Yelling at assistant referees

538 has a good piece on the implicit bias referees have when they get yelled at in NFL games:

a sideline bias in the NFL is real, and it’s spectacular. To prove it, we looked at the rates at which refs call the NFL’s most severe penalties, including defensive pass interference, aggressive infractions like personal fouls and unnecessary roughness, and offensive holding calls, based on where the offensive team ran its play.1

For three common penalties, the direction of the play — that is, whether it’s run toward the offensive or defensive team’s sideline — makes a significant difference. In other words, refs make more defensive pass interference calls on the offensive team’s sideline but more offensive holding calls on the defensive team’s sideline. What’s more, these differences aren’t uniform across the field — the effect only shows up on plays run, roughly, between the 32-yard lines, the same space where coaches and players are allowed to stand during play.

Speaking as a referee, this makes intuitive sense. And it is a logical extension of the massive amount of research that shows crowd noise is a major factor in gaining home field advantage from refs. We’re human.

I would like to see a follow-up study for soccer and assistant referees. This would be a fairly clean study as the operational procedures produces a great data set for assistant referees. 95% of the time, both sets of benches are on the same side of the field. For the non-soccer folks, there are two assistant referees. AR-1 stands on the bench side with the right shoulder to the goal. A team bench is usually a few yards behind him and coaches have a technical area where they are allowed to wander freely. AR-2 is on the far side with no one behind them. Teams switch the direction of attack at half time.

So AR-1 has Team A in his ear for forty five minutes where A is attacking. And AR-1 also gets Team A in his ear for forty five minutes while they are defending. Team B does not have easy and constant access to AR-1 as they are always at least ten yards away from the halfline and at the professional level (where the data would be) there is a fourth official to act as a buffer.

My prediction is that Team A would over the course of the season have fewer offside violations called during its attack than Team B. I think the mechanism that will occur is that most assistant referees know that they are evaluated when the flag goes up on close calls. If they are not 100% certain that an offside violation has occurred, they are told to keep the flag down and not call the violation. If they miss an egregious offside, they will be graded down. But if they are not calling the occasional offside where the attacking player is off by half a shoe, their evaluation will not be impacted. None of this is conscious bias, it is human nature where a referee can firmly believe that they are only 95% sure instead of 100% and thus they keep their flag down.

I would love to see this data as I think the logic would hold true with a very clean data set.

APTC Hacks — De Minimis Actuarial Value variation

The ACA simplifies insurance by restricting the actuarial value of the plans that can be sold.  Bronze covers roughly 60% of expected pool costs, Silver covers roughly 70% of the expected pool costs, Gold covers roughly 80% of the expected pool costs and Platinum covers roughly 90% of the projected pool costs.  Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) adds three more layers of coverage at roughly 73%, 87% and 94% of the projected pool costs to be covered by the insurer.  

However the law allows for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make rules that allow for de minimis variation from the targeted actuarial value.  CMS has had a consistent rule that a 2% variation in actuarial value is the maximum allowable wiggle room for a policy to be included in a band.  Therefore a Silver policy with no CSR could cover anywhere from 68% to 72% of the pool’s expected cost.  

This is an area of exploitation for premium tax credit benchmark strategic manipulation. The benchmark for all premium tax credits is the cost of the second least expensive Silver plan.  A large spread between the least expensive Silver plan and the benchmark Silver plan advantages subsidized buyers.  Most of my analysis of the Silver Gap strategy space has focused on network manipulation as an obvious source of creating a useable gap between the first and second least expensive Silver plans in a region.  My background is in network and provider configuration so this was my prism.  

However, the de minimis actuarial value variation in a band is another opportunity for aggressive gap creation.  In this scenario, a carrier with a low cost network and product type can use two different cost sharing structures to create two plans.  The first plan would have a minimal actuarial value of 68% while the second, benchmark plan would have an actuarial value of 72%.  

UPMC Health Plan in Pittsburgh is an example of the foregone opportunity.  Plan 16322PA0050104 is the least expensive Silver in zip code 15219.  It has an actuarial value 71.53%.  Plan 16322PA0050103 Is the benchmark Silver.  It has an actuarial value of 71.5%.   These values are from the 2017 PUF URRT Worksheet 2.   Both plans are at the high end of the allowed actuarial value range.  They are both using the same network and the same EPO plan type.  The extreme similarity means the premiums minimally differ.  Healthy, low income individuals will not be seeing a significantly better deal on the least expensive Silver after the subsidy than the same value proposition for the least expensive Silver.  

If UPMC Health Plan elected to offer a their lowest priced offering a 68% Silver plan with a comparatively higher cost sharing structure and concurrently lower actuarial value  and then offered 16322PA0050103 as the benchmark Silver, the almost four percent actuarial value spread would, all else being equal, lead to 4% to 5% reduction in premium for the least expensive Silver plan compared to the current case.  The lower premium will mildly advantage most non-subsidized buyers as their option space will have expanded.  It will significantly advantage low income, subsidized buyers who previously were marginally deciding to not buy at the current price points.  These individuals are highly likely to be comparatively healthy and profitable for a carrier and their decision to opt out of the market and pay either the individual mandate tax or claim an exemption leads to a less healthy risk pool.  

Carriers who have a dominant position at the lowest price Silver Plans without proximate competition due to either their sole carrier status or the lack of low priced, narrow network competition should seek to offer a significant actuarial value spread as allowed by the de minimis variation in order to improve the risk pool by including more comparatively healthy and low cost subsidized buyers.  

Caregivers Thread: Dr. Arthur Kleinman’s Work

A couple of years back, I had the great good fortune to hear Dr. Arthur Kleinman, who holds professorships in medical anthropology and psychiatry at Harvard and Harvard Medical School, AND is a former director of Harvard’s Asia Center – what an underachiever! :-) – speak on “Caregiving and the Moral Experience.” His talk really inspired me, and I’ve been a fan of his work ever since.

In an article in The Lancet entitled, “Caregiving: The Odyssey of Becoming More Human,” he writes movingly of his own experiences taking care of his late wife Joan, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. And he says of caregiving in general:

Caregiving is also a defining moral practice. It is a practice of empathic imagination, responsibility, witnessing, and solidarity with those in great need. It is a moral practice that makes caregivers, and at times even the care-receivers, more present and thereby fully human. If the ancient Chinese perception is right that we are not born fully human, but only become so as we cultivate ourselves and our relations with others — and that we must do so in a threatening world where things often go terribly wrong and where what we are able to control is very limited — then caregiving is one of those relationships and practices of self – cultivation that make us, even as we experience our limits and failures, more human. It completes (not absolutely, but as a kind of burnishing of what we really are — warts and all) our humanity. And if that Chinese perspective is also right (as I believe it is), when it claims that by building our humanity, we humanise the world, then our own ethical cultivation at the very least fosters that of others and holds the potential, through those relationships, of deepening meaning, beauty, and goodness in our experience of the world.

Caregiving is hard, and often goes unrewarded, unappreciated, and even unrecognized. But this thread is in honor and recognition of the many caregivers–of humans, nonhumans, the sick, the elderly, and the young–within the Balloon Juice community. Please tell us your story, update prior stories, and especially to share your tips and advice and support.

PS – don’t forget the Writers Thread, which TaMara and I will do at 12:30 today.

Faunasphere: RIP Tilikum (and puppy mill dogs)

  • Note: The Caregiver’s Thread went pretty well, last time, so I’ll repeat it again tomorrow morning – probably at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. (Unless we get crowded out by breaking news.)

Sorry for the lack of recent Faunaspheres. I’d have to say that most vegans and animal rights activists are as bummed by the recent election as everyone else, so not a lot of action recently. But I’ve written here before of the tragic life of Tilikum, the orca who endured a terrible decades-long captivity in cruel conditions at SeaWorld, and was responsible for three human deaths (at least one of which SeaWorld tried to cover up, and the last of which they tried to pin on the trainer).

His death was announced yesterday. Despite all the “care” he supposedly got at SeaWorld, he was 36, well on the short end of what would have been his natural lifespan.

A drooping dorsal fin, bite scars from hostile orcas he had been caged with when young, and ruined teeth from chewing on his enclosures testified to his decades of mental and physical misery.

His story was immortalized in Blackfish, which is streaming on Netflix and Amazon.

RIP poor Tilikum. I hope you’re finally swimming free with your pod.

Also, ICYMI, Rolling Stone just published an amazing expose of evil puppy mills. (Warning–the text and photos are both hard to take.) I won’t quote it because I know many of you are already familiar with (and properly enraged by) the issues. (But please read it!) But notice this: “We have millions of dogs on our streets, put down two million of them every year – and impose no limits on the number of dogs millers can breed. In England, by contrast, you need a license to breed even a single dog – and only 5,000 were euthanized in 2015.”

What do Tilikum’s story and the puppy mill story have in common? The degradation of animal “husbandry.” Tilikum was valuable as a breeding stud–the movie shows the trainers masturbating him and collecting the semen, which SeaWorld sold–and so are the puppy mill dogs. (Until they’re not, when they’re pretty much discarded.) He and the dogs suffered because their breeders treated them the way we treat most “useful” animals (cows, pigs, etc.)–stuck in tiny cages, given just enough care to serve our purposes but never enough for them to have decent lives.

Captivity sucks.

There has been good news:

Last year, SeaWorld bowed to decades of pressure and announced that it would no longer breed orcas and would phase out orca performances. (Virtual reality is cheaper / easier than maintaining live orcas, anyway!) In the meantime, many other orcas remained enslaved in the “entertainment industry.”

Also, this year Boston joined more than 120 other municipalities to ban pet stores from selling commercially-bred dogs.

Although many poor dogs remain stuck in mills.

(And, just to remind you: the good folks at TripAdvisor said they would remove many “animal attractions” from the site’s listings.)

Just in time to be fashionably late for Christmas gift giving…

2017 pets of balloon juice calendar

…the 2017 Pets of Balloon Juice calendar is metaphorically on the shelves of the Balloon Juice shop at Cafe Press. You can follow the link at the right to place your order. All profits go to support the work of MARC, a non-profit organization of volunteer citizens concerned about the welfare of animals, created to assist people and animals live more humanely in Marion County, Tennessee, and to help ease the social burden of too many stray dogs and cats.

You should be able to view each month’s page before you buy the calendar. If you sent a photo in, take a moment to look through to make sure I got it in and I got the name correct. I can easily make corrections to the pages and I’d much rather do that, than have you be unhappy every time you look at the calendar. If you have any corrections, send them to me at bjcalendar2017 at yahoo dot com.

I want to thank everyone who sent in a photo or five this year. You make this possible.

Open Thread: Basking Boxers Edition

Here’s a pair of lazy-ass boxers basking in the sun next to the potting shed:


They’re tuckered out from chasing a feral cat through the yard. Luckily, it was able to exit the property by scaling a six-foot wooden fence. I saw what was happening through the window in time to call the dogs off, but the cat would have likely escaped anyway, and I’m not sure what the dogs would have done if they’d caught it. Probably get clawed and run away.

I’ve mentioned before that we have an irresponsible ass of a neighbor who feeds feral cats. I’m sympathetic to people who feed feral cats (although I wouldn’t want to live near them) IF they take responsibility for the cats they attract by trapping them and taking them to the vet to be spayed/neutered and checked for disease before releasing them back into the neighborhood.

The aforementioned irresponsible ass doesn’t do that, so the neighborhood is overrun with an ever-increasing population of feral cats who are regularly run over by cars when they’re not pissing in people’s carports, killing songbirds and spraying their stink all over the place. My dogs are too old, fat and tame to menace the cats, but I’m betting that’s not the case with other neighborhood dogs.

Anyhoo, it makes me sad and angry, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Here’s something for the weird coincidences file: Today is Wednesday, aka, “Make Your Own Goddamn Dinner Night.” The mister and I were discussing delivery options, which are severely limited in our little town.

I remembered that some time ago, we’d ordered a pizza from a local chain that frequently disappointed us, and after I called to complain about receiving a burnt pizza that arrived an hour late the last time we ordered, they extended a store credit.

But the mister observed that it had been so long, the store management had probably changed, and the new manager would be unlikely to honor the credit. I said I had a picture on the phone that I’d taken to display to the manager who sent us the burnt pie:


I could maybe use it as (not wholly convincing) evidence to bolster my claim to a free pizza, but the weird coincidence was the date stamp on the photo: December 14, 2014. What are the chances?

Also, the grease stain somewhat resembles Elmer Fudd, with Donald Trump’s hair. Reaching out to grab something — maybe a pussy.

Anyhoo. Open thread!

A Thread in Appreciation of all Caregivers

Loads of Juicers are caregivers, taking care of humans (kids, elders, the ill / frail), and/or furkids and other kids (feather, fins, scales, etc.). Caregiving is one of the hardest, least recognized, and least supported (financially and otherwise) jobs. But it’s also one of the most needed and (sometimes) rewarding. So I thought we’d try a thread just for caregivers and caregiving. (Sunday morning after the garden thread seems right, and please let me know your thoughts about the idea, timing, etc. Shall we repeat?)

Feel to share your story, including the difficult parts. And also feel free to post questions, needs, etc., that the commentariat may be able to help with. Let’s also make this a thread on self-care. Along with the fact that caregivers may need it even more than non-caregivers and yet are often reluctant to provide it for themselves, self-care, as poet Audre Lord noted, “Is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

I’m going to dedicate this thread to my late, lamented Petey. He died almost exactly a year ago, and here is his obit:

RIP Petey Rettig-Tobochnik, 2002? – December 18, 2015

sweet-peteyYesterday we had to euthanize our beloved Petey–a.k.a., Pete the Sweet, Peteypie, SuperPete, and Petes. He had a colorful life with much pain but also much love, and he cheated death several times. His early life is a mystery, but in 2013 he was found severely injured on the streets of Kalamazoo after having been hit by a car. Although he normally would have been euthanized, the Animal Control Officer was so impressed by his sweet nature even under extreme duress that she got the folks at Kalamazoo Animal Rescue involved. He was fostered by the wonderful Dusty Reeds, a true general in James Herriot’s Army of Compassion*, who has fostered dozens of dogs and cats. And we adopted him in spring of 2014.

During his nearly 2 years with us, Petey weathered multiple ailments, two difficult surgeries, and a neuro condition that eventually immobilized him, all with incredible grace, humor, and sweetness. He loved his food–a lot–and two days before the end, could still use his outstanding foghorn bark to defend it against the predations of his opportunistic brother Billy (a.k.a., Chucklehead). But most of all, Petey loved human contact, and he loved love. He was a great snuggler, a great soul, and an overall exemplary member of the canine tribe. He will be missed.

*”I had often thought when I encountered cruelty and neglect that there was a whole army of people who did these unspeakable things, a great, unheeding horde who never spared a thought for the feelings of the helpless creatures who depended on them. It was frightening in a way, but thank heavens there was another army ranged on the other side, an army who fought for the animals with everything they had – with their energy, their time, their money.” – James Herriot

If you have a loved one you’d like to memorialize in a future Caregivers thread, please email me the details (and photo, if you wish).