Go long popcorn, go long butter

The Senate Intelligence Committee will be hearing testimony by fired former FBI Director after Memorial Day.

Remember, the White House is not disputing that they believe that firing Comey would make their lives easier regarding the Russia investigation.

So go long on popcorn, go long on butter… things are getting real

Friday Morning Open Thread: TGIF (While It Lasts)

The unusual fundraising haul is the latest sign that President Donald Trump is motivating Democrats in extraordinary ways as the party looks to win back the 24 seats it needs to retake the House of Representatives in next year’s midterm elections and put Rep. Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s chair.

The DCCC raised $20 million in online contributions since the start of the year from contributions averaging just $18, according to the group, beating the $19.7 million the committee raised during 2015, the last off-year ahead of an election year.

The campaign arm of House Democrats said more than 2.2 million people joined the committee’s grassroots email lists since the beginning of January, including 156,00 new donors.

“The DCCC is actively building the largest battleground in a decade, and that’s a testament to the grassroots energy that we’re witnessing every day, in every corner of America,” said DCCC Spokesman Tyler Law. “Our record smashing grassroots, online fundraising haul is further evidence that House Democrats are on offense while Republicans are in a full meltdown.”…

Because, well…

What’s (that we know about) on the agenda as we look forward to wrapping up the week?

CMS incidentally drops the truth on monkey-wrenching

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a technical release concerning the payment of Basic Health Plan (BHP) funds to Minnesota and New York. They accidentally dropped an official government baseline of what they expected premiums on the Qualified Health Plans to have been absent significant monkey-wrenching.

For the trend factor we will use the annual growth rate in private health insurance expenditures per enrollee from the National Health Expenditure projections, developed by the Office of the Actuary… For 2018, the projected increase in private health insurance premiums per enrollee is 5.3 percent.

States running a BHP can elect to use this multiplier against 2017 Benchmark Silver or use actual 2018 Benchmark Silver premiums. It would be wise for New York and Minnesota to use the actual 2018 premiums for their local Benchmark Silvers because their insurers are pricing in significant policy risk into their premiums so actual premiums will result in a windfall for these two states’ BHP trust funds.

What I find interesting is that the CMS Office of the Actuary analysis finds that 5.3% is a reasonable national trend rate for 2018. That would imply that rate increases based on trend plus health insurance tax plus idiosyncratic local features should have been coming in between 5% and 15% depending on local circumstances for most regions. Anything above that is odd in the counterfactual universe of no monkey-wrenching.

But we live in a universe of at least strongly feared monkey wrenching so this gives us a good baseline to estimate the monkey wrench cost.

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Shame as a limiting constraint

It is always worthwhile to read through the back archives of the now defunct Kung Fu Monkey.

Today’s relevant post is on shame as a constraint. It was written in 2007 responding to the US Attorney firing scandal as they weren’t willing to railroad people for non-existent voter fraud. I think it is a relevant structural analysis today as well:

This just hammers home my realization of what the Cheney Administration — and yes, damn you this is the first time I’ve indulged in that neologism, and the first time I think it perfectly appropriate — what the Cheney Administration has discovered. They have found the “exploit” within the United States Government. As I watched Congressmen and Senators stumble and fumble and thrash, unable to bring to heel men and women who were plainly lying to them under oath, unable to eject from public office toadies of a boot-licking expertise unseen since Versailles, it struck me. The sheer, simple elegance of it. The “exploit”.

The exploit is shame.

Our representatives — and to a great degree we as a culture — are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. You reveal a man’s corrupt, or lying, or incompetent, and what does he do? He resigns. He attempts to escape attention, often to aid in his escape of legal pursuit. Public shame has up to now been the silver bullet of American political life. But people who are willing to just do the wrong thing and wait you out, to be publicly guilty … dammmnnnn.

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying “You don’t have the balls to take down a government. You don’t have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don’t. What’s beyond that abyss — what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation — terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way.”

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Patchworking

A longish read [warning: autoplay], but rich in entertainment value:

Advisers planning Trump’s first foreign trip, which begins Friday, canceled scheduled briefings on the matter to avoid having reporters milling about the West Wing. Vice President Mike Pence roared away in his motorcade.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counselor who had been scheduled for an appearance on Fox News, abruptly canceled.

“It does seem a little chaotic over there, I gotta be honest with you,” said her would-be interviewer Tucker Carlson, a frank admission from a host who regularly defends the administration.

Into the night, the White House struggled to contain its frustration. Senior advisers told junior aides to focus on their work and compartmentalize the latest round of drama, which now the West Wing has even less control over.

The President and those around him saw again Wednesday night the limits of his own executive authority, a feeling presidents before him have bemoaned and he has witnessed multiple times in his four months in office.

One aide described the mood in two words: “Chaotically dark.”…

I think we can all agree with the following tweet:

What’s on the agenda as we buckle up for another day?


Golden oldie, newly relevant:

Shall I Step On My Own Post?

Yes, why not.

Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House

WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

The cats are demanding that I go sit in the living room and read dead-tree magazines. I’ll be back later.

Wikileaks Jumps In

In an unexpected coincidence, Wikileaks releases something about FBI Director Mueller delivering highly enriched uranium to Russia. And it’s secret! Scary, right?

This is pretty standard procedure for sensitive material: Make sure the Russian Federation is ready for the flight; make sure US chain of custody is in order; check that the Russians will pick it up. Keep it secret to avoid alerting troublemakers. The only question is why the FBI director would be carrying it rather than a courier. One of my followers (a BJ-er?) supplied the answer.

The material was seized in a nuclear smuggling case in Georgia (the country), and the Russian Federation wanted to analyze the material to double-check where it may have come from. A law-enforcement matter, and it’s likely the US wanted to make a point to Russia that it’s serious. You don’t get more serious in law enforcement than the head of the FBI.

Many thanks to Stacy! I’m posting this now to head off the questions that will arise.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.