Welfare check for Cole

Jags up 20-0 at the Stiller’s…

Someone check on Cole.

Bitcoin: Beanie Babies for Techno-Libertarians?

I’ve got nothing against collectibles, and I have the Franklin Mint plates to prove it. But most of the little I know about economics I got from reading J.K. Galbraith, so whenever people start talking about Free money — guaranteed to appreciate!, the alarm bells go off. From the Washington Post:

Bitcoin soared past the $17,000 mark on Thursday, a dizzying run for a digital currency that was worth less than $1,000 at the start of the year and was once largely the preoccupation of technologists or those looking to avoid scrutiny to launder money or buy drugs and weapons online.

The fast rise — it has gone up more than 40 percent this week alone — is creating a buying frenzy among eager speculators around the world and helping push bitcoin into the mainstream. And it is also forcing U.S. regulators to grapple with whether to legitimize a product that operates outside the control of any government or financial institution.

The run-up in price comes as bitcoin enthusiasts prepare to reach a new landmark. On Sunday, a bitcoin product will trade for the first time on a U.S. financial market, making it almost as easy to bet on the virtual currency as oil, corn or the euro…


Much of the computer power sustaining bitcoin occurs at massive complexes – or farms – in rural China running on electricity from coal-fired generating plants in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia. Reporters from Quartz and Bloomberg visited one of the massive farms in August, and said it had eight warehouses containing 25,000 processing machines, or about four percent of the global bitcoin network.
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Referees, CMS and 1332’s

Good referees are consistent referees. They make the same type of call on both ends of the field in the first minute of the game and the last minute of the game. They are usually consistent across games at the same level and style. They may differ across referees. My favorite soccer referee to run a line for is a USSF National. He conducts a ninety minute group therapy session for players and will call shirt grabs tight all year long. Another USSF National referee, that I frequently worked with, won’t call a foul unless there is a compound fracture poking through the shin. Both styles work in facilitating competitive games. The teams know who is in the middle and within the first couple of minutes, the teams can figure out what the referee will and won’t call for the rest of the game.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seems like it is a good referee. They are consistent with how they are reading 1332 rules. They are reading them very tightly, but their read is the same for Minnesota as it is for Iowa. CMS is reading budget neutrality real tight. In their response to Iowa’s question on what what be considered for budget neutrality, CMS responded:

If the Departments were to pass the entire premium tax credit savings through to lowa, the waiver likely would increase the Federal deficit. This is because several .orponrnìs of the State’s proposed plan would reduce Federal revenues or increase Federal costs. First, any increase in the number of insured persons may reduce individual shared responsibility payments for failure to maintain health coverage due under Intemal Revenue Code (lRC¡ sectión SOOOa

Covering more people and thus having more people not pay the individual mandate penalty is a budget neutrality hit as called by the CMS referees. They made a similar call on Section 1331 Basic Health Plan funding so they are being consistent. CMS outlined several other areas of cost that would diminish the size of the pass through Iowa wanted.

Iowa is pulling its waiver application.

I can’t blame them. Their initial waiver was legally shaky on coverage grounds. The modified waiver could lead to a plausible hold-harmless argument if one squinted hard enough. Now that they aren’t getting the cash that they thought they would have gotten, it is not worth going forward.

The most important thing in my mind from the Iowa and Minnesota waiver processes have been the learning that other states have achieved. The rest of the country now has a pretty good idea of what type of referee CMS will be. They have seen the easy calls (reinsurance waivers in Oregon and Alaska) and a pair of strong judgement calls on funding. States know what will draw a whistle and what they can get away with now, so they should not be surprised when they file new waivers.

Funhouse Mirror View (Open Thread)

Yesterday evening, I read a few MSM round-up pieces on Trump’s G-20 trip, like this take from NBC. For the thousandth time since 1/20/17, perusing the network hot takes made me wonder who’s taking crazy pills — the U.S. journalists who are watching the bizarre Trump shit-show and presenting recaps as if covering a more or less normal presidency, or me.

I don’t expect to like any Republican president’s policies. And Trump is a person of exceedingly low character, so I expect him to behave in an embarrassing manner. But sometimes I wonder if my antipathy toward the man distorts my view of his performance. Is it possible that, while he routinely fucks up and brings shame upon the country, Trump’s presidency isn’t the unmitigated disaster I think it is?

Then I watch something like this summary from an Australian analyst, and I think, nah, it’s not just me:

A compromised, incompetent, deranged buffoon is the president of the United States. The president is surrounded and enabled by amoral, unpatriotic, power-hungry people who will paper over his gaping deficiencies and corruption to pursue their own agendas. That’s bad, obviously. But the normalization of the situation poses its own dangers.

To pick on NBC for a moment, how could a “top-5 takeaways” piece fail to mention Trump’s insane assertion that “everyone” at the G-20 was talking about John Podesta, which also indicated Trump has no idea what role Podesta played in 2016 or, more alarmingly, the CIA’s role in investigating crimes against U.S. citizens? How could a round-up piece not include the weird and unprecedented insertion of Trump’s knockoff bag and shoe peddler spawn into the conference? Or his capitulation to Putin on an attack on U.S. sovereignty?

My complaint isn’t just about the sorry state of Beltway coverage. We’ve been kvetching about routine hackery for decades and will for decades to come, I suspect. But living in a country run by a madman and his accomplices warps reality for everyone, including the people whose job is to provide facts that help shape our perceptions. It’s probably easier for news sources outside the U.S. to frame the Trump menace accurately. But this interminable national crisis will require all of us to keep a grip on what’s real and what’s an illusion.

Anyhoo, on that happy note, open thread!


FSM help us, Trump is tweeting again this morning. The capitulation to Putin is now complete — apparently, Trump “strongly pressing” Putin and giving his opinion is sufficient punishment for violating our national sovereignty:

A prediction: “working constructively with Russia” will amount to lifting sanctions. Also, Trump views Putin as a credible partner in cyber security rather than a grave threat to democracy, still doesn’t understand how the CIA works and everything is still Obama’s fault:

In some quarters, this deranged raving will be covered as if it were normal. It’s not.

Things To Do On Days When Do Nothing Seems Like The Best Option

Perhaps…rotate your improbable confections once a day for six months…


My son dug this up (it should be noted that the sole useful purpose of a sixteen year old roommate is exposure to the zeitgeist — or at least that part of it to which us certain-age types have no direct access). I am awed by the whacky patience required to come up with a chocolate geode.

What’s the most unlikely project you’ve ever attempted. Did it work?

And beyond that question…open thread.

PS: lovely meet up last night. As usual, I completely failed to match up names to nyms but it was a hoot to see such friendly jackals in congress.

Thursday Evening Open Thread: Crowning Glory of the Ubermensch

I too can remember when Burt Reynolds slayed with that ‘I paid for it, so it’s my hair’ line… back on Johnny Carson’s show in the 1970s. Gawker performs a public service with its deeply researched investigative report on the possible roots of That Urine-Colored Thing on Donnie’s Head:

Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation
A tipster who claimed knowledge of Trump’s hair recently came to Gawker with a potential solution to the enigma: Trump’s hair is not his own, costs tens of thousands of dollars for installation and upkeep, and comes from a man as mysterious as Trump is bombastic.

This solution that Trump, our tipster says, sought for his hair woes is a little-known, patented hair restoration treatment called a “microcylinder intervention.” It’s only performed by one clinic that we know of—Ivari International—where our source once sought treatment, and where he says he learned of Trump’s apparent patronage. What’s more, Ivari’s New York location was inside Trump Tower—on the private floor reserved for Donald Trump’s own office…

Srsly, this is good political work, because it’s much more likely to get under Deadbeat Donald’s extremely thin skin — and thereby damage his credibility with low-info voters — than respectable sercon reporting like TPM‘s “Trump Unites Generations Of White Nationalists”:

Tucked away in the woods of middle Tennessee’s Montgomery Bell State Park, 300 “white advocates” gathered over the weekend at the fourteenth American Renaissance conference to reflect on just how much fuel Trump has added to their movement this election cycle.

“I’ve never felt this sense of energy in our movement,” the conference host, Jared Taylor, said in his opening remarks. “I’ve never been more optimistic.”

For the conference, American Renaissance, a white nationalist publication, brought advocates for a white ethno-state together with Holocaust deniers, eugenicists and confederate sympathizers. American Renaissance and many of the groups the conference speakers are associated with are designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center…

Trump’s candidacy and the proliferation of white nationalist media online have put the old guard of white advocacy in touch with the new. At the conference, anti-immigrant, pro-Confederate old-timers rubbed shoulders with the young men of the “alt-right”—a loosely defined amalgam of isolationist white nationalists who crusade against political correctness and thrive on the Internet…

Repeat along with me: “It’s about ethics in gaming political journalism… “