Thursday Morning Open Thread: Keep Going After the Bastids

Per Crooks & Liars:

A frustrated Senator Warren asked Rep. Price direct questions about his own policy prescriptions, but he refused to give a definitive answer, even about the cuts he has repeatedly called for.

Sen. Warren discussed his calls to cut funding and asked, “You recently authored as chair of the House Budget Committee would have cut spending on Medicare by $449 billion dollars over the next decade, is that right?

Rep. Price replied, “I don’t have the numbers in front of me.”

She replied, “I have the numbers.”

He said, “I assume you’re correct.”…

Sen. Warren then brought up Trump’s positions on both health care plans, in which he states there will be no cuts to the programs, funding-wise. She asked if Trump was telling the truth and he replied, “yes.”…

Warren said, “Can you guarantee to this committee that you will safeguard president-elect Trump’s promise and while you are HHS secretary, you will not use your authority to carry out a single dollar of cuts to Medicare or Medicaid eligibility or benefits?”

Price said, “What the question presumes is that money is the metric. In my belief from a scientific standpoint, if patients aren’t receiving care even though we’re providing the resources, it doesn’t work for patients.”

Warren said, “We’re very limited on time. The metric IS money. The President-elect…said he would not cut dollars from this program. So that’s the question I’m asking you. Can you assure this committee you will not cut one dollar from Medicare or Medicaid should you be confirmed to this position?

Price replied, “I believe that the metric ought to be the care that the patients are receiving.”

Warren said, “I’ll take that as a no.”…

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Apart from applauding Women Who Take No Shit, what’s on the agenda for the day?
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Late Night Open Thread: Hail, Glowryus Leeder

If only it were as lazy easy as trademarking someone else’s slogan!

… The slogan itself was not entirely original. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had used “Let’s Make America Great Again” in their 1980 campaign — a fact that Trump maintained he did not know until about a year ago.

“But he didn’t trademark it,” Trump said of Reagan…

The trademark became effective on July 14, 2015, a month after Trump formally announced his campaign and met the legal requirement that he was actually using it for the purposes spelled out in his [2012] application…

“It actually inspired me,” Trump said, “because to me, it meant jobs. It meant industry, and meant military strength. It meant taking care of our veterans. It meant so much.”…

Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.

“Are you ready?” he said. “ ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”

“Get me my lawyer!” the president-elect shouted…

“I never thought I’d be giving [you] my expression for four years [from now],” he said. “But I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great.”…

Or at least that’s what Trump’s personal media will tell us! Remember Jeff Gannon?

Other journalists would be grilling [[press secretary] McClellan over the Bush administration’s activities. McClellan would call on Gannon for a question. And Gannon would bail McClellan out, frequently with a leading question laden with false assumptions.

In August 2004, for example, after taking several questions from a reporter about whether American forces had killed any innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another seeking President Bush’s opinion of the disgraced Ahmad Chalabi, McClellen turned to Gannon. And Gannon came through: He asked McClellan about a new “piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda” and followed up by asking “how damaging” a New York Times story had been “to our war on terror.”…

Trump has already deployed the Gannon strategy as president-elect. During his press conference last week, he pivoted away from a series of questions about the intelligence community’s fears about his interactions with Russia to take one from Matt Boyle from Breitbart, the conservative website previously run by his chief strategist and that spent the election pushing his candidacy. Boyle’s softball sought Trump’s opinion of what “reforms” the media industry should undertake to avoid the “problems” of its election coverage. We should expect Trump to continue to use his platform to lift up such supportive outlets…



Sign Help

I have a friend heading to the march in Washington, and we are looking for some ideas for a sign for her to carry. Personally, I would just carry a sign that says “FUCK THIS BULLSHIT” but I am a crude vulgarian. She would prefer something punny and clever.

Have at it.








Guest Post From Cheryl Rofer: The Department of Energy, What Does it Do? 🤔

(Not Cheryl Rofer!)

Fails Dancing With The Stars, Wins Nuke Prize

by Cheryl Rofer

According to the New York Times, Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, presidential aspirant, and now Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy, um, didn’t know what the Department of Energy does when he accepted Trump’s nomination. “Sure I’ll be Ambassador for Oil and Gas,” he said. Twitter is meeting this revelation with humor and “We’re all going to die.”

In a better world, like the one we’ve been living in the past eight years, Cabinet secretaries actually know something about the organizations they are leading. It’s time to disrupt that fusty idea. We have Betsy DeVos, who wants to eliminate public education, as Education Secretary, a fast-food executive as Labor Secretary, and so on. Rick Perry has advocated eliminating the Department of Energy, so he was the natural pick.

Does that mean we are all going to die? That’s not so much the purview of the Energy Secretary. The President has a military guy who carries around the “football,” which is the most immediate starter of nuclear wars. As far as policy goes, the Secretaries of State and Defense have much more to say about starting wars nuclear and conventional. And, surprisingly for this administration, they actually seem to have responsible views on nuclear weapons. Here are excerpts from James Mattis’s and Rex Tillerson’s testimony to Congress. They are quite different from what Donald Trump has tweeted, and much more like the policies that Obama has followed.

Mattis almost says something that the arms control community has wanted to hear from the president:

the role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

Change that to

the only role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

and a lot of arms-controllers would be very happy.

The Secretary of Energy is in charge of building and maintaining nuclear weapons, so there is some concern about accidents and such, but fortunately it will not be Rick Perry handling the wrenches or working the gloveboxes. A big downside of someone like Perry is that there is no way he can play the role Ernie Moniz did in developing the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Now the question is how much influence Mattis and Tillerson will have on their boss.



Shaping the Operational Environment: McClatchy Reports that the US Intelligence Community is Investigating Ties Between the Trump Campaign and Russia

Among all the other news, big, medium, and small was this important report:

McClatchy has reported that:

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.

Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

And:

The working group is scrutinizing the activities of a few Americans who were affiliated with Trump’s campaign or his business empire and of multiple individuals from Russia and other former Soviet nations who had similar connections, the sources said.

ETA: I want to emphasize something important I failed to above or below in the original post: this probe started months before anyone in the US Intel Community new anything about the oppo research documents that were leaked last week:

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

(we now return you to the original post)

While I cannot prove it, it is logical to reason that this information was provided to the McClatchy reporters so that it would be reported before the inauguration on Friday. By getting the information out now, the purpose of the reporting is to make it much more difficult for the incoming Administration to shut this investigation down or to interfere in how it is conducted.

For good, bad, or otherwise this is not going away. And the President-elect and his team seem unwilling to even try to provide reasonable explanations to knock the suspicions back. The longer this drags out the worse it will be. For all of us.

As I wrote last week before the President-elect’s press conference:

As a national security professional, what I would like to see is the President-elect address the now long standing and ongoing allegations regarding his connection to Russia. If the allegations are spurious, as he and his team have claimed every time they’ve come up, or if there is a straightforward and simple explanation that can be made, he needs to make it. I think a lot of the foreign, defense, and national security policy concerns that many across the political spectrum have with the President-elect’s longstanding policy preferences dating back to 1987 arise from all of the smoke around the claims of Russian connections and interference for Russia’s, not the US’s, not the President-elect’s, interests.

The sooner the President-elect and his team can either provide evidence for why the allegations and rumors are spurious or provide a simple and straightforward explanation for the seeming preference for Russia and the abandonment of the post WW II and post Cold War international order the better.



Wednesday Evening Open Thread: “I Don’t Try to Predict the Future, I Try to Prevent It” (R. Bradbury)


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So many falling anvils, so few anvil-rated shelters — and that’s just in my small personal circle.

I’m stockpiling non-inauguration-related stories for Friday, in the cynical expectation that they’ll be preempted by breaking news.

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Apart from the slow-rolling tshit tsunami, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Don’t Know Much About History

Hoo boy, Betsy DeVos is a real winner. If you are a c-list blogger with a potty mouth or a writer for a comedian/comedy show, her hearing yesterday was fucking amazing. If you care about education policy or have children, well, you know, sorry about that.

There were so much fail it’s hard to just limit it to one blog post, but here goes. First, she has no idea the difference between proficiency and growth or the existence of the debate, which is to education what evolution/creationism is to hard sciences:

I’m pretty sure any undergraduate at ANY college in America with at least ONE education course could answer that better.

Next up, she seems completely unaware that IDEA exists:

Again, she is so ignorant of everything around here, I sort of hoped that Franken and Hassan would start making up federal laws that don’t exist and asking her position on them, just to see what she would say.

And then finally, there was this:

Just so we are clear, there is no no grizzly infestation menacing Wyoming public schools:

Audra Morrow, a teacher at Wyoming’s Valley Elementary School in Cody from 2004 to 2006, explained to Mic that no guns were necessary to ward off ursids, and that the fence and bear spray were “absolutely” sufficient measures on their own.

“No firearms in our schools!” Morrow wrote. “We do have bear spray but have never had a problem that would require using it.”

And I’m not joking that I am just scratching the surface here- she also stated she did not support standards for every school that receives federal money and on and on and on.

Welcome to the United States of Dumbfuckistan.



Open Thread: Little Man in the High Castle

Everybody relies on their routines, to some degree. But when a 74 70-year-old isolates himself in his home, refuses to deal with anyone outside of a small circle of intimates, uses gimmicks to screen himself from contact with input he can’t control… From the Washington Post, “Donald Trump waits in his tower — accessible yet isolated“:

Exactly one week after becoming president-elect, Donald Trump stepped outside his namesake fortress here for the first time. He ventured just five blocks, to dinner at the 21 Club — a dark-mahogany-and-red-leather-banquette throwback, where model airplanes and sports memorabilia hang from the ceiling and jackets are de rigueur for men.

The vintage haunt, where Trump dined with family members, feels like home. The waiters know his preferred table (No. 14, which Frank Sinatra and Richard M. Nixon also used) and his regular order (the $36 burger, well done, with fries).

So it has been for the president-elect, who has retreated to one comfortable, familiar refuge after another — his soaring Manhattan tower, his white leather-upholstered Boeing jet, his lush golf courses, his opulent beachside castle.

Trump is a man isolated, increasingly cocooned away from the voters who lifted him to his seemingly improbable victory. He favors his own people and his own places, creating the veneer of accessibility — his tweets reach millions and he still answers his cellphone — while placing himself in almost entirely habitual settings.

He spends most of his days in Trump Tower, with few close friends and few meaningful one-on-one interactions beyond the family members, advisers and loyalists who are whisked by gold-colored elevator to his 26th-floor office for private audiences. Trump rarely leaves, not even for a breath of fresh air; nor does he encounter many people he does not already know or who do not work for him…

In many ways, Trump seems most comfortable communicating at a slight remove, with a stage or a screen — television, Twitter, phone — serving as the intermediary between him and the public. Such tools are both his megaphone and his shield, allowing him to blast out a message undiluted with little risk…

At least when Reagan was first inaugurated, he was a skilled enough performer that he didn’t overtly present as an Alzheimer’s victim. Or maybe we just didn’t recognize the symptoms as quickly, back in those innocent days.



007, 007, and Oceans 11

Al Gore was very fat last year:

Average surface temperatures in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015

If you look at charts, the surface temperatures have gone up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 25 years.

This is even scarier, while oceans have risen an average of about 0.11 inches a year since 1983, that could accelerate rapidly:

If high levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue, they concluded, oceans could rise by close to two meters in total (more than six feet) by the end of the century. The melting of ice on Antarctica alone could cause seas to rise more than 15 meters (49 feet) by 2500.








President Obama’s Final Press Conference: Live Feed



Open Thread: Kiss Me As If It Were The Last Time

http://tjeerdroyaards.com/

Looks like we could use an open thread…



1332 juiced up

Margot Sanger-Katz from the NY Times flags an interesting pre King vs. Burwell Republican plan that is actually interesting in a non-sarcastic manner.

Let’s look at it with the 53 page PDF here:

Section 101 is the three options a state has if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the fabulist argument advanced in King. Option 1 would be to stay under PPACA and establish a state based exchange. Option 2 would be a complete withdrawal from PPACA with no subsidies. Option 3 would be to establish a HSA like equivilent of coverage with most of the regulator requirements, taxes and mandates of PPACA thrown out. This is actually interesting if the funding makes sense. The default assumption is a complete opt-out. States would have to to opt into either Option 1 or Option 3.

Section 102 talks about the state alternative with HSA. It wipes out mandates and federal regulation. Essential health benefits, minimal actuarial value coverage and other regulatory requirements of PPACA that define a qualified health plan also are junked in this section. 102-4-A authorizes an initial HSA grant and the rest of 102-4 describes the mechanics of that grant. 102-C establishes a public health block grant that is 2% of the eligible funds for the HSA.

Section 103 determines the size of the HSA subsidy. This is where the money matters. The HSA amount is age and geography adjusted which is very similar in function as the ACA benchmark Silver is determined by zip code and age of the recipient. Bingo — 103-1-B is good news.
Read more








Fee Schedule

The Society of Actuaries commissioned Milliman to do a great review of the different payment methodologies and their risk profiles for a wide variety of stakeholders in 2015.  It is a great read (for the right definition of a great read).  One of the things that I want to pull out is the chart below.  It is a fairly standard commercial, employer sponsored insurance contract.  The number is the multiplier applied to the Medicare fee for service fee schedule.

Let’s follow the money to see what we actually value.

There are a couple of very useful things to pull out of this table. First, the topline number is that the same services for a commercial plan will cost 170% or more than what Medicare pays.  This is why one of the major goals of liberal health policy is to drive more services to pay providers rates closer to Medicare than Commercial.

The second most interesting thing to me is the payment for evaluation and management services.  E&M codes are the primary care physician codes.  These are codes that involve a good deal of time and talking and far less cutting and doing.  We pay people lots of money to either cut something or do something.  We don’t pay for talking as much.  So we get a lot of cutting and doing and not as much talking.








Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Smart Takes


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Apart from planning for the Women’s March / Sister Marches, what’s on the agenda for the day?

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I applaud Josh Marshall, on “The Case for Not Being Crybabies“:

Presidents don’t validate what is and isn’t news. If you’re expecting them to, you’re doing it wrong. Almost nothing that is truly important about the work of a free press is damaged by moving the press office across the street.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these things are not important or that all these threats aren’t a very bad sign. It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let’s get real: we don’t or won’t as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He’s surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he’s doing these things. We know Trump’s MO. He will bully people until they’re cowed and humiliated and obedient. He’ll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a ‘deal’ or make some big to-do about ‘allowing’ the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.

They don’t need to. That access isn’t necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it’s almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is. America isn’t Russia. And I don’t think he can change us into Russia. So unless and until we see publications shut down and journalists arrested or disappeared, let’s have a little more confidence in our values and our history and our country…

Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He’s told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won’t obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don’t surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him…



Late Night Endless Smoke & Mirrors Open Thread: Anonymous Discusses Wikileaks


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Speaking of subverting the deep state — Commentor Magurakurin flagged this series of tweets a few days ago. Excerpts:

It’s never as simple as Four legs good, two legs bad. Or even Four legs good, two legs BETTER…