Bully Boy

Serial killer, cosplay afficionado, plagiarist, and newly hired employee at Homeland Security is a big fat fucking liar and it may cost him:

Sitting on the tarmac at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Jan. 15, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. sent a text message to one of his captains after a brief verbal exchange with a passenger.

The sheriff explained in the text what should be done when Riverwest resident Dan Black got off the plane.

“Just a field interview, no arrest unless he become an asshole with your guys,” Clarke wrote Captain Mark Witek. “Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?”

“Follow him to baggage and out the door,” Clarke continued. “You can escort me to carousel after I point him out.”

A copy of the text messages was provided by an attorney for Black, who is suing the sheriff, Milwaukee County and several unnamed deputies over the incident.

Records show the matter, which has drawn national attention, was big enough that federal investigators looked at Clarke and his staff’s handling of the case. Clarke has said he is taking a job as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, though officials have not confirmed this.

In other words, Clarke was lying:

Black, 24, says he was detained, interviewed and escorted out of Mitchell International Airport on Jan. 15 by a half-dozen deputies after a brief run-in with the sheriff on the plane. He says in the federal suit that he was the victim of an unlawful stop and arrest.

Since Black went public with his complaint, Clarke has threatened and belittled his fellow passenger, calling Black a “snowflake” and saying anyone, including Black, who harasses him on an airplane might get “knocked out.”

But now Clarke is giving his version of the events on the plane, which matches Black’s account, except in a couple of details.

Asshole. On the upside, we don’t know if he is a Nazi.








A Different Time

After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the directors of the nuclear weapons laboratories on both sides quickly got together in early 1992 to work on securing nuclear weapons and the materials they are made from. They were supported by their governments. NATO helped. The cooperation was a marvelous thing to see and to experience. I had a small part in dealing with leftover Soviet nuclear problems.

In 1998, I traveled to Estonia to help deal with a former Soviet uranium-processing plant. I’ve written up my experience. Siegfried Hecker, the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a primary mover in the lab-to-lab cooperation, has collected the experiences of many participants in a two-volume set, Doomed to Cooperate. He has also set up a website for more information, which is where my story appears.

Check it out. Here are before and after photos of one part of the site.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.



Hidden good news in the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina rate filing

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina just filed their initial rates for the ACA individual market for 2018. The headline will be that they are asking for a 22.9% average rate increase. The second headline is that they assume that Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies will not be paid. That assumption drives 61% of the rate increase. The SERFF filing is here.

There is subtle good news in the rate filing. Another 13% of the rate increase is driven by the reinstitution of the 3% Health Insurance Premium tax. That is a one time hit that is to be baked into the cake of future rates. This means only 26% of the entire rate increase or roughly five percentage points is due to increased medical costs or service utilization. Trend and morbidity is under control. Below are segments of the consumer justification.

5% trend is a healthy trend. That is a the trend of a market that is fairly stable and reasonably priced.

There are a few other North Carolina notes for the individual markt. Aetna is withdrawing. This should allow Blue Cross and Blue Shield to play aggressive subsidy attachment point games even as they seem to be adapting a single index rate that spreads the CSR compensation costs to all metal bands. Subsidized buyers have the chance of seeing excellent deals on the Exchanges if BCBS-NC prices in the same manner as BCBS-Tennessee prices in their single carrier counties.








Nowhere to hide

In 2010, there were over 100 House seats that Cook Political report rated as competitive. I expect that number to be at least as high in 2018. I have nothing against the DCCC but they tend to spend a lot of money in a small number of races that are winnable.

Not to get all Nassim Nicholas Taleb on you, but the probability tails here are fatter than most people think. Last night, a Montana Republican running for House choked, punched, and body-slammed a reporter, and is now facing misdemeanor assault charges. That race was close already, and the assault occurred so near to the election that it may not have a massive effect, but let’s be honest: we’ve got 238 Republican incumbent assholes running in 2018, at least a few are going to pull some kind of similar shit, and we’ve got to have Democratic candidates who can take advantage when that happens.

So this year we will be raising district funds for the eventual Deocratic nominee in all 238 districts with Republican incumbents. No quarter, nowhere to hide. If a Republican Congressman goes to Indochina…..

Goal Thermometer








Update Your Linux Machines Folks

Researchers found a major bug in Samba, a core component of many Linux and Unix systems as it controls storage and interfaces with Windows and other non-Unix things.

The issue allows a bad guy to run unapproved code uploaded remotely as a root user. Your firewall has to have the right port open, but lots of folks do that to solve a temporary need and then forget to close the port to outsiders.

So, should you have home or work Linux machines, take a few minutes and update them. This also applies to many less-obvious Linux machines such as my personal favorite, the RaspberryPi.

Many use them as cheap controllers for home storage, media centers, home automation, etc.  So don’t neglect them folks – if they get compromised, that’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to get worse.

Unrelated to this news, we’ll be tightening the site up a bit more in anticipation of increased efforts by bad guys.

On the test server front, the good news is that it’s up and running. There are still a few more details to take care of, and I’m pretty much not doing any work from now until Tuesday as I have lots of IT duties and plan to take apart, re-organize and put back together my home office. Fun fun.

Finally, don’t forget that tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern, my guest post on Oceanography will launch, with the author in the comments ready to answer questions. I found his intro to be very interesting, and it led he and me into an in-depth discussion of the numerous crises in our oceans that are here, or will be soon.

Open Thread!



Excellent (Depressing) Read: “The Seth Rich conspiracy shows how fake news still works”

Today, Dave Weigel published a story in the Washington Post on “The life and death of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory”:

When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off.

Over seven frenzied days, Dotcom had become a leading purveyor of the theory that Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot dead near his home in Northeast Washington last summer, had supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks and was killed as a result. Multiple security analysts and an FBI investigation have tied the release to hackers with ties to Russia. D.C. police have said repeatedly that they think Rich was slain in a random robbery attempt…

All that began to unravel Tuesday afternoon when Fox News retracted a story that had claimed the same Rich-WikiLeaks connection, telling readers that the article was “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News did not respond to a request for comment, but Dotcom wrote on his website that he would not speak further about his allegations…

Of course, this being the internet (and certain people & networks happy to be ghouls for profit) the morbid feasting on other peoples’ tragedy will never actually end.

Here’s Weigel’s original story, on May 20: Read more



Political Correctness Be Damned: It’s Truth-Bomb Time

We have a problem, fellow citizens. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Taking the “politically correct” stance that it’s an issue that is equally distributed across demographic groups may make us feel better, but it’s a lie. Only facing the situation honestly will allow us to address it.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: A certain group in our country doesn’t share traditional American values like honesty and fair play. This group glorifies thuggery, revels in stupidity and makes excuses for and even rewards lying, theft and sociopathic behavior. This group’s dysfunction is dragging us all down.

It’s not up to decent people to carry the load for this dysfunctional group or teach their lawless children morals. It’s up to the members of that group to pull themselves up out of the gutter. Parents in this group have to teach their children right from wrong. This demographic’s communities must establish and enforce moral frameworks.

So, I’ll just say it: Republicans need to start taking personal responsibility. Now. They need to own up to their dysfunctional behavior and correct it. They must stop blaming everyone else for their impulsive reactions to adverse events. They need to stop acting like they’re perpetual victims and assume some agency in their own lives.

I’m tired of hearing about how this self-destructive behavior has its roots in conservatives’ upbringing or socioeconomic status. I began life in a seedy Florida trailer park, and I managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps and leave the chaos and dysfunction behind. If I can, they can. No more excuses.



Care costs money

The most important concept in health finance is simple; sick people are expensive to cover. Let’s keep that in mind for the rest of the post.

The Independent Journalism Review captures the reaction of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), head of the House Freedom Caucus, to the CBO score.

When reporters pointed out the portion of the CBO report saying individuals with preexisting conditions in waiver states would be charged higher premiums and could even be priced out of the insurance market — destabilizing markets in those states — under AHCA, Meadows seemed surprised.

“Well, that’s not what I read,” Meadows said, putting on his reading glasses and peering at the paragraph on the phone of a nearby reporter.

The CBO predicted:

“…the waivers in those states would have another effect: Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all — despite the additional funding that would be available under H.R. 1628 to help reduce premiums.”

…..
The CBO analysis was likewise adamant that AHCA’s current high-risk pool funding isn’t enough to cover sick people if states use the mandate waivers.

After reading the paragraph, Meadows told reporters he would go through the CBO analysis more thoroughly and run the numbers, adding he would work to make sure the high-risk pools are properly funded.

Meadows, suddenly emotional, choked back tears and said, “Listen, I lost my sister to breast cancer. I lost my dad to lung cancer. If anybody is sensitive to preexisting conditions, it’s me. I’m not going to make a political decision today that affects somebody’s sister or father because I wouldn’t do it to myself.”

He continued:

“In the end, we’ve got to make sure there’s enough funding there to handle preexisting conditions and drive down premiums. And if we can’t do those three things, then we will have failed.”

There is a plausible high cost risk pool design that could theoretically work. It just costs a lot of money. The Urban Institute provides an updated floor to that type of design.

Government costs for the coverage and assistance typical of traditional high-risk pools would range from $25 billion to $30 billion in 2020 and from $359 to $427 billion over 10 years. (Figure 2)

I think this is a decent lower bound as they don’t look at very high cost but uncommon conditions like hematological defects, cystic fibrosis, major gastro-intestinal conditions, slow progressing cancers or hundreds of other things. But Urban’s estimates points us in the right direction. Taking care of sick people costs somewhere between expensive and very expensive.

This is not new knowledge. Anyone of any ideological stripe who is actively trying to be a good faith broker of information on health care finance has been shouting this basic insight for months. And yet, the Senate just invited actuaries to talk with them for the first time this week. And yet, the House voted on this bill without waiting for expert opinion. The bill was written without a public hearing. The product is a consequence of a process that deliberately excluded even friendly experts who were having a nervous breakdown when they looked at the cash flows much less incorporating the criticism of unfriendly but knowledgeable experts.

Healthcare for people with high needs is expensive.



How the CBO projects market failure

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the AHCA will lead to 15 % of the population living in destablized insurance markets because of the MacArthur/Upton amendments.

he agencies estimate that about one-sixth of the population resides in areas inwhich the nongroup market would start to become unstable beginning in 2020. That instability would result from market responses to decisions by some states to waive two provisions of federal law, as would be permitted under H.R. 1628. One type of waiver would allow states to modify the requirements governing essential health benefits (EHBs), which set minimum standards for the benefits that insurance in the nongroup and small-group markets must cover. A second type of waiver would allow insurers to set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status if the person had not demonstrated continuous coverage; that is, the waiver would eliminate the requirement for what is termed community rating for premiums charged to such people. CBO and JCT anticipate that most healthy people applying for insurance in the nongroup market in those states would be able to choose between premiums based on their own expected health care costs (medically underwritten premiums) and premiums based on the average health care costs for people who share the same age and smoking status and who reside in the same geographic area (community-rated premiums)

What does that mean and how does that happen? Let’s work through an simple model of a state with 1,000 people in its individual market.
Read more



States, single payer and recessions

New York and California are both advancing single payer plans through their legislatures. I have a lot of questions. They both assume incredible waiver authority will be given to them. These hypothetical waivers would direct federal program funding** to a state operated pass through entity to pay for healthcare. But each of these proposals will rely on some state level general taxation.

How do these programs work in a recession?

Depending on how one does the counting, between forty six and forty nine states have a balanced budget constraint. California and New York have balanced budget constraints. There is wiggle room for a bad year or two on the margins but it is incremental.

State tax revenue tends to be cyclical. Consumption and income taxes tend to go up when the economy is growing and down when the economy is in a recession. California heavily relies on capital gains taxation. New York relies on taxing Wall Street bonuses. Both of those are cyclical revenue sources.

Healthcare demand is responsive to recessions as well. Bad times lead to fewer elective surgeries and for more things to be deferred until they really are needed. The primary channel for that is through the increase in cost-sharing. The California and New York proposals don’t have the cost sharing that could shift demand in time.

So my question is what happens to a state with a reasonably strong balanced budget constraint and state run single payer when there is a significant recession? Demand and costs will stay roughly constant. Revenue crashes. This dynamic opens a big financing gap. That gap must be closed. The methods to close that gap are massive provider payment cuts, increased taxes (which is probably a bad choice on a cyclical basis), increased cost-sharing, eliminating some covered services or borrowing for operational reasons. States have some wiggle room to borrow for operational costs but they don’t have the ability to borrow 20% of their operational budget in a year for several years straight. Is it reasonable to assume that the states can access federal fiscal capacity to borrow as they have already accessed all federal healthcare money in a hypothetical waiver?

How does this work in a recession?

Help me out here, please!

** By the way, does that federal waiver money come with Hyde restrictions?

*** Any state single payer proposal post should always end in a Cato-esque “ERISA delenda est”



ACHA review

Here are a few lowlights of the AHCA Congressional Budget Office score. I’ll try to keep this non-technical.

  • Medicaid is still getting changed from an entitlement that is responsive to changing needs to a block grant
  • 23 million people will lose coverage compared to current law projections
  • The MacArthur/Upton waivers are expected to destroy the individual markets that cover 15% of the country
  • Most of the premium decreases are due to older and sicker people being priced out of the market
    • Real easy to have low premiums when you don’t cover anyone who is likely to need services
  • Pre-existing condition protection is effectively destroyed by splitting the risk pool.

Relevant tweets below the fold:
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Thursday Morning Open Thread: The Great War Is Here

Paul Ryan and Mick Mulvaney are gonna get matching Blood for the Blood God tattoos…

Released Wednesday, the CBO’s scoring of the new bill finds that a few cosmetic tweaks don’t change the fact that the AHCA remains a breathtakingly cruel bill…

The AHCA is cruel. There is no other word for it. If the law is enacted, people will die because of it.

Given recent headlines, Democrats naturally have been focused on ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia and his related actions as president. But Democrats have to make the AHCA central to their plans for 2018 and beyond. In recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 24 percent of Trump voters want him to decrease Medicaid spending, and 42 percent say that the program is somewhat or very important to them. Independents and Democrats are overwhelmingly against the bill. And for the vast majority of Americans, health care is a visceral issue, something that affects their everyday lives. We’ve seen this reflected in the sharp confrontations between GOP members of Congress and their constituents, who are furious at their representatives’ support for a bill that voters do not want. For moral — not just political — reasons, Republicans must be made to regret their AHCA vote.

Jeanne Lambrew, in the NYTimes, “Republicans, Get Ready for the Trumpcare Headlines”:

If the Senate makes this flawed bill law, Republicans will have the chance to watch, all the way up to the midterm elections, as Americans pay higher premiums and lose coverage. By the time the bill’s full changes went into effect in 2020, many of those who voted for it could be long gone…

President Trump has repeatedly said that Obamacare should be blamed for any problems in the individual market this year and next. Yet many of the predicted premium increases are actually a reaction to the attempts to repeal Obamacare, an attempt on the part of insurance companies to protect themselves from the uncertainty induced by the congressional debate and President Trump’s executive actions. And poll after poll shows a majority of Americans dislike the Republican approach and will hold Republicans responsible for any future problems.

So Republicans citing Obamacare headlines should take a moment to imagine the likely Trumpcare headlines and what they will mean for their job security.

Since Mormons aren’t supposed to ‘disfigure their bodies’ with tattoos, the First Rat Off the GOP House Ship is feeling pretty good about his latest career choice…

Apart from that freighted discussion, what’s on the agenda for the day?



On The Road

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature 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. By concentrating travel updates here, it’s easier for all to keep up-to-date on the adventures of our fellow Commentariat. And it makes finding some travel tips or ideas from 6 months ago so much easier to find…

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

Should you have any pictures (tasteful, relevant, etc….) you can email them to picstopost@balloon-juice.com or just use this nifty link to start an email: Start an Email to send a Picture to Post on Balloon Juice

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News Dump of the Day: Part the 3rd

According to CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak on his Security Form (SF) 86.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.

Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn’t note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list “any contact” he or his family had with a “foreign government” or its “representatives” over the past seven years, officials said.
Sessions initially listed a year’s worth of meetings with foreign officials on the security clearance form, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores. But she says he and his staff were then told by an FBI employee who assisted in filling out the form, known as the SF-86, that he didn’t need to list dozens of meetings with foreign ambassadors that happened in his capacity as a senator.
After CNN’s story published, a spokesman responded to the reporting with a statement, saying that Sessions was instructed not to list meetings like the ones with Kislyak on his form.
“As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” spokesman Ian Prior said. “In filling out the SF-86 form, the Attorney General’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the FBI investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.”

Here’s a link to a blank SF 86 below the fold/after the jump. Here’s what the bottom of page 121 looks like:

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Don’t boss him, don’t cross him, he’s wild in his sorrow

Holy shit. The piece of shit Republican, Greg Gianforte, who is running in tomorrow’s special election in Montana attacked a reporter for politely asking questions about TrumpCare.

He’s going to be that much more upset when he loses tomorrow.