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?



Tuesday Midday Open Thread

camo-lizard

Looks like human beings aren’t the only creatures who believe camouflage renders them invisible: This little guy was hiding in plain sight on a beer can huggie yesterday!

We’re having weird weather in my neck of the woods. A line of squalls is heading our way, and after it moves through, the temperature is supposed to plunge into the 70s/50s for a couple of days. Then, after another front comes through, it’s going to drop to the 60s/40s.

But for now, it’s in the 80s with absurdly high humidity. It’s muggy as hell! But I refuse to shut the windows and turn on the A/C because the minute I do, it’ll start raining and turn colder. I hate being jerked around by the weather!

Anyhoo. Open thread.



EHB and public goods

Essential Health Benefits (EHB) are things that a Qualifying Health Plan (QHP) must cover under the ACA.  The area I want to focus on right now is the EHB’s for preventive care.  These are the well visits, these are the contraception requirements, these are the screenings and these are the vaccinations.  The Republican plans have been arguing that one of the reasons why the ACA premiums are too high is the list of covered services is too long. I am assuming that contraception requirements will be axed within seventy eight seconds of inauguration but on a cost basis those benefits are minor as the savings from not having effective no-cost sharing contraception are roughly balanced out by the increased unplanned pregnancy costs.  If anything as IUD’s have gotten cheaper, contraception is a net money saver.

Instead I want to focus on the vaccinations right now as they have a different set of economic properties than all of the other preventive care requirements.  They are at least partially public goods with non-linear returns to scale. What does that mean?

Let’s look at a preventive service that is almost entirely a matter of private consumption.  If I was to have a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer, I get all of the benefit of the scan.  I am either told that there is nothing to worry about for the next long while or there is a problem that was caught early.  If there is a problem, the polyps can removed and any treatment could get started as needed.  If I have colon cancer, I can not give it to anyone else.  I fully internalize the benefits of the cancer screening by either receiving peace of mind, early treatment or avoiding high cost end stage treatment.

The HPV vaccine is different.  If I was young enough to have been in a HPV vaccine receiving cohort I would have received the vaccine.  It provides me with significant benefits.  It dramatically lowers the risk of me catching an infection and thus lowers the risk of developing a set of cancers later on in life.  It also provides other people within my cohort benefits even if they are not vaccinated.  If I was with a partner who has not vaccinated, she could not catch HPV from me.  Any of her other partners would not get HPV that originated from me.  I also could not get HPV from her.  I am a blocking point in any potential infection chain.

Here the modeling of benefits gets funky and non-linear.  If I am the only person in the world to have received the HPV vaccine, I internalize almost all of the benefits of the vaccination.  Using traditional economic logic, I should pay for the vaccine fully myself.  If I am the last person in the world to get vaccinated, there is almost no marginal benefit to me as there are no possible ways for me to get infected by HPV anyways.  That scenario illustrates herd immunity.  If there is a large number of people already vaccinated and I choose to get vaccinated, I internalize some of the benefits but the marginal increase in herd immunity is real as more potential infection chains are broken and the community as a whole benefits.  More importantly, the people with compromised immune systems benefit the most as they get some additional indirect protection without risk.

The same logic applies to other vaccines.  I went with HPV because I was in a three meeting on vaccination strategies yesterday.

Optimal vaccination levels, once we consider total cost, are not 0% and it is not 100%.  It is probably in the high 90’s for most infectious diseases where the externality of herd immunity.  Right now the United States is significantly below that for the entire array of early childhood vaccines.  We are still able to generate significant positive externalities by increasing vaccination rates.

Since we can significantly increase total social welfare by increasing vaccination and since not all of the benefit of a vaccination is accrued by the person who received and paid for the vaccine, this is a textbook case that calls for public subsidy to promote further vaccination.  Vaccines are one of the hills to fight hard for in any replace bill as it is good policy in both the short and long run and the economic logic is air tight.








Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Post-Truth!

One of the meager joys of the PEOTUS-Asterisk’s upcoming term will be watching the establishment GOP’s gentleman-amateur liars get steamrolled by an experienced professional. Because once the troglodyte Trump voters realize that their White Man’s America is not actually being Made Great Again, it’s gonna be the “nice” Midwestern Ryan/Pence/Preibus fellas who look out their windows at the pitchfork-and-torch protesters — not the professional conman on the 24th floor of Trump Tower NYC…

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Apart from devoutly hoping the GOP comeupance arrives ASAP, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Early Morning Open Thread: Sundown Voters for A Sundowning Party?

There’s more and more evidence coming to light that the Asterisk-Elect’s electoral college victory relied on the revanchist fantasies of some of America’s least loveable left-behinds. David Roediger, at Counterpunch:

Coming myself from a “sundown town”—that is, one which for most of the twentieth century remained whites-only, in part by disallowing even visits by African Americans after nightfall—I had read the work of the sociologist James Loewen on such places with great care. In the massive volume, Sundown Towns, and on the website accompanying and updating it, Loewen paid special attention to Wisconsin. Partly this was because, proportionately, so many of its towns fit into the sundown category and partly because their histories were so typical. Many had an early Black presence that was removed over time or in a hot moment. Some featured billboards warning of their policies. They included small towns, but also growing industrial ones, whose good, sometimes union, jobs became the property of whites.

Did sundown towns elect Trump in Wisconsin? My research assistant, Kathryn Robinson, and I tried to find out. Since it is much easier to get county-level election returns than municipal ones, we concentrated on “sundown counties,” those having a county seat that could be established as a sundown town or likely sundown town in Loewen’s mapping. An incredible 58 of the state’s 72 counties fit into such a category. Of the 58 sundown counties 31 are 1% or less African American (and only eight more than 2%), suggesting that the proxy of the county seat works in identifying sundown areas at the county level.

The simple answer on Trump and sundown towns in Wisconsin is: “Clearly they elected him.” Sundown counties gave Trump almost 935,000 votes to Clinton’s just over 678,000. His margin in the sundown areas exceeded 256,000 votes. That Clinton won the fifteen non-sundown counties by almost 230,000 votes could not make up for Trump’s 58% to 42% margin in the sundown ones. Just short of two/thirds of all Trump voters in Wisconsin came from sundown counties. Only nine sundown counties chose Clinton with 49 for Trump…

Of course, the NYTimes‘ Media Village Idiots are busily attempting to buff away these angry white fingerprints, because calling someone a racist is far more impolite than being a racist
Read more



Open Thread

I am tired of being broke and paying for this house. I’ll add this to the list of shit that is pissing me off in 2016.








Open Thread: Pizzagate — You Can Fix Ignorant, But You Can’t Fix (Deliberately) Stupid

Pizzagate, possibly to become the textbook example of how inventing “fake news” can lead to “real, tragic consequences”. I’ve been ignoring it — I suspect a lot of us have — because it seems one of those wingnut-shit-dumps designed, like cholera, to spread its contagion further with every mention. But given that one of its deluded proponents has managed to push the argument from banned-on-reddit to national news outlets, I’m gonna recomend Gizmodo‘s “Pizzagaters Aren’t Giving This Shit Up“:

For months, 4chan and Reddit users have delved deep into the emails of John Podesta as they were released by Wikileaks and concluded that the emails contained coded language about a secret child-trafficking ring operating out of Comet Ping Pong, a Washington DC pizzeria—a ring ran by Podesta and former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. The theory was known as “Pizzagate,” and until recently it was just another of the internet’s outlandish conspiracy theories. Two of pizzagate’s loudest mouthpieces have backed off their support after a man armed with a AR-15, a Colt. 38, and a shotgun entered the restaurant to “investigate.” And yet, pizzagate somehow trudges on, without them.

(Pizzagate has been debunked by Snopes and the New York Times, and one of its biggest communities—r/pizzagate—was booted off Reddit for the repeated release of personally identifiable information, as Gizmodo reported last week.)

Two of the most vocal (and visible) entities propping up pizzagate’s absurd claims were, predictably, arch-troll Mike Cernovich and the Alex Jones’ Infowars….

There have always been people on the fringes making unsubstantiated claims and then covering their asses, just as there have always been angry, confused people willing to believe and forgive them. And while connections have been drawn by other outlets to Welch’s associations as a possible motivation for entering an otherwise unassuming pizzeria with a small arms cache, the connection is unprovable. But, hopefully the risk of having emboldened a gunman might cause Cernovich, Jones, and their ilk to reconsider fueling the fires of internet conspiracies.

What we’ve all been learning during Trump’s ascendence, though, is that the fringes are closer than ever to the center of power in this country. Among the pizzagate truthers, as Politico reported yesterday, is Michael Flynn Jr., close adviser to his father Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn—Trump’s pick for national security adviser…

Maddison Welch has the excuse of being a petty-criminal substance abuser with nothing more pressing on his calendar than investigating the ‘basement sex tunnels’ in a building with no basement. But what’s Alex Jones’ excuse — or Lt-Gen Flynn’s? Lulz nothing matters?

George Orwell would’ve been so impressed! All human knowledge and history accessible at the click of a few buttons, and people are using it… to embed themselves, and each other, further and further in a matrix of unbreakable, shatterproof STUPID.



Monday Evening Open Thread: Good News from NC

Hat tip to commentor Timothy C. Per the NYTimes:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Ending an acrimonious stalemate that dragged on for nearly a month, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, conceded in his bid for re-election here on Monday, clearing the way for the ascension of his challenger, the Democrat Roy Cooper, and giving the national Democratic Party a rare cause for celebration.

Mr. Cooper, the state attorney general, declared victory on election night, but Mr. McCrory’s allies lodged election challenges in dozens of North Carolina counties, enraging Democrats who accused Republicans of being sore losers, or worse, in one of 2016’s closest statewide races.

Most of the challenges proved to be of little consequence, however. And by Monday, as partial results of a recount of more than 90,000 votes that Republicans had demanded in Durham County showed no significant change in the results, Mr. McCrory — whose one term was buffeted by nationwide anger over a law he signed that curbed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — had little choice but to admit defeat…

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Apart from taking our wins where we can, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Pastoral Scene of the Gallant South

lynched_flag

It’s 2016, but it might as well be 1816 in South Carolina if you are an unarmed black man and a white cop wants to kill you:

A judge declared a mistrial Monday afternoon in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man at the hands of a South Carolina former patrolman, after the jury said they could not come to a unanimous verdict.

In a statement read by Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, the jury said “We as the jury regret to inform the court” that they were unable to come “to a unanimous decision in the case of the state versus Michael Slager” on Monday afternoon after a day of questions and deliberation.

“The court therefore must declare a mistrial in this case and I so declare that is case is mistried,” he said after the jury returned to the room and confirmed their decision.

The jury had remained undecided — but not deadlocked — on Monday in the murder trial.

The defense in ex-patrolman Michael Slager’s the five-week trial claimed that he feared for his life when 50-year-old Walter Scott got control of the officer’s stun gun and pointed it at him.

Here’s the video of him chasing Scott, stopping, taking up a shooting stance, and unloading his service weapon into the unarmed man running AWAY from him:

He must have been really “scared.”

It’s now official. You can be executed by the cops, on video, have the cop plant evidence on your still bleeding body, again, on video, have the cop be heard tittering about the adrenaline rush, on audio, and you will not receive justice. But let’s place the blame where it really lies- on Colin Kaepernick for not standing during the National Anthem.

My biggest fear in the next few years with the rise of the neo-nazis and the white supremacists and the normalization of the Trump racist right is that we are going to see this kind of thing, both the shooting and the white holdout on the jury, happening more and more often. Basically, jury nullification in any offense in which the black man is the victim and the aggressor is white. The justice system has never have been equitable for black people in America, but now that it is “acceptable” to be openly racist in public and not only that, get elected President and be appointed to his staff, we are going to see a lot more of this.

In the past, we could rely on the Federal government and the Justice Department to at least make an attempt to address these concerns. But with racist ass Jeff Sessions running the DOJ, it’s going to get worse. Not only will he and the DOJ not pursue these cases, but he will also be gutting the voting rights of minorities so they don’t even have any redress at the ballot box, and on top of that, he is an anti-marijuana zealot and will ramp up on the drug war. You’re all bright people and don’t need a refresher course on the disparate impact of the drug war on people of color.

This is a slowly unfolding disaster. I’m sick. The Klan doesn’t even need to wear robes in public anymore.



Blue Monday

Kay has written a lot about the Moral Mondays protest movement in North Carolina. PPP believed it made a big difference, and if it can work there, it can work anywhere.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.

Pushing back hard on McCrory worked. The seeds of his final defeat today were very much planted in the summer of 2013. And it’s a lesson for progressives in dealing with Trump. Push back hard from day one. Be visible. Capture the public’s attention, no matter what you have to do to do it. Don’t count on the media to do it itself because the media will let you down. The protesters in North Carolina, by making news in their own right week after week after week, forced sustained coverage of what was going on in Raleigh. And even though it was certainly a long game, with plenty more frustration in between, those efforts led to change at the polls 42 months after they really started.

The reason to fight back against Trump is that’s it the right thing to do. But it’s also good politics.








Cynicism confirmed

Balloon Juice in August:

Aetna was profitable in 2015 in the individual market in Pennsylvania. It is projecting to be profitable in 2017. The filing memo was drafted in late May and submitted to the Pennsylvania regulators in early June. Conditions have not changed enough to make Pennsylvania a money loser in under two months.

My wee bit of cynicism bears fruit. Aetna is trying to logroll an anti-competetive merger with on-Exchange political consequences. If it works for Aetna/Humana it burns a bridge to get the merger, and if it fails, it puts Aetna on the shitlist of any Democratic administration. That is a very interesting strategy when it is highly likely that there will be another Democratic administration…

So in all years Aetna’s individual market operations in Pennsylvania were either profitable or projected to be profitable. Something stinks worse than a wrestling team’s locker room after two-a-days.

USA Today on Sunday afternoon:

When Aetna announced in August that it was leaving the exchanges in 11 of the 15 states it sells in for 2017, it said it had a pretax loss of $200 million on its individual insurance plans in the second quarter of this year and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 on its individual insurance plans. Nearly all of these policies are sold on the ACA exchanges. At the time, CEO Mark Bertolini said the move would “limit our financial exposure moving forward.”

But Aetna made nearly $12 million on individual ACA plans in Texas and more than $8 million in Pennsylvania, according to financial filings with state regulators, and is exiting the Healthcare.gov exchange in both states anyway. Asked to comment on decisions to leave states where it was making money, Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford said, “We don’t discuss performance at the state level.”

Nice to know that I am occasionally cynical enough.



Because Every Now And Then It’s Good To Stop And Look At Something Amazing

Yo Yo Ma and Lil Buck would be draw enough, I’d say.  But manohmanohman — check out what Lil Buck does to draw his performance to a close:

My every joint and ligament screams in mute sympathy.  Human bodies shouldn’t be able to do that.  An extraordinarily gifted human has done I have no idea how much constant, brutal, consuming work to make it look…well, not effortless, but graceful.  Beautiful.

Enjoy, for just a moment, before resuming our regular coverage of the Trumpocalypse.

Oh — and open thread, also too.

PS:  I thought about the “not normal” tag, for obvious reasons, and for equally obvious ones, declined to use it.