Breaking News: Abu Muhammed al Adnani is Dead


(Abu Muhammed al Adnani*)

Abu Muhammed al Adnani (real name: Taha Subhi Falaha), the number 2 man within the Islamic State and its commander for special operations (terrorist operations outside of the declared caliphate, recruitment, social media, and communications), is dead. It is being reported that al Adnani was killed in Aleppo earlier today and had been targeted by the US military led coalition forces in a precision strike near the town of al Bab. Here is CENTCOM’s release of the coalition strikes in Syria for today, as well as the past several days. Al Bab is not mentioned, but that may just mean it will be in tomorrow’s press release on coalition strikes. Expect the information on this to solidify over the next 24 to 48 hours. We’ll also see what this does to the Islamic State’s operational capabilities, especially those outside of the self declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

* Image found here.

Open Thread: Taking the High Road

But seriously: Good for President Obama…

President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences for 111 inmates, the latest in his push to ease harsh penalties given to nonviolent drug offenders.

Obama has been critical of what he has called the “devastating” effects of severe sentences handed down during the country’s war on drugs. He became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, and spoke there about the importance of “second chances.”

Obama said that he hoped the bipartisan push for criminal justice reform could wind up weighing how to fight crime alongside “the need for proportionality in sentencing and the need to rehabilitate those who commit crimes”…

Tuesday Evening Open Thread: The NYTimes “Sh… ugar” Test

In honor of the proverbial gently-reared lady who “wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if she had a mouthful of it.” Because the real social solecism is calling an old white man the R-word!

From Maine’s Portland Press-Herald, “In the morning Gov. LePage says he might resign; by afternoon he discounts the idea”:

In a morning radio interview, LePage said he was totally at fault for leaving a threatening voice mail last week for a Democratic lawmaker whom he believed had called him a racist. He later invited Rep. Drew Gattine to the State House to have a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday, and Gattine accepted.

LePage also raised the possibility more than once on the radio that he may not finish his second term because of the controversy, which has stretched on for a week.

“I’m looking at all options,” the Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a Bangor talk radio station, Tuesday morning. “I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability. I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”

He said later in the interview: “If I’ve lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it’s time to move on.”

Some six hours later, in a tweet posted from his Twitter account, LePage backed away from any suggestion that he was considering resignation…

The uncertainty comes after several days of sustained controversy that began last week when the governor told an audience in North Berwick that he’s been keeping a three-ring binder of drug dealers and that 90 percent of those dealers are black or Hispanic. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of drug dealers arrested in Maine are white, and critics have said that even if the governor’s numbers were accurate, he is wrong to focus on race….

During his radio interview, LePage did apologize to the people of Maine and to Gattine’s family for leaving a threatening voice mail last week, but didn’t apologize to Gattine directly.

“When I was called a racist I just lost it, and there’s no excuse,” the governor said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s totally my fault.” LePage said being called a racist for him was, “like calling a black man the ‘N’ word or a woman the ‘C’ word. It just absolutely knocked me off my feet.”

Incidentally… and no surprise, given LePage is a Republican…

While LePage has repeatedly emphasized his concern about the impact of drug addiction in Maine, state spending on addiction treatment during his administration has actually declined

He’s unfit for his current position, but maybe the RNC can offer him a replacement job as their national mascot / cheerleader? Because I sense he’d do much better as an opener for Trump ralies than that Reince Priebus guy…

Apart from deploring the Disloyal Opposition, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

More “Both Sides” Juice

Via CNN:

The FBI expects to publicly release as soon as Wednesday the report the bureau sent to the Justice Department in July recommending no charges in the Hillary Clinton email server investigation, according to multiple law enforcement officials.

Perhaps then Director Comey (R-FBI) can go on a book tour to promote the novella-sized email report — he did a smashing job of turning a statement about the decision not to recommend charges into a closing argument for the prosecution last month.

Venues like network TV morning shows and old timey radio screech-a-thons might be a good way to generate buzz for the book tour. To keep the momentum going and appeal to the youngs, maybe the FBI could release a graphic novel edition in mid-September.

With any luck, the movie rights will get picked up in October, and casting decisions (Meryl for Hillz, obvs), etc., will keep this publicity train on track clean through the election.

Dogs Suck

I rarely go outside this time of year because it’s too goddamned hot, but thanks to that little tropical depression in the Gulf, it’s breezy and pleasant today, so I temporarily moved Cracker Inc. to the tiki bar. While setting up my workstation, I noticed one of the dogs rooting around in the bromeliads and told her to stop.

She stopped, alright — drawing back from the flower bed with a snake in her mouth! I screamed, of course, which caused her to drop it, and she and the other dog were snapping at it while it lashed at them with fangs bared, causing me to scream myself hoarse until the dogs came to see what was wrong with me.

I grabbed their collars and wrestled them back into the house, then ran to fetch my laptop and other accoutrements. The cops are probably on their way since any neighbor within half a mile must have immediately assumed someone was being murdered.

It was a black snake, so not poisonous, I’m pretty sure. The dogs seem uninjured. I believe the snake survived, as I can no longer see it — from a great distance, of course. I am never going outside again. The end.

Sounds like she’s got this…

From an article on debate prep in today’s NYT:

The Clinton camp believes that Mr. Trump is most insecure about his intelligence, his net worth and his image as a successful businessman, and those are the areas they are working with Mrs. Clinton to target.

Bingo. Trump, meanwhile, isn’t doing much prep at all, according to the Times piece. He’s convinced it’s not necessary since he easily vanquished the Republican field.

Do y’all enjoy watching presidential debates? I do in the primaries, but I dread them during the general election season. There’s just too much at stake, and I’ve seen too many debates turn on stupid and meaningless soundbites and media spin, so I watch them much as I’d view a slasher movie — peeking through my fingers and muttering, “Dear God, what are you thinking?!? No! Don’t go into the basement!!!”

Risk adjustment overcharging

Public Integrity has a good report on Medicare Advantage over-coding. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conducts annual audits of Medicare Advantage carriers to see if the chart data supports the diagnosis codes that build a case that a member is more expensive and needs a bump payment from CMS to make the insurer whole. CMS conducted 37 audits in 2007 and thirty four of the plans had at least 10% of their claimed risk adjustment cases judged to be unsupported by the medical records. One carrier had, in my mind, de minimis variation (2%) and two carriers were spot on. On the other hand seven carriers or about 20% of the sample had at least 60% of their risk adjustment claims judged to be unsupported by documentation in the chart.

Why is this important?

It is important for a couple of reasons. First, this is a rip-off of public money. Medicare Advantage has a history of upcoding the risk adjustment model. The same patient in traditional Fee for Service Medicare looks a lot healthier based on claims data than if they are in an aggressively upcoded Medicare Advantage plan. That means the Medicare Advantage plan gets extra bump payments that are either sent back to members as added benefits, sent to provider as higher payments or consumed by company insiders and owners as hookers and blow.

Secondly, there has been tentative industry discussion/advocacy to move the Exchange/QHP risk adjustment model of revenue neutral flows towards the Medicare HCC bump payment system. That would change the Red Queen race incentive that rewards technically sophisticated coding operations at the expense of naive or data poor coding operations towards a Cash Dash against the Federal government. I’m not too thrilled with this idea.

So how does CMS stop it? There are three ways that limit overpayments and one that could reduce legitimate discrepancies.
Read more

Meaningful difference, APTC Hacking and optimization problems

The loose meaningful difference regulation produces some desirable, from Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) point of view, outcomes. The biggest positive outcome from CMS’s point of view and the point of view of PPACA supporters is a good Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. The subsidies are based on the price of the second lowest Silver. Using these loose meaningful difference regulations, insurers can Silver Spam so that the #1 and #2 Silver are either priced at the same level or there is a minuscule gap. Silver Spam strategies are attractive to carriers that offer low cost on-Exchange plans that won’t sell well off-Exchange so that usually implies a very low cost provider network where the providers are paid at near Medicare rates. The other way of reducing total costs and thus achieving a better CBO score is the low level of gap between the #1 and #2 Silver means fewer people sign up so total subsidies are fairly low.

If CMS was to enact one of two sets of strict significant difference criteria (the first would be a clear price difference of X%, while the second would standardize benefit structures while allowing variance on plan type and network) the CBO score would get worse because PPACA would become more expensive. The level of subsidy would increase because the second least expensive Silver would most likely become more expensive and the Bronze offerings may become comparatively less expensive on-Exchange for subsidized individuals. And if carriers adapt either a pure Silver Gap where a single carrier owns both the #1 and #2 Silvers or a soft Silver Gap where there is a large spread between Company A’s #1 Silver and Company B’s #2 Silver, the covered population will increase significantly as the post-subsidy price will make Bronze much more affordable for individuals earning over 200% FPL.

Right now the regulation is optimizing to minimize bad CBO score headlines. The Silver Gap strategy, from the CMS perspective, maximizes enrollment at the cost of bad CBO headlines.

The Silver Spam and Silver Gap strategies both derive from the very broadly defined “meaningful difference” regulation. CMS for is supposed to insure that the plans offered on Exchange are different enough for people to be able to make an informed choice. Loose interpretation by CMS has enabled the Silver Spam strategy. This is a problem as it takes away real choice from buyers as well as limiting the health and size of the risk pool. Slowly it looks like CMS is tightening the regulation.

Read more

Tuesday Morning Open Thread:

whereaway kitten nest

A note from the Whereaways:

Wanted to let you know our rescued kittens went off to their new homes this past weekend. You Balloon Juice readers came through for them, and we are incredibly grateful.

Ideally, we wanted them to be adopted in pairs, so they’d always have a buddy, and that’s how it worked out. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Apart from being happy for the kittens / jealous of their new humans, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: So Weiner Is A Dick — Why Is That “Our” Problem?

Dave Weigel, in the Washington Post, “What kind of tragedy was Anthony Weiner?“:

The Anthony Weiner saga — which, if not over, has finally been officially demoted to a farce — has been with us for five years. Weiner tweeted a photo of his packed underwear to a West Coast fan on the sleepy weekend around Memorial Day in 2o11. Huma Abedin, his wife since 2010, announced that their marriage was over at the start of the lead-up to Labor Day in 2016, another news doldrum. Plenty of politicians make crippling personal mistakes. Few have been cursed with Weiner’s timing.

Today’s Weiner story is really about Abedin, and whether (to the relief of friends) she can finally shed a cad who threatened to be a political liability. But since 2011, when he resigned from Congress after news conferences hijacked by Andrew Breitbart and “The Howard Stern Show,” Weiner has become an irresistible subject for counterfactuals…

Josh Barro (in no sense a Democrat or a liberal) at Business Insider, on “the Ted Cruz of the Left”:

… The thing is: Weiner’s congressional career wasn’t exactly brought down by the sexting scandal. It was brought down by the sexting scandal and by Weiner’s status as a terrible coworker…
Read more

Overnight Open Thread: None Shall Sleep!

The aria from Turandot seems somewhat appropriate for an overnight open thread. Here’s two versions – the second is Aretha Franklin getting her opera on!

Open Thread: Another Brick in the Trump Wall… of BS

Greg Sargeant, in the Washington Post:

The Grand Trumpian Immigration Follies of 2016 are set to take another turn: Donald Trump has now announced that he will give a major speech (does any Trump speech fail to merit that label?) on the issue on Wednesday, in which he is expected to finally clarify his stance on mass deportations.

But it is more likely that instead of clarifying his stance on mass deportations, Trump will instead try to shift the subject away from them entirely. That’s because Trump’s big lie about mass deportations — i.e., that he would carry them out swiftly and humanely, thus Making America Great Again — is falling apart. And he’s now trying to replace that lie by foregrounding another lie.

Trump previewed his speech at a rally over the weekend

“In recent days, the media, as it usually does, has missed the whole point on immigration. They have missed the whole point. All the media wants to talk about is the 11 million people — or more, or less, they have no idea what the number is because we have no control over our country; they have no idea what it is — that are here illegally.

“But my priority, and really, it’s for the well being of everybody, but in particular the 300 million Americans and more, and all of our Hispanic citizens, and all of our African American citizens, legal residents who want a secure border…”

… [L]et’s pause to marvel at the spectacle of Trump blaming the media for this focus on mass deportations. That promise has been key to Trump’s candidacy for over a year. As early as August of 2015 Trump was already saying on national television that all undocumented immigrants in this country “have to go.” … Now Trump insists that the aspect of his plan that really matters is his pledge to secure the border…

The real reason Trump is now shifting away from mass deportations is almost too obvious to restate: It is probably alienating the college educated whites and white women — swing constituencies — that he simply must improve among if he is to have a chance at winning… But in so doing, Trump is still preserving his underlying stance that all the 11 million generally remain targets for removal. He even told CNN that there’s a “very good chance” that all the rest would be deported later. This isn’t as crazy as vowing proactive, immediate mass deportations. But it still is not an actual solution…

It will, however, give the Media Village Idiots a(nother) chance to swoon over the new! improved! “reasonable” Donald Trump, which is the best Trump’s handlers probably hope for at this point. If only they can get all the Trumplodytes on the same page for just one lousy day

Walter’s Second Day in Forever

First, the pictures. Here he is with his new bff, Ellie:


I bet some of you won’t even be able to figure out which one he is!

And here he is lying on his new bed:


Debit passes along two notes. First things first- apparently Walter makes friends quick:

Did I tell you? Tim called Sunday to check up on Walter. The old guy sure knows how to make friends.

Tim was the driver, who spent only 12 hours with him.

Second, Debit had her vet give Walter a lookover:

He was a huge hit at the vet’s office. Both the vet and the tech sat down on the floor to do the exam, and after a few minutes Walter decided to plant his butt in the vet’s lap. She was amazed at his progress (I showed her the picture from when you found him) and said to just keeping doing what you’d started: feeding him and giving him plenty of soft places to sleep. She treated his right ear for what she said looked like a chronic infection, and gave me meds to continue in hopes we can clear it up. Otherwise, as a last case scenario, she said an ear canal ablation could be done. It would leave him totally deaf in that ear, but she suspects he can’t hear much out of it anyway. They contacted your vet to get his blood work and whoever answered the phone exclaimed, “Walter the Miracle Dog!” :)

I’m taking him back in one month so they can do blood work and see if the Rimadyl is causing any adverse reactions to his liver and/or kidneys. Meanwhile, I’m starting him on glucosamine chews and adding fish oil to his food. She said that he can gain about five more pounds, but no more, as his knees are shot. Short walks of five to ten minutes on grass should be his limit for now, until we see if the supplements are helping. I don’t know that he’s ever going to be totally pain free, but we’ll do out best to get him as close to it as possible. She commented that he’d obviously had a hard life and that if he wasn’t outright abused he was neglected to the point it became abuse. I mean, above and beyond the whole being left to starve to death thing.

He was really anxious in the car, and cried a little when we got back in, but once we pulled up to the house he started scrabbling at the windows and actually ran to the back door, tail going a mile a minute. The he flopped down on his bed and went to sleep.

So we’re home and all is well. Still no accidents or drama.

Everything seems ok, and Debit still sounds giddy when I talk to her. Wait until I butt dial her by accident a few times.

I’m not outraged about Colin Kaepernik

I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff on Twitter and Facebook about how Colin Kaepernik insulted Veterans with his refusal to stand for the National Anthem.

I personally am not offended by Kaepernik’s actions. I wish he’d chosen a different method, but only because the substance of his protest, the glaring racial iniquities of policing and the legal system, have been ignored while the outrage machine over his refusal to stand for the anthem has burned up all the oxygen. I honestly had no idea who the guy was before this week. Those glaring racial iniquities of policing and the legal system? That’s the real outrage here, or it should be if you buy into the idea that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Speaking for myself, I for one am real Goddamned tired of people appointing themselves to be outraged on my my behalf.

I joined the army for a lot of reasons, patriotism being one of them, but patriotism had little if anything to do with my decisions to re-enlist over and over again. Every place I ever fought, I fought FOR my brothers, the guys to my left and right. If politics entered into it at all, it was because we fought against people who would string up the Colin Kaeperniks of the world for being a racial minority, or for not toeing some religious or political line. So there was always some knowledge and understanding that on some level there was a difference between us, or what we still aspire to but haven’t yet become, and them.

But mostly it was for my brothers. And a paycheck.

Rest in Peace, Gene Wilder

The world just got a lot less funny:

Rest in peace, good sir. And thanks for the laughs.