Saturday Morning Sci-Fi Open Thread: Mars Needs Believers!

Even as a very young hardcore sf reader, I knew I would never be part of a one-way space mission, because I can barely stand to spend a long weekend trapped in the house with a handful of people I love, much less a bunch of random strangers. (And, yes, I did not rate my chances of appealing to a quorum of those strangers, either.) But Murphy the Trickster God bless the… idealists… who are willing to share their dreams of Martian colonization with all the world and the Boston Globe:

When the initial tingle had passed and the idea had been given time to marinate and settle, Peter Degen-Portnoy said his family split into camps regarding his decision to commit to a one-way trip to Mars.

His sons think it’s cool.

His two oldest daughters stopped speaking with him.

And his wife left him.

Three years ago, Degen-Portnoy, a 54-year-old father of five from Stoneham, was one of 100 semifinalists chosen for Mars One, a wildly ambitious Dutch-led project that ultimately seeks to colonize Mars, beginning in 2032, with 20 permanent, never-to-return-to-Earth settlers. The plan has been controversial from the moment it was announced in 2012, with serious questions about the technological feasibility, as well as the plan to fund much of the mission.

Mars One organizers say the project can be accomplished for roughly $6 billion; critics say that is preposterous, as is the plan to raise much of that through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights.

The mission is currently far, far away from becoming a reality — millions of miles and millions of questions remain about how they will get there, how they will survive on Mars and build a self-sustaining colony, and of course how they will survive the trip. The current plan involves sending supplies ahead, then sending crews of four crammed into spaceships the size of a tour bus for the 18-month journey. When solar flares erupt, they will retreat into a bathroom-sized pod, surrounded by water for protection, for several claustrophobic days at a time.

While space experts and keyboard cowboys continue their debate, Degen-Portnoy and the three other semifinalists from Massachusetts have been dealing with the very real impact on their personal lives that comes when you make a commitment to a one-way trip to outer space.

For whether they go to Mars or not, “the 100,” as they call themselves, are the first humans to actually experience the terrestrial repercussions of making such an extravagant extraterrestrial commitment…

But there’s also a love story! Much more at the link — along with a full-sized version of the video clip at the top.

Floriduh! Something: Tales of Lust From The Mangroves Of Myakka

Someone (cough, BettyC, cough) got’s some explaining to do…

Also, a traveler’s service dog had puppies at Tampa International Airport today. PUPPIES!!!!!

Stay lusty! And, if you’re in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and/or parts of Georgia this weekend, stay dry and safe!

Open thread.

Friday Evening Respite Open Thread

It’s been One of Those Weeks, my sleep schedule is gehfuckten, and there are still mail-order tomatoes that need to be tranplanted. How’s your day been?

The Fire This Time

Some folks say Trump is just the logical extension of a white nationalist strain in the Republican Party that began with Nixon’s Southern strategy; inspired Reagan to kick off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi; germinated HW Bush’s Willie Horton ad; led W Bush’s dirty tricksters to spread rumors about John McCain’s adopted daughter; and culminated in the racist freak-out during President Obama’s two terms in office.

That’s all true. But there were exit ramps along the way. The Republican Party faced a hard choice after Romney’s defeat. They could adapt to changing American demographics or lose. Trump offered a third option: stop tinkering on the margins with voter suppression and dog whistles and go all in on racism, sexism and xenophobia and openly subvert American democracy to keep white folks in power by whatever means necessary.

The vast majority of the party chose door number 3. Now we not-Republicans face a choice: utterly defeat the Republican Party or watch as the U.S. morphs into an apartheid state and its law enforcement organizations engage in a never-ending ethnic cleansing project. Does that sound crazy or extreme? I don’t think it is. Read more

Five by Five

I couldn’t wait to post this (sorry other FP posters) because A.) we live in a dystopian world of shit and B.) ALL BIRDS PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR:

There were five eggs, and I see five little noggins, including the emo teen facing the back of the bus listening to Dashboard Confessional while worrying about worms.

I’m going to end up going to Lowe’s and buying a safety net, aren’t I?

The Lajes Vector: Congressman Nunes Gets Stiffed

As was the case with Congressman Nunes’ memo and his decision to prematurely end the superficial House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US, Congressman Nunes didn’t seem to accomplish much as a result of the DOJ briefings he demanded yesterday. From the AP:

It was unclear how much information was given to lawmakers. According to a U.S. official familiar with the meeting, the briefers did not reveal the name of an informant. They brought documents but did not share them, and made several remarks about the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The person declined to be identified because the briefing was classified.

Nunes attended both briefings Thursday. According to the U.S. official and another person briefed on the Capitol Hill meeting, Nunes did not speak at all during the briefing. The second person also declined to be named because the meeting was classified.

According to the AP’s reporting, the DOJ and FBI did not provide the covered human source’s identity despite it having been speculated about in right wing online media sources since March and circulating in the news media for the past ten days or so. This is significant. This was Deputy AG Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray reinforcing that they will not disclose methods and sources to Congress or the White House via their pets in Congress, which is as it should be as sources and methods are outside of need to know for congressional oversight. I’m sure this won’t stop right wing news and social media from promoting the absolutely bizarre conspiracy that the highest echelons of the DOJ and the FBI, as well as the career personnel in the national security division conspired with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign and Vladimir Putin to frame the current President as a Russian dupe in order to prevent him from being elected. While keeping it all secret!

That’s always been the most insane portion of all of this. That there was a far ranging conspiracy to prevent the President’s election that included President Obama, the appointed and career leadership at the DOJ, FBI, DNI, CIA, and NSA, as well as career personnel in the DOJ and FBI’s national security directorate. That it was all coordinated with Secretary Clinton’s campaign. And that they were all conspiring with Vladimir Putin. All to prevent the President from being elected by tainting his campaign with the false narrative of being not just favored by Vladimir Putin, but actively seeking to work with and/or working with Vladimir Putin. And that the parties to the conspiracy were so successful in their secret plotting against the President and his campaign that they lied to reporters from The New York Times and other news media all the way through the election in order to keep the conspiracy a secret. And, as a result, the conspiracy actually failed and the President’s campaign was successful and he was elected because no one knew about it. Which, of course, makes no sense and is belied by every reported fact over the past two years about the President’s campaign and the people working on it.

What really needs to happen now is that the DOJ and the FBI need to ascertain who leaked the covered human sources identity to Chuck Ross at Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller. Leaks of covered human sources are direct threats to the national security of the United States. They place the covered human source at risk. They place anyone who is contact with the covered human source at risk even if these people are not subjects or targets of any intelligence or criminal investigation. When these types of leaks happen the families, friends, professional colleagues, neighbors, and even casual personal and professional acquaintances of the covered human source are placed at risk. And they make it much, much harder for the US to both recruit new covered human sources in the future and for the US’s allies and partners to share information from their own covered human sources.

Reporting on covered human sources – and I want to be very clear here – is protected under the 1st Amendment. Even though that reporting is also a direct threat to the national security of the United States. Ross is rightfully off limits because of the 1st Amendment, but whoever provided that information to him needs to be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Stay clandestine!

Open thread.

* Just a quick note, before anyone asks in the comments, Congressman Nunes’ family came to the US from Lajes in the Azores. And ever since he got himself onto the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence he’s been trying to relocate significant amounts of US intelligence capability to Lajes, which makes no logistical or financial sense, but would enrich his relatives and their friends. I wrote about this here. And it’s why I use Lajes in the titles of my Nunes’ posts, like the title for a weird Ludlum like novel.

Keeping patients in the bucket

The Boston Globe reports on a hospital system in Boston accused of steering patients to stay within the corporate boundaries even when the patients’ doctor(s) tried to send them elsewhere:

A whistle-blower lawsuit filed against Steward Health Care exposes a part of medicine largely hidden from patients: the behind-the-scenes pressure health care companies put on doctors to keep patient referrals in-house.

Dr. Stephen Zappala, a longtime Massachusetts urologist, said company representatives exerted immense personal and financial pressure on him and other physicians to refer patients only to Steward hospitals and specialists, putting profits first…Zappala and another doctor who was deposed in his case alleged that Steward’s methods crossed a line.

Zappala charged that when he refused to comply with Steward’s policies, the company disciplined him for minor infractions and eventually canceled his privileges to operate at Steward Holy Family Hospital in Methuen.

Disclosure: My mom worked as an RN for ~20 years at Holy Family Hospital in which is part of the Steward system. She recently retired.

This is interesting in that the allegation is that Steward is trying to keep as much of the patient care bundle inside its corporate boundaries without regard to patient preferences. This sounds like a tiered network or a home host insurance product design where the intention is to move as many patients and procedures to preferred providers. And that is fine for insurers as they have to disclose the benefit structure and the network. Steward runs a fairly narrow network insurance product in Eastern Massachusetts.

This is one of the big challenges as providers that have associated risk bearing entities ranging from Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to full fledged integration like UPMC or Geissenger proliferate. Risk bearing entities want to be able to control their risk and that means having a high degree of predictability on as many variables as possible. Population risk may not be amenable to immediate control but provider mix risk is something that is nearly completely controllable. Insurers that don’t have a provider arm will use pre-authorization and network contracting to attempt to control some of their provider mix risk while integrated entities will use those tools as well as direct control of the employed providers to keep the money in house. Steward has a very strong incentive to have all of their non-zebra patients (hi mom!) to to stay at least 300 yards outside of I-95.

This is the basic HMO model with perhaps a few bells and whistles thrown on top. It is not new.

What is new is the proliferation of provider owned risk bearing entities. Or at least this is a retro-wave from the 80s that is lasting longer than big hair. The tools to keep cost increases constrained are the tools that say no. Those tools can be explicit (pre-authorizations, narrow networks and high non-preferred cost sharing) or they can be implicit such as allegedly incentivizing employer physicians to keep as many patients as possible in network for as long as a standard of care that is legally defensible but perhaps not optimal can be met.

My question on all of this is what happens in regions where almost all of the providers have a stake in various and non-overlapping risk bearing entities? The incentives for the multiple provider-payer combinations is for them to be roach motels for at least the profitable net of risk adjustment patients. These entities won’t want to make it easy for the profitable patients to leave to their competitors.

How does competition work when the patients who can send strong signals of quality and preference are entrapped in sticky glue of their current provider-payer entity? That is a question that I’ve been struggling with when I think of Pittsburgh and it looks like it could also be a major question in Massachusetts.

Friday Morning Open Thread: Keep the Faith


Per Huffington Post:

Stone has long denied any involvement with the trove of hacked Democratic National Committee emails that WikiLeaks published during the 2016 campaign. He also testified before the House Intelligence Committee last year that he only “wanted confirmation” that Assange had information about Trump’s opponent.

But according to a series of emails The Wall Street Journal reviewed for its Thursday article, Stone did more than ask for confirmation. In September 2016, he apparently badgered radio personality Randy Credico to press Assange for emails related to Clinton’s alleged role in disrupting a purported Libyan peace deal while she was secretary of state.

Credico reportedly emailed back that Stone should check the WikiLeaks website for the information he wanted, since WikiLeaks had already posted the hacked DNC emails that July. According to the Journal, Stone responded: “Why do we assume WikiLeaks has released everything they have???”…
Read more

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

The form is wonky, but I hope to get that solved later this week. Thanks for your patience.

My apologies, no pictures today. I’m sorting out some tech issues with my computer. Hopefully you crafty jackals can DIY again!

Read more

Your Daily Peeps Open Thread

They are growing up so fast:

I love them and do not want them to leave.

Proxy Pet Blogging Open Thread: Two Good Dogs, One… Not So Much

I have been in Chunk’s momma’s shoes. (Yes, and I have introduced myself, more than once, as “[insert dog’s name] mommy”, because social norms stop being embarrassing, eventually.)

Read more

He Never Had a Chance

Adam’s discussed the summit stuff at length, but it’s just so absurd to me that there were people who actually thought that not only it might happen, but that some good would come out of it. Donald Trump is the living embodiment of Dunning-Kruger.

Let’s put it this way. The North Korean leadership and Kim Jong Un think about nothing else but this issue, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are constantly balancing their behavior so that China just doesn’t say fuck off and wipe them off the face of the earth. They’ve explored every angle, know what they want, and have gamed everything out beyond anything you or I could imagine.

In the other corner is Donald Trump, who has not thought about this at all. Ever. He’s thought about how good it could be for him if he could “win,” but he has no idea what a win is or how to achieve it. He’s surrounded by sycophants and ideologues, and most of the ideologues (BOLTON) know only threats of force and use of force- that’s their entire intellectual arsenal. And while Kim Jong Un and company are used to dealing with China, Twitler’s debate partner is… Steve fucking Doocy.

So, yeah. This ended about how anyone should have expected- with us looking stupid, our allies betrayed and burned, and NoKo with a clear win.

A Follow Up Regarding DNI Clapper’s Statements That The Russians Actually Influenced The Outcome Of The 2016 US Election

I just wanted to quickly follow up on AL’s earlier post regarding DNI Clapper’s remarks that:

“Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.”

Was there active collusion between the Trump campaign — or the candidate himself — and Russian proxies or agents? Clapper does not go that far because he doesn’t have proof. But what he calls Trump’s “aggressive indifference” to the intelligence community’s detailed presentation of Russian activities is, in his view, damning enough. “Allegations of collusion and the results of the election were secondary to the profound threat Russia posed — and poses — to our system,” Clapper writes, and he does a fair job explaining why.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has just released a working paper entitledSocial Media, Sentiment and Public Opinions: Evidence from #Brexit and #USElection. Here’s a link to a pdf of the report, which I’ll also attach to the bottom of the post. I want to excerpt this bit from the introduction to the paper (emphasis mine):

We find that information about the Brexit and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is disseminated and absorbed among Twitter users within 50-70 minutes. This suggests that information rigidity could be very low for critically important issues with wide coverage or that news cycles in social media are short-lived. We also observe the differential impact of tweeting activities by user type. For example, “remain” supporters in the Brexit Referendum respond stronger and faster to messages created by other “remain” supporters when compared with the reaction to messages from “leave” supporters. Furthermore, human tweeting activity could be influenced by bots. The degree of influence depends on whether a bot provides information consistent with the priors of a human. For instance, a bot supporting the “leave” campaign has a stronger impact on a “leave” supporter than a “remain” supporter. Similarly, Trump supporters are more likely to react to messages spread by pro-Trump bots. Further examination shows that the sentiment of tweets plays an important role in how information is spread: a message with positive (negative) sentiment generates another message with the same sentiment. These results provide evidence consistent with the “echo chambers” effect in social media; that is, people tend to select themselves into groups of like-minded people so that their beliefs are reinforced while information from outsiders might be ignored. Therefore, social media platforms like Twitter could enhance ideological segmentation and make information more fragmented rather than more uniform across people. Finally, we provide a quantitative assessment of how bots’ traffic contributed to the actual vote outcomes. Our results suggest that, given narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots’ effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes.

And this section from Section E of the findings on p. 20 of the report (emphasis mine):

But again, even this small difference could have played an important role in the outcome of these close-call elections. Specifically, our analysis in Section 2.5 suggests that a percentage point increase in the share of pro-Trump tweets in total tweets is associated with a 0.59 percentage point increase in the share of actual pro-Trump votes. Therefore, the observed difference between actual and counterfactual pro-Trump tweet shares suggests that 3.23 percentage points of the actual vote could be rationalized with the influence of bots.

This is one econometric analysis of the effects of the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US in the 2016 election and the UK during the Brexit referendum. It is an important piece of unclassified, open sourced supporting analysis to DNI Clapper’s conclusions. But the research shows that there is a strong correlation between the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign and shifts in voting in the US and the UK. This research is not conclusive. It does not and cannot put an end to the suspicions or concerns, but it is important as part of the larger explanation of what happened in the 2016 presidential election and the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Open thread!


Russiagate Open Thread: The FBI Posts A Receipt?

Not an expert, obviously, but this seems like the FBI’s branch of the much-discussed “Intelligence Community” taking an overt position…

In response — was this the intended result? — the Oval Office Occupant goes for straight-up bullshit:

And “his” political party — seconded by the Media Village Idiots — chooses to follow Dear Leader…

Arrested Development, Not Just a Name

If you haven’t already, the Arrested Development cast interview in the NY Times is quite the read:

SHAWKAT But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.

WALTER [THROUGH TEARS] Let me just say one thing that I just realized in this conversation. I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go. [Turns to Tambor.] And I have to give you a chance to, you know, for us to be friends again.

TAMBOR Absolutely.

WALTER But it’s hard because honestly — Jason says this happens all the time. In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now. I just let it go right here, for The New York Times.

There’s a lot to unpack there, but one of my first thoughts, since it is my reaction to whenever something or someone is pissing me off or shitting all over me, was “Why didn’t she just leave?”

Obviously, SHE SHOULDN’T FUCKING HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO LEAVE because she wasn’t the one creating the toxic environment and you’d think someone would have put an end to his (Tambor’s) bullshit, but they didn’t. And then it dawned on me- even though she’s been in the industry for 60 years, she’s probably been paid shit compared to her male coworkers the whole time, and might just need the money.

At any rate, give it a read. I certainly think less of Jason Bateman and would not be surprised if Justine reads him the damned riot act.