Friday Morning Open Thread: Back Where She Came From


… “It feels good to be home,” Omar said into a bullhorn at the airport, where she was greeted by dozens of supporters.

She was in Minneapolis for a town hall with Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, which was intended to focus on their advocacy for “Medicare for All.”…

“He’s threatened because we are inspiring people to dream about a country that recognizes their dignity and humanity,” Omar said of Trump at the airport.
An hour later, Omar received a standing ovation at the start of the town hall.

“I know there are a lot of people that are trying to distract us now, but I want you all to know that we are not going to let them,” Omar told the crowd. “I’m going to continue to do the work on behalf of the 5th (District), because you all send me to Washington to do the important work of progressing our country.”…


And also:

Election 2020 Open Thread: The CNN Debate Draw

What I was hoping for was a Biden-Bernie matchup, with the old bulls fighting over the remnants of the name-recognition vote. What I feared was a Harris-Warren draw, where the moderators would spend entirely too much time crying Let’s you and her fight!

What we’re gonna get, I suspect, is at least 24 hours of Extremely Online Drama as the Berniacs complain that one or more of their current chewtoys (Warren, Buttigieg & O’Rourke) was extremely cruel and unfair to their patron saint… following a long week of Media Village Idiots salivating over the potential for another Biden-Harris “fistfight”. Oh, well, it’s early days, and the normal people will be too busy with their summer to pay attention.

Early notes from the Washington Post:

The Democratic field is the most diverse ever and yet all five minority candidates ended up on the same night. If Harris does go after Biden again on race issues, he could face a pile-on with Booker onstage as well. Booker was actually the first candidate to take Biden to task for his comments about working with well-known segregationists early in his career.

O’Rourke, who raised a huge amount of money in his first 24 hours in the race, lost his early momentum while Buttigieg, who raised the most money of any candidate in the second quarter, surged. O’Rourke may try to recapture the mantle as the face of the next generation. Buttigieg, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to position himself as a pragmatist versus the more liberal Sanders and Warren…

The impact of policy

The Society of Actuaries went through the Health Care Cost Institute data recently and produced an amazing graphic:

This graph shows the number of inpatient days per 1,000 covered life years.

It shows a few things. First, small group and large group utilization tend to move in parallel to each other with large groups having slightly sicker or higher utilizing populations. This makes sense as small groups are less likely to offer insurance and that offer or not offer decision is non-random; a small group will avoid offering insurance if they know they are extremely likely to have horrendous premiums due to very high expected utilization. People in the job market know that as well so someone who knows that they are likely to be in the hospital a lot will try to stick with a large group employer.

The far more interesting thing is that the discontinuity in the individual market. Pre-ACA market reforms of guaranteed issue, community rating and subsidization, the individual market had perhaps a third of the hospitalization rate of large group and forty percent the utilization rate of small group. As soon as the ACA market reforms went into effect on January 1, 2014, utilization sky rocketed.

This shows the effect of underwriting. Underwritten policies from 2009-2013 were pretty good at identifying and avoiding people with predictable healthcare costs. There is still hospitalizations of people getting hit by buses and being told that they have cancer during a routine check-up but these are mostly random events. As soon as explicit underwriting is banned, utilization sky rockets as people who had been kept out of the individual market moved into it and got services that they needed.

Late Night Open Thread: Look on the Bright Side


U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch issued his decision on Monday, finding Andrew Anglin owes Tanya Gersh $10 million in punitive damages along with $4,042,438 in compensatory damages.

The ruling comes after a daylong hearing Thursday in which Gersh, her husband, and her therapist testified to the emotional damage caused after Anglin called on his followers on the Daily Stormer to “storm” Gersh’s family.

Anglin accused Gersh of trying to force the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer to sell her building in Whitefish and posted personal information on Gersh, her husband, and their son online. A barrage of threats and anti-Semitic messages followed.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, representing Gersh, filed a lawsuit in federal court against Anglin in early 2017. In a statement released by the SPLC on Monday, Gersh said justice has been served…

Anglin was not present at the July 11 hearing, nor was any attorney there to represent him. He forfeited his defense in April after repeatedly refusing a judge’s order to appear in the United States for a deposition, and his attorneys subsequently asked to withdraw from the case.

“This victory is every bit as important as it would be if Andrew Anglin had showed up for trial,” said John Morrison, a Helena attorney also representing Gersh. “It’s also not surprising to me that somebody like Andrew Anglin who commits these acts of cowardice is afraid to actually show up and defend his position.”…

Anglin’s whereabouts remain unclear. David Dinelli, the attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Missoulian in a phone interview Monday that his organization will move forward with collecting the damages recommended in Lynch’s findings.

“We are committed to doing whatever we can to collect whatever Andrew Anglin has that is subject to collection here in the United States, whether that’s cash, assets or intellectual property,” he said, declining to comment further on the potential methods for collection.

“The bigger message is that Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent in small-town Montana, was able to take on the web’s most notorious neo-Nazi and win,” he added.

“Andrew Anglin may stay out of the United States, and we hope that he does. … We’re confident and pleased that the judge’s ruling today will send a message to all those people that if they try (to do the same) they will be held accountable.”

Chief Judge for the District of Montana Dana Christensen will take Lynch’s findings into account and make the final ruling.

I can only apologize to whichever country sad little coward Anglin has self-exiled himself.

Acid Tripwire

Worse than the brown acid.

Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics and co-director of the Lorenz Center in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, has found that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain threshold — whether as the result of a sudden burst or a slow, steady influx — the Earth may respond with a runaway cascade of chemical feedbacks, leading to extreme ocean acidification that dramatically amplifies the effects of the original trigger.

That’s from the MIT press release on Rothman’s new paper, published in PNAS.

The MIT release continues:

Scientists know that when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves in seawater, it not only makes the oceans more acidic, but it also decreases the concentration of carbonate ions. When the carbonate ion concentration falls below a threshold, shells made of calcium carbonate dissolve. Organisms that make them fare poorly in such harsh conditions.

Shells, in addition to protecting marine life, provide a “ballast effect,” weighing organisms down and enabling them to sink to the ocean floor along with detrital organic carbon, effectively removing carbon dioxide from the upper ocean. But in a world of increasing carbon dioxide, fewer calcifying organisms should mean less carbon dioxide is removed.

“It’s a positive feedback,” Rothman says. “More carbon dioxide leads to more carbon dioxide. The question from a mathematical point of view is, is such a feedback enough to render the system unstable?”

To answer that question, Rothman surveyed the carbon record for the last half-billion years of Earth history, and then built a mathematical model of the carbon cycle in the upper ocean to help him analyze the current, human-driven injection of carbon dioxide into the climate system.

When he introduced carbon dioxide at greater rates, he found that once the levels crossed a critical threshold, the carbon cycle reacted with a cascade of positive feedbacks that magnified the original trigger, causing the entire system to spike, in the form of severe ocean acidification. The system did, eventually, return to equilibrium, after tens of thousands of years in today’s oceans — an indication that, despite a violent reaction, the carbon cycle will resume its steady state.

This pattern matches the geological record, Rothman found. The characteristic rate exhibited by half his database results from excitations above, but near, the threshold. Environmental disruptions associated with mass extinction are outliers — they represent excitations well beyond the threshold. At least three of those cases may be related to sustained massive volcanism.

“When you go past a threshold, you get a free kick from the system responding by itself,” Rothman explains.

I should emphasize that all this is a theoretical approach to the question. Rothman is a mathematical geologist, not a field guy, and his business is building formal representations of complicated systems to probe action in the real world that can’t be measured or experimented upon directly.

His prediction, then, is just that, a statement about the likelihood, not the certainty of a given outcome.  But that caveat doesn’t mean this is “just a theory.” Quite the reverse: because the model builds in solid and known physics, and is driven by dozens of observations in the historical record, this theory is one supported both by the math and the gold-standard of empirical measurement.

It’s scary, in other words, because it represents a rigorous attempt, using stable, well established knowledge, to depict a scary, inhospitable future:

In other words, if today’s human-induced emissions cross the threshold and continue beyond it, as Rothman predicts they soon will, the consequences may be just as severe as what the Earth experienced during its previous mass extinctions.

I should add that I know Rothman a little — my students made a short film about a lovely little piece of work he and his students did on the branching networks of ground water drainage systems.  Just i that one encounter, on a question he tackled mostly for fun, it was easy to see that he’s an impressive thinker, combining mathematical intuition with a nose for earth-science problems that can be expressed in tractable systems of equations.

That doesn’t make this work right; it does make the suggestion that there is a chance we’re close to a trigger of a runaway feedback in the oceans a prediction to take very seriously indeed.

The TL:DR of all this?  One — there’s a risk that major and on human-lifetime scale irreversible changes for the worse are either very near or already baked into the way we’ve hacked the climate system.  The need to squelch that hack, to stop pouring carbon into the atmosphere, is thus even more urgent than we thought.

A second implication amplifies that urgency:  Rothman’s math is simple (at least for him). It exposes one vulnerability, one potential feedback that could go against preserving the basic ecological support system human society depends on. But the climate system is big, incredibly complicated, and potentially hides a bunch of such triggers.

You can read this study, that is, as a case study, an example of how something seemingly well removed from direct warming issues (the physics and chemistry of the shells of microscopic ocean animals) can produce profound global effects.  So, if acid oceans haven’t terrified you enough, remember that where there’s one such hidden mechanism of major disruption, there may well be others.

As most of you know, I have a son. He’s nineteen now, and I find so much of my dread these days is bound up in my fear that I will leave him a world that is vastly more precarious than the one I inherited from my parents.

I do not have a good answer for myself on that, but it is one more reason why current politics seem to me to be life-or-death.  If we have any time left at all to keep the damage from climate change manageable, we don’t have that many years.  The longer the GOP holds power, the worse our chances become.  Go Science! is not the rallying cry that will win next year — but it’s damned important, even so.

And on that cheery note: have at it!

Images:  Joseph Wright of Derby, The Orrery, c. 1766

Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1498