where they need care. They won’t be able to afford it, and will go bankrupt, causing someone to eat the costs, which forces prices to go up even more as they try to offset the difference. He also mentions expanding the Medicaid Waiver program, which lets states change their Medicaid plans without approval by the HHS. This can allow states to experiment with different coverage-rules, but my admittedly-cynical expectation is that they will change rules in an effort to save costs and not expand coverage, which I think will make the problem I mentioned earlier even worse.

He does propose a tax-related benefit; basically you are allowed to deduct your premiums from your taxable income. But I don’t know if that really would be an incentive. Note that you will end up saving more money if you didn’t get insurance and held onto what you would have paid in premiums, than you would by getting insurance, and then claiming the premium as a tax deduction. To encourage participation in the individual market, there’s stuff in there about Individual Health Pools and Association Health Pools, where a bunch of people can get together and pool their money. It sounds like a good idea in theory, but without more details I can’t say whether it would help or not.

There’s a bunch of stuff related to HSAs, but HSAs are only useful for people with steady income, and most definitely not for people making minimum-wage. He does also propose removing limits, but that won’t help someone making minimum wage either. There’s a funny bit where you can use your HSA to pay for insurance premiums I guess, but why not just pay for it directly if you’re going to be putting money into an HSA? I don’t think HSAs in general work; at least not for a healthcare market with the kinds of costs we see today. People don’t have the information to predict what kind of healthcare they would need. Not only that, people have no idea how much such care would even cost. So how does it really help if you’ve been putting away $200 a month for a year, only to get surgery in December that costs $6000? This is not outside the realm of possibility.

Overall, I think Rand Paul’s plan is worse than the ACA, because it will effectively start off by denying coverage to a bunch of people. Some of the ideas sound good in theory, but I am not convinced they will work out. Some of the ones that may work out, will take too long to do so, which means that a lot of people are going to be without coverage in the meantime; it seems unethical to write them off simply because the market needs time to “correct”. However, I think there are some good ideas in there that could be rolled into ACA — some of the tax-related ideas are good, although I would much prefer a refundable tax-credit for premiums compared to a deduction. The tax benefits for physicians that provide charitable care is also good, and I think it would be helpful to expand those to apply to all sorts of healthcare providers.

Glenn Beck is an asshole

…within the span of a few minutes, Beck implied that there are no quality medical schools in India; implied that medical care in India is a shoddy imitation of real health care; implied that the entire nation is an undeveloped backwater without even so much as indoor plumbing; and compared the Ganges River, a holy body of water for one of the world’s oldest and largest religions, to a disease…

I guess the only reason Glenn Beck is popular is because there is apparently a marketable-segment of idiots in America. You know, the morons that watch Fox News and actually believe what they hear. Glenn Beck, you are an asshole. You are an ignorant bigot and a douchebag. There are a few people that I know, that oppose the health reform. But the strange thing is that they have rather valid arguments, and even though I may not agree with them, I find them rather intelligent and well thought-out. I mean, Mr. Beck. I realize that by being an ignorant douchebag it’s beyond you to form coherent arguments but seriously… do you have to stoop to the level of offending an entire nation? Or what about the entire community of Indian-Americans?

Usually when people make arguments or counter-arguments about a topic, they usually know what they’re talking about because they’ve researched the topic thoroughly. Oh wait. That’s only if they have a proper show that actually discusses political topics with valid arguments instead of gleefully bending over for the lunatic far-right and being their sockpuppet. Hell, I probably shouldn’t blame you. You are making money after all, even if you have to sell your soul for it. No, your show is a circus and your arguments are bullshit. Even still, I find it appalling that you would denigrate an entire nation and community. You may not think much about Indian doctors, but they seem to be a successful and well-respected bunch in India, with a large number of satisfied customers. In one fell swoop you’ve insulted the cultural and religious sentiments of Indians, you’ve made light of the sweat, blood, and tears of her doctors that strive to serve their nation (and who have migrated to other nations, including *gasp* the United States and serve Americans), and you’ve implied that India is some backwater country without any sort of facilities. Sure, India is no United States and it has a long way to go, and even though you may have the right to say whatever the hell you want, it’s really, really bad form to make fun of a country and her people. You xenophobic, ignorant, douchebag. I find it surprising that even you would stoop this low for ratings.

You sir, are an asshole.


I was reading the BBC on Thursday and was surprised to find that India is going to create a new southern state out of the existing state of Andra Pradesh. I knew that at least one new state had been created in the last decade (the actual number is 3: Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand). I didn’t think much of it, but my interest was piqued and so I read the article. To be completely honest, I don’t have a strong opinion on the subject, except for one thing: Hyderabad is going to be the capital of the new state. Hyderabad is a very important Indian city. It’s kind of like an Indian Silicon Valley and several Fortune 500 companies have their offices there. It’s a prosperous, modern, and hi-tech city.

Now some background. After reading the article about Telengana on Wikipedia, it seems that when the states of India were being re-organized along linguistic lines by the State Reorganization Committee, they were not in favor of merging the Telengana region with the Andra region due to economical disparities. The Central government decided to ignore the SRC recommendations and performed the merger anyway (perhaps using the reason that both areas spoke Telugu, and so there was no reason to split them). As was to be expected, over the past few decades, the Andra region has prospered whereas the Telengana region is still economically underdeveloped.

It would seem that in principle, there needs to be a separate state. However, I’m not so sure of the wisdom of handing over Hyderabad to a fledgling state. It will take time to create a new state-machinery and I think that Hyderabad could suffer in the process. In addition, the city is going to a state with an untested and nascent administration (obviously, because it’s a brand new state). So… maybe not such a great idea. On the general topic of creating more states in India (as a result of the imminent creation of Telengana, many other groups are agitating for their own states) I don’t really have a well-formed opinion. Maybe it’s a good thing – you can have more focused state-administrations and better management. However, the side-effect is increased fragmentation. The last few governments in India have been coalition governments formed with the support of regional parties. Creating more states is probably going to create even more regional parties and it’s not going to help the situation.

The definition of ‘glennbecking’

glennbeck⋅ing /glɛnbɛkɪŋ/ [glenn-beck-ing]
The act of making unsubstantiated, inflammatory, usually derogatory, polarizing, and ridiculous statements about a person, organization, or country and then claiming or suggesting that the statement is true, because the subject [of the statement] hasn’t denied the statement.


  1. Many sources claim that Glenn Beck raped and killed a young girl in 1990*. However, Glenn Beck has done nothing to deny these claims or even clarify the matter. Does this suggest that he is guilty? Perhaps.
  2. Some sources claim that President Obama is very much like Hitler. He has done nothing to deny these claims. Does this suggest that he is like Hitler? Maybe.
  3. Joe: Dude, Sarah is a total slut. Some sources say that she has had sex with over 100 guys. She hasn’t done anything to deny these claims.
    Brett: Dude, Have you even talked to Sarah about this?
    Joe: No.
    Brett: Has she even had an opportunity to address your ridiculous claims?
    Joe: No.
    Brett: Do you think she actually cares what a loser like you thinks, or says?
    Joe: Probably not.
    Brett: Then quit, dude! Stop glennbecking! That’s just a total douchebag thing to do!
    Joe: You’re right. Glennbecking is a completely douchebag thing to do!


Communism vs. Fascism vs. Socialism

Extreme right-wingers seem to be bandying about these terms interchangeably these days. I really don’t get it. Why does the media focus on the idiots at the fringe? Why do they get so much airtime? They annoy me just as much as the extreme left-wingers who claim that 9/11 was the work of the Bush government. Then there’s the comparison with Hitler (for both presidents). But that’s another matter. Seriously. Why don’t we hear more about people like this guy?

Anyway, so I keep hearing about how the Obama government is turning America into a Socialist nation… or maybe it’s a Communist nation… no wait… it’s Fascist. Either way it’s apparently undermining the foundations of our republic and turning us into Russia… or maybe it’s China… no wait… maybe it’s Nazi Germany. Oh yes, before I get accused of being a crazy liberal let me say (as a disclaimer) that yes, I do lean a little bit left-of-center, but I don’t agree with everything the left says. I’m also not a fan of big government. That being said, let’s analyze three different political ideologies and see what they actually mean.
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The Battlestar Galactica Series Finale was Frakking Awesome, ok?

I know the finale was broadcast last weekend, but I didn’t get to see it until a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it yet (or if you haven’t seen the series at all and are planning to start), don’t read any further because there are spoilers!

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica earned itself a place in my list of “All-time favorite Sci-Fi shows” (alongside Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9, Stargate SG-1, X-Files, and Doctor Who (2004)) pretty much after the first season. During its run it was arguably “the best show on television”. Although the series faltered a tiny bit during the 3rd season, I have never seen such a well-written show with fully-fleshed out characters, a gripping story line, complex existential, religious, militaristic, and moral themes, and gritty, exciting action. The success and superior quality of the show is further supported by the fact that it attracted an audience that traditionally doesn’t watch Sci-Fi. In fact, many of my friends who don’t usually watch Sci-Fi (to the extent that some of them actually dislike it) instantly liked the show despite its obvious Sci-Fi underpinnings. The themes of the show were especially valid in a post-9/11 world. Here is a (by no means comprehensive) list of issues that the series tried to address:

  • The effectiveness of armed insurgency or suicide bombing
  • Personal safety (or the illusion thereof) at the expense of personal freedom
  • Civilian versus Military rule
  • The importance of wearing the uniform, military service, and upholding the oath you swear when you sign up (an aspect that particularly appealed to me)
  • Divine intervention, divine providence, fate, and destiny
  • An examination of the human condition in the direst of circumstances (when the survival of humanity is at stake)
  • An attempt to answer the question of what it means to be Human

The series had a message that was so pertinent and so valid, that the cast was invited to a summit at the UN. To quote Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, “You’ve got people thinking about issues that we try and get people thinking about every day.”

Ok, now that I’ve done more than enough gushing about the show, let me go onto the finale. I know that this subject has already been beaten to death since the finale aired, but I want to put in my two cents. The finale was frakking awesome ok? A lot of people are complaining that the finale didn’t address every single question that they had, and that there are some loose ends. Some of them are even complaining that the finale was a little too long, and even that the enter finale was a cop-out resolved by deus ex machina. Ok, they’re entitled to their opinion… but really? Yes, there were some deus ex machina moments (like Starbuck realizing that the opening strains to Watchtower were actually FTL co-ordinates to our Earth) that require a leap of faith. But that’s the point. I mean, what explanation were you expecting for Head Six and Head Baltar? Are they angels or demons? Schizophrenic hallucinations? No one really knows, and that’s fine. The point is that there we don’t know everything and that there isn’t an answer for everything.

You could make the argument that the writers had too grandiose of a vision, and that they had too many plot points, leading to some that were apparently unresolved. But again, it’s a matter of opinion, and it is quite subjective. For example, consider Kara Thrace. What is she? An angel? I don’t know, and I’m fine with that. She was apparently born with a destiny and with a task to perform. From the series you can tell that all her life she has been searching for a purpose. Her entire life has been an existential crisis and a search for relevance and validation. This search is finally realized when she finally leads Humanity to a permanent home.

The weakest part, arguably, of the finale was after they find our Earth. The surviving population is apparently content to leave behind all their advanced technology and start a pastoral life on Earth. This didn’t completely sit well with me. I found it a little hard to believe. One could argue that the human population on the ships haven’t really been leading a good life for the past four years. They have essentially been refugees the whole time. I guess you could argue that wouldn’t want any reminders of those difficult four years and would want to start completely anew. But I still have a hard time believing that the entire population would agree to that. In fact, when it became obvious that they had arrived on a pre-historic (150,000 years ago to be exact) Earth, I imagined that the population would probably split into two camps: one hanging on the the advanced technology, and another abandoning it completely. There would presumably be no contact between the two, and the technological group, to minimize their impact on Earth’s indigenous population would perhaps retreat to an island that subsequently gets destroyed by a natural disaster. It seems like a neater conclusion to the story. But this wasn’t the case, and even still, I don’t think it ruins the overall message of the finale or the series.

Then you have the final few minutes where we find out that the colonials landed on an Earth 150,000 years in our past. Though the finale could have ended with the scene where Admiral Adama sits on the hill beside President Laura Roslyn’s grave, talking to her while looking at the sunset, I think the final sequence presents a clearer message about the cyclical nature of human history, and about death and rebirth. I also liked how they pointed out Hera’s significance to Humanity and Cylons in the end, when it is revealed that she is Mitochondrial Eve. Finally, I also liked the conversation between Head Six and Head Baltar at the end where they compare our current civilization to the past human civilizations on old Earth, Kobol, and the Twelve Colonies (playing into the whole “cylical nature of history”/”death-rebirth” concept) but also note that there is always a chance that humanity won’t chose a self-destructive path again. I know that some people found the ending montage of the robots to be a little cheesy, but I think it was pertinent in the sense that humanity has always advanced faster in technology than in social maturity (Lee Adama talks about the same thing during the finale) and that we really need to be careful. With that, the series finally ended on a cautionary, though optimistic note.

Well, that’s my two cents on the series finale. If I had to condense that into two words, I’d say it like I said before: Frakking Awesome!

Being a part of history…

Being part of a historically significant event is not something everyone can claim, and this is why I feel so privileged to be part of one today. This was the very first election I voted in since I got my citizenship last year, and I can’t find words to describe my pride in being a part of the greatest democracy on earth, and also being part of a historically significant moment in this nation’s history. 232 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this nation gets its first African-American President.

I just heard McCain’s speech where he conceded the election to Obama. I’ve always admired Senator McCain; his (pre-campaign) moderate views have always appealed to me. I was quite touched when I heard his speech, especially on his emphasis on how all of us need to rally together as Americans (in spite of repeated booings from the audience, which he asked them to stop) behind President-elect Obama. His core message was that in spite of all our differing views and opinions, the one thing we have in common is that we are all Americans and as such we all have to work together to take this country through the difficult times it is facing.

This campaign has been a long and hard one, but at the end of it all I think we can all say that this election has been a shining example of the best system of governance in the world – democracy. I’m looking forward to the future with a lot of hope. The next four years are going to be full of change. I hope it is a change for the better and I think we can make it so if we all rally behind the President as Americans, because it’s not the President that makes America a great nation. Americans make America a great nation.

I just heard Obama’s victory speech. I wonder… will children be learning about it in school a hundred years from now? I think they will and they should be, because what I heard was that America has not lost its way. It is still a shining beacon of democracy to the world. This election just proved it.

A lot of stuff

I didn’t update this site for a while because I had a lot of stuff going on. A lot happened towards the end of last year. My house was destroyed, and then it was rebuilt. While that was going on, I also lost my job when Intel decided to “redeploy” my entire group. I was offered an option to look for positions within the company, but I declined. I honestly wasn’t doing as much programming as I would have liked, so I decided to look for jobs outside Intel. I interviewed with Google and didn’t get in despite doing really well (their words) on the phone and in-person interviews. I got a call back from the recruiter who said that “although the interviewers really liked you and thought that you were incredibly smart and knowledgeable, they didn’t feel that your skills are a good match for the position”. I thought it was a standard “Thanks, but no thanks” response and I was a little disheartened. To be honest, my faith in my own skills and knowledge was a little shaken. I talk to my friend Iliyan (he works and google and he’s the one who actually referred me) and he said that they were actually telling the truth. Apparently, at Google they try to match you up pretty well with your job. If they feel that you don’t match up with the position, they don’t offer it. He said that if I had applied to Google and Mountain View, instead of Phoenix, I would have received an offer for sure. He also let them know that they made a mistake in not hiring me. Either way, I wasn’t all that depressed.

I got a few more offers and did a few more interviews before finally accepting a position at Infusion Software. They basically write CRM (Content and Resource Management) Software for small businesses. They are a relatively new company. I have been here for a month and I’ve been loving it since my first day. The first day I walked in, they basically said “Here’s your system. Pick an OS and install it and set up your development environment”. I was like “Awesome!”. Of course, I set up PC-BSD (which is basically a FreeBSD distro). The environment at Infusion Software is very energetic and fast-paced. The demographic is also rather young. During my interview they showed me around and when I got to the developer room, they showed me a projector and said “This is where we play Halo or Guitar Hero 3 when we need to take a break”. ‘Nuff said. I’m glad everything eventually worked out. I was rather stressed after my house got wrecked, and to add to it, I got laid-off. The way my friend Suhrid puts it. “You have the weirdest luck in the world. Really bad stuff happens to you, but then something really cool happens after that to make it better than before… you got to remodel your home for a great price, and you got a better job!”

My parents came down for a month at the beginning of January. My mom’s staying behind to help me set up the house. Of course, because of that I had to tell my girlfriend that she couldn’t come over anymore (this is all true, yes it is). Oh yeah, so I’m renting out my house. My parents had bought a house here that they don’t live in. So I’ve basically moved over there. It’s a bit of a drive to places, but nothing too bad.

Oh yes, I finally got to put my citizenship to use. Yes, I voted in the primaries. I registered as Republican so I could vote for Ron Paul. Let’s just say that I believe in a lot of what he says because I identify myself as Libertarian. I know a lot of people said that he wasn’t going to win, but that wasn’t the point. This country needs to change. It’s constitutionally a multi-party system, but the only parties that matter are the Republicans and Democrats and they haven’t been doing anything for this country. The current administration has done a great job of ignoring that piece of paper this country was founded up. The subtle erosion of Civil Rights alarms me. We need to remember what this country was founded upon. Honest, law-abiding citizens should have no fear of their government. That is why I support Ron Paul. It is besides the point that he didn’t win. We need to challenge the current situation. We need to change the current situation. Of course, the idiotic media ignored Ron Paul and didn’t even talk about him. Despite that, the man was able to garner a large and loyal following through the internet. What that says is that there are people who are willing to listen and who want to listen and who want change. The sad truth is that the people with big pockets, and big media exposure get all the attention, and not the people with the good ideas. I hope that in time his ideas will prevail. I hope in time Americans will realize that this country needs to get back to its roots.

That’s about it. I’m going to try and update this blog a little more frequently, but no promises.

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