Ruthenium-106 over Europe

In September, a cloud of ruthenium-106 spread over Europe. Ruthenium-106 is used in nuclear medicine, and it is extracted from used nuclear reactor fuel. The amounts were tiny – one of the things about radioactive materials is that they can be detected at very, very low concentrations.

There are many atmospheric sampling stations around Europe, and their readings were mapped. The top graphic is the result. The center of the cloud was between the Ural Mountains and the Volga River. The amounts over Europe were not dangerous to health, but the amounts closer to the source might have been. Ruthenium was no longer detected in France after October 13. Read more








Tuesday Afternoon Open Thread

Just cleaned out my fridge to make room for the Thanksgiving feast makings. The hens are the chief beneficiaries, being the wrong kind of poultry and the right kind of recipients of vegetable and fruit drawer flotsam.

I am making the following for Thanksgiving:

Turkey
Gravy
Mashed potatoes
Dressing/stuffing
Fried cabbage
Corn casserole
Candied sweet potatoes
Parker House rolls

My sister is bringing the obligatory green bean casserole, and I’ve farmed out a few other side dishes and desserts. While the cooking is underway, we’ll have appetizers out, primarily cheeses and fruit — including my husband’s excellent homemade ricotta. Plus there will be iced tea, sodas, beer, wine and homemade (hard) cider.

It’s supposed to be rainy here on Thanksgiving, which is a pity, because I’m always threatening to move the entire party to the beach. But I’m talked out of that yearly anyway, because that would be a pain in the ass.

No wingnut relatives will be in attendance this year — not due to any conflict or design, it just worked out that way. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Open thread for all topics, including Thanksgiving plans, recipe swaps, etc.



Today’s Must Read- “The Nationalist’s Delusion”

This Adam Serwer piece on the economic anxiety myth should be a must read for everyone. It’s such a good piece that it is hard to figure out what to quote, so let’s just start from the top:

THIRTY YEARS AGO, nearly half of Louisiana voted for a Klansman, and the media struggled to explain why.

It was 1990 and David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, astonished political observers when he came within striking distance of defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, earning 43 percent of the vote. If Johnston’s Republican rival hadn’t dropped out of the race and endorsed him at the last minute, the outcome might have been different.

Was it economic anxiety? The Washington Post reported that the state had “a large working class that has suffered through a long recession.” Was it a blow against the state’s hated political establishment? An editorial from United Press International explained, “Louisianans showed the nation by voting for Duke that they were mad as hell and not going to take it any more.” Was it anti-Washington rage? A Loyola University pollster argued, “There were the voters who liked Duke, those who hated J. Bennett Johnston, and those who just wanted to send a message to Washington.”

What message would those voters have been trying to send by putting a Klansman into office?

“There’s definitely a message bigger than Louisiana here,” Susan Howell, then the director of the Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans, told the Los Angeles Times. “There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn. These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.”

Duke’s strong showing, however, wasn’t powered merely by poor or working-class whites—and the poorest demographic in the state, black voters, backed Johnston. Duke “clobbered Johnston in white working-class districts, ran even with him in predominantly white middle-class suburbs, and lost only because black Louisianans, representing one-quarter of the electorate, voted against him in overwhelming numbers,” The Washington Post reported in 1990. Duke picked up nearly 60 percent of the white vote. Faced with Duke’s popularity among whites of all income levels, the press framed his strong showing largely as the result of the economic suffering of the white working classes. Louisiana had “one of the least-educated electorates in the nation; and a large working class that has suffered through a long recession,” The Post stated.

Does any of this sound familiar?



Mandates and hardship exemption thresholds

The Senate tax bill may be taking a whack at the individual mandate for health insurance.  There are two very different analysis of the impacts.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) thinks that this is a big deal.  They project a savings of $338 billion dollars over ten years and 13 million more people being uninsured.  The savings is a direct function of lost enrollment.  Standard and Poor does not think this is a big deal.

 We estimate that repealing the penalty will increase the number of insured by about 3 million-5 million by 2027, and save the federal government about $60 billion-$80 billion over the next 10 years. Our impact analysis of this repeal is lower than the recent analysis published by the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO; November 2017). The CBO has forecasted 13 million more uninsured in 2027 and $338 billion of reduced federal deficit over the next 10 years. The key difference between our estimate and the CBO forecast has to do with the Medicaid and Individual insured market segments. “Our estimates are lower because we believe that it is not the mandate penalty, but the intrinsic financial incentives available to most eligible enrollees that drive enrollment in these two markets,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Deep Banerjee.

Fundamentally, the difference lies in how important the “taste for compliance matters” and how many people an analyst will assume will be a reverse Woodworker.  In 2012, 2013, 2014, there was a lot of discussion about people who had always been eligible for Medicaid but were not signed up for Medicaid. Some of them would come out of the “woodwork” to sign up because health care and health insurance became far more salient.  The analytical question is how many people who are currently signed up would not sign up absent the mandate.

One of the arguments made by many liberal health wonks is that the mandate is too damn weak. It is 2.5% of income or $695 per year per adult without coverage for the year. It is capped at the price of an average Bronze plan. There are also numerous exemptions. The biggest exemption is the affordability exemption. The IRS exempts individuals from the mandate if there is no Bronze plan that costs less than 8.05% of income.

On Healthcare.gov for 2018, this means the mandate exemption has wildly variant thresholds. Almost the entire country, a single 40 year old has to pay the mandate tax if they make more than $100,000. However, 566 counties on Healthcare.gov have a mandate exemption less than 400% FPL ($48,080 for a single individual). Here the calculation is whether total healthcare costs plus the mandate penalty are less than the total premiums even after receiving subsidies. Approximately another 1,000 counties have a mandate exemption ranging from 400% to 500% FPL ($60,100). This is well over half of the Healthcare.gov counties. Another 500 counties have a mandate exemption up to 600% FPL. The rest of the Healthcare.gov counties have exemptions at 600%-1,200% FPL for a single 40 year old.

If we only look at 21 year olds, the mandate has bite at lower incomes as premiums are geared at a 3:1 ratio. The mandate is almost toothless for 64 year olds because of the 3:1 premium gearing.

This is a behavioral economics problem more than a simple cost accounting problem as the mandate is fairly weak and where it is pervasive, there are significant subsidies available. I don’t know how much of an impact removing the mandate is on a psychological basis.








Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Speaking of Marathons…

(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)
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Been sitting on this, but it feels like we can use a little positive feminism right now. From the NYTimes, “How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ Works”:

When Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon [November 5th], her victory was about more than just an athletic achievement. Of course, it’s a remarkable one: She’s the first American woman to win in 40 years, and she did so in a blistering 2 hours 26 minutes.

But perhaps Flanagan’s bigger accomplishment lies in nurturing and promoting the rising talent around her, a rare quality in the cutthroat world of elite sports. Every single one of her training partners — 11 women in total — has made it to the Olympics while training with her, an extraordinary feat. Call it the Shalane Effect: You serve as a rocket booster for the careers of the women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself…

Here’s how it worked until Flanagan burst onto the scene. After college, promising female distance athletes would generally embark on aggressive training until they broke down. Few of them developed the staying power required to dominate the global stage. And they didn’t have much of a community to support them; domestic women’s distance running was fractious and atrophied. In 2000, for example, only one American woman qualified for the Olympic marathon, after training alone in her Anchorage home on a treadmill.

But things changed after 2009, when Flanagan joined Jerry Schumacher’s fledgling running group in Portland, Ore., called the Bowerman Track Club. She was the team’s lone woman, and worked with him to create something new: a team of professional female distance runners who would train together and push one another to striking collective success. They were coached by a man and surrounded mostly by male runners, but over time Flanagan and her teammates outperformed the men in the national and global arenas.

Instead of being threatened by her teammates’ growing accomplishments, Flanagan embraced them, and brought in more women, elevating them to her level until they become the most formidable group of distance athletes in the nation. National championships, world championships, Olympics: They became some of the best runners in the world…

To be sure, Flanagan’s unapologetic competitiveness is not universally popular, but she is respected for it. Flanagan boldly acknowledged the work she put into her marathon training and was unabashed about wanting to win before the race. Her victory in New York involved fist-pumping and profanity-laced affirmations as she crossed the finish line in front of millions of viewers.

We usually see competitive women, particularly athletically excellent women, only in one of two ways: either competing to defeat one another, or all about team over self. But that’s a flawed, limiting paradigm. The Shalane Effect dismantles it: She is extraordinarily competitive, but not petty; team-oriented, but not deferential. Elevating other women is actually an act of self-interest: It’s not so lonely at the top if you bring others along…

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Apart from remembering that teamwork is good for all participants (not least during the countdown to Thanksgiving) what’s on the agenda for the day?



And Conyers

Another shoe drops:

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

We need to see all of them, and now.



Open Thread: Viva Puerto Rico!

The Republican Party forced Donald Trump on the rest of us; now it looks like he’ll destroy the Republican Party in return…

In the wish lists of Democratic strategists, one imagines the arrival of tens of thousands of Democratic-leaning voters to Florida, seemingly overnight, ranks pretty high.

Two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, new data suggests that’s exactly what’s happened.

Figures on school enrollment provided to CNN from the Florida Department of Education suggest that well over 50,000 Puerto Ricans will have moved to Florida and made it their residence heading into the midterm election next year.

These voters are likely to be strong Democrat supporters, as an analysis by Dan Smith, a University of Florida professor, found that heavily-Puerto Rican districts only gave 15 to 35% support to Trump…

“The demographic change to Florida has the potential to affect Federal and state elections,” said Michael McDonald, professor of political science at the University of Florida, who maintains the United States Election Project. When the 2020 Census is released, continued population growth in the areas where Puerto Ricans live will likely mean more districts at the state and Congressional levels are drawn favorably for Democrats, he added.

Several news articles show that already more than 150,000 people have moved to Florida from Puerto Rico. But those figures are likely too high, say experts following the migration. Numbers in that range are often provided by the Florida Division of Emergency Management but only count travel through Florida airports from Puerto Rico. They do not show the number of people who have moved to Florida and settled there, which is more important to understanding who will vote there…

Texas is getting a lot of migrants from the island, too.

Of course I’d much rather all these people didn’t have to suffer needlessly because the current Oval Office occupant is a selfish prick. But organizing desperate voters to get what they need from an unresponsive government is one of the Democratic Party’s best skill sets…



Every rose has its thorn

Sorry, Charlie:

Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

Can’t say I’m surprised. I remember him drooling over Penelope Cruz in the most cringe-worthy manner on 60 Minutes once.

Always hated the guy. I’m partial to drunks but he took it a little too far on air.

Here’s thing with him and his ilk. Act like a fucking professional! Perv on all the women you want to on your own time but not when you’re working with them or worse yet when they work for you and certainly not when you’re on tv. Drink all you want but don’t show up for work visibly hung over every damn day. I guess I’m from the old school when it comes to doing your job.

Update. I didn’t mean Rose could grope women on his own time, that’s assault. I just mean if you want to hit on women in a clumsy way, do it at a bar, not at your workplace. People deserve a workplace that is free from having to deal with that kind of shit.








Fat Cat

My nightly ritual, shortly after feeding Steve, he informs me his meal was not enough:

He’s amazing.



Monday, the Video

Amazing. This will go down in TWC history.








Open Thread: Readership Capture

Meanwhile, in news of the current Oval Office occupant, from Buzzfeed

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mocked President Trump’s intelligence at a private dinner with a powerful tech CEO, according to five sources with knowledge of the conversation.

Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz — who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs — McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.

A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council.

Both Oracle and the Trump administration heatedly denied the comments that Catz later recounted…

Man’s not wrong, is all I’m saying.



Time to Raise Hell

Because the very fact of President Obama’s existence as a beloved, accomplished, respected and self-made man is a grave narcissistic injury to the worthless whelp of Fred Trump, the Orange Fart Cloud has tried to undo everything his predecessor did. Now Trump is trying to ruin the economy that PBO rescued from the abyss.

The good news is, the GOP tax plan is deeply unpopular, and if we can put the fear of God in just a few Republicans, we can defeat it, which would hang another goose egg on the scoreboard, against all odds. (Trump has already given us an assist on that by trashing Senator Flake on Twitter — thanks, asshole!) Another legislative defeat would drive Trump even more batshit insane, causing him to lash out impotently at his own party and perhaps hastening the unraveling of the whole sorry mess.

So call/fax/email/tweet your senator, maybe? Here’s where to get contact info, in case you don’t already have them in your contact list (which you do). Thanks!



Odds and Ends (Open Thread)

GQ sent a reporter to Kentucky to see if he could ferret out the truth about why Rand Paul’s neighbor curb-stomped the Tribble-topped senator. As the reporter noted, the altercation was originally cast as a dispute over lawn care.

More recently, Paul’s staff and conservative outlets have been hinting darkly that the attacking neighbor was motivated by politics. But the GQ report suggests the simplest explanation: a clash of egotistical assholes. Excerpts:

If it is possible for a man, as he’s being hauled in front of a judge for his arraignment, to somehow still project an air of haughty superiority, well, that man would look like Rene Boucher did as he appeared in court just over a week ago.

If Paul is ever arraigned (FSM please!), he’ll project just such an “air of haughty superiority.” It’s his permanent state — possibly a consequence of an action all mothers warn against: “If you keep doing that, your face will freeze that way.” Paul kept doing that. Sounds like Boucher did too.

Jim Skaggs, who lives nearby (and is also the developer of the community), said that he thinks that Boucher charged at Paul from the street. From that direction, Paul’s yard slopes steeply downward, toward the lake at the rear of his property. Barreling downward, about 30 degrees, this imagined path would increase the force of a running tackle, perhaps explaining how a man of Boucher’s diminutive stature—an acquaintance of the two men estimates that they both stand five-foot-six and about 140 pounds—could do so much damage.

There’s also speculation that Boucher kicked the shit out of Paul while he was down. I’d bet money on it.

But across Bowling Green, sympathy for either man appears to be in short supply. [Bowling Green resident Bill] Goodwin described them as ‘two little shits’ who have brought embarrassment upon the town.

This has the ring of truth to my ear.

In other news, Kellyanne Conway jumps on the “Republicans for Child Molester Roy Moore” bandwagon because tax cuts. Transcript from Fox & Friends via MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin on Twitter:

The entire party is hopelessly depraved. But you knew that. Open thread!



The sick among the upper middle class will have more pain in their future

Senator Cassidy (R-LA) likes to talk about one of his constituents when he argues against the ACA. This family has $40,000 of health care costs every year and they don’t get any help to pay for those costs.

This is a real and growing problem.
The question is what policies improve or worsen the outcomes for families in this situation?

The Washington Post’s fact checkers chased down the family and their situation:

conservative talk-radio host named Moon Griffon. Cassidy invoked Griffon when he introduced the bill on Sept. 14….
Griffon used to get group insurance through an employer but then he moved and had to buy insurance on the individual market. He said he and his wife, a nurse, have a six-figure income, though “it’s not high but middle class.” They have two children: a 15-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter who has seizures and needs to take four kinds of medicine.

There are a couple of ACA related items going on here. First, the family has a modified adjusted gross income of at least $98,000 and therefore they don’t qualify for subsidies. Secondly, they are keeping their daughter on the parent’s insurance. This is guaranteed by the ACA and was questionable pre-ACA. Third, their daughter has an expensive pre-existing condition but is covered.

They are paying too much for their insurance. And none of the policies that Senator Cassidy has voted for would improve their situation.

Read more



Monday Morning Open Thread: Fireball

Meteor entering the Earths Atmosphere over Italy in the Dolomites


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From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website (Image Credit & Copyright: Ollie Taylor)… because we all miss Alain’s wonderful morning posts.
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Apart from Thanksgiving prep/travel, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?

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Also entertaining, though on a far less elevated plane — from the Washington Post, “‘A long winter’: White House aides divided over scope, risks of Russia probe”:

Six months into a special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House aides and others in President Trump’s close orbit are increasingly divided in their assessments of the expanding probe and how worried administration officials and campaign aides should be about their potential legal peril, according to numerous people familiar with the debate…

The investigation reached a critical turning point in recent weeks, with a formal subpoena to the campaign, an expanding list of potential witnesses and the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Some within Trump’s circle, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, have already been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators, while others such as Hope Hicks — the White House communications director and trusted confidant of the president — and White House counsel Donald McGahn are expected in coming weeks.

One Republican operative in frequent contact with the White House described Mueller’s team “working through the staff like Pac-Man.”

“Of course they are worried,” said the Republican, who insisted on anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an email, they’re going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.” …

The president himself, however, has warmed to Cobb’s optimistic message on Mueller’s probe. Cobb had initially said he hoped the focus on the White House would conclude by Thanksgiving, but adjusted the timeline slightly in an interview last week, saying he remains optimistic that it will wrap up by the end of the year, if not shortly thereafter…

But the reassurances from Cobb and others — which seem at least partially aimed at keeping the president calm and focused on governing — are viewed by others as naive.

“The president says, ‘This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,’ ” said one person close to the administration. “He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.”…

In fact, legal experts and private defense lawyers monitoring the case believe that Mueller’s investigation — which officially began in May and resulted in its first charges against three former campaign aides last month — is still in its early stages.

They expect that the prosecutors have considerable investigative work still to do, and they predict more campaign officials, among others, will face charges. They expect the probe to extend deep into 2018 and possibly longer…