Wednesday Morning Open Thread: The Mills of Fate Grind Slowly…

… but they grind extremely fine…








The New York Times Botched Their Reporting on Secretary Clinton’s Remarks About a Democratic Primary Candidate Being Groomed

If you can remember back to last week, The New York Times ran a story that Secretary Clinton had stated that the Russians were grooming one of the female Democratic primary candidates for a third party run as a spoiler to ensure the President’s reelection. She also took a justified and accurate swipe at Jill Stein. It turns out that The New York Times made an error in their reporting. And they’ve corrected it. But, as appears to be standard operating procedure for The New York Times, they didn’t announce the correction. The now corrected article doesn’t actually make logical sense anymore as it includes Congresswoman Gabbard’s initial response to the assumption that Secretary Clinton was referring to her. Congresswoman Gabbard’s initial response was based on the misquote/misreporting that Secretary Clinton stated that the Russians were grooming this unnamed female Democratic candidate.

This really significant error set off days of commentary slamming Secretary Clinton, which included the President weighing in both on Twitter and in remarks to one of the press gaggles he has every day. It also allowed Congresswoman Gabbard who was not named by Secretary Clinton to use this for fundraising. And Congresswoman Gabbard did so using terminology and verbal imagery that is usually only directed at Secretary Clinton by Republicans, conservatives, and Russian bots and trolls! Secretary Clinton is, of course, correct in her analysis, especially as now properly and correctly reported. Some of Congresswoman Gabbard’s biggest promoters, especially on and through social media, are the various neo-nationalists, neo-fasicsts, neo-NAZIs , and white supremacists that are collectively labeled the alt-right and conservative media figures, as well as a host of Russian backed and funded bots and trolls.

This also led to a number of people, including several other Democratic primary candidates, coming to Congresswoman Gabbard’s defense because she’s a veteran. As if current or former US military personnel haven’t unintentionally aided foreign actors from allies to peer competitors to hostile foreign actors, as well as deliberately selling out the US. And the same goes for civilian, non-uniform US personnel. Names like Arnold, Pollard, Manning, Snowden, Hansen, and Ames come right to mind. Just because one has served the US, in uniform or out, in a war zone or in much more permissive environments, doesn’t automatically confer some sort of special protection from doing the wrong thing, intentionally or unintentionally, at a later date.

While Congresswoman Gabbard pledged several months ago that she wouldn’t run as a third party so as not to spoil the election for the Democratic nominee and throw it to the President by allowing him to once again lose the popular vote while eking out a narrow Electoral College victory, this has been a concern for almost 10 months. I delineated this concern last January in a discussion of whether Senator Sanders might be pushed to run third party by his key advisors, supporters, and surrogates if he didn’t get the nomination (emphasis mine)!

Sanders, no matter what he does, has the potential to function as a super spoiler for the Democrats in 2020. Think Jill Stein’s effect on the electoral college on steroids. And if he decides he’s going to be a team player and not do so, his trusted agents won’t play ball and you’ll have the same problem regardless. And we can now add Congresswoman Gabbard to the potential spoilers category emanating from Sanders orbit.

Regardless of what Congresswoman Gabbard may or may not do next year, The New York Times made a huge error here. They misreported what Secretary Clinton said, which sparked several days of controversy and negative reporting, and then, when they realized they’d inaccurately transcribed the quote, they corrected it without announcing they’d made the mistake and the correction. This isn’t responsible. We are currently living in the fifth or sixth year, depending on when you want to date its start, of an unconventional Russian war against the US that uses information warfare to influence Americans to destroy ourselves. The US is not doing a particularly good job of fighting Russia as the US government and most Americans don’t seem to have figured out that we are at war. One of the major effects the Russians are trying to achieve is to influence Americans through the weaponization of information, misinformation, disinformation, and information for provocation in order to enflame American political; ethnic, racial, and religious; rural, urban, and suburban; sexuality/gender; and economic differences so that Americans destroy ourselves. In order to do this they have to use weaponized information for effect. And the effect they are trying to achieve is to make it impossible for Americans to both agree on what is true, factual, and accurate and, in many cases, even know what is true, factual, and accurate. The objective is to make it so that for Americans nothing is true and, therefore, anything and everything is possible. The New York Times needs to stop doing this. Not least of which because they do it over and over and over again and that pattern leads to an ugly conclusion: that as an organization they’re doing it on purpose. But even if they aren’t doing it on purpose, what they’re doing only assists the Russian’s information war against the US.

Open thread!








Cooking With Kamala

Thank you lamh36 for sending this my way.

I, of course, am terribly excited about this video. Come for the cooking lesson, but stay for the poignant story of caucusing for Obama in 2007.

I was a bit teary at the end.

Open thread








Very Exciting Tree News

I am very excited to report that the maple out front, in the last 24-28 hours, has had its leaves change, and I can look forward to many years of a deep majestic red tree:

I am so excited for it to grow big and tower over everything.

In other news, I remain consistently horrified by the random thoughts that run through my head. I saw a pumpkin today and my thought was “Oh god when do those little fuckers dress up and come mugging for sweets I need to get candy bars in 50 years I don’t want to be remembered as the guy with the shitty candy.” I can do nice things and pretend to be civil but the monster on the inside is terrifying to me.

Speaking of terrifying, I just finished reading the Taylor intro that Adam linked to. Jesus christ.








Open Thread: Zuckerberg Just Wants A President He Can Work With

This is not fair to Buttigieg; Zuckerberg is most comfortable treating politics as another form of boutique consumerism, and his social circles overlapped with Buttigieg’s back in college. From CBS:

… “This shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement. We have several mutual friends in college who introduced me” several years ago to the future presidential candidate, Zuckerberg said…

Zuckerberg also had been asked by CBS News whether he made similar overtures to other presidential campaigns, but he did not answer that question.

News of Zuckerberg’s outreach to Buttigieg was first reported Monday by Bloomberg News, which reported that Zuckerberg, 35, and Buttigieg, 37, attended Harvard University at the same time and had mutual friends. While at Harvard, Zuckerberg developed the now omnipresent social media platform, originally just for Harvard students. Buttigieg was one of Facebook’s first 300 users…

A campaign spokesperson said the recommendations were unsolicited and that the campaign received 7,000 resumes over the course of a month from Buttigieg’s CNN town hall in March to the campaign’s April launch…

It has been widely reported that Zuckerberg regards Elizabeth Warren as a serious threat to his control of Facebook’s monopoly. It is also obvious that Biden’s frontrunner status has made him a primary target of Russian bot activity on social media, including Facebook — no point duplicating efforts, right? The Sanders campaign doesn’t seem to have drawn much attention from Zuckerberg, for whatever reason (my best guess would be unsympathetic). Under the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that Zuckerberg is casting around for a more sympathetic Democratic frontrunner-in-waiting… and it’s hardly Buttigieg’s fault that Jeff likes his potential.


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Ambassador Taylor’s Opening Statement to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The Washington Post has obtained and published Ambassador Taylor’s opening statement to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The link to it is here. And the pdf can be directly accessed from Balloon Juice below.

Ambassador_Taylor_Opening_Statment

Open thread!








Impeachment Inquiry Update

Intriguing tidbits about State Department Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor’s testimony, courtesy of Politico reporter Andrew Desiderio’s Twitter feed:

Bill Taylor gave a very lengthy opening statement behind closed doors, per multiple lawmakers.

New: Per source in the room, Bill Taylor’s opening statement was 15 pages long and prompted “a lot of sighs and gasps.”

MORE >> Another source says the sighs & gasps were in reaction to Taylor describing “how pervasive the efforts were to tie an investigation of Burisma and 2016 election ‘interference’ to a White House meeting and aid being released.”

Sounds like Republicans are going to have to go with “yes, subverting U.S. foreign policy for personal political advantage is bad, but it’s not impeachable.”








Slow and Steady or Herky-Jerky

The 2020 ACA premiums were released this morning. The press release headline is as follows:

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the average premium for the second lowest cost silver plan on HealthCare.gov for a 27 year-old will drop by 4 percent for the 2020 coverage year. Additionally, 20 more issuers will participate in states that use the Federal Health Insurance Exchange platform in 2020 bringing the total to 175 issuers compared to 132 in 2018, delivering more choice and competition for consumers. As a result of the Trump Administration’s actions to stabilize the market, Americans will experience lower premiums along with greater choice for the second consecutive year.

The cynical take on this paragraph is that 2018 was a local minima due to massive policy, political and legal uncertainty. 2019 and 2020 are reactions to the re-stabilization of expectations and rule sets which were not present in 2018.

We know that 2018 was massively overpriced. We know that as insurers are paying out very large Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rebates for the 2016-2018 plan years and are expected to pay out even larger rebates for the 2017-2019 period. If we assume that the final 2020 rates are reasonably rates that “should” be close to actuarially fair plus “normal” profits and admin costs, there are two pathways that we could have arrived at this price level with a starting point of 2017 being priced at a reasonable level high enough to cover claims and normal profits. The first is the path we took; massive rate hike in 2018 and then slight declines in 2019 and now 2020. The other is a slow and steady route.

slow and steady vs herky-jerky 2018

2 ways to get to 2020 rate levels

Both paths get to the same exact endpoint. One path produces the headline of multiple years of premium decreases. The other one produces a headline of steady rate increases.








Tuesday Morning Open Thread

Throwback Tuesday:

Brief enough for Donny Dollhands to… well, have someone read to him:

… The four-page document divides the narrative into three categories: the “shakedown,” “the pressure campaign” and “the cover up.”

The document first cites the rough transcript released by the White House last month of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump told Zelensky that he would have his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr reach out to “get to the bottom” of “a lot of talk” about the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

The fact sheet then cites text messages that former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker provided to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry that show discussion between diplomats about the Trump administration’s efforts to push for the investigation as evidence of a “pressure campaign.”…

The document from Pelosi then concludes that the intelligence community whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry details evidence of a “cover up” by White House officials to “lock down” records of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky by transferring the transcript to a separate electronic system used to handle particularly sensitive classified information…








Late Night Open Thread Reminder: There ARE No ‘Better’ Republicans Than Trump

Just some who are slightly more professional in their kleptocracy:

There seems to be a shift among the Permanent GOPers to act as though the Oval Office Squatter is some kind of aberrancy that slipped past their time-tested barriers to such vulgar criminality.

Good for them, if they’re finally moving away from protecting their deplorables’ god-emperor. But the truth is, the only difference between this maladministration and the ‘usual’ Repub stint in the WH is that Trump insists, gleefully, on saying the quiet parts out loud.








Evening Respite Thread: Words!

I don’t know about you, but I sure would love a nice relaxing respite thread. So! My friend Louis was kind enough to bring this fun page to my attention this weekend:

I’m the same vintage as ‘dead-cat bounce’, ‘IP address’, ‘graphene’, ‘anime’, and ‘breakbeat’, to pick a few that I like. They aren’t all winners; ‘alternative country’ had the audacity to be first used in print* that year, too. What about y’all?

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This Is Kind of Crazy

This is more Adam’s turf, but one thing you need to know about the Pentagon is that the wargame everything and have so many people there it would be unsurprising if they have a plan for everything. Every now and then you see an alarming headline that says “Pentagon has a plan to attack Russia,” and a lot of people freak out and think that means there is an impending attack on Russia. Really, you should say to yourself, “Well, that kind of is their job” and realize they probably have about 200 different plans to attack Russia and in varying circumstances. Having said all that, this is still unsettling:

The Pentagon recently began drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in case President Donald Trump surprises military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown as he did in Syria, three current and former defense officials said.

The contingency planning is ongoing, the officials said, and includes the possibility that Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.

One of the officials called it “prudent planning.”

The Pentagon is doing contingency planning not because an enemy like Kim Jong whatever is nuts, but because OUR President is an unstable nutjob.








What Would It Take For Turkey To Build A Nuclear Bomb?

That was how David Sanger teased his and William Broad’s article on Twitter.

Unfortunately that is not how the article is written. If you want to read it, write it, they say, so here goes.

In September, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” but the West insists “we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept.”

This is concerning because Turkey is one of the nations that could be capable of building a nuclear weapon and may have taken steps in that direction in the past. Iran’s past work on nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia’s inordinate interest in acquiring the nuclear fuel cycle could motivate Turkey in that direction again.

But this is one statement, and there is no evidence that Turkey is taking steps toward a nuclear weapon.

Step 1. The decision. The Turkish government would have to decide to withdraw from or violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which they joined in 1980. Building nuclear weapons would also damage, and possibly violate, their treaty obligations under NATO. The cost of a nuclear weapons program would have to be considered as well. Turkey probably could support such a program, but at great cost to the rest of Turkey’s economy. No such decision has been taken.

Step 2. Mining and milling uranium. Sanger and Broad refer ominously to Turkey’s uranium deposits as one of the “makings of a bomb program.” But increased activity at mines is easy to see on overhead photos, and none has been reported. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the open-source intelligence organizations prepare a report in the next few weeks.

Step 3. Building centrifuges and/or a reactor. Turkey may have some of the information necessary; Sanger and Broad note that information from A.Q. Khan may have reached Turkey, although they do not say what or if it is being used to build centrifuges. Russia is building four commercial reactors at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean  coast. Other projects have been proposed but are still on paper.* Russia’s reactor contracts always include taking back the spent nuclear fuel.

Step 4. Fabricating reactor fuel. Sanger and Broad note that Turkey has done some of this at pilot scale.

Step 5. Recovering plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel, if Turkey retained it from the reactors not yet built rather than contractually sending it back to Russia, can be reprocessed to separate plutonium; Sanger and Broad say that Turkey has done some work in this area, but do not specify at what scale. Bench-scale experiments seem most likely.

Step 6. Fabricating enriched uranium or plutonium into a bomb. There is no evidence that Turkey has looked into this, in terms of materials processing or design.

Bottom line: A lot would have to happen before we need to worry about Turkey getting a nuclear bomb. The alternative would be to take the American bombs at the Incirlik Air Base, but once again, the decision to do that seems far from the current position of the Turkish government.

Here’s one of the reports referenced by Sanger and BroadThe author also posted a Twitter thread, saying clearly that there is no reason to believe that Turkey would pursue a nuclear weapon any time soon.

And, if the Times article had followed the plan that Sanger’s tweet teased, it would have had to conclude that too.

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*Thanks to Dan Yurman for information on reactor projects. If you want to know more about the business side of nuclear energy, follow him on Twitter and read his blog.








The Doral Debacle Open Thread: “He’s in the Hospitality Business!”

So Mick Mulvaney told us. And Trump certainly set out a rich buffet for his detractors…

… “He had no choice,” Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and longtime friend of the president’s, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “It shouldn’t have been done in the first place. And it’s a good move to get out of it and get that out of the papers and off the news.”

[And you know it just broke Christie’s heart to be called on to explain this for his old frenemy…]

The president first heard the criticism of his choice of the Doral watching TV, where even some Fox News personalities were disapproving. By Saturday afternoon, his concerns had deepened when he put in a call to Camp David, where Mr. Mulvaney was hosting moderate congressional Republicans for a discussion of issues facing them, including impeachment, and was told the consensus was he should reverse himself. Those moderates are among the votes Mr. Trump would need to stick with him during an impeachment.

“I didn’t see it being a big negative, but it certainly wasn’t a positive,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, one of those at Camp David. He said the group told Mr. Trump’s aides that sticking with the decision “would be a distraction.”…

“I think there was a lot of concern,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the Republicans’ leadership team. “I’m not sure people questioned the legality of it, but it clearly was an unforced political error.”

Mr. Cole said he did not speak to the president directly about it, but expressed relief that Mr. Trump had changed his mind, and was certain that other Republicans felt the same way. “We just didn’t need this,” he said.

By late Saturday afternoon, Mr. Trump had made his decision, but he waited to announce the reversal until that night in two tweets that were separated by a break he took to watch the opening of Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News program…

[Because a guy needs a little ego balm when he’s facing such a hurtful choice.]

“At the end of the day,” Mr. Mulvaney said Sunday, “he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business, and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world, and he wanted to put the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.”

[A show, he most certainly put on, regardless.]
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Open Thread: Happy Birthday, Kamala

This was just about perfect in my eyes, as your resident cooking host.

And you guys, I walked into the house after a meeting and flipped to MSNBC to hear Soon-To-Be-Impeached-In-Chief completely meltdown. I was in the kitchen and had to go back and rewind because he said some crazy assed stuff about a conversation with Obama/N. Korea that bordered on fanfic. And he looks horrible.

Anyway, open thread.