Big baby turtle

This is just the kind of reaction we want to get from the Republican special snowflakes in Congress:

McConnell said the current administration is pursuing an agenda that “folks outside don’t agree with.”

“They had their shot in the election. … But in this country when you win the election you get to make policy. I always remind people, winners make policy and losers go home.”

Nobody likes a whiny “winner”.








Red Line Found

Fucking children is still a bridge too far for the alt-right. At least for today:

Milo Yiannopoulos, the incendiary writer and commentator who helped make Breitbart News a leading organ of the “alt-right,” resigned from the news organization Tuesday after a video of him endorsing pedophilia surfaced online over the weekend.

Some background here, with a headline that pretty much sums it up: Milo Yiannopoulos: Girls Are In Danger When Adult Trans Women Use Public Toilets But 13-Year-Old Boys Can Benefit From Giving Head To Adult Males.








On a Personal Note

While the web site and mobile site is rolling out new features, I thought I would note that one of the reasons i have not been blogging as much lately is that there is a new feature in my life, and a pretty good one.

I met a woman (on twitter, which I guess is the online equivalent of “I met a woman at a bar fight”), and we spent several months talking online, talking on the phone a little, talking on the phone a lot and watching shows, and we met for several days over Valentine’s Day weekend, and she, despite being smart, attractive, funny, and kind, decided she liked me anyway, and she came back down for a visit. She lives a ways away so we have several visits scheduled over the next month, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

And don’t bother asking for more details, because I don’t think it is appropriate for me to be as open about her as I am about myself. At any rate, it’s been a really nice couple of months for me personally despite the fact that the world is blowing up. She’s really pretty cool, and I like her a good bit, so I am hoping things continue to go well. I have learned, however, that I have a very dysfunctional co-dependency with Lily, and that Thurston and Rosie are assholes, as I suspected.

Oh, bonus- she doesn’t put up with my bullshit and is willing to call me on it, which I like and actually kind of turns me on. I like strong women. She’s also two year younger than me so we have can actually hold conversations.

*** Update ***

I should probably also state that after you have lived on your own for so long, it’s kind of eye-opening to discover how many things you thought about yourself are just not what others see in you. I always thought I was sort of an open book, but apparently I am very difficult to get to open up and give details. We were in the car on speaker phone talking to my sister, Devon, and she mentioned this to my sister and Devon state that it is a running joke between mom and Devon that everyone in my life is on a “need to know” basis. I also apparently have conversations in my head and don’t actually say things out loud sometimes, leading to “you may have thought that, but you never said it” situations.








Mobile Site Blues

Folks,

Just a head’s up: I’ll be working on the mobile site in the next little bit. To solve some issues with it, I’ve got to undo many of the customizations, then see how it looks and works, then redo them. Apparently the mobile theme was radically updated and so what worked before is having some side-effects now, and some changes aren’t taking.

None of this should affect the desktop site  – this is just for the mobile site.

Thanks in advance for your kind words, challenges, and sass-talk.

Open thread!








CSR Cash day

Today was the day when Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) subsidies were to be paid for insurers. The CSR obligation was incurred by the federal government on February 1st for all CSR qualified policies in effect for the month of February. There was some worry (mine especially) that given the former House vs Burwell case that is now House vs Price that the CSR money would not be paid out. If CSR money was not paid out, the current insurer contracts allows the carriers to immediately pull out of the Exchanges. Last week, carriers received notification of the amount of CSR that the feds thought they owed. And today, those payments should be arriving.

Transfers usually happen in the morning. If a small insurer had not received the cash by now, they would have been screaming about it and state regulators would be panicking as this would be a major adverse event that calls into question the solvency of smaller carriers.

I’ve been told by a couple of insurance industry folks that the CSR funds arrived and they are doing their monthly Scrooge McDuck swim.








One Month and a Day

We are now a month into the Trump presidency, so that means you have now spent 30 days waking up every morning saying to yourself as you open your browser “Oh god what has he down now?” Is it possible that we are all going to have PTSD after his term?

Meanwhile, in Canada:

I want Obama back.








Selling three ways across state lines

When I worked at UPMC Health Plan, our core business area was Western Pennsylvania with a slow amorphous growth to the eastern portion of the state. We were a Pennsylvania focused company but we would sell across state lines. Some years we sold Medicare Advantage in West Virginia and Ohio and other years, we would only be a Pennsylvania company. How does this happen and how do insurers sell across state lines?

UPMC filed its plans for regulatory approval in Pennsylvania. Commercial plans needed a different (and far lighter) approval process than Medicare plans which needed a different approval process than Exchange plans which needed a different process than Medicaid and CHIP. The state regulators would come back with questions and comments for our initial filings. We would respond to those questions and comments with more data, tweaked networks, clearer policy statements and whatever else was needed. After a few months of back and forth, our plans would be approved and someone who got paid a lot more than me would make the decision as to what we would sell.

The same process applied to Ohio and West Virginia. Unique plan submissions would be prepared, we would promise that our claim system could handle the unique to the state rules in Ohio and/or West Virginia and that we could produce the reports that they wanted to see on a timely and accurate basis. Their regulators would usually come back and ask for an update or a tweak, we would supply it to them and then we would go to market. West Virginia had a particular interest in primary care provider network adequacy so I had to prep a complex quarterly report for them.

In order to sell a plan in a different state, the claims payment system would have to be tweaked to allow for exceptions to be enforced (either additional benefits that had to be paid or benefits that Pennsylvania required and another state did not require at the same level.) The vast majority of the time, this was merely a matter of updating a set of reference tables. Occasionally, it meant doing a comprehensive code development cycle.

This is how insurers currently sell across state lines. They comply with the regulatory structure of each state that they sell in even if all of the work is done at a single central location. There are three other models for selling across states lines.
Read more








Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Out of the Shadows

From the Washington Post, “For decades they hid Jefferson’s relationship with her. Now Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings“:

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The room where historians believe Sally Hemings slept was just steps away from Thomas Jefferson’s bedroom. But in 1941, the caretakers of Monticello turned it into a restroom.

The floor tiles and bathroom stalls covered over the story of the enslaved woman, who was owned by Jefferson and had a long-term relationship with him. Their involvement was a scandal during his life and was denied for decades by his descendants. But many historians now believe the third president of the United States was the father of her six children.

Time, and perhaps shame, erased all physical evidence of her presence at Jefferson’s home here, a building so famous that it is depicted on the back of the nickel.

Now the floor tiles have been pulled up and the room is under restoration — and Hemings’s life is poised to become a larger part of the story told at Monticello.

When the long-hidden space opens to the public next year, it will mark a dramatic shift in the way one of the nation’s most revered Founding Fathers is portrayed to the more than 440,000 visitors who tour this landmark annually.

It’s part of a $35 million restoration project that will bolster Monticello’s infrastructure but also reconstruct and showcase buildings where enslaved people lived and worked. The man who wrote the words “all men are created equal” in 1776 was master of a 5,000-acre working plantation who over the course of his life owned 607 slaves.

“Visitors will come up here and understand that there was no place on this mountaintop that slavery wasn’t,” said Christa Dierksheide, a Monticello historian. “Thomas Jefferson was surrounded by people, and the vast majority of those people were enslaved.”…

To pinpoint that room, historians relied on a description provided long ago by a Jefferson grandson, who placed it in the home’s south wing. Archaeologists are now peeling back layers in the 14 foot, 8 inch-by-13 foot, 2 inch room to reveal its original brick floor and plaster walls.

We don’t know how Hemings regarded her involvement with her owner. Historians do not know exactly how old she was when she lived there; and no portraits or photographs of her exist. But step into the brick room, the floor still covered in red dirt, and it is not hard to imagine her sitting in a chair, warming herself in front of the fireplace…

Monticello historians hope the restored room will humanize the image of Hemings, beyond the gossipy old accounts of Jefferson’s so-called “concubine.”

“Sally Hemings was better traveled than most Americans, so we want to tell a story about her that doesn’t limit her to Jefferson’s property,” said Gary Sandling, a vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and runs Monticello as a museum…

Much more at the link. Whatever the hard truths of Sally’s relationship with Mr. Jefferson, it’s good to know that she did have the minor luxury of a room of her own.
***********
What’s on the agenda for the new day?



On The Road

Folks,

We’re trying a new feature here, so let’s see how it goes for the next week or so before it’s fully automated.

This post is for Balloon Juicers who are on the road, travelling, etc. and wish to share notes, links, pictures, stories, etc. from their escapades. As the US mainland begins the end of the Earth day as we measure it, many of us rise to read about our friends and their transient locales.

So, please, speak up and share some of your adventures, observations, and sights as you explore, no matter where you are.

Have at ’em, and have a safe day of travels!



For-the-Record Open Thread: No Bottom to Trump’s Presser Nadir

That’s weird in and of itself (traditionally, one recited the Pater Noster when in immanent peril, as the best emergency method of preparing one’s soul against Hell or Purgatory) but some eagle-eyed observer noticed the signs so prominent behind Melania…


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Under Cover of Darkness Open Thread: CPAC, ‘Preferrably Consensual’, Part the First

Back in 2014, DougJ quoted TPM’s Josh Marshall:

In recent years, especially since Obama became President, CPAC’s wild press popularity and attention has been driven by what we might call a tacit conspiracy of derp between the event organizers and the people who cover it. You be outrageous; we’ll be outraged. And everyone will be happy. (After all, crap like this doesn’t happen by accident.) This has become even more the case as the contemporary Conservative Movement has become less a matter of ideology than a sort of performance art…

So, not really outside the CPAC norms when “Dad to 5 angels, husband… American Conservative Union Chair” Matt Schlapp announced a spot at this year’s conference for the freshest Hot Young Contrarian ‘Conservative’…

Per the Washington Post:

[The announcement] came just hours after Yiannopoulos, who has told college audiences that “feminism is cancer” and that the gay rights movement should abandon transgendered people, appeared on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” leading to progressive criticism of Maher.

Contrary to some reporting, Schlapp said, Yiannopoulos was not giving the conference’s “keynote” speech, which typically closes out the weekend. But his prominent invitation underscores how much the presidential victory of Donald Trump — whom Yiannopoulos calls “daddy” — changed the tone of mainstream conservatism.

Earlier this month, after University of California at Berkeley police canceled a talk by Yiannopoulos and put the campus on lockdown amid protests against his speech, Trump threatened to pull federal funds from the institution….

By 2015, the first year that Schlapp presided over the ACU — and thus over CPAC — the event was welcoming back some previously ostracized speakers. This year, Breitbart chief executive-turned White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon has a speaking slot; Kellyanne Conway, another key strategist, is on the ACU’s board…

But then!… some of the sulking True Conservatives who feel CPAC has gotten entirely too ‘edgy’ (not everybody is a fan of ‘performative’ anti-Semitism, or of sending an army of twitter-trolls to harass actress Leslie Jones) dug through Mr. Yiannopoulos’ copious online archives…

[Audio NSFW]

Oh, how the Lie-brals rejoiced!…


Read more



Late Night Open Thread: Precious, Fragile Snowflakes



Resources

Last night in the comments to Doug!’s post about the breaking news regarding the Trump Organization’s lawyer, an opposition Ukrainian member of Parliament, and a Russian-American with significant ties to organized crime, as well as US law enforcement, a number of people asked where they could find information on all of the financial connections.

There are two very good resources on this.

The first is James S. Henry’s (very) long form article at The American Interest. Henry goes into a great deal of detail regarding all the various financial connections of the alleged ties between the President and Russian business and other interests. David Cay Johnston, who has written a biography of the President, wrote the foreword.

The second is the twitter feed of Adam Khan. Khan has painstakingly combed through news reports, financial disclosures, and a whole host of other documents and documented all of the alleged connections with explanatory annotations. His research includes not just the alleged ties between the President’s businesses, campaign, transition, and/or Administration and various Russian interests, but that of folks within his orbit such as Carter Page. He’s also branched out into focusing on Vladimir Putin and the people within his orbit.

I want to state clearly that these are allegations. However, there is a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence that simply cannot be hand waved away. As I’ve repeatedly stated when doing the maskirovka posts, as a national security professional, if there is indeed a straightforward explanation, then the President and his Administration should provide it for the good of the Nation.



Open thread

I imagine the National Security Advisor selection process went something like this.

Trump: someone GET ME PETRAEUS
aide: I got Petraeus!
Trump: Daaaavid
Trump: hello?
Trump: all right whatever, run up the flagpole that we might pick John Bolton. See what response we get.
aide: Sir, the red phone’s buzzing.
Putin: NO THE FUCK YOU WON”T
Trump: Maybe Boykin.
aide: the red phone again
Trump: screw it, Oprah’s on. See if mad dog has any ideas.

In other news, here’s a lovely pic from the Saugatuck Dunes on Lake Michigan, taken just before the election by reader MN. I hope to catch up on posting the many great photos sent in by you guys.

Chat about whatever, including but not limited to where and when you would transport yourself if you could escape the present timeline for one blessed moment. I pick Mohenjo-Daro during that civilization’s peak. I have long had a fascination for those guys. They left behind amazing feats of engineering and social organization, and an extensive catalog of art that somehow does not include a single image of war or violence.








Today in Domestic Terrorism and Stochastic Violence

This week the weekly phone in bomb threat to multiple Jewish Community Centers and synagogues came a day early. Instead of Tuesday, the preferred day for the last several week’s worth of calls, the caller moved it to Monday. Perhaps to capture the festive spirit of Presidents’ Day.

WHITEFISH BAY — Officials with the Village of Whitefish Bay say a bomb threat was called into the Jewish Community Center at 10:08 a.m. on Monday, February 20th.

The Jewish Community Center posted on its Facebook page, Twitter account and its website that the facility was “safely evacuated.”

A limited number of students were at the center because of the holiday. Other guests who were on site using the gym and pool facilities were also evacuated.

Police say the center was cleared by bomb sniffing dogs. The “all clear” was issued around 12:30 p.m. — after the sweep of the building.

This appears to be one of several threats made to Jewish community centers around the country on Monday.

There was also a threat called into the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, AL.

The Levite Jewish Community Center was briefly evacuated Monday morning after receiving a bomb threat. Many parents picked their children up from the child care facility.

Authorities have given the all-clear now, and staff and students are now back in the building.

A Birmingham police officer said there have been several of these threats across the U.S. today.

The JCC has received bomb threats before, including one in mid-January.

The FBI has been investigating threats to Jewish centers in Alabama and several other states.

Both the Whitefish Bay and Birmingham JCCs received similar phoned in threats in January.

Here’s what I think the security issues are going forward:

1) We’ve got some knucklehead who gets his gratification calling these in and seeing the news coverage. He may or may not be a hard core anti-Semite, but he’s basically in it for ego gratification. And based on decades of criminological research into deviance, delinquency, and offending, it is highly likely it is a he. So step up your game ladies! He may or may not even be in the US, given VOIP technology. And he may never intend to do anything but make these calls.

2) Or he intends to eventually escalate. Specifically after he feels that he has made enough of these, or other copycats have, to create a sense of complacency for the folks at the JCCs and synagogues. Basically emergency alert fatigue. At that point he actually plants a bomb at one of these locations because he figures he’s got a reasonable expectation of casualties because the threats have become commonplace and are no longer being taken seriously.

3) Or, even worse, he never originally intended to escalate, but because the threats have become commonplace the coverage drops way off. He doesn’t get his gratification and as a result escalates in order to get his rush. Basic addictive behavior pattern. Also, serial criminal pattern.

4) Or, also even worse, he never intends to escalate beyond calling in the threats, but someone else who does want to do real, physical damage to property and harm to people does. This individual or individuals waits until the coverage begins to drop off because the calls are every week or every other week like clockwork and the local news decides it needs to cover something more important. And then this person that wants to cause real harm and actually hurt people decides its time to strike because complacency has set in and some synagogue or JCC isn’t going to take the threat as seriously.

And I fully expect that this pattern will at some point be fully extended to mosques and Hispanic and Asian churches, as well as Sikh temples. I know that the Hispanic and Asian churches in my area have seen an increase in both vandalism and threats, just as the synagogues and mosques have, because they are viewed as immigrant places (of worship) and therefore acceptable targets despite being churches.

Updated at 6:15 PM EST

Thanks to commenter Timurid, this also happened today:

I cannot emphasize enough just how bad this is. Not the property damage, in and of itself that’s bad, but because ground that has been the site of violence cannot be sanctified/re-sanctified. Provided that this is just cosmetic damage to the headstones – defacing, being knocked over, etc – there should be no problem. But if the graves themselves have been desecrated, then it will require reburials and the spaces will never be able to be reused as Judaism prohibits reusing a grave. This means that if someone has to be reburied in another plot, then the final resting place and marker/memorial will either be aware from the remainder of their relations graves or everyone will have to be relocated. This is not only traumatic for the living, but becomes prohibitively expensive to deal with.