Early Morning Open Thread

I see Anne is having technical problems and Betty is otherwise occupied, so here goes. I cannot reach their level of snark, so you need to be happy this is a morning open thread.

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for poor Rex. He’s actually made a few good decisions lately.

And here’s a Trump judicial nominee. What’s interesting is that the hard questioning is coming from Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, a Republican. He has expressed concern about the people being nominated by Don McGahn, one of Trump’s lawyers and advisors.

What kinds of holiday preparation or celebration do you have planned for today?








What are you doing — go sign up

Healthcare.gov is due to close its doors to new, open enrollment sign-ups in sixteen hours for people in my time zone.

Stop reading this blog and go sign up if you need insurance for next year.

Open thread for help, assistance and celebration.



On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

Adam here again, Alain will be back on Monday.

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more



Sociological Overview Open Thread: Andrew Sullivan Remains the Exemplar of Upscale Republican Activism


“Generally speaking, my point of view is the whole point of a civil rights movement is to end. You’ve achieved certain things. You’re done. Now get on with your lives. And I think it was one of the most controversial things I ever said in the gay community early on was my goal to shut the gay rights movement down because we’ve succeeded. And I think we almost have, and I want to shut it down after that. I’m not a perpetual — I’m certainly not a progressive in that sense. I believe in society adjusting to social change and moderating and modulating its social institutions, so they’re relevant to current realities.”

Shorter Sullivan: Look, I have just about everything *I* wanted in the way of ‘civil rights’ — why are the rest of You People hanging around wearing those ugly expressions?

I GOT MINE, FVCK THE REST OF YOU.

Ran across these quotes on somebody else’s twitter feed; they’re transcriptions from a National Review Online podcast. Haven’t tried to listen to the whole thing, cuz I just got some expensive dental work done, and the inside of my mouth is all torn up already.

Bonus echt “Sully” quote:

“I helped bring a lot of readers to [Ta-Nehisi Coate’s] blog, helped him get where he is. I think he’s a beautiful writer and a very, very sharp mind. I regret deeply where he’s ended up… And I think ‘Beyond the World and Me’ was really just a terrible book in the crudeness of it, in the despair of it, in the melodrama of it. It terribly disappointed me and similarly his public position that we live in some crushing white supremacy, which I don’t believe we do, or that African Americans have almost no agency whatsoever in terms of their lives and their future or that they haven’t actually made huge strides in this country and are not actually one of its most powerful and dominant cultural, social, and even political forces. So I just don’t see it the way he does. I certainly respect him, but I find myself deeply alienated by his current politics. He didn’t used to be this doctrinaire or this so absorbed by the sort of social justice left, but there we are.”
.

I’m quite sure Sullivan Means Well, but he simply can’t imagine any human situation outside of his own personal experience and that of his upper-class, highly-educated, media-based, mostly white, fixedly Conservative conservative bubble.

And that, IMO, is why he’s been a darling of that bubble since he first fled England for the “best, most prosperous former British colony” back in the 1980s, and why he’s made such a nice living fronting for The Bubble ever since.



Well There is That

I saw this earlier on twitter and I just had to share it with you. Apparently Jeffrey Goldberg was interviewing Nikole Hannah-Jones, and it got off to a fun start:

Jeffrey Goldberg: You and I have both had these conversations with my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates about the arc of history and which way it bends. I’ve adopted the viewpoint of Barack Obama, that history is an arrow and the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. And Ta-Nehisi says that there really is no moral arc, but if there were it would just bend toward chaos. Are you in the camp of people who say that long-term optimism is premature?

Nikole Hannah-Jones: I think it has not a lot of basis in historical fact. I would say the arc is actually a circle. It just perpetually turns back on itself.

Goldberg: But let’s use African-Americans as an example. Life has gotten better, no? Before there was before there was Brown v. Board of Education, there was no Brown v. Board of Education. Before there was a Civil Rights Act, there was no Civil Rights Act. We don’t live in a period of history free of lynchings, but the number of lynchings has gone down. There are more African-Americans in the middle class since Reconstruction. Life in America for African-Americans has gotten better. It’s been stutter stepped, but we ain’t in 1866 or 1873.

Hannah-Jones: I am not a slave. That’s true.



Let us march on till victory is won

As mistermix pointed out, NAACP chapters were the unsung heroes of Doug Jones’ victory.

I’m going to try to regularly do fundraisers for groups that are involved with registering voters, guaranteeing voting rights, and turning voters out. Let’s start by raisng some money for the NAACP.

Goal Thermometer








‘Tis The Season

For another war, because why not? The ones the last Republican President started are going so well.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he was ready to start talks with North Korea without precondition. “We’ll talk about the weather if you like,” he said. He omitted the part about their having to give up their nuclear weapons and missiles first. But then his own spokesperson undercut him.

North Korea is making some signs that they would be open to discussions of – something – but definitely not giving up their nukes. So Tillerson’s offer was well-timed. But others in the administration, likely including National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, have something else in mind. The problem is that nobody knows what it is.

A number of Washington-based nuclear experts on my Twitter timeline say that the administration seems determined to strike North Korea preventively. That’s likely a war crime, but let that go for now. Dan Drezner is worried, and Joshua Pollack lays it out in a tweet thread. Selected tweets from that thread:

Lindsay Graham is beating the war drums. “Time is running out.” On whose timetable? In the 1950s, his arguments were made on hitting the Soviet Union to prevent them from getting a nuclear arsenal. In the 1960s, it was China. While it would be pleasant for us if they didn’t have nuclear weapons, we’ve all managed to live together for the past 60 years or so. We’ll manage with North Korea too.

It’s possible that the war talk is designed to convince China to magically fix things with North Korea. But they can’t. The US administration doesn’t seem to understand that.

If North Korea is attacked, it will devastate Seoul with conventional artillery. That’s been true for many decades, so Graham and McMaster should know that. Japan would probably take some hits too. My guess is that North Korea still doesn’t have a lot of nuclear-armed missiles deployed, but how about just a couple on Seoul, three on major cities in Japan, and one or two on the US West Coast? That could be pretty ugly, and dropping a bunch of nukes on North Korea wouldn’t bring back those millions of people. The scenario is worked out in more detail here and here.

Meanwhile, Nikki Haley is doing a Colin Powell to convince us that war with Iran is a good idea.

As badly as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone, war with North Korea or Iran would be worse. While you’re calling Congress to stop the tax plan, you might want to say that you wish Congress would hold hearings on administration plans for war against North Korea.



Reminder to all the procrastinators out there

Healthcare.gov is still scheduled to stop accepting open enrollment tomorrow at midnight.

There has been no early word yet about waiting in line extensions. There is no word on identification problems caused by credit report freeze extensions yet.

We need to assume that Healthcare.gov will stop accepting completed applications in thirty four hours.

So for all of my fellow procrastinators out there, time is up. Go and get yourself covered.

Open thread.



Destination unknown, Rubi, Rubi, Rubi, Rubio

Maybe there’s still a real chance to kill this thing:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has informed Senate leaders he intends to vote against the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax plan unless it includes a larger expansion of a child tax credit, according to a Senate GOP source.








Edgy, edgy stuff

This is quite a campaign video, from Richard Ojeda, running for Congress in WV-3. It’s a brutal district for Dems. Go hard or go home, I guess. Let me know what you think of the campaign video. I’m going to keep running Democratic campaign videos when I find ones that seem interesting (like the Amy McGrath and Randy Bryce ones I put up earlier).








If Corporations Are People…

Uber plays as a shitty, shitty version of the Snidely Whiplash of corporate persons:

The next step:* A letter from a former Uber security employee, accusing the company of secretly surveilling competitors, is expected to be released, in a redacted form, by the court on Friday.

(From The New York Times Dealbook newsletter.)

What’s the crappiest/dumbest thing you’ve ever seen management do where you worked?

And now, for a moment’s amusement and/or devant le revolution tumbrel reservation list, here’s the tea room at Claridges, in the West End, which I had the pleasure of visiting. And that’s it.  I didn’t stay.  Don’t even know where it is.  Really.  Don’t warm up the guillotine…please…

I was actually just across the pond for a quick trip, centered on a memorial trip for a beloved aunt, who is one of my models/mentors in the art of living a life with intention.  But I did get to do some publishing/broadcasting work while I was there (hence, Claridges) and, as always, had a chance to drop in on some old friends.

So, in a post that is intended to offer a little change of pace from our usual chronicling of the end of the American century, I’ll just sign off with a nod to some of my all-time favorite bovines. (Excuse the reproduction — that’s me with an iPhone.)

I should note — these are cattle ever ready for their closeup:

How now, Brown Cow?

And with a mite of randomness thus inserted into the day….

Open Thread.

*That’s the next step in the trade-secrets case being fought between Uber and Alphabet (Google).

Image: Aelbert Cuyp, The Large Dortaka A Distant View of Dordrecht, with a Milkmaid and Four Cows, and Other Figures c. 1650.

It’s in the newly opened (reopened?) Gallery A in the basement level of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  The room is a hoot.  It’s huge, and it’s populated by a sample of the Nat’s collection across the full range of periods, medieval  to 20th c., one space with hundreds of paintings taking you on a wild journey.  The pictures are all good, and the room, on its own, would make a hell of a regional museum for almost any city around the world — and yet most of the work is stuff that didn’t quite make the cut for inclusion upstairs.  Totally worth a look.



Not A Puppet!

Today’s essential read on Trump and Russia is in the Washington Post, by Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Philip Rucker.

Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.

The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.

The piece frames Trump’s reaction to Russia as an outcome of his ego needs to believe that he and he alone won the election bigly and his wishful thinking that he and Putin, working together, could solve the world’s problems. That’s fair enough, and those two factors are certainly sufficient to produce the effects reported – the biggest of which is that Presidential daily briefings have to be tailored to avoid irritating the Master on the subject.

But a great many people around Trump, including Donald Junior, who testified another nine hours to Congress yesterday, have had extensive contacts with Russia, so it appears there is more there. The question is “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

Lots of tidbits in the piece. Trump thought Fiona Hill, one of his competent advisors on Russia, was a clerk and got angry at her when she didn’t act like one, with H.R. McMaster compounding the problem by admonishing her. He took a leak during his pre-briefing for his meeting with Angela Merkel. His obsession with NATO as a protection racket continues.

He’s got it half right – we could do a lot of good if we could work with Russia. But that can’t come at the cost of ignoring the load of bad Russia’s doing now.

Update: Here’s a good companion piece by James Goldgeier about Republicans and Russia.

If Trump were a realist, he would be seeking to deal with Russia from a position of strength, not looking to accommodate Putin from the get-go.  If he were a neoconservative, he would be pressing Putin on his abysmal human rights record. Instead, he is praising Putin for being strong and being tough. And it is unimaginable that any other president would have merely accepted Putin’s denial of election interference and moved on.

So why hasn’t the GOP spoken up? Yes, there are occasional remarks by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey O. Graham suggesting Donald Trump is getting hoodwinked by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose efforts working with the Trump campaign to swing the 2016 presidential race are under daily scrutiny.

For the most part, however, GOP voters and GOP elites have shrugged off behavior that would have led to outrage in the past. Since it is hard to imagine that a Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz or even John Kasich would have been this accommodating of Putin, is the party of Ronald Reagan really prepared to become the party of Trump on foreign policy, especially in America’s relations with Russia?








Cost concentration and the challenge of the subsidized insurance model

Researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality updated the the spending distribution graph by population percentile using 2015 data. The findings are always important even though the general thrust is the same from previous updates. Most people barely touch the healthcare system:

95% of the studied population uses less than the mean healthcare expenditures. 5% of the population drives 50% of the spending. This is not a new finding. It is a consistent finding.

The challenge of the insurance model is that in most years, the vast majority of people will spend less than the average medical expenses. If premiums are average expenses plus an administrative load divided by the number of covered lives, then most people in most years retrospectively will have a bad deal. And since health insurance is so expensive, paying a lot and seemingly getting very little pisses people off unlike how I pay $50 every six months for renters insurance and have never used it.

This is why there are subsidies. This is why there is a mandate (for this week at least). This is why there are age bands. This is why there is reinsurance funded through non-premium funds. This is why there are so many policies that aim to either make the total cost of insurance lower (subsidies) or to partially segregate higher cost (reinsurance, high cost risk pools, prospective risk sharing etc). We segregate the highest risk out of the general pool by creating an incredibly well loved high cost risk pool in Medicare. We carve out some more high cost people by using Medicaid for the SSI population. We move end stage renal disease individuals and their high cost months out of the general pool as well. All of these can be viewed as ways of decreasing the amount of claims that have to be paid for out of premium dollars in a general insurance model.

Most people in most years won’t get hit by meteors. Retrospectively, almost any system will be at least adequate for people with low claims. A small number of these individuals who don’t have chronic high cost conditions will need a ten hour brain surgery (hi Mom, hope you’re feeling better today) and then cost-sharing and savings systems and the insurance function of insurance is highly valued. But retrospectively, there are far more people paying in far more than they are receiving. This makes the entire insurance value proposition a hard thing to sell.








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This is Adam, I’ll be covering for Alain today and tomorrow.

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more



Thursday Morning Open Thread


.

Despite the 22F temperature, the biting wind, the unexpectedly heavy light pollution from passing traffic, and the clouds scudding in at great speed, Spousal Unit & I saw at least half a dozen bright Geminid meteors flash across the sky, so we’re satisfied with our expedition.

Apart from resolutely staying positive, what’s on the agenda for the day?
.

***********

Strong contender (in a year full of them) for Best Internet Protest of the Year, as reported by David Roth at Deadspin

On Wednesday, a number of prominent Native American activists began tweeting a statement purporting to announce that Washington’s NFL team would, next season, be changing its name to the Washington RedHawks…

If you were scrolling through Twitter with your mind in energy-saver mode, which is really the only safe way to do it, this looked like more than just an attempt to hustle a hashtag. It looked for all the world like news, albeit of the unlikeliest kind. Not just in the sense that it was good news, although there’s obviously that, but in the sense that it was being covered everywhere.

Or, more accurately, it was being “covered” “everywhere.” There were what appeared to be links to what appeared to be stories from what appeared to be major sports publications—the Washington Post, Bleacher Report, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated—that reported, in a rough simulacrum of those venues’ house styles, various angles on the story. The team issued no such statement, and the stories were all fakes that appeared on rather shockingly artful spoofs of each of those publications’ pages. Each of the hoax pages had been registered last month, through the French web registrar Gandi SAS by a registrant named Mark Jones. There is a field for “registrant organization” on Gandi’s form, but Jones left it blank…

The ghoulish bile-baiting tone of most Fake Sports News was nowhere to be found in these stories, each of which told the story of a team belatedly doing the right thing at the end of another lost season and of Native American activists belatedly seeing their advocacy turn into a hard-won reality. More than that, these stories told the story well, with quotes from all the appropriate corners…

It is so easy to admire the technical deftness and general craftsmanship behind the RedHawks hoax that it’s worth taking a moment to consider how slashing the satirical intent is, here. It emerges gradually as you click across the various spoof sites, as the realization builds that all this decency and equanimity just sounds wrong coming from the people it’s coming from. There is no more devastating assessment of how Daniel Snyder has handled his team’s shameful name than imagining him saying, as he’s “quoted” in the Sports Illustrated spoof: “[The RedHawks] is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect—the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.” It’s all the more so when you realize that this is an exact quote from an actual statement that Snyder made in 2013, in defense of continuing to call his team the Redskins