Plutocrat Sics Thugs on Union Man

Just our future president, putting the “bully” in the bully pulpit:

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Jones’ offense was correctly pointing out that Cheeto Benito’s Carrier deal was less than advertised. So now Jones is getting death threats from unhinged Trump super fans. This asshole may get someone killed before he’s even sworn in.



Oh and About that Reasonable Republican John Kasich

This is horrifying:

Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected — at around six weeks, before many women realize they are pregnant. Here’s what you need to know about the bill. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

Ohio lawmakers passed a bill late Tuesday that would prohibit abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected — at around six weeks, before many women realize they are pregnant.

If Gov. John Kasich (R) signs the bill, it would pose a direct challenge to Supreme Court decisions that have found that women have a constitutional right to abortion until the point of viability, which is typically pegged around 24 weeks. Similar bills have been blocked by the courts. Because of this, even many antiabortion advocates have opposed such measures.

But some Ohio Republicans said they were empowered to support the bill because of President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 high court decision that legalized abortion nationally.

This no Christo-fascist regime is going to take decades to unwind.



The 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor: The Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the US it was perceived as an unprovoked attack, which broke the domestic political logjam and brought the US into WW II. From the Japanese perspective it was a response to the economic warfare that the US had been waging on Japan since 1939. This included the US embargo on oil going to Japan.

From 1939 through 1941 the US and Japan were locked into a security dilemma (insecurity spiral) as the result of strategic miscommunication – the miscommunication of policy choices and strategic decisions on both sides. As the Japanese attempted to increase their influence throughout Asia, through the use of both economic and military power, the US sought to check them through the use of economic power. A significant portion of the Roosevelt Administration’s response, which was the result of the preferences of President Roosevelt and Secretaries Stimson, Morgenthau, and Ickes, was to adopt the Open Door Policy for China and impose economic sanctions and actions to limit Japan’s activities in Asia. The US policy was to bankrupt the Japanese and therefore stop their expansionism within Asia. The Japanese response was to utilize military power to get out from under the US’s actions – the attack at Pearl Harbor.

So while we take a moment and consider the events of that day, and those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, there is an important lesson to be relearned as 2016 gives way to 2017. Strategic preferences for policy decisions and the actions taken on them have consequences. For every problem solved or resolved as the result of a successful policy and strategy, new problems arise and are created. And context matters. How one’s allies, partners, and competitors understand what you are doing is as important as how you understand it. Failure to account for this is the difference between policy success and strategic failure.

Here is the link for a full roll call of the casualties and fallen at Pearl Harbor.

And here is the link to eyewitness accounts of the attack.

Here is the sole (surviving?) news report of the attack on Pearl Harbor:

Here is President Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech to the Nation where he declares war on Japan:

And finally, here is the live feed of today’s 75th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony.

Rest well Ladies and Gentlemen.



If a Tree Falls on My House Will Anyone Hear Me Scream

We’ll file this under the joys of home ownership.

The neighboring property is a former fraternity house. The fraternity has not existed on campus for several years, and the entire place is run down and they have a diseased/distressed tree that keeps having pieces/parts fall on my property.

Dad wants me to just pay to have the damned tree removed. I want them to pay to have the damned thing removed. If the tree was healthy and fell on my property, then it would be my insurance company’s problem. But since it is distressed, they would be liable.

I just am not in the mood to fork out a grand to chop down a god damned tree that someone else owns. I might just put a couple notches in it with an ax and let the thing fall on their roof, the fuckers.

And another thing- I was on an important call doing house stuff, and Steve marched into the office and started bitching up a storm for dinner and was so loud and distracting that the person I was talking to (a lawyer, and we know how much they charge per hour) said- “Do you want to take a moment and deal with whatever issue is bothering your cat?” God damned cat.








Open Thread: Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Sure, the caption claims that’s Arthur Laffer, of the infamous Laffer curve, but look at that demented grin!


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Apart from picking out theme songs for the Apocalypse Trump’s inaugural ball, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Keith Ellison Clears a Hurdle

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Today, Rep. Keith Ellison removed one of the barriers to his bid to become DNC chair: He said he’d step down as congressman if elected:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will vacate his congressional seat if he wins the chairman job at the Democratic National Committee, he told the Star Tribune Wednesday morning.

Ellison conceded Wednesday that a full-time chair is what the party wanted after the losses of the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. He said he came to the decision after difficult soul-searching and hearing from the more than 400 voting members of the DNC who said they wouldn’t vote him as long as he was a sitting member of Congress.

I haven’t paid much attention to the DNC chair race since at times it seems akin to polishing the mooring line eyelets for the approaching Hindenburg. But assuming Trump isn’t wholly successful in establishing an authoritarian kleptocracy and using his new powers to smear opponents and suppress a sufficient number of voters to eliminate the possibility of electoral gains over the next year or so, we’ll need a man or woman with a plan for 2018 and beyond.

The little I’ve heard from Ellison since the Trumpocalypse, I’ve liked. He was a Bernie guy in the primary but a surrogate for Clinton in the general. He was one of the first Democrats who recognized that Trump could win — I seem to remember a CNN panel laughing in his face at the suggestion — but Ellison was right when many Democrats, including me, were wrong.

But crucially, IMO, Ellison doesn’t buy the theory that the Democrats need throw nonwhites, women, religious minorities and LGBT folks under the bus and shift focus to the white working class to win. He points out that, as a black man and a Muslim, he wins in a majority white district because he knows how to build bridges while upholding the party’s core principles.

The ADL called some of Ellison’s statements on Israel “disturbing and disqualifying.” Ellison has also come under fire for his work organizing the Million Man March, in which he defended Louis Farrakhan in writing. In a recent essay, Ellison admits this was a mistake.

I understand the objections, but I’m inclined to give Ellison the benefit of the doubt; I think he’s earned it through his consistently good work as a congressman and high profile Democrat. What do y’all think?








Moral Action in Trump’s America

I’m way deep in a big project, and rather significantly behind on it too, so my blogging for the next few months is going to be quick-hit stuff rather than anything thought through.  I’ll try to make up for that by making it as regular a practice as I can to toss good reads your way.

Todays comes from Masha Gessen, someone y’all know I greatly admire.  About a week ago she posted a piece on The New York Review of Books site.  In it, she asks if the realist stance in politics can function in the context of Trump.  To find out, she looks to her own family history — including choices she made — to answer no.  She takes no prisoners:

In Bialystok ghetto, my great-grandfather’s responsibility in the Judenrat was to ensure that the ghetto was supplied with food. He ran the trucks that brought food in and took garbage out, he ran the canteen and supervised the community gardens that a group of young socialists planted. He also discouraged the young socialists from trying to organize a resistance movement: it would be of no use and would only jeopardize the ghetto’s inhabitants. It took him almost two years to change his mind about the resistance efforts, as he slowly lost hope that the Judenrat, by generally following the rules and keeping the ghetto inhabitants in line, would be able to save at least some of them.

As in other ghettos, the Judenrat was ultimately given the task of compiling the lists of Jews to be “liquidated.” The Bialystok Judenrat accepted the job, and there is every indication that my great-grandfather took part in the process. The arguments in defense of producing the list, in Bialystok and elsewhere, were pragmatic: the killing was going to occur anyway; by cooperating, the Judenrat could try to reduce the number of people the Nazis were planning to kill (in Bialystok, this worked, though in the end the ghetto, like all other ghettos, was “liquidated”); by compiling the lists, the Judenrat could prevent random killing, instead choosing to sacrifice those who were already near death from disease or starvation. These were strong arguments. There is always a strong argument.

But what if the Jews had refused to cooperate?

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Was Arendt right that fewer people might have died? Was Trunk right that Judenrat activities had no effect on the final outcome? Or would mass murder of Jews have occurred earlier if Jews had refused to manage their own existence in the ghetto? We cannot know for certain, any more than we can know now whether a scorched-earth strategy or the strategy of compromise would more effectively mitigate Trumpism. But that does not mean that a choice—the right choice—is impossible. It only means that we are asking the wrong question.

The right question…or better, the right stance, the right scale on which to weigh any choice of action?

We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge….

Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices. As Trump torpedoes into the presidency, we need to shift from realist to moral reasoning. That would mean, at minimum, thinking about the right thing to do, now and in the imaginable future. It is also a good idea to have a trusted friend capable of reminding you when you are about to lose your sense of right and wrong.

I’m convinced Gessen is correct.  More, I believe her demand that we make the moral choice first, and then pursue whatever particular tactic seems most likely to embody that choice, will be the most effective, as well as the right thing to do.  A Democratic response to Trump that says we can make this work a little better enshrines Trumpism, and all the vicious GOP assumptions as the ground on which such matters get decided.  One that says “No. This is wrong.  Democrats will oppose, not mitigate…” is the one that creates a real choice going forward on the ground on which we want to fight.

Read the whole thing.

Image: Charles Le Brun, Horatius Cocles Defending the Bridgec. 1642/3 (I know it’s not dead on point, but it’s close, and I always loved the story, so there.)



Seema Verma and Medicaid

Seema Verma is the projected next head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  She is a perfectly plausible nominee with views that I will seldom agree with.  She is the consultant that led to Indiana to develop the HIP V.1 health savings account based Medicaid build-out that was tweaked to become HIP 2.0 which is the Medicaid expansion waivered for Indiana.  I want to highlight something that she wrote in 2008 in Health Affairs:

Already, we see areas we would like to improve. The $1,100 deductible may be too low for those persons with chronic illnesses. We wonder if there should be additional copays for those individuals not paying up to the five percent CMS limit to further encourage appropriate utilization.

What is the logic here?  Is this a Willie Sutton moment or is there something else going on?

$1,100 is a significant deductible for anyone.  Using the 2017 Acturial Value (AV) Calculator for Platinum, an $1,100 deductible leads to 88% AV coverage assuming no other cost sharing.  In 2008, that deductible is probably 75% AV coverage.  That is coverage which is less than typical coverage people receive at work, and it is significantly less than the AV that people get on Exchange with Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies.  The counterargument is that Healthy Indiana fully funded the deductible so beneficiaries were paying their monthly premiums/HSA contributions but the entire idea of an HSA is to give at least a partial ownership stake for a savings account and make people very reluctant to spend the money.

This reluctance to spend money is a major problem.  We know that people are fairly bad shoppers who do not differentiate between high value and low value care all that well. We also know that chronic conditions are where we spend most of our money.  We also know that skipping chronic condition maintenance care leads to higher acuity care in the future.  Increasing the deductible to cut down on chronic condition spending by decreasing utilization seems to be at best a case of shuffling money around from less maintenance care to more acute care.  I’m not understanding this?

I could see a logic saying that alternative payment reforms with two and three way gain sharing or even just straight co-insurance increases so that people are more cost sensitive are plausible pathways to get the same or better care at the same or lower prices, but I really don’t understand the point of increasing the deductible from either a financial or care point of view.








Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Two Americas

Another way of visualizing the difference, by the Brookings Institution, as reported in the Washington Post:

According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America’s economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country’s economic activity last year.

Clinton, in other words, carried nearly two-thirds of the American economy.

This appears to be unprecedented, in the era of modern economic statistics, for a losing presidential candidate. The last candidate to win the popular vote but lose the electoral college, Democrat Al Gore in 2000, won counties that generated about 54 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the Brookings researchers calculated. That’s true even though Gore won more than 100 more counties in 2000 than Clinton did in 2016.

In between those elections, U.S. economic activity has grown increasingly concentrated in large, “superstar” metro areas, such as Silicon Valley and New York.

But it’s not the case that the counties Clinton won have grown richer at the expense of the rest of the country — they represent about the same share of the economy today as they did in 2000. Instead, it appears that, compared to Gore, Clinton was much more successful in winning over the most successful counties in a geographically unbalanced economy.

The Brookings analysis found that counties with higher GDP per capita were more likely to vote for Clinton over Trump, as were counties with higher population density. Counties with a higher share of manufacturing employment were more likely to vote for Trump.

“This is a picture of a very polarized and increasingly concentrated economy,” said Mark Muro, the policy director at the Brookings metro program, “with the Democratic base aligning more to that more concentrated modern economy, but a lot of votes and anger to be had in the rest of the country.”…

Same issue as ever — if acreage could vote, Trump would’ve gotten his imaginary landslide. And if so many people in that acreage didn’t chose the impossible dream of re-enacting an imaginary 1950s over all the potential of an actual future…

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Apart from regretting the intransigence of our neighbors, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Reminder: The unpopular stuff was needed

Via TPM, Senator Corker (R-TN) is stating an impossibility:

“You really do have to have 60 votes to replace and you know reconciliation can create some hangover effects as we’ve seen with the health care bill itself and with the Bush tax cuts and all of that so are you better off going ahead and attempting to put something in place that will work that does away with all the negatives that exist in ACA, but builds on some of the positives?” Corker asked. “Again, President-elect Trump mentioned, I thought wisely during the campaign, that replacement and repeal should be done simultaneously.”

The negatives (mandates, reinsurance, risk adjustment, risk corridors) and the annoying (narrow networks, HMO’s, high cost sharing) were needed to make the popular stuff work (guarantee issue, community rating) work.  Definitions as to what counted as a qualified plan were needed.  Definitions as to what counts as an essential health benefit were needed.  All of the negatives were needed .  They can be tweaked and twisted.  The continual enrollment concept changes the form of a mandate but performs the same function of making going without coverage too expensive to be attractive.  The negative stuff was not put into the bill for shits and giggles.

About the only major things in the medical coverage expansion sections of the ACA that don’t need the negatives of the ACA are Medicaid expansion and the Under-26 coverage expansions.  Those are easy things that are severable from the core of the three legged stool.  One is state by state single payer and the other is an expansion of multi-payer community rated/guaranteed issue coverage.

We’ll see this refrain at least four times a week for the next four years.  Health policy is hard even if the objective is to present a patina of coverage in order to loot.  Actually providing a usable coverage expansion is harder.

Update 1: Victor in comments makes a very good point:

I think it is also fair to point out that most of the stuff on the revenue side was also unnecessary. The ACA can work without the employer mandate or the cadillac tax although the Cadillac tax is a good economic policy. The employer mandate was a fine rule from a fairness issue but can easily cause labor market distortions.



Early Morning Open Thread: Red(state) Princess Ivanka

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(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)
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A concept imported from China, like Trump’s campaign hats: the “Princelings” eliding the line between political machine and business empire. Neither of her adult brothers seem to be capable of doing much beyond collecting ‘honorariums’. Ivanka, on the other hand, is not only a chip off the Trump block (or at least presenting herself as one), she’s done double familial duty by allying herself to another wealthy real estate crime family by marriage…

Interesting Esquire piece on young Jared: “His father-in-law is moving into the White House, and he’s got a seat at the table”:

And yet for all that Jared has helped Trump, there is a sense among Jared’s friends and business associates that he sees the gold-plated vision of a Trump White House as the ultimate step in a carefully plotted ascent to redemption, one that began when his father’s scandal tarnished the family name…


Read more



Late Night Open Thread: An Inconvenient Trump

Of course “extremely interesting” is frequently a diplomatic euphemism for “completely bonkers”, but let’s look on the brighter side, shall we?

… Mr. Gore, who starred in the Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” projected optimism in the lobby of Trump Tower, telling reporters that his meeting with Mr. Trump was “lengthy and very productive,” and calling it “a sincere search for areas of common ground.”…

Environmental activists looking for straws to grasp pointed to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who met separately with Mr. Gore on Monday and who is reportedly seeking to use her platform as first daughter to speak out on climate change.

Ms. Trump has also met recently with the movie star and environmental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave her a copy of his documentary “Before the Flood,” which warns of the perils of climate change…

There’s one Trump trait upon which both his “friends” (temporary allies & paid shills) and many enemies agree: The man hungers to be taken seriously, to be spoken of as a Very Important Person, someone who matters.

Now, destroying the planet is very important to the official Republicans currently using Trump as their figurehead, but Trump himself doesn’t seem very interested — he’d be happy in a sealed biodome, as long as it included unlimited gilt furniture, good cable/internet access and a very classy, high-end golf course (or at least a clubhouse with ‘windows’ suggesting such vistas).

Sure, there’s still money to be made in the extraction industries — but those are expensive, unglamorous, dying businesses. “Clean fuels,” renewables, retrofitting, on the other hand: very chic, very popular, with real movie stars no less. And it’s not as though Deadbeat Don wasn’t already getting a lot of pushback and complaining from those GOP hotshots, who seem to be under the impression that he owes them for his electoral-college “win”…



Federal agents mad ’cause I’m flagrant

The FBI is now harassing liberal journalists:

This is a story about how the FBI came to investigate a joke I tweeted about fake news.

[….]

One Twitter user warned that she had reported me to the FBI and to Project Veritas — a right-wing organization led by James O’Keefe that stages elaborate stings of reporters, liberals and others; heavily edits its gotcha videos; and then tries to get those people fired.

Project Veritas did not contact me.

But the FBI decided a journalist’s joke was worth its time.



President Obama’s Address at MacDill Air Force Base Earlier Today

Anybody still here? This blog on? Anyhow, I’ve been both busy on a project and still dragging tuchas from whatever bug I caught, so instead of something thoughtful as I just don’t have it in me, here’s President Obama’s address at MacDill Air Force Base* from earlier today.

* Technically MacDill Air Force Base is now Joint Base MacDill, but no one calls it that.



Open Thread: Happily Engorging the Vampire Squid

…[W]hat’s the best-performing stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.18% since the election?

Goldman Sachs. GS, -0.12%

Yes, really. Shares are up 24%, to $225 from $182 when the market closed on November 8. The next biggest gainer: Wall Street powerhouse JP Morgan Chase JPM, +0.52%

Half of the Dow’s gain since the election, in fact, is due to just those two Wall Street stocks. By contrast, shares of “Main Street” companies Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.11% Procter & Gamble PG, -0.10% and Coca-Cola KO, -0.12% are down.

According to company documents, the partners at Goldman own 30.65 million shares. Which means that the partners at Goldman Sachs, in total, are $1.3 billion richer than they were on November 8, thanks to Trump’s election…

Trumpkins are learning the hard way what happens when you buy an investment scheme from a con-artist. I’ve been writing about scam artists for more than 20 years. They always promise you the moon — that is, until your check clears.

When will these voters get it? Maybe never. Author Maria Konnivoka notes in her book The Confidence Game that many victims refuse to admit they’ve been scammed — no matter what the evidence. Indeed, she says, many just keep coming back for more…

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Apart from checking out Wall Street history during the Calvin Coolidge era, what’s on the agenda for the evening?