Some very good Ebola news

In 2014, the last few weeks of the election season were dominated by headlines about the Ebola menace. It was used to whip up fear, xenophobia and otherness. That stopped about thirty eight seconds after the last ballot was accepted in Alaska.

And now practical and effective vaccines are now available that can be used to quickly isolate outbreaks.

Time to celebrate a bit of good news.



Whistleblower States that Cambridge Analytica, Subsidiary of British Defence Contractor to the Ministry of Defence and US DOD, Was a Bridging Node to the Russians

This was a joint appearance event, including Q&A, held today in London. A lot of important news was made:

Chris Wylie’s answer here, if it is borne out, clearly places Cambridge Analytica, a subsidiary of the defense and intelligence contractor SCL, doing work for Russian interests. This is noteworthy for two different, but equally important reasons. The first is that it provides some of the first direct evidence, by direct statement of one of the principles and founders of Cambridge Analytica as a subsidiary of SCL, that Cambridge Analytica had concrete, for profit ties to Russia. Making it a bridging node in the network of groups, people, and organizations involved in the US 2014 and 2016 elections and the Russians. The second is that a subsidiary of SCL, which is essentially a private, for contract intelligence company, was doing work for Russian interests at the same time that the parent company was doing work for the British Ministry of Defence and the US DOD.

I’ve been a defense contractor off and on for over a decade. This included doing what is essentially a niche form of  intelligence work for the US Army. I have also served on two different term appointments as a senior civil servant under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act. One of my biggest concerns as a national security professional has always been about the privatization of intelligence work. I’ve had the pleasure of working for an excellent, small defense contractor (who I’m currently still with) that appreciates professional ethics, providing quality work for the governmental client, and has my back. This was also the case for the not for profit sponsoring agent for my Intergovernmental Personnel Appointment. Unfortunately, I’ve also worked for a terrible business development unit (BDU) of a very large multinational defense and intelligence contractor that, through hard experience, I trust to do what is best for their bottom line to the exclusion of all else – including the right thing. So I can say I’ve experienced the best and worst of the contractor world. Having a subsidiary of a defense and intelligence contractor that is doing political intelligence work for Russian interests at the same time that the parent company is doing intelligence and/or intelligence related work for the MOD, the DOD, and NATO should be raising red flags in DC, London, and Brussels. Given what we know of how Nix and his partners conduct business, national security and counterintelligence professionals in the US, the UK, and at NATO HQ should be very, very, very concerned that whatever they were paying SCL to do has managed to make its way to Cambridge Analytica’s Russian clients.

Other important news was also made at this event about Steve Bannon, Robert Mercer, and their interest in the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Brexit:

You’ll notice that Andrew Breitbart’s “politics is downstream of culture” concept was in play here.

Finally, some absolutely revolting news was also broken at this event pertaining to Shahmir Sanni. If there is any justice left in Her Majesty’s kingdom, it will be the end of Theresa May’s political career, as well as the two lowlifes on her staff responsible for outing Sanni and placing his family in Pakistan in jeopardy:

Read more



Good news everybody: Shovel edition

Three stories I need to highlight from internal Republican political debates:

Politico on the Senate and the reconciliation bill that will get vetoed by President Obama:

To get conservatives such as Lee, Cruz and Rubio on board, the reconciliation bill may have to be changed to dismantle other controversial parts of Obamacare that are untouched in the current bill. Those provisions include the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies provided to millions of consumers who purchase insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.

The current bill that passed the House continues Medicaid expansion. Republicans from marginal districts want to keep Medicaid expansion and subsidies for insurance, they just don’t want to pay for it.

Now a report from Kentucky:

Bevin said his intent is not to cut people off but to customize Medicaid to Kentucky through a waiver – known as a “1115 Medicaid demonstration waiver” – of federal rules on eligibility and coverage. Bevin has pointed to Indiana’s model as an example of the direction he wants Kentucky to head. Medicaid recipients there pay either premiums or co-pays, sometimes both. Ashley Spalding, research and policy associate for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said that would tamp down access to health care.

Kentucky is highly likely to continue Medicaid expansion albeit via a convoluted, more expensive and less comprehensive waiver instead of straight-up expansion that it currently has. The Governor elect first made his name as being a full repeal without replacing Tea Partier reactionary, but he is backing off to expanding Medicaid under PPACA without calling it an Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

And finally from Alabama:

The fight over Medicaid expansion has become one of this decade’s great partisan divides in Alabama. Under the ACA, states were originally intended to expand Medicaid to people with income levels up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, providing an out for people too poor to meet the law’s requirement to buy health insurance. But Gov. Robert Bentley, like many red-state governors, declined to expand the program, citing opposition to Obamacare and concern about the state’s ability to pay for expansion.

That wall of opposition may be crumbling. As recently as Thursday, Bentley told reporters that he was considering expansion, though he had yet to make a final decision on the issue…

A blue-ribbon task force, assembled by the governor earlier this year to study solutions to the state’s most pressing health issues, may vote this week on a resolution recommending something similar.

“We are considering a recommendation that the governor expand coverage to include as many people as possible,” said Ronald Franks, chairman of the Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force. Franks said wider health care coverage would likely help the state deal with widespread issues such as diabetes.

Alabama has not submitted a waiver nor has it outlined a waiver application, but given that a major and successful Republican political leader’s spokeswoman did not issue a vehement and clear denial.

These type of discussions and decisions are how programs get entrenched. Opponents are making operational peace with reality as it is instead of how they wish it to be.



Time to Show the Chair the Door?

Which is the more competent chair? I think it’s the one on the left:

dnc chair copy

The NYT has the latest on the ongoing kerfluffle between DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other party members over the number of debates:

R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis and a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on Thursday accused the party’s leader, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of making “flat-out not true” statements about another top party officer, questioned her political skills and said he had “serious questions” about her suitability for the job.

The broadside from Mr. Rybak, which came in an interview late Thursday afternoon, followed weeks of internal party dissension over the number and timing of the presidential debates it has scheduled, capped by an acrimonious public dispute over whether Ms. Wasserman Schultz had punitively barred a Democratic vice chairwoman, Tulsi Gabbard, from the first debate, held on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

The comments from Mr. Rybak, who was interested in replacing Ms. Wasserman Schultz in 2013 and who was the favored choice of some of President Obama’s aides, were notable in part because he is not known as a public complainer. But by the evening’s end, most of the other party officers issued statements strongly supporting Ms. Wasserman Schultz and calling for an end to the public rancor.

A lot of Democrats seem to dislike DWS and blame her for the party’s lousy showing in midterm elections. I don’t — I blame the idiot voters who can’t get excited about politics unless there’s the grand reality show drama of a presidential election to make them all tingly. It’s not DWS’s fault that these short-sighted mopes stay home and allow their city councils, school boards and state legislatures to be taken over by local Sarah Palin knock-offs.

That said, DWS is annoyingly chummy with the wingnut delegation from South Florida — to the point where it’s reasonable to wonder if she’d like to see them replaced with Democrats — and hasn’t exactly distinguished herself in her current gig. At the very least, a competent chair should be able to keep a lid on infighting such as the type the NYT is covering.

Regarding the number of debates, what do you think? DWS is accused of limiting it to six to stack the deck for HRC, and maybe that’s true; I honestly don’t know. But do we really need a gazillion debates? If no one can pick Martin O’Malley out of a line-up after #6, I’m not sure further debates would help.

Absent an even more public and open revolt, it seems unlikely the party will get rid of DWS just as an important election is heating up. But maybe President Hillary or President Bernie can appoint her as HUD Secretary or something so she’ll go away and someone more effective can take on the role. Not sure who that would be, but the chair pictured at left above might be a good candidate.



The ACA and throwing money at a problem

Andrew Sprung, guest-posting at the Incidental Economist, has reviewed an interesting little e-book that is on my to read list:

ObamaCare is a Great Mess: A View of the Affordable Care Act Without Partisan Blinders & How to Fix It. By Jed Graham. Amazon, June 2015

Mr. Graham writes that there are a couple major problems with the ACA going forward.  The first is that the subsidies are not rich enough to be attractive to people who make more than 200% FPL.  Secondly, the subsidies are only sufficient to cover Bronze plans with big deductibles instead of cost-sharing Silver plans with low deductibles but 15% higher premiums.  Thirdly, the subsidies end too soon.  While finally the plans are too costly for young people which is leading to a sicker and older risk pool than projected.

Andrew has done a good job of dismantling the second point as he has been pointing out that the vast majority of people who are eligible for cost-sharing Silver plans are buying those plans as the deductibles are far more reasonable than slightly cheaper Bronze plans.

However, the other problems have a very simple solution.  Shovelling money at them.  The subsidy formula could theoretically be tweaked so that slope upwards of the personal contribution at a given income level is far less, the base line plans could be reset so a Silver is 75% actuarially value where the additional actuarial value is paid for by subsidy dollars instead of individual dollars.  The subsidy formula could be easily tweaked so that no family pays more than X% of their income for a QHP without regard to the income level so there is no income cliff/work disincentive at 399.99% FPL.

All of those are fairly simple tweaks that are not disruptive to the fundamental delivery of health care and health insurance to the greater population.  And these are all problems where throwing money at the problem is a valid and viable solution.

We did not get these policy tweaks in PPACA because the Democrats, and more importantly, the marginal decision makers in the Democratic caucs were petrified of writing a bill with a “bad” CBO score.  There was a line of thought that a “responsible” and “small” bill would help preserve a majority or at least more of the marginal district Democrats.  Going bigger would have produced a better bill ( and if the bill contained more cash going out the door in 2012/2013, a slightly better economy).

In reality, Democrats who represented significantly Republican leaning districts as the country became more polarized had to count on two things to stay in office.  The first was that any particular opponent was a kid-diddling goat fucker.  The second was a good economy with significant wage gains.  A good CBO score on a polarizing bill is about the ninety-ninth ranking aid to re-election.  A “responsible” bill pandered to elite consensus without actually getting any additional people to vote for “responsible” Democrats.