[FoRK] Rules of thumb

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Tue Apr 7 06:24:32 PDT 2009

On Apr 6, 2009, at 5:33 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:

> It seemed to me that a lot of the discussion was a push to overrun- 
> by-bluster

I'm sorry that's how it seemed to you.  This is an unfortunately  
common response, not an accurate assessment of intent.

>>> All kinds of misleading statements were coming out of the right;

Yes, but I am not "the right" nor was I recapitulating "their"  
points.  And once again, be careful about source filtering.  Just  
because somebody or some group is wrong 99% of the time, that does not  
imply that the occasional 1% of the time their correct the point is  
trivial and should be discarded with the rest.  Further, don't assume  
that just because somebody A agrees with somebody B about some thing  
or other, that they therefore agree with them about anything else or  
belong in the same "category."

I am completely appalled to find myself in agreement from time to time  
lately with those very right-wingnut demagogues that I've been railing  
against for years.  Yet data is data;  and for matters of objective  
value and quantity this can generally be easily discerned.  In this  
case, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend, but that doesn't make  
them wrong either.

> No, not really.  I'm pretty sure we only had a gap in relaying all  
> of the explanation in the jumps of conclusion needed to understand  
> certain points.
> Some references to certain predicting pundits on the left and right  
> fit that description.  That's what I was talking about.

Ah, but see, you were only objecting to those on the right;  this has  
the effect of appearing to implicitly agree with the counterpoints  
provided by the left --- which then, as now, are extremely pollyanna,  
non-quantitative, and diverged (less now than in the fall, though)  
from the harsh economic reality we face.

I offered both in several cases in order to "bound" the ranges of the  
particular estimations.  To whatever extent I may have provided more  
of this from the right than the balancing left point-of-view, it is  
only because in such estimations you generally want to emphasize the  
worst-case scenario;  extraordinary risks requiring extraordinary  
caution and all that.

In any case this was a small part of the argument.  Most of the de  
novo estimation and cross-check relied on clearly non-partisan data.

> We all have biases about how we extrapolate from past evidence.

True, but not particularly helpful.  Given that any observer cannot  
know what the nature and impact of any given bias is in somebody  
else's reasoning, it's poor analysis to assume things about this kind  
of skew.  Far better to simply validate the numbers and the ways they  
get combined.

> A comparison to the more extreme right-wing dire warnings about  
> Obama, compared to the recent evidence, seems to favor the optimists  
> much more in this case.

Haven't seen that at all.  So far, if anything, his performance seems  
to me significantly worse than I'd expected, and I expected about what  
the more moderate right-leaning non-GOP voices were saying in the  
debate.  (Re: economics, at least.  The rest is noise to a large  
extent, we haven't made it that far yet, but we're only two and a half  
months in...)

>> I am asserting the generality of the rule-of-thumb by showing you  
>> another case where it applies.
> OK.  But it seemed kind of A) like guilt-by-opposite-association and  
> B) apples and oranges.

See, this is a great example of you over-interpreting my intent.

I'm attempting to show you that the rule-of-thumb I offered, while it  
is only a rule-of-thumb, can reasonably be applied in a variety of  
situations.  That's independent of whether or not it *should* be used  
in any given situation, and isn't particularly in reference to the  
validity of its application in the prior circumstance.

> Not to sink back into that mess, however this restates the position  
> that seems a misinterpretation of what was actually promised: the  
> platform said something like "offered healthcare with the same terms  
> as government employees".  It didn't appear to actually overpromise,  
> unless you _heard_ "provide free health care to everyone not  
> currently covered".  That's not what they promised, even if many  
> people thought they heard that.

*THIS* is a legitimate argument.  I'm not particularly interested in  
reengaging it, *but* --- you are being quite selective about your  
interpretation.  Three facts are indisputable:  (1) that Obama and  
apparatchik repeatedly bemoaned the specific numbers of "uninsured  
Americans" throughout the campaign;  (2) that the terms "universal  
health care" and "health care coverage for every American" were  
specifically used as well, if not  in the context of the specific  
position statement on the website, and (3) that "universal health  
care" meaning insurance coverage of all Americans is an explicit,  
stated goal of the Democratic party and party policy-thinkers (and  
others) going back decades.  Thus the extrapolation from "offered  
health care on the same terms as government employees" (to whom?)  
justifies an interpretation that we're talking about, at minimum,  
those who do not have private health care presently.

>> Yet the amount necessary to accomplish the goal of "universal"  
>> health care (insurance) is not an unknowable quantity;  we can  
>> simply back into it by applying the kind of Fermi bottoms-up  
>> estimation that I offered.  You can offer an alternative  
>> estimation, but as I recall you did not despite repeated attempts  
>> to encourage you to do so.  The closest thing you got was the kind  
>> of sophomoric rhetorical snow-job you attempt again, above.
> Snow job?  I don't see it that way.  I looked at the exact platform  
> statement, researched what it was talking about and the  
> Congressional analysis of that program, and compared that to the  
> estimated number of people along with my own rule of thumbs.  I did  
> offer specific numbers and estimations of the relevant population  
> distribution over coverage needs.  Perhaps you didn't read that?

I was out by that point;  regardless, you can't refuse some argument A  
by "proving" some other, different, orthogonal argument B.  If your  
issue was in the interpretation of what the ultimate health care  
policy goal of Obama was, and you believed that it was not (and is  
not) to provide coverage for most or all of those presently uncovered,  
then *that's* the argument to conclusively have first;  to the extent  
that you ever attempted to quantify costs for coverage of your  
(presumably smaller) subset, that analysis can't be compared with what  
I was illustrating, namely that you *cannot* provide "average"  
coverage all uninsured Americans on anything less than a multiple ---  
perhaps large --- of the only budgetary allocation for health care  
that was proposed.  Thus the point I was attempting to illustrate  
remains true and has been proven already through SCHIP and the  
budgetary process:  Obama's statements about his planned spend in  
health care were necessarily either (a) intentionally understated and  
misleading, or (b) irresponsibly vacuous and incomplete.


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