Schaden, meet Freude

Everything the Shitgibbon touches turns to…well, merde:

Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump’s company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline.

At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent.

But what about that Trump economic boom? Alas:

Even in a vigorous economy, the property was missing the Trump Organization’s internal business targets; for instance, the club expected to take in $85 million in revenue in 2017 but took in just $75 million.

And what could be the reason that a venerable, once-much-admired, landmark property would do so poorly?

“They are severely underperforming” other resorts in the area, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a Miami-Dade County official in a bid to lower the property’s tax bill. The reason, she said: “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”

I have never met Ms. Vachiratevarunak, but I already admire her greatly. That last line? Olympic-level shade.

The WaPo article linked above is full of similar delights:

On one recent weekday in Miami, the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort and Spa — a top competitor of Doral’s — was bustling with families eating dinner and children playing in the pool.

A few miles away, Trump’s Doral was shining, spotless and heavily branded. The Trump name was on chocolate bars ($5) and shot glasses ($10), and even on the paper inserts at the bottom of the bathroom wastebaskets.

But it was also much quieter.

Carl Goldstein — a retired butcher, visiting as part of a Passover tour group — had the lobby almost to himself.

It turns out that racism and viciousness drive away sponsors and guests? Whodathunkit?

TL:DR Incompetent grifter’s grift cracks.

This thread…it is open.

Image: Jan Steen, Dancing Peasants at an Inn1646








Promise That You Will Sing About Me

As I am not a religious man, I would like all of you to keep me and my pet groomer in your thoughts because I dropped Steve off for his annual lion cut and he was fucking furious- like the angriest I have ever seen him. It started at five am when I heard him meowing for food, and I ignored him, so he did what he always does, which is to promptly go to the litter box and aggressively kick litter all over the god damned place. I yelled at him “You motherfucker” and then got up to go downstairs to feed him, and halfway down I remembered that I couldn’t feed him this morning because he is going to the groomers and when I feed him he shits all over them. Well, he always shits all over them because when they shave around his private parts his bowels let loose, but if I don’t feed him, there is less of it.

At any rate, I continued downstairs to feed him, he ran into the little half bath where I keep his food bowl (it’s there so I can shut the door and keep Rosie and Thurston from stealing his food), let him run in, and then just shut the door behind him without feeding him, thinking I could then just extract him and put him in his crate when it is time to go.

Needless to say, this served to do nothing but infuriate him even more, because not only was he hungry, but the fat man had tricked him. When it was time to crate him, I slowly opened the door and he tried to burst out the door like an uncovered linebacker, but I managed to grab him by his scruff and corral his fat ass into the container. He then literally *HOWLED* with rage the entire fifteen minute drive, and by the time we got their was a frothing, hissing, spitting ball of claws and fur.

I can’t describe the look in the groomers eyes adequately, but equal parts fear, bewilderment, and horror sums it up. I just said “I didn’t feed him this morning so he won’t shit on you,” and the guy deadpanned “Yeah thanks for that.”

I’m hoping that he is going to feel so much better after the shave that I make it through the night.








Risikoflotte and drug pricing

The non-profit medical supply producing entity that hospitals and other purchasing bodies have set up is starting to ramp up initial production.

Does this matter as the following response asks?

I think it does matter.  The goal of Civica is to bring down pricing on some drugs by being able to be a countervailing force in being even if not in actuality.  We looked at this logic in the winter of 2018 as we went through the five pricing stories for drugs.

Story 3: Cheap generics get expensive fast — the Martin Shkreli story and the Epi-Pen story.  Here the exploit is a lack  generic manufacturers that can quickly shift to produce near substitutes.  The time and cost of other manufacturers to set up a production line to make a cheap competitor won’t ever return a profit as the original manufacturer/distributor will drop prices to or below marginal cost as soon as they see a threat.

The recent agreement by a number of large hospitals to set up a non-profit generic manufacturer is a response to this story.  The new entity would be willing to lose money to set up a production line for a generic drug that just saw its charged price increase by 1,000%.  I think the entity’s leadership would be totally happy to certify the capability to get a few simple drugs and one complex generic approved as a demonstration of capability and then just use their capability as a looming threat to tamp down on these pump and dump schemes.  That would be a stunning success even if the entity never ships a single pill for anything other than demonstration purposes.

Story 4: Short term price spikes for some generic drugs during shortages — this is a distinct story from number 3.  There may be other manufacturers that are in the process of responding to a price signal to enter or expand production for a drug but it will take a while.  The new entity could serve as a policy response here as a source of production reserves.  Larger stockpiles and diversifying supply chains so that most of a particular drug is not made on a single hurricane prone island is another possible response.

As long as supply increases at lower net price point, Civica will have achieved its core objective. This objective is fairly insensitive to methods.








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Today, some more wow from the sky.

Read more








Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Good Choices

Of course the NYTimes is sniffy about this — how dare those Democrats presume to defend themselves?!? — but I’m feeling pretty good about donating to Rep. Davids last year.

Desperate to maintain their one perch of power in Washington, House Democrats are moving aggressively to defend their majority. Incumbents, under intense pressure from the party to begin their campaigns, raised a record $11.6 million in the first quarter of the year and are moving quickly to protect the 31 seats they hold in districts where President Trump prevailed in 2016.

“We have a solid operation,” said Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who runs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House. “We are investing in field operations already — we have never done that this early — and we know how we are going to spend our resources. Everything is front-loaded.”…

And a little update on best business practices….

I took Ms. Sanders aside and politely suggested she leave. She agreed, equally politely. She may or may not have expected this day would come, but she never showed any sign of outrage, or even much surprise. We’d drawn a line; she’d accepted it…

When I awoke the next morning, social media was on fire. The incident had gone from a Facebook post to a tagged tweet to nationally trending news with the whoosh of lighter fluid to a flame…

When we opened after a 10-day hiatus, our dining room was full. In the following weeks, people who had never been to the Shenandoah Valley traveled out of their way to eat with us. Hundreds of orders for our Red Hen spice blend poured in. And the love spread far beyond our door, as supporters sent thousands of dollars’ in donations in our honor to our local food pantry, our domestic violence shelter and first responders.

After nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good. Better than good, actually. And besides the boost to our area charities, our town’s hospitality and sales revenue have gone up, too.

Our haters may have believed that there were more of “them” than of “us,” but it turns out we have more than enough to keep us cooking. And to everyone who might be fearful about taking a stand, I say don’t be. Resistance is not futile, for you or your business.








Russiagate Open Thread: Don McGahn, Smarter Than the Average Trump Hire

Which, admittedly, not a high bar!

NBC, this afternoon:

The House Judiciary Committee has set May 21 as the date for former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify, although McGahn has not yet confirmed his attendance.

The committee wants McGahn to address the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, in particular, the part of the report that says that President Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller, a request McGahn refused to carry out. Mr. Trump has indicated that he will not allow McGahn to testify before Congress because he already spent about 30 hours speaking to Mueller’s investigators…

House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler also threatened Tuesday to hold McGahn in contempt if he didn’t respond to a congressional subpoena for Mueller’s documents.

CBS News also confirmed last week that the White House asked McGahn to publicly state after the release of the Mueller report that Mr. Trump had not obstructed justice. A source familiar with the matter told CBS News that White House lawyer Emmet Flood made the request, which McGahn did not comply with.

“We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister,” said McGahn’s attorney, William Burck. “It was a request, professionally and cordially made.”…

McGahn and Trump go way ‘back — here’s an early 2016 profile from the Washington Post reporter who broke the Aaron Schock story:

McGahn is one of the top election lawyers in the country, a job so highly specialized that its practitioners are almost unavoidably “Washington insiders” by definition. He is credited as one of the people most responsible for loosening regulations on campaign spending, an enabler of the corporate electioneering against which Trump has defined his candidacy. His wife, Shannon McGahn, is staff director for the House Financial Services Committee, a role that makes her a magnet for the very lobbyists that Trump regularly pillories…

Terris goes on to report that McGahn’s uncle was Trump’s long-time fixer in Atlantic City; that McGahn had worked for Nixon’s old law firm, and spent ten years as counsel for National Republican Convention Committee; that he’s “reported to be a bit of an iconoclast.” And then, also…
Read more








A Late Evening Snack: Mother’s Day Baking

I did some baking for the family’s Mother’s Day brunch. My brother specifically requested a key lime pie. I also made a Torta de Santiago. Torta de Santiago, sometimes Tarta de Santiago, is a regional dessert from Gailicia, Spain (torta is Galician, while tarta is Spanish) and was created in the Middle Ages for pilgrims. Which helps to explain its name: Saint James’ cake. It is an almond flour cake and there are several variations. Because I don’t eat refined carbohydrates in any significant quantities, I went with an almond flour cake recipe that is only sweetened with honey, not refined sugar. And yes, I know that honey is still a refined carbohydrate. I also know it doesn’t mess up my system the way refined sugar does. Torta de Santiago get lemon zest, but I decided to go with orange zest. And I didn’t add brandy or any of the other alcohol that can be found in some torta de Santiago recipes. The recipe I used can be found here. The only addition I made is the orange zest. It is very easy to make. One other note: torta de Santiago are traditionally finished with powder sugar that is applied over a stylized cross stencil. I went with fresh blueberries instead. Here’s another picture.

One other important note: the first time I made this cake I used a spring form pan. It came out with nice even sides and a nice even top. This time I just used a silicone cake pan and, as you can see, the sides are slightly rounded and the top is not even. I have learned my lesson.

On to the key lime pie!

The key lime pie is the same recipe that I posted here back in February 2016.

Key Lime Pie

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter) melted

2 (14-ounce) cans condensed milk

1 cup key lime or regular lime juice*

2 whole eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter with your hands. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

In a separate bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice, and eggs. Whisk until well blended and place the filling in the cooled pie shell. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Garnish with whipped cream, and slices of key lime or key lime peel.

I use the Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice.

Open thread!








C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: Speaking of ‘Great Farm Product’…

This is one massive load of bullshit from the Oval Office Occupant.

The escalated tariffs don’t hit agricultural products directly, since most were already facing a 25% tariff imposed by China last year. But the news still sent commodity prices plummeting.
Read more








And Then There Were None

And my birdies flew the coop. I missed their departure, but last night I walked outside and there were like six birds in my little oak tree, and as soon as I walked down the stairs they all flew off and it startled me. I blurted out “what the hell is going on” because I talk to birds, trees, seedlings, plants and sometimes even walls I bump into, and made nothing of it. Then when I came out this afternoon, it was eerily quiet on the porch, so I climbed up on my step ladder and sure enough they were all gone.

They grow up so quickly. Now I don’t know what to do with the nest. Should I leave it there or clean up so new tenants will move in?








Small Consolations Open Thread (Russia Edition)

At least Betsy deVos hasn’t been responsible for any Amway-branded outbreaks of dysentery in America’s charter schools… that we know of. Yet:

Yaroslav was one of 127 children aged 3 to 7 who were diagnosed with dysentery after eating food at seven state-run day care centers and kindergartens in Moscow in mid-December.

While reports of dysentery are not new in Russia, they mostly have struck provincial areas far from the capital and in much smaller outbreaks. Even more unusual is that the catering firm blamed by opposition activists for the outbreak at six of the seven Moscow sites is owned by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin, who has won $2 billion in contracts for supplying food to Moscow schools since 2009, built an empire on catering and maintenance contracts for the army and has been nicknamed “Putin’s chef” for serving Kremlin functions. He also has been reported to run a private military company known as Wagner that sends Russian contractors to Syria and other countries.

The magnate was among the Russians indicted last year by a U.S. grand jury in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, alleging he funded the internet trolls involved in interfering with the U.S. presidential election in 2016. The U.S. also imposed sanctions on Prigozhin and two of his companies, Concord Catering and Concord Management and Consulting. Prigozhin has denied any involvement, and Putin said last year that while he knew the businessman, he “doesn’t count him” among his friends.[*]

Prigozhin’s company has denied it is to blame for the dysentery outbreak. The cases have caused an outcry, thanks to a lawyer who has turned a spotlight on the caterers and has mounted a campaign to help the parents whose children fell ill…

The Federal Consumer Oversight Agency confirmed 127 cases of dysentery. At public hearings in March, the capital’s chief sanitary official, Yelena Andreyeva, denied early reports that blamed it on cottage cheese supplied by a company from southern Russia. Health and education officials would not say whether the outbreak would make them reconsider signing new contracts with Concord.

Six companies that are either directly owned by Prigozhin or affiliated with him have controlled almost all school and kindergarten catering in Moscow since 2011, providing prepared meals that can be reheated at school kitchens, according to public filings and the Spark-Interfax database…

Or, y’know, we could treat this as a warning of what happens when the Dear Leader’s cronies are allowed to turn government agencies into for-profit opportunities. Even if “science is a Democrat thing“.

[*] Seems like Prigozhin may have to be sacrificed for the good of the Russian-American Oligarchs Friendship Pact, but I’m no for-pol expert…








Beating The War Drums

National Security Advisor John Bolton still thinks that the Iraq war was a good idea. He has never met a war he didn’t like or a treaty that he did. Now, as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, he has a great deal of power to make war against Iran. Bolton has given speeches for the MEK, a cultish organization that wants regime change in Iran.

Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iran deal) a year ago, under the fiction that his great deal-making skills and “maximum pressure” would force Iran into a deal where they would change their government, stop supporting Hamas, end all nuclear work, and, probably, build a Trump Tower Tehran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has listed twelve points that Iran must meet to become a good world citizen in his eyes. Presumably, as in the case of North Korea, Iran must meet all those points before sanctions will be removed.

The JCPOA covers the possibility of Iran’s making nuclear weapons in full detail. Iran is complying with the agreement. But that’s not enough for a faction in the United States and Israel who opposed the JCPOA from the beginning and have continued to agitate for withdrawal from it. Read more








Warren Says NOPE to Fox News Town Hall

Good for her:

I get why Democratic presidential primary candidates appear on Fox: It burnishes their bipartisan bona fides and can generate a lot of positive press from a Beltway media that is determined to uphold Fox News’ legitimacy as a “sister organization,” as Jake Tapper once called it.

But while preening hacks like Tapper may coo over the alleged bravery of Dems who appear on the TrumpCo propaganda outlet, in my book, Warren’s is the more courageous approach. She’s standing up for something more important than a momentary bump in the polls or both-sidesy hack approval; she’s standing up for the truth, which is that Fox News is a white grievance/racism distribution network that has done incalculable damage to America. Warren, quoted in HuffPo:

“A Democratic town hall gives the Fox News sales team a way to tell potential sponsors it’s safe to buy ads on Fox ― no harm to their brand or reputation (spoiler: it’s not),” she said. “I won’t ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in order to see our candidates ― especially when Fox will make even more money adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers.”

So far, Sanders and Klobuchar have done a Fox News town hall, and Gillibrand and Buttigieg have scheduled one. Castro is said to be “in the process of scheduling one,” and Booker, O’Rourke and Harris are considering it.

Again, it might work out for those individual candidates as a campaign strategy, but appearing on Fox News undermines the larger and ongoing project of documenting the network’s relentless bias and discrediting it as a legitimate news source outside wingnut circles. People like Jane Mayer have done great work to that end, and when Democratic presidential candidates appear on Fox News, they undermine that work. That’s not brave. It’s selfish.








Online Privacy and You

tl;dr: scroll down to the part in bold if you just want a pro-privacy action item.

Digital privacy has been in the news a lot, though you’ll be forgiven for missing it. About a year ago, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became active. You may have noticed that you received an email about updated privacy policies from every single website you’ve ever had an account with. The California version of those regulations (CCPA) was passed a few months later. What do these laws do? Well, a lot; Wikipedia has a good summary of the CCPA:

The intentions of the Act are to provide California residents* with the right to:

  1. Know what personal data is being collected about them.
  2. Know whether their personal data is sold or disclosed and to whom.
  3. Say no to the sale of personal data.
  4. Access their personal data.
  5. Equal service and price, even if they exercise their privacy rights.

Writ large, these sound like good ideas. I will note that this is in conflict with how many of us experience the Internet today**.

Right now, companies are announcing very small changes to privacy settings, largely for PR purposes (Vox: Google’s Privacy Changes Are Mostly Marketing). They’re basically hoping that enough people won’t opt out of data collection to affect their business model. I recommend opting out! Here’s how to change your browser settings to limit your exposure to the tracking ecosystem:

  • Safari: Safari -> Preferences -> Privacy; check “Prevent cross-site tracking” (checked by default after a recent update)
  • Firefox: Follow the instructions to disable third-party cookies
  • Chrome: Don’t use Chrome if you care about this issue. Would you use a browser developed by Facebook? However, if you must: Settings -> Advanced -> Privacy and security -> Content settings -> Cookies; turn on “Block third-party cookies.” Like I said, Google is not particularly interested in you checking this buried option.

You can also do this on mobile devices, though the instructions vary by device, so I’d recommend looking that up yourself. Note that some sites use these in non-nefarious ways; they will probably tell you if you’re causing a disruption in your service. Notes below the fold.

Read more








Reducing enrollment frictions in Maryland

Maryland is making a big push to increase health insurance coverage in the state.  There is a recently signed bill that dramatically lowers the friction to enroll.  Stan Dorn, one of the architects of the policy proposal, has more at Health Affairs:

 the Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program (MEEHP)….represents the country’s first attempt to use income tax filing as an immediate on-ramp to health coverage. By simply checking a box on their state income tax return asking the exchange to determine their eligibility for free or low-cost insurance, an uninsured tax filer can have relevant information from their return sent automatically to Maryland’s health insurance exchange. The exchange then uses that data and other available records to determine the individual’s eligibility for Medicaid, CHIP, and PTCs….

People who qualify for Medicaid or CHIP are invited to choose a managed care organization by a specified date. If they neither choose a plan nor opt out of coverage, they are enrolled in a Medicaid plan by default….

Uninsured tax filers with incomes too high for Medicaid or CHIP have a brief special enrollment period (SEP) for enrolling into the individual market. The SEP is triggered by the filing of a return with the relevant box checked, so long as the return is filed before a date specified by the exchange (presumably April 15 or earlier). The exchange determines PTC eligibility as quickly as possible, encouraging uninsured consumers to obtain insurance and helping them select an appropriate plan.

The default assumption in Maryland is that people want to be covered and the state government as well as the Exchange board should facilitate that coverage using current data streams.  Eyeballing 2019 data on RWJF Hix Compare, most single 27 year olds earning under 180% FPL will be exposed to at least one zero premium Bronze plan.  Older buyers and larger families will see zero premium plans at higher income levels.  Some families will see zero premium silver and gold plans.

Facilitating on-exchange enrollment is a net positive for the state as it will increase the number of people covered and most likely decrease the average morbidity in the pool.  It is the easier step as it costs the state a slight increase in administrative costs but no program costs.  The federal government takes on the entire incremental cost of increasing on-Exchange enrollment if that enrollment is exclusively coming through zero premium plans.

More notably is the commitment by Maryland to expand their Medicaid rolls.  Medicaid has split financing; some state and some federal.  Depending on the type of eligibility an individual has, Maryland is paying anywhere from ten to fifty percent of the incremental costs.  We saw with the launch of the ACA exchanges that there was a significant “woodworker” effect as people who were always qualified for Medicaid actually enrolled in Medicaid as health insurance coverage had higher salience.  We should expect a similar, but smaller, woodworker effect as Maryland uses its administrative systems to maximize enrollment.

Maryland is adding lubrication to the health coverage system while many other states are throwing sand to increase the friction people must fight through to get and maintain coverage.








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more