Trump Had A Very Smart Uncle

A week or so ago, the Department of Defense, under Donald Trump’s acting Secretary, decided not to renew the contract for the Jasons.

The Jasons are about 40 scientists who can be tasked with various questions about science and national security. Recently, they’ve been asked how long the plutonium pits in nuclear weapons are likely to remain usable (answer: about a century). They were also asked, a while back about a hafnium bomb, which I still see, like Red Mercury, on the internets. (Answer: No, it wouldn’t work.)

The Jasons have security clearances, so they can be asked classified questions. The group has existed for almost sixty years.

The Department of Defense gave no reason for not renewing the contract, so I’ll take a guess. Donald Trump has a very good brain. His uncle was a professor in nuclear physics at MIT, and he had a very good brain. So we no longer need those university and national laboratory slackers when Trump is the only one who can solve the problems.

Here’s a nice summary, with all the relevant links, from the Washington Post.

And does anyone know if Trump’s uncle actually was an MIT professor? Tom?

Open thread.


So here’s a center-left white dude of somewhat more consequence that Seth Moulton about to render the latter’s candidacy yet more risible:

Former Vice President Joe Biden will join the crowded Democratic primary field with an online video announcement on Thursday, followed by an event with union workers in Pittsburgh on Monday, NBC News reported Tuesday.

I think Joe’s making a big mistake here.

He’s the Muskie of this year’s cycle (I’m an old) — the instant front runner whose candidacy will not survive much contact with the primary process.

The dynamics are fascinating, if likely depressing. Does the media now treat the D race as Biden v. Sanders? Some will…though I think that the narrative frame that so many in the elite political press have labored so long and hard to preserve is beginning to fracture.  In my hopeful moments, I see this as a cage match between those two that allows the best of the others to rise.

I should add — there’s lots I like about Joe, and lots I don’t, and while I’d be fine with him as president in place of the incumbent, we can do better.

Right now, for me, that’s Warren, though Harris is impressive as hell too.  I’m interested in Castro, and really will walk over broken glass for any of them (barring Gabbard) come the day.

But Joe, Joe, Joe…you had a chance to be a queenmaker.  You’ve given it up for a third, likely doomed bite at the apple yourself.  Alas.

Image: El Greco, St. Peter in Tears, by 1596


Breaking from Le Post:

House panel moves to hold former White House official in contempt after he obeys Trump administration’s instruction not to testify

The House Oversight Committee moved Tuesday to hold a former White House personnel security director in contempt of Congress for failing to appear at a hearing investigating alleged lapses in White House security clearance procedures.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he would consult with the House counsel and members of the panel about scheduling a vote on contempt for former White House personnel security director Carl Kline. At the instruction of the White House, Kline failed to show up for scheduled testimony on security clearances.

The move marks a dramatic escalation of tensions between Congress and the Trump White House, which is increasingly resisting requests for information from Capitol Hill.

“The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump,” Cummings said in a statement. “Based on these actions, it appears that the President believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight.”

Anyone know what happens next? I’m not sure how the House proceeds after a contempt vote. Hopefully it’s not referred to the DOJ, which is now headed by a Trump toady who has even less grounding in institutional ethics than Jeff Sessions.

PS: While the debate rages about whether or not to open impeachment proceedings against Trump, can we all agree to start impeaching William Barr, maybe as a trial run? Having now read the Mueller report, I can see more clearly than ever what a lying hack that guy is.

North Carolina, Medicaid Expansion, Premiums and Silver Gapping

North Carolina Republicans have introduced a Medicaid Expansion bill. It is not a non-waiver expansion. Instead, it wants work requirements, wellness requirements and premium payments of 2% of income for beneficiaries who earn between 50% and 138% Federal Poverty Level. We know that general wellness programs do nothing but add administratively complexity when applied to the employer sponsored universe. We know that work requirements are paperwork requirements that increase compliance costs and reduce enrollment without actually advancing the core purpose of Medicaid.

I want to focus on premiums. Here is the language from the bill:

SECTION 4. Participant contributions. – NC Health Care for Working Families
39 program participants shall pay an annual premium, billed monthly, that is set at two percent (2%) of the participant’s household income. Participant contributions shall be utilized to fund the program as required by Section 7 of this act. Failure of a program participant to make a premium contribution within 90 days of its due date shall result in the suspension of the program participant from the program unless that program participant shows that he or she is exempt from the premium requirements prior to the expiration of that 90-day period. An individual who was suspended from the program for nonpayment of the monthly premium may reactivate coverage if that individual meets the eligibility requirements and pays the total amount in previously unpaid premiums owed by the individual.

Collecting these premiums are expensive. 2% of 50% FPL is $10-11 per month. The administrative cost of mailing bills, processing checks and sending reminder notices and chasing back premiums will eat up a significant amount of administrative expenses. Arkansas tried a complex monthly individual collection process and they ended up spending twenty times as much money as they collected. Here is evidence from 2017:

Collecting small dollar premiums that are unlikely to be universally tied to a credit card or an automated electronic withdrawal is expensive. Chasing people down for these payments is expensive. Retroactively repaying claims is expensive. This is an administrative nightmare.

It is also likely to make many people objectively worse off due to Silver gapping on the Exchange.

A single individual earning $16750 (approximately 138% FPL) is expected to pay $48 per month for the benchmark Silver plan. This is approximately 3.4% of income. This buys a CSR-94 plan with a $200-$500 deductible. However, as we all know, people can take their ACA subsidy and buy a less expensive plan. They save every incremental dollar.

Monthly premiums for healthy people who are not network sensitive and only price sensitive are cheaper if there is at least a $20 gap between the benchmark and the least expensive silver plan. Below is a Tableau of the Silver Gap for a single 40 year old in 2019. Every county except Wake County has at least a $20 Silver Gap. Even in Wake County, married couples and adults with children earning 138% FPL will likely qualify for less expensive ACA plans as premiums increase faster than income for a given FPL level when more people are added to a family unit so therefore the subsidy amount increases faster than income. Almost all counties have zero premium Silver plans for 40 year old individuals earning just over 100% FPL.

Collecting and tracking premiums will be an administrative nightmare.

Collecting premiums will make many people who are currently on Exchange in a CSR-Silver plan worse off.

Collecting premiums will deter long term enrollment of the reasonably healthy.

But I’m at a point where a sub-optimal Medicaid expansion with known and significant problems is better than no expansion.

On The Road

Folks, due to family emergency, nothing today. I expect I’ll be able to post Bill’s submission tomorrow. Depending on results and timing, the rest of the week is touch and go. Much like with John’s father, my father-in-law has urgent, unplanned heart (triple bypass) surgery coming the next day or two. Well wishes/prayers welcome.

Open thread!

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Stanning for My Favorite Senator (& Hopefully Future President)


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Late Night Election 2020 Open Thread: Go Home, Moulton, You’re High on Your Own Supply

As I’ve said before, Seth Moulton would be a perfectly adequate ‘Rockefeller Republican’ candidate, if only such a creature still existed, even in the toniest MA exurbs. And if he’d chosen to run in the GOP primary — maybe as Bill Weld’s VP — I might even have sent him a few bucks. But as it is, well…

Open Thread: Political Gaming of Thrones

Cat Rescue Bleg – San Jose Area

From “semi-lurker” commentor TMinSJ:

A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago to say that his apartment had been inspected by the management and they found his family’s contraband pets, a cat and a dog. He was given 72 hours to get rid of the pets or get a 30 day eviction notice. While he had found someone to take the dog, he had not been able to place the cat, and by then down to less than 48 hours, said if I could not take the cat he would have to go to the local shelter. I went and got the cat.

His name is Elby. He is one of the world’s sweetest cats, but here is my issue: I have a cat (Belle, showing off one of her favorite games in March of this year’s Pets of Balloon Juice calendar: stick under the tissue paper/kitty under the tissue paper) and she is not having it. She is having an epic meltdown over him being in our (hers and my) apartment, and even though they are separated by a gate, she is losing her shit. Her losing it is making me feel like I’m losing it, so I need to find a nice home for Elby.

Elby is truly one of the nicest cats I’ve ever met. His favorite activity since he’s been here is lying on my chest and doing head-butts and face rubs under my chin accompanied by purring, punchy-paws and occasionally licking my face. Unlike most cats he is totally chill being carried around.

Elby does have a challenge, and that is his right back leg is disabled and will not support his full weight, so he walks with a limp and is not able to jump. I took him to my vet and she said he has a compressed disk in his lower back and that the leg itself is not the issue. He takes daily pain medicine to help his mobility. The meds are liquid, and although he does try to turn his head away, he has never tried to swat or bite me, or even growled at me, while I give him his meds. While I was at the vet I had his shots updated, since they were due in a few months, so he’s all current. My vet said she thinks Elby is about 12 years old (he was an adult when my friend adopted him, so his age was always a guess). Other than the bad leg he is a healthy cat.

If I had written this a few days ago I would have said he can’t get on the furniture, but the other day I came into the living room and he was on the back of the couch. He was clearly VERY proud of himself, so I think he had been working on it for a while.

He would love to sleep with someone, but he would need pet stairs to get down to his litter box at night. Speaking of litter boxes, I got him the one with the lowest sides I could find, and he’s been fine getting in and out with no accidents.

I didn’t want Belle to have to share (I was aware of her hard “no siblings” policy before I picked him up), so I got him all new cat paraphernalia, including toys, beds, bowls, etc. plus the carrier he came in. I have a cat-kit ready to go, including this sweet boy, hopefully to a home that will give him as much love and attention as he deserves!

I’m happy to communicate with anyone interested via comments and/or email, and will work with anyone on transportation if needed.

You guys know the drill: Leave a comment, or email me (annelaurie dot bj at gmail dot com) and I’ll forward your message. Some of the very sweetest cats I’ve ever known — including my current Piper — have been grey (okay, cat experts: blue) tuxies!

They Grow Up So Fast

Move the first round of seedlings into peat containers today, aka kindergarten for plants:

This is all okra and butternut squash. Broccoli is already planted. Tomatoes are still too wee to move to peat containers. May put in a run of green beans and peas in in the next few days and roll the dice on frost. Screw it, the seeds are only a buck.

Open Thread: It’s All Fun & Games Until Pence Gets His Hands on the Rapture Nuclear Codes

It’s a delicious read, actually, if you’re not already surfeited. (Also: keep an eye on Don McGahn, aka Brutus):

By the time President Donald Trump had passed through the prime rib buffet at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday to sit for dinner with family and a top aide, the damning picture Robert Mueller’s report painted of his presidency had become clear…

Perhaps more angering to a leader who detests weakness — but doesn’t necessarily mind an amoral reputation — were the number of underlings shown ignoring his commands, privately scoffing at the “crazy sh**” he was requesting and working around him to avoid self-implication.

Now, those close to him say Trump is newly furious at the people — most of whom no longer work for him — whose extensive interviews with the special counsel’s office created the epic depiction of an unscrupulous and chaotic White House. And he’s seeking assurances from those who remain that his orders are being treated like those of a president, and not like suggestions from an intemperate but misguided supervisor…

It was a sharp turn away from his earlier statements, which welcomed the report’s findings on collusion and falsely claimed total exoneration. Hours before his Mar-a-Lago dinner, Trump insisted to a crowd on the tarmac in Florida the dark days of Mueller’s special counsel investigation had ended.

“Game over, folks,” he said over the sounds of a busy airport. “Now, it’s back to work.”

It’s hard to tell, however, what Trump intends to head back to. Mueller’s probe and Trump’s constant focus on it have been the backdrop for all but a few months of the presidency, often diminishing whatever policy efforts have been orchestrated by officials or Republican lawmakers. The report depicts a President who for two years has been largely consumed by the Russia investigation, intent on short-circuiting it but repeatedly stymied in his efforts by aides…

What is clear is many of those who avoided carrying out Trump’s demands related to Mueller’s probe — often, it seemed, in a bid to protect themselves from criminal wrongdoing — are no longer employed by the White House. Instead, the aides who now surround the President appear less willing to write him off and more likely to encourage him to follow his gut.
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And some actual good news

Great Britain went almost four days without having to draw power from a domestic coal power plant. That is good news. It is not great news, as half of the power generated and consumed still produced carbon dioxide but it is good news.

As countries continue to deploy more solar and storage prices come down, more and more days will be coal free. The next challenge over the next decade is to eat into cheap natural gas. And even there, there is hope as the combined levelized cost of power for brand new renewable generation is below that of fossil fuels. There is a huge bolus of natural gas capacity that has a significant natural lifespan in front of it, but the repair or replace calculation looks like it will be leaning towards replace with renewables and storage for most cases.


We Shouldn’t Cure Cancer Because It Would be Unfair to Everyone Who Fought Cancer and Won

Adding to Betty’s post, if there is anything that more perfectly encapsulates the wingnut mindset of “I got mine, fuck you,” I don’t know what it is. As someone who JUST a few months ago paid off my student loans, which were much less than your average millennials because I had the GI Bill, several jobs, and was a GA during grad school, I can tell you that I don’t for one minute think it would be unfair to me if other people had this burden removed from them. As Warren notes, society inflicted these loans on these kids because the boomers* and others didn’t want to pay the taxes previous generations paid to educate them. I am all for student loan forgiveness- I can think of nothing better than to let these kids have the financial freedom to move to careers they want rather than taking multiple gig jobs they have to have to pay their student loans. And then they can do all sorts of other shit like buy houses and go to Applebee’s and all the other shit they haven’t been able to do and are accused of “killing.”

Fuck Phil Klein.

*- I am talking generationally not about you I am sure you are a very fine boomer with the noblest of intentions you whiny fuck.

Warren’s Plan for Student Debt

Not one to rest on her “impeach the mofo” laurels, Senator Warren adds another plank to the 2020 Democratic Party platform. Via TPM:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Monday unveiled a comprehensive plan to cancel student loan debt and provide free public college.

After making headlines by calling for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Warren laid out in a Medium post her plan to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for everyone who makes under $100,000 per year. Those making between $100,000 and $250,000 would see that $50,000 cancellation figure decrease by $1 for every $3 the person makes above $100,000…

The plan’s total estimated price tag is $1.25 trillion over ten years, which Warren says would be “more than covered” by her proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

Where have I heard that “$1.25 trillion over 10 years” figure before? Oh yeah, that’s approximately what Trump’s deeply unpopular tax cut for fat cats cost the Treasury. Here’s a quote from Warren’s post at Medium:

We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public school system — free and accessible to all Americans — they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families. The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment.

That’s the truth. Reagan was president when I was in college, and back then, it was possible to work your way through school even if you didn’t have a scholarship. You could do it with minimal to no loans because tuition was fairly affordable, and programs like Pell grants would pick up some of the costs. It’s a completely different world for my kiddo and her peers, and it’s not because they’re wasting money on avocado toast and iPhones.

Anyhoo, Elizabeth Warren: come for the courage on impeachment, stay for the nonstop roll-out of policies to address what ails us. I don’t know if she’ll win the nomination. The conventional wisdom says she won’t for a million reasons, including that many of the folks who would benefit from this plan are still enthralled with Shouty McWaggyfinger. But Warren is building a party platform, plank by plank, and it’s impressive.

Florida Bunny (Open Thread)

So, here’s a super Florida thing that happened this weekend:

That bunny waded in swinging! The guy he was attacking was lucky not to have been kicked by the powerful back legs. Anyway, no one was seriously hurt, and no arrests were made. Kinda feel for the guy who got his ass kicked by the Easter bunny, though. He’ll never live that down, obviously.