For the Love of Anyone’s Deity, Would Someone Please Donate a Strategist to the House Democratic Caucus!!!!

I’m traveling this week, with lots of 0300 starts and wasn’t planning to post, but I just got into the gym at the airport hotel I’m staying at ahead of tomorrow’s pre dawn flight, and MSNBC is on the TV. And the Democrats are actually voting to table (put it to the side and not take up impeachment) an impeachment resolution of the President. This is happening despite only 89 members of the House Democratic caucus publicly stating they support starting an impeachment inquiry!

I have no idea whose idea this is, but I cannot state loudly or strongly enough how galactically stupid this is. Strategic and political malpractice at the highest levels! When this passes, meaning the House will not move to take up impeachment at this time, and it will pass, the President will spend the next week crowing about how he’s been cleared. He’ll use it to chew up the information space that should be devoted to the spillover onto him from the Epstein case, from his publicly going full in on blood and soil herrenvolkism where racism and anti-Semitism in defense of Judaism and Jews equated with Israel and Israelis is no vice, and the upcoming Mueller hearings in the House.

The motion to table just passed: 136 Democrats for, 93 against, and 1 present (abstaining). 194 Republicans and the 1 Independent (Amash?) voted to table it as well. So for now, the House, with overwhelming bipartisan support, isn’t going to do anything more on impeachment and I expect the President will start screaming about being cleared any time now.

Completely irresponsible political theater!

Open thread!

PS: Before anyone asks, I think the House should have a special select committee on impeachment focusing all the investigations through one point leading to either impeachment or exoneration. That’s not what happened with today’s strategic stupidity.

Open Thread: 50 Years of Apollo 11 Conspiracies

I’m as big a Fortean as you’ll find outside an academic instituion, but sometimes I feel like Buzz Aldrin had the best response. Joel Achenbach, in the Washington Post:

The moon hoax is a classic conspiracy theory — elaborate, oddly durable, requiring the existence of malevolent actors with a secret agenda. The moon-fakers are allegedly so competent they can fool the whole world (but not so competent that they can actually put humans on the moon).

Researchers suggest conspiracy theories are spreading more easily in today’s information universe, with the Internet functioning as a superconductor. A growing science of conspiracism seeks to understand who these people are, why they embrace such ideas, and whether there is anything that can dislodge a really magnetic conspiracy theory from the mind of a true believer.

Polls show that about 5 or 6 percent of the public subscribes to the moon-hoax theory, former NASA chief historian Roger Launius said. That is a modest number, but these folks showed up reliably whenever Launius gave a lecture on the topic: “They’re very vocal — and they love to confront you.”
Read more

What Kind of Fuckery is This?

The USDA is moving 547 researcher jobs to Kansas City — and only 145 of the existing jobholders were willing to relocate:

The agriculture department has argued that moving to Kansas City will put researchers closer to farmers and drastically reduce expenses given the Midwest’s relatively lower cost of living.

But many scientists — including the Union of Concerned Scientists — suspect that USDA’s relocation is meant to diminish USDA research.

The Milwaukee-based Agricultural and Applied Economic Association predicted the move could cost U.S. taxpayers upward of $182 million in lost productivity and research capacity.

And Tuesday’s letter from Democrats claims that it could take as long as two years to build out new office space in Kansas City.

Hundreds of Bureau of Land Management jobs are being moved to Colorado and other offices in the West.  Senator Cory Gardner, who is in big trouble in what’s now at least a purple, if not blue state, pushed for that.  The last BLM move didn’t go so well:

“The agency did not comply with legal requirements; ignored regulatory guidance; and had no documented plan, methodology, or real business case that justified their actions,” the [BLM executive] organization said at the time.

Just more disruption and stupidity running under the radar of Trump’s noise making machinery.  I wonder what else they will fuck up in the next year and a half.

Fake Eyebrows (Open Thread)

As you’ve no doubt heard, NBC News unearthed a 1992 video of a coked-up-seeming Trump cavorting with serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein at a party held at Trump’s tacky-ass Florida property. Here’s a still photo from the vid:

I apologize for inflicting Trump’s hideous visage on you, which I generally avoid. But I’m hoping someone can explain Trump’s eyebrows in that photo. They look fake, especially when you see them in motion in the video. Can heavy cocaine use combined with tanning bed and hair product exposure cause alopecia? I remember the early 1990s — the hairdos of the women in the NBC video brought on flashbacks — but I don’t remember fake eyebrows being a thing.

Allegedly, many of the women pictured were Buffalo Bills cheerleaders. In the video, Trump grabs one of them from behind by the pelvis and then smacks her on the ass. I took a quick spin through the mainstream news sites, and all have a blurb about the tape, but it’s not the main story on any site I saw, including NBC, which broke the story.

Since its now fairly unremarkable to view tape of a future POTUS leering at women and aggressively grabbing a cheerleader while yucking it up with a notorious pedophile, I thought I’d explore the weird eyebrows angle. What do y’all think of that pair of caterpillars attached to Trump’s ugly mug? Strange, huh?

Open thread.

CBO on surprise billing bans

The Congressional Budget Office came out yesterday with their cost estimates on Senate Bill 1895 which contains the surprise billing legislation.  Their estimate is that this is big money over a decade with most of the effects happening off of the federal budget:


Title I, Ending Surprise Medical Bills. CBO and JCT estimate that, over the 2019-2029 period, enacting title I of S. 1895 would increase revenues by $23.8 billion and reduce direct spending by $1.1 billion, for a total reduction in the deficit of about $24.9 billion over that period.
That estimate accounts for effects on federal subsidies for insurance purchased through the marketplaces and for the effects that arise from lower premiums for employment-based insurance. CBO and JCT estimate that in affected markets in most years, premiums would be just over 1 percent lower than they are projected to be under current law. [MY EMPHASIS]The decline in premiums would occur because the bill would require insurers to reimburse out-of-network providers on the basis of their own median rates for in-network providers (that is, the amount at which half of payment rates are higher and half are lower). Those median rates are  generally lower than the current overall average rates.
CBO and JCT anticipate that under S. 1895, in facilities where surprise bills are likely, payment rates would move toward the median and that insurers’ payments to providers currently commanding in-network rates well above the median would drop to more typical amounts.

$25 billion over 10 years is not nothing in any context except the federal budget. Then it is a rounding error.

However the big news is the 1% change in premiums. 1% is not everything but in this context it is not nothing. Using the 2017 National Health Expenditures data (Table 3), this is worth about $11 billion in 2017. Most of this money will be coming out of the pockets of a few specialist categories. Recent evidence shows that surprise billing is concentrated in only a few tax paying entities within these specialty groups so it is effectively pulling a lot of money out of a very few pockets and creating broad and diffuse benefits.

This is a politically fraught dynamic. It is a core assumption of political science that concentrated pain inflicted on well-organized and coherent interests will produce a much bigger reaction than diffuse and general benefits. I think this is especially true when those benefits are part of the submerged welfare state where people don’t believe that they are getting government benefits to begin with.

I expect that there is a strong sense on the Hill to DO SOMETHING but the space of DOING SOMETHING can range from significant minimization of economic rents like in the example above to arbitration with very high anchor points based on billed charges which are completely disconnected from reality. This is where the political fight will land. How much rent will still be paid in 2021?

** I’m meeting with a couple of potential collaborators to suss out a potential paper and drink good beer on this matter soon enough.