Open Thread: Double Standards, The Media Village Idiots Haz Them

Of course, the Asterisk-Elect never claimed he wanted to “reach out” to people who didn’t support him… no doubt a level of firmness that helped endear him to the Dana Bashes and Ed Henrys.



We’re All Going to Die

The best case scenario for the next four years is that world leaders just ignore Trump and act like he’s special and doesn’t really speak for the US:

President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.

The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to accept the notion of a unified China under Beijing’s rule. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.

And in the second sign of the looming apocalypse, Snowball Snookie is right:

Another conservative is calling “crony capitalism” on Donald Trump’s deal with Carrier, albeit an unexpected one — Sarah Palin.

In an op-ed for the website Young Conservatives, the former Alaska governor allowed that the details behind the manufacturer’s decision to keep some 1,000 jobs in Indiana at the president-elect’s behest, rather than move them to Mexico, are not yet clear. But touting the value of free markets, Palin signaled her disapproval if it was a case of “political intrusion using a stick or carrot to bribe or force one individual business to do what politicians insist.”

“When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent,” she asserted.

And in an apparent jab at Trump, whom she famously endorsed in a rambling speech earlier this year, she asked: “Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.”

Actually, you don’t, because you have all sorts of favorites you like to prop up (heya corn producing states and fossil fuel companies, I’m looking at you), but she is right about this. It is crony capitalism, and not only that, it’s terribly done. The majority of the jobs are still leaving.



Thinking Security

Several of you have asked in comments or by email if I’d write a little bit (a lot of bit?) about security. Specifically, personal security. I intended to get this up earlier in the week, but things went sideways on Tuesday, then did an inversion on Wednesday, then a triple lindy yesterday, so…

The first thing that I think is important is something I, and several others, have stressed here in posts and comments: freaking out is not a useful activity. I’m not stating that to pooh pooh anyone’s reactions to the elections, whether they be anger, fear, anxiety, stress, depression, or any combination thereof. All of these are normal and understandable responses. And, of course, if you are feeling really overwhelmed and are having trouble finding/regaining your equilibrium please go see a professional counselor or therapist.

The second thing is don’t do this!

CLEVELAND – Police are investigating the theft of seven guns swiped from a Cleveland home sometime early Tuesday morning.

A mom and her two children were asleep upstairs when she said the thief or thieves broke into the home and cleaned out two gun cabinets. “They’re ready for a war, we were ready for a war,” said Teena Brayen

Brayen and her family are doomsday preppers. “We’re preppers, we believe in preparing for what could happen,” said Brayen.

The Brayens are part of the Three Percenters Club, a militia group that ‘exists to… protect and defend the constitution and our way of life’ by helping people ‘execute Military Strategies to defend against foreign and domestic enemies’.

But the items they wanted to use to defend against invasion in Rome made them a target for invasion in Cleveland.

On November 22, burglars – who, Brayen believes, spotted the weapons when she was moving into the home – took seven guns, 12 machetes, body armor, smoke grenades, more than $1,000 in ammo and some of their food.

Two gun cabinets were emptied of their contents: a high-powered, armor-piercing sniper rifle; five shotguns, and a pellet gun.

Leaving aside the Brayens and the Three Percenters Club, which is not the same as the other Three Percenters, what was missing here was a failure to think security.

Thinking security means to proactively consider what the potential threats might be in order to establish effective, reasonable solutions to them. This means to consider what the potential threats and dangers are to oneself, one’s family, and one’s property (home, business, etc) and what reasonable steps should be taken ahead of time to either deter them or, should deterrence fail, respond to them in the most effective and safe manner possible. This is not just for human threats like crime or terrorism, but also for preparing to deal with natural or man made disasters such as a hurricane or blizzard or earthquake or a gas main explosion or a fracking induced sinkhole or earthquake. To do this one needs to consider several questions.

  1. Who or what is the threat? And what kind of threat is it?
  2. Does the location, item, and/or person need to be secured against a potential threat?
  3. What is the extent of the location’s vulnerability?
  4. Does the potential security countermeasure need to be human, animal, technological, or a combination of them?
  5. How far can I, and how would I go about, extending my secure zone away from myself, my family, my home, etc?
  6. What effect will the potential security response have on me, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my employees, coworkers, and/or customers?

Read more



I Haven’t Disappeared: Some Football Notes and Football Open Thread.

My deepest apologies for my recent lack of posts. I have been working a difficult schedule fulfilling the last classes of my contracted guest lecture assignment and it has been grueling. Most of my keeping up with events has been through the use of mobile devices and I don’t feel comfortable posting from a tablet or smartphone. Also, I am still fighting my post-election blahs. Onwards and upwards!

As you can imagine, here in Brazil the crash of the plane that killed almost the entire Chapecoense football team earlier this week is dominating the news. The grief is palpable all over Brazil. After the grieving abates somewhat, there is another major question: the team is in the top division in Brazil. How do they mount a team for the next season in all competitions? The other question that is more pressing and should be addressed to prevent such future tragedies: how on earth is a professional pilot so unaware of his plane’s refueling needs?

So Bruce Arena is back as head of the US Men’s National Team as Jürgen Klinsmann apparently had apparently passed his sell-by date. Arena has a long and impressive pedigree and, save a horrible non-call against Germany in the 2002 World Cup Quarter-Final, came close to bringing the US to the semifinals of that tournament. I just hope he manages to turn things around as consecutive losses in qualifying make the process a challenge for him. At least no one suggested Steve Sampson!

Barcelona’s form has not been very impressive lately, although they remain in second place, ahead of Sevilla on goal differential. The good news at least is that they will have Andres Iniesta back.

Someone asked me how to say Schadenfreude in Portuguese. My answer? José Mourinho.

Everyone goes crazy for the World Cup and the European Championships, but if you can get to see the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, do not miss it. The final in 2015 had Côte d’Ivoire beating Ghana one penalty kicks, with the Ivorian goalkeeper, Boubacar Barry scoring his kick and then defending successfully against the Ghanian keeper, Brimah Razak. This, by the way, was after Côte d’Ivoire missed its first two attempts. Final total on the penalty kicks was 9-8.

Speaking of goalkeepers, if this doesn’t make the Puskas Award finalist list for next year, then there is no justice.

Finally, if you want to vote on this year’s Puskas Award, here is where you vote. All are worthy contenders, but what Mohd Faiz Subri did in Malaysia is unreal.








Friday Afternoon Musical Interlude (Open Thread)

For your listening pleasure:

Does anyone know the origins of the “Rubberband Man” concept? Wikipedia (don’t get me started) says, “The song, written by producer Thom Bell and singer-songwriter Linda Creed, was about Bell’s son, who was being teased by his classmates for being overweight. Intended to improve his son’s self-image, the song eventually evolved from being about “The Fat Man” to “The Rubberband Man.”

Okay, but why a rubberband? Oh well. Sometimes you have to just let art wash over you and not analyze it too closely. Open thread!








Update on Faces vs. Leopards

This is one of my favorite tweets from the post-election period:

Via TPM, we now have a (metaphorically eaten) face and name to attach to that sentiment:

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington, D.C. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury—Steven Mnuchin—all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59.

Me too, Ms. Colebrook. Me too.

It’s tempting to wish Ms. Colebrook would just start punching herself in the face now and not stop until 2020, but there is something admirable about her willingness to admit she fucked up.

I suspect that won’t be the case with the lion’s leopard’s share of Trump voters, who will continue to proudly and belligerently proclaim their allegiance to Hair Furor, even when he and his minions are feasting on their noses.

There’s a whole lot of gassing about whether or not Trump voters are reachable by Democrats, and as usual when we’re talking about millions of people, a straight yes-or-no answer is almost certainly too simplistic to be accurate.

I suspect at least some small minority of them are like Colebrook, stupid and/or uninformed enough to be willing to gamble on a terrible person like Trump despite his yawning deficits as a human being rather than voting for the shitgibbon because he’s a racist, sexist, xenophobic bully.

But it doesn’t make any sense to me to remake the party to pursue people like Colebrook, any more than I’d want the party to hand out Corvettes and bottles of Jack to sew up the drunk driver vote.

Anyhoo, open thread.



Morning Open Thread

zoo_bus

JeffreyW shared that photo with me and I loved it. I have been trying to stay away from all things political these days. I have strong opinions, but not ready to share with anyone but my close circle. There are A LOT of changes happening in my life right now, so I’m focused on that for now.

In the meantime, I consider it my duty to provide you with distraction and entertainment. What’s on your entertainment menu this weekend? I’ve been invited to an ice skating party tonight and a chance to raid a friend’s holiday decorations tomorrow, to be followed by BBQ dinner. Then I need to finish putting the gardens to bed, since we’ve finally had a few days of cold weather.

Open thread.

RECIPE THREAD NOTE: There will be no recipe threads for a while, but I’ll probably put together some holiday stuff later in the month. My focus is usually around Christmas stuff, but if anyone wants to send me recipes and info on different holiday celebrations, please do. I would love to post about that – include photos!








Writers Chatting: Meeting Reminder

Just a reminder that there will be a writing group thread on Sunday (Dec 4) at 12:30 EST/9:30 PST. For now we are going to talk process, resources and support. We’ll revisit sharing pieces after the new year.

See you there!

Also: There will be no recipe threads for a while, but I’ll probably put together some holiday stuff later in the month. My focus is usually around Christmas stuff, but if anyone wants to send me recipes and info on different holiday celebrations, please do. I would love to post about that – include photos!



Defined Benefits vs. Defined Contribution

I got some push back in comments yesterday for the following line on Medicare:

The delivery mechanism through which that value is transferred is window dressing…. Everything else is window dressing or mechanics to shift blame for large benefit cuts.

I want to explain my thinking on this.

Right now Medicare is effectively a defined benefit program. The defined benefit is the federal government will make ure that a Medicare beneficiary will get 83% or better actuarial value care. Right now that actuarial value is delivered by either the traditional Medicare Fee for Service System, the CMS controlled FFS derived ACO and advanced payment methodology system or privatized Medicare Advantage plans that have to offer at 83% actuarial value. Drug coverage is provided by privatized Medicare Part D plans. Additional actuarial value can be bought via either private Medicare Supplemental plans or buying up in Medicare Advantage.

If between year 1 and year 2 we see a 20% increase in the cost of providing 83% actuarial value coverage to Medicare beneficiaries, the federal government and thus society picks up the vast majority if not all of the price increase. In the second year, the beneficiary will still be able to get 83% AV coverage.

Are there smart ways of doing this? Are there different ways of doing this that optimize different value functions? Are there more and less confusing ways of doing this? Are there more and less expensive ways of doing this? Are there more and less beneficiary friendly ways of doing this?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, oh my god, yes.

And those discussions and arguments are very well worth having.

That is not the argument in the Ryan plan.

Instead the Ryan plan is switching Medicare from a defined benefit guarantee to a defined contribution. The contribution will be a calculated lump sum that in year one will buy 83% Actuarial value insurance. In normal years of health care cost growth, the lump sum will grow slower than healthcare growth. So in year two, the lump sum buys 82% AV, in year five it buys 76% AV. If there is a shock year where the health care cost growth dramatically jumps up from a trend to a 20% spike, the beneficiaries are now left holding the bag as the federal subsidy might only now buy them 65% actuarial value coverage.

The only guarantee is that a calculated contribution which is indexed to shrink in relative buying power will be made. Individuals will be on the hook for an increasing share of actuarial value and they will bear the risk of unexpected spikes in healthcare costs (they also get any upside on unexpected drops in healthcare cost growth below nominal economic growth but that does not happen in the US often).

This is how I view the Medicare fight. And it is why I am not thrilled with the voucherization and privatization framing. A Medicare Advantage only program could credibly be called privatization. A voucher that allows people to have meaningful choice between multiple private plans at the same expected individual contribution that they currently pay now could be added to this program. It might be odd, it might be a hookers and blow looting expedition. As long as there is a guarantee that a minimal of 83% actuarial value is delivered, it would be an defined benefit program delivered by private entities.

The argument is whether or not Medicare (as well as subsidized Exchange and Medicaid) are defined benefit programs or defined contribution programs.

Everything else is a detail. Those details are worth fighting about but they are secondary to the core discussion.



Friday Morning Update: Weekly Progress Open Thread


(h/t commentor Cosima)

I want to implement commentor Jenn‘s idea of a weekly Progress Open Thread, even though it’s apparently a bit soon for specific responses.

Great idea from commentor Mary G:

I went to whitehouse.gov and sent the Obamas a message:

Dear President and Mrs. Obama:

I haven’t always agreed with you, particularly on foreign policy, but boy am I going to miss you. You have done your country a great service and I thank you so much for all your hard work, and sacrifice of your privacy and freedom of action. I plan to be active in resisting the rollback of your achievements. Especially the ACA. You have been the best president and presidential family of my 60-year-old life.

What will happen to the videos and photos of your speeches and events currently on whitehouse.gov? When I am down and discouraged, I watch a speech or look at a few pictures to get fired up and ready to go. There are so many I want to see, but haven’t had time to.

God bless you, Mary

And via commentor Kathleen — Go sign Sherrod Brown’s petition that PEOTUS fire Steve Bannon. (Yeah, it’s not gonna happen, but it’ll irk both the neo-Nazi and his catspaw that us commoners aren’t being respectful.)

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Who’s got progress to report, or ideas to implement, as we wrap up the week?



Late Night Open Thread: Is An Iranian Cult Courting Trump’s Cabinet Picks?

… Joining Trump faves Giuliani and Bolton, apparently. I know almost nothing of the MKO, but I do remember the Unification Church (aka ‘Moonies’) spending a supercarrier of money courting various GOP machers during the Reagan Administration — with results somewhere between the farcical and the sinister, depending on your paranoia levels. (Figures that the Bush Crime Family would be the main U.S. beneficiary, of course.)

Getting sucked into Iran’s internal politics seems a lot more dangerous — not least because Trump’s potential cabinet picks have nowhere near the level of political experience of the foreign policy people around Reagan (and back in the 1980s, who could’ve imagined that phrase being written in earnest truth?).

Anybody with more knowledge want to predict whether these “approaches” have the potential for genuine danger? Or is it just more would-be “global leaders” throwing their money down another Trump/GOP rathole?

(Last word is a typo for ‘Paris’, I think.)



Mmmmmm….Pie! — Cake Edition

My poor kiddo has a cold and allergies that have left her with a sore throat. She came over for dinner and requested mac-and-cheese (creamy rather than baked) and a Boston cream pie for dessert.

These are both somewhat labor intensive dishes, but what the hell — anything for the kid. Here’s what the Boston cream pie looked like before it was hacked up and eaten:

boston-cream-pie-dec-2016

I think I overdid it on the ganache a bit, but then again, maybe too much chocolate simply isn’t possible. I used the same recipe I’ve used for years from a Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book that I acquired at a yard sale as a teen. I believe the ganache is usually thicker, but maybe it’s the humidity.

After dinner, we watched a terrible movie about an alien abduction on Netflix. I don’t remember the name, but it was set in the 1970s and featured James Garner as an irascible detective. It’s allegedly based on a true story. The entire population of the small town depicted in the movie appeared badly in need of anger management classes — even the moms, nurses and waitresses were snarly.

Anyhoo, open thread!



Breitbartian Rhapsody

Nothing really matters, anyone can see:

You can listen to the whole segment here, but I direct your attention to the part starting at time 14:40. That is when Scottie Nell Hughes, Trump stalwart, joins the show to assert that “this is all a matter of opinion” and “there are no such things as facts.”

You can listen again starting at around time 18:30, when I point out one of the specific, small lies of the Trump campaign—that the NFL had joined him in complaining about debate dates, which the NFL immediately denied—and Hughes says: Well, this is also just a matter of opinion. Hughes mentions at time 21:45 that she is a “classically studied journalist,” an assertion that left Glenn Thrush, Margaret Sullivan, Diane Rehm, and me staring at one another in puzzlement, this not being a normal claim in our field.

It’s worth listening in full. This is the world we are now dealing with.

Nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me:

Any way the wind blows.

We are so fucked.



Thursday Evening Open Thread: Tim’s Right About Medicare

From the article:

… “We say to our Republicans that want to privatize Medicare, go try it, make our day,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming Democratic leader, mustering his best Clint Eastwood/Ronald Reagan impersonation.

Since 1995 — when the newly installed speaker, Newt Gingrich, famously proposed $270 billion in cuts to Medicare and declared the program would “wither on the vine” because of the appeal of Republican-crafted free-market options — Democrats have seen the exceedingly popular but financially strained program as a winning wedge issue…

Now Democrats intend to capitalize on it again, beginning with their approach to the nomination of Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Price is not only a leading proponent of repealing the Obama-era health care law, but he has embraced Republican efforts to move future Medicare users into private insurance programs and raise the eligibility age. He told reporters shortly after the Nov. 8 election that he anticipated Republicans would embark on a substantial Medicare overhaul within the first six to eight months of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.

Senate Democrats intend to press Mr. Price on this subject during his confirmation hearings. They see a wide opening for political gain, given the 57 million older Americans who rely on Medicare — including many white Midwesterners with financial worries who voted for Mr. Trump.

“Good luck to selling that to the voters in Indiana and Ohio that were Democrats and voted for Trump this time,” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said about a Medicare revamp. “They’re going to be fleeing quickly, right?”

A Medicare fight is also a potential political lifeline for Democrats in red states who could be in very tough contests in 2018. Ten Senate Democrats face re-election in states carried by Mr. Trump. One of them, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, has already made it clear that he will brook no overhaul of Medicare and that he intends to vote against Mr. Price’s nomination to the health care agency…

Democrats also noted that Mr. Trump did not campaign on the idea of tinkering with Medicare or its companion entitlement program, Social Security. In fact, his statements about those two cornerstones of American retirement security were that he would not cut them. That difference raises the prospect of a clash with congressional Republicans — particularly House Republicans led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan — who have long pushed for Medicare changes and championed them in House budgets…

So, with a little luck & a lot of skill, we can protect Medicare, scare a bunch of venal Repubs, ding up a particularly bad cabinet member wannabe, drive a wedge between the upcoming President-with-an-asterisk and his GOP ‘partners’, and keep voters’ attention focused for the 2018 elections. Sounds worth some phone calls to me!
***********
Apart from fighting the good fight, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



John Cole, call your office

Josh Marshall was indispensable reading when George Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005, and I think he has it right this year as well. Republicans will not take a wrecking ball to Medicare and Obamacare without Democratic support. This has nothing to do with the filibuster or reconciliation. Mitch McConnell will ditch the filibuster five milliseconds after it gets in the way of something Republicans really want to do. But as much as Republicans really, really, REALLY want to garrot the New Deal and burn its corpse in a ditch they simply cannot message their way around the wreckage that would cause to their core voting constituencies. Even if you could find a majority in the House willing to sit in gasoline and light a match, plenty of Senators know the score. But Paul Ryan can’t do anything to taxes unless he accepts a huge deficit hike or cuts something meaningful, which means either defense (ha) or the safety net.

All of this makes wavering Democrats more valuable to the GOP than the last parachute on a burning plane. That is a lot more reassuring today than eleven years ago – districts represented by blue dogs have Republican leadership now. The liberal Senator with his finger on the zeitgeist is not Joe Lieberman but Bernie Sanders. It will be a hard sell for someone – especially Donald Trump – to lure today’s Democrats into betraying what you could fairly describe as the granite core foundation of the modern Democratic party.

Republicans are already feeling some heat over this. That means you have a chance to make a difference here. Pick up the phone and turn it up some more. They have all the majorities so they have no cover left for crazy political statements. Every vote will count. I guarantee that calls about this particular issue will get noted with an exclamation point.

You can count on most Democrats to defend the party’s core principles, but I would keep a special eye on any Democrat who shows the slightest sign of selling out. For me that list has to start with Joe Manchin. Look, WV went for Trump by thirty points. Manchin would be crazy not to give Republican ideas at least a very polite listen. Before the election he let it slip that he could well defect if the Senate came down to a 50-50 split. I would recommend that anyone living in West by god Virginia pick up the phone early and often until Senator Manchin releases a firm and unambiguous statement against molesting or privatizing our social safety net in any way whatsoever.

Find your Senators here.
Find your Representative here.

House/Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Guide for first-timers here.