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Updated: 18 hours 46 min ago


Thu, 12/12/2019 - 17:28

The UK exit polls show a major win for the Tories – up 51 seats, while Labour is down 71 seats. The history of the poll is that it can be wrong, but not wrong by that much.

Here’s a thread to discuss those results. Since this whole Brexit thing began, I’ve been following UK politics a bit, and it is a puzzle how Labour kept the almost universally hated Corbyn as leader. I guess that will change, if the country still exists once Johnson and the Brexiteers are done with it.

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Categories: Politics

Shit Talk On Steroids

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 15:52

One of the lasting legacies of the Republicans turning into Trump’s party is that formerly mild-mannered middle-of-the-road Republicans feel they can just let loose with whatever bullshit and lies they feel like excreting. Here’s an example from Rochester, where Republican State Senator Joe Robach, who kept getting elected in a Democrat-majority district, has decided to retire:

“There’s a fight going on even inside the Democratic Party, between the radical far left and mainstream Democrats, that’s not news to anybody, that’s being played out in Washington and New York and California are leading that movement,” Robach said. “That’s also permeated the New York Senate, we have people openly espousing for Communism, something I don’t favor.”

This is from a guy who was part of a legislative body that couldn’t even get marijuana legalization done. But I’m guessing a diet of Fox News and white resentment (is that redundant?), plus the prospect of losing his seat, has soured Robach, so he just lashes out.

There’s a huge dose of IOKIYAR involved here, too. Since the tone and tenor of Trump and Fox News has been adopted wholesale by the Republican Party, and Trump in particular is flooding the zone with just horrible, hateful rhetoric, the media tends to give these kinds of outbursts a pass. They are, after all, dog bites man. If we call a particular Republican initiative “fascist” or “racist”, then the perfumed hankies come out in the press, so none of them will have to inhale the putrid stench of partisanship.

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Categories: Politics

Green Eggs and Ham

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 12:35

This was good. Here’s another impeachment hearings thread.

The post Green Eggs and Ham appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Impeachment Hearings Open Thread

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 09:57

For your watching pleasure –

Categories seem to be broken…

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Categories: Politics

Vote Actually: British Election Day Open Thread

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 09:28

Photo of actor Hugh GrantImage from Variety, 2018 — photo credit: Brad Trent

Who gets to visit the Queen on Friday to ask permission to form a government? If Hugh Grant has anything to say about it, it won’t be Boris Johnson. From The New Yorker:

The actor, who is best known for rendering exquisitely the many stages of a diffident British person in the process of making up his mind and then, fuck it all, following his heart, has decided to get involved. Grant is fifty-nine years old and turning silver. Since the election was called, in late October, Grant has been lively on social media—he’s a mite over half a million Twitter followers—tweeting about the National Health Service and describing Johnson as a “weak little Narcissus.” For the past few weeks, Grant has lent his support to campaigns in a half-dozen tight parliamentary races, hoping to prevent the Conservatives from winning a majority and finally delivering Brexit…

It hasn’t taken long—at all—for Grant’s presence to have an influence on the election. Politicians seem to have decided that a sprinkle of abashed romance wouldn’t hurt the British electorate. A few weeks ago, Rosena Allin-Khan, a Labour M.P. running in Tooting, in South London, made an election video in the style of “Love Actually,” in which she knocked on a voter’s door and enacted a version of the scene in which Andrew Lincoln, playing the lovelorn friend of Keira Knightley, silently declares his feelings to her on a series of large, hand-drawn signs.

On Monday, with the election three days off, the fourth wall—or maybe the last supporting wall—of British politics collapsed, when Johnson and the Conservatives decided to rip off the idea for their final election broadcast. You can watch the scene, if you have the strength, here… On Tuesday morning, Grant was asked about the ad on “Today,” the BBC’s flagship political show. He praised the production values but noted that one of the more affecting cards from “Love Actually” was missing from Johnson’s hands. It reads “Because at Christmas you tell the truth.”

My attention, consternation and horror have been focused closer to home as the American version of a ridiculously thatched, lying shit-goblin and his mendacious, moronic, shrieking enablers swing hammers and pickaxes at democracy. The few snippets of British election news and commentary I’ve seen recently all suggest the Tories have this in the bag.

Here’s hoping the pollsters and pundits are wrong. Even though my ancestors fled the British Isles centuries ago, I feel like I have a personal stake. The Brexit vote was a precursor to the Trump catastrophuck, and it was driven by the same malign international, domestic and cyber forces.

May this day herald the retreat of Putin-adjacent xenophobia, plutocracy and thuggery in the Old Country, to be followed by its complete and utter obliteration next year in the former colonies. Open thread!




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Categories: Politics

Dying at home is now the norm

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 07:32

Death is now a home based event.

My awesome colleague, co-author, and friend, Sarah Cross is the lead author on a new article at New England Journal of Medicine that has found that Americans whose deaths are attributed to natural causes are dying at home more often than the hospital.

Between 2003 and 2017, there were nearly 35.2 million natural deaths (Figure 1). Most were attributed to cardiovascular disease (29.3%), followed by cancer (24.5%), respiratory disease (10.5%), dementia (7.9%), and stroke (5.9%).

In 2003, a total of 905,874 deaths occurred in hospitals (39.7%), which decreased to 764,424 (29.8%) in 2017, whereas the number of deaths at nursing facilities decreased from 538,817 (23.6%) to 534,714 (20.8%). The number of deaths at home increased from 543,874 (23.8%) in 2003 to 788,757 (30.7%) in 2017, whereas the number of deaths at hospice facilities increased from 5395 (0.2%) to 212,652 (8.3%). These trends were seen across all disease groups.


There are notable differences in where people die depending on their demographics and causes of natural death.

So what does this mean?

There are several major policy threads coming through in this short article. The first is that hospice and home deaths are becoming more common. That strongly implies that there is a lot more end of life home and unpaid caregiving now than under the counterfactual of holding 2003 places of death constant. Unpaid caregiving has massive direct and indirect economic costs. My Duke colleague Courtney Van Houten and her co-authors have shown that the economic costs of unpaid care giving for a year can easily run into the six figures even as the fiscal costs are “only” in the low five figures. There has been a concerted policy effort over the past decade to shift care out of high federal cost facilities to lower cost (to the federal government) locations of care. In a recent Health Affairs Blog post, Chatterjee and others raise the possibility that this is cost shifting instead of cost saving once we account for unpaid caregiving burden as a real cost:

The push to discharge more patients directly home after hospitalization may seem preferable in some circumstances. In addition to being financially sensible by decreasing spending on postacute care, patients might prefer to be discharged home rather than to an institutional setting. In this way, getting patients home may represent a rare opportunity to align goals across patients, payers, and health systems. However, these gains must be viewed in the context of the costs borne by those who care for patients once they are discharged home—informal caregivers. …
Payment policies designed to reduce institutional postacute care do little to support home-based care when patients are more quickly discharged than before. Medicare’s home health benefit provides limited home-based support, with at most one visit per day from a home health provider. Although Medicare Advantage expanded this benefit in 2019 to cover non-skilled needs such as help with daily activities, in the postacute period, when patients frequently need significant support in their activities of daily living, a once-daily visit is unlikely to alleviate caregiver burden.

Furthermore, our current hospice benefit was designed to be effective within the paradigm of well staged, predictably descending cancer progression. Hospice has become far more commonly used over the past twenty years. In 2016, 1.4 million people used hospice, and 95% were over the age of 65. The disease mixture of the hospice using population has changed. In a recent paper that examined an upstream palliative care demonstration project for the very seriously ill that Sarah and I worked on with numerous colleagues at Duke, over 80% of the project decedents had more than six comorbidities in the last year of life, more than eighty percent had a dementia, and almost all had a cardiology concern while less than forty percent of program decedents were diagnosed with at least one cancer in the last year of life. The target population was specifically chosen to be very ill, but the surrounding decedents who were not in the program were twice as likely to have a dementia diagnosis in the last year of life than a cancer diagnosis.

Our hospice programs are still optimized for a different care pathway. Furthermore, we place restrictions on hospice and palliative care program expansions that we don’t place on other medical interventions and innovations. From the same article, we explain:

In health care, the expectation of cost neutrality is unique to hospice and now palliative care, where coverage for therapies is typically based on their efficacy and ability to improve patient and caregiver outcomes. Given the challenges of using reimbursement to measure resource use, alternative measures may be needed. For example, hospice enrollment could be considered as a surrogate outcome that reflects reduced resource utilization at the EOL and high-quality EOL care. We found that the CMMI demonstration significantly increased odds of hospice enrollment. Patient-centered care, symptom control, and alignment with patient and caregiver preferences are also important outcomes to consider in evaluating palliative care models.

Right now, any innovation or policy change that does not save money during the end of life care regimen will not be favorably evaluated. Other treatment interventions can and are favorably evaluated if they buy improved quality of life and improved health at reasonable net new expenditures.

As more and more Americans are dying away from institutional settings, policy needs to catch up to reality. Sarah and her co-author have made a meaningful contribution to the policy environment by noting that our reality of where we die has changed and is likely to continue to change and therefore policy needs to catch up.

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Categories: Politics

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Happy (OK, Fierce) Thoughts

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 06:11

Gonna be another busy, strife-ful day in politics, so…

And furthermore:

The post Thursday Morning Open Thread: Happy (OK, Fierce) Thoughts appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

On The Road – arrieve – Humpback Whales

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 05:00

Good Morning, everyone,

Let’s go off to Newfoundland (if only, it’s gorgeous country I need to re-visit)!


I spent two weeks in Newfoundland in August. It was a wonderful trip and I have many photos to share. These are from a whale-watching excursion we went on in St. Anthony, at the northern tip of the island. The humpbacks there basically herd the fish against the rocky coast and then slurp them up, so we were able to get close to them and see them feeding.

The post On The Road – arrieve – Humpback Whales appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Repub Stupidity Open Thread: Trump’s Press Campaign Proudly Declares Him A Comic-Book Villain

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 22:29

… a comic-book villain who is mere seconds away from getting the beat-down of his life…

Nicely (in the original sense of the word) encapsulating the modern Republican Party: Parasitizing a smarter group’s work, failing to pay attention long enough to spot the problems with the stolen ideas, and not caring how much they get kicked around afterwards so long as the check clears. Per the Guardian:

Shortly after the House brought two articles of impeachment against the president for his efforts seeking foreign interference to bolster his own political interests, the official Trump War Room re-election campaign Twitter account posted a video to social media that superimposed his face over that of the villainous Marvel comic book character Thanos.

In the scene from the movie Avengers: Endgame, Thanos snaps his fingers, attempting to destroy the diverse array of heroes from throughout the universe who’ve teamed up to defeat him. I am inevitable Trump/Thanos says…

The video then cuts to footage of Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Jerry Nadler who magically vanish much like in the movie. Not the movie in question, mind you, the previous one, but these low-effort trolling operations from Trump’s social media team tend not to be heavy on consistency or logic.

Marvel Universe timeline discrepancies aside, the choice of this moment from the film was a strange one, as it’s seconds before Thanos realizes he’s about to be defeated.

Among the chorus of critics to point out the many other flaws at work in the analogy here was Jim Starlin, the artist who created the character of Thanos in the 1970s…

The post Repub Stupidity Open Thread: Trump’s Press Campaign Proudly Declares Him A Comic-Book Villain appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Look Ma, a Metaphor

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 19:43

America, fuck yeah:

Video footage shows the moment two women buying a rifle failed to notice a baby falling off the shop counter.

The customers can be seen admiring the gun inside a pawn shop while the infant sits on top of the glass counter beside them.

But while they are busy talking to each other, the shop assistant behind the counter leaps forward and tries to grab the baby as it slowly topples head-first towards the ground.

Luckily store manager Bill Reel noticed the child seemed “unsteady” and raced forward to catch it just before it hit the concrete floor.

The younger woman can be seen clutching her hand to her chest in shock as the father-of-four hands the baby to the other woman, believed to be the grandmother.

A little heavy-handed as far as metaphors go, but I’ll allow it.

This kid has no fucking chance they should just allow the clerk to keep it.

The post Look Ma, a Metaphor appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Artificial Intelligence & You: Automated Fake News and Trolling

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 18:52

As evidence continues to mount that we are living in a cyberpunk dystopia, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on artificial intelligence. This one is about text generation.

I’m something of an AI skeptic. While they’ve proven to be very effective in some areas, these are mostly tasks with a narrow scope and well-defined set of rules, such as playing chess and go, or determining whether something is a picture of a cat. More complex tasks like driving have proven to be a lot harder. Driving in particular has very ambiguous inputs that are highly context-dependent, two things that AIs have trouble with.

(Let’s please continue reading and not get hung up on the political and ethical roadblocks to self-driving cars.)

AIs have also historically had trouble generating text and images. Not because these are magical tasks that only humans can perform; it’s simply been difficult to make computers good at them. Well, much to my surprise, this may be coming to an end in the next few years. And I don’t mean that in the “self-driving cars are always five years away” sense.

In the last couple of years, computerized content generation has made some remarkable advances. Deepfakes–videos that believably replace one person with somebody else–are proliferating, and fairly easy to make. AIs are frighteningly good at generating faces now, too.

But what about text? Google Translate has gotten much more sophisticated lately as Alphabet has perfected the neural networks that power it. But is that more like writing, or more like playing go? I’d say it’s in between.

Which brings us to writing. Earlier this year, the nonprofit group OpenAI built a text-generation neural network that was, in their opinion, too frightening to release. I called malarkey, but now that they’ve been gradually releasing more sophisticated versions of their model, I call… less malarkey. What this means for you, and some examples, below the fold.

This neural network, called GPT-2, was trained on 40GB of internet text (which is a lot). I downloaded and set up the newest version of their model to play with it, and the results were impressive. When given a prompt, it will output its best guess of what the next word should be, over and over, until you have something approaching prose. Here are some that I generated, with the seed text in italics.

Just moments ago, a ballistic missile was launched from the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea.

It was tracked as it made its way to its target in Japan.

Japan’s Defense Minister announced this morning that North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japan into the Sea of Japan.

The missile’s trajectory is the same as last time North Koreans fired a ballistic missile. The North Korean missile launch happened just hours after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose additional sanctions on the reclusive nation because of their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

China, North Korea’s main ally, condemned the launch and called for “urgent efforts by the international community to properly implement the resolution,” according to a statement issued from the Foreign Ministry.

The missile launch followed the US strike on Syria, which came after four of its air strikes were launched in retaliation to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun last week.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, her family reports.She was 88.

Ginsburg suffered her latest bout of complications in early June, her brother-in-law Ron Sachdeva said Tuesday morning. She was in intensive care following her surgery to relieve the pain from her latest bout of pneumonia, Sachdeva said.

“It is with a very heavy heart and with great sorrow that we say goodbye to our beloved Ruth,” Sachdeva told CNN.

She was brought back to the hospital to begin physical therapy in late June after being “sore for quite a while.”

“The treatment included a series of lung functions over the course of several weeks,” Sachdeva said.

A physician who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity told CNN last month that she was in critical condition.

Are they perfect? No. Do they always come out this well? No. But, when they do: Are they good enough to trick people who only skim them? Good enough to rile up the gullible or already-convinced? Good enough to generate natural-sounding tweets and website comments? Good enough to run an ongoing confusion & disinformation campaign?

Unfortunately, yes. Add the fact that it’s trivial to generate an endless supply of these, and we can see the problem. It’s already creating content that’s better than some of what comes out of the Russian propaganda mills.

These models are only going to get more sophisticated as time goes on. (Indeed, this model already is more sophisticated; they just haven’t released the whole thing). Neural networks leave fingerprints all over the stuff they create, and it’s easy to detect GPT-2 text, but who’s really going to go out of their way to do so?

We aren’t in a world of endlessly-scalable automated propaganda yet… but we’re getting to the point where I can see it on the horizon.

(If you’d like to play with a smaller version of this model yourself, you can try it at this website.)

The post Artificial Intelligence & You: Automated Fake News and Trolling appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Worthy Endeavors Open Thread: Senator Harris Has A New Target — Stephen Miller

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 17:54

The letter—whose signatories include Harris’s former 2020 rivals Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker—adds to the already intense pressure on the White House to relieve Miller of his duties, though the administration has given zero indication it plans to heed those calls. Miller, who has encouraged Trump’s immigration crackdown, has never made a secret of his nationalist, anti-immigrant worldview, evidenced in his reported proposal to release detained immigrants in sanctuary cities as a form of retaliation, and his alleged push to tax Mexico. “He is working behind the scenes, he has planted all of his people in all of these positions, he is on the phone with them all of the time, and he is creating a side operation that will circumvent the normal, transparent policy process” in order to push his agenda, a source told my colleague Abigail Tracy last year, highlighting the insidious ways in which Miller pushes his priorities…

At least 75 House Democrats have also called for Miller’s removal, and the SPLC has circulated a petition pushing for him to be fired. But Republicans have mostly been silent on the matter, and the White House has stood by Miller amid the fallout. “I know Stephen,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told the Hill last month, attempting to frame calls for his removal as somehow anti-Semitic “He loves this country and hates bigotry in all its forms.”

That in itself is a pretty good indication that the administration has no plans to sever ties with Miller, setting up a de facto confrontation between Trump and Harris that promises to play out as long as Miller remains on staff. In leading the charge, Harris is cementing her post-campaign position as a leading Trump antagonist. Before she entered the presidential race, Harris was perhaps best known for eviscerating now Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearing; months later, she did the same with attorney general William Barr. She may not get the chance to cross-examine Miller in practice, but in principle she’s once again setting herself against a figurehead that stands for everything she wishes to be known for fighting against.

Excellent quick summary of the Miller Problem, from Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post:

Miller’s fingerprints can be detected all over Trump’s presidency. He is, after all, one of Trump’s main speechwriters. But his biggest role has been in molding the White House’s immigration policy, tacitly pushing through a sweeping series of measures — from travel bans on Muslim-majority countries to punitive actions against immigrants who receive public assistance — under Trump’s watch.

Although many advisers have come and gone during Trump’s tumultuous presidency, Miller has endured. That is, until now. Over the past week, more than 100 Democratic lawmakers and some civil society organizations have called for Miller’s resignation in response to new revelations about the depths of his ideological extremism.

A leaked cache of more than 900 emails that Miller allegedly sent to employees at the far-right website Breitbart ahead of the 2016 election appear to show his demonstrated commitment to white-nationalist political beliefs and talking points. Miller “promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing nonprofit organization that obtained the material from former Breitbart reporter Katie McHugh…

What concerns some analysts is that Miller may not be an outlier. He has spent his entire professional life working within the Republican Party, including a stint as a close aide to Jeff Sessions, Trump’s former U.S. attorney general, when he was an Alabama senator…

The post Worthy Endeavors Open Thread: Senator Harris Has A New Target — Stephen Miller appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Marking Beliefs To Market: My Post Last Night Was Wrong Because the Reporting It Was Based on Was Factually Incorrect

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:57

Last night I did a post decrying a forthcoming Executive Order (EO) that would, based on The New York Times‘ reporting about the forthcoming EO, redefine Judaism as a race and nationality. Specifically:

Religion was not included among the protected categories, so Mr. Trump’s order will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate has now reported that The New York Times‘ reporting was factually inaccurate and misleading! (emphasis mine)

The New York Times published a bombshell report on Tuesday claiming that President Donald Trump planned to sign an executive order that interpreted Judaism “as a race or nationality” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI governs federally funded educational programs, so the Times warned that the order might be deployed to squelch anti-Israel speech on campus. “Mr. Trump’s order,” the Times further claimed, “will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.”

That turned out to be untrue. The text of the order, which leaked on Wednesday, does not redefine Judaism as a race or nationality. It does not claim that Jews are a nation or a different race. The order’s interpretation of Title VI—insofar as the law applies to Jews—is entirely in line with the Obama administration’s approach. It only deviates from past practice by suggesting that harsh criticism of Israel—specifically, the notion that it is “a racist endeavor”—may be used as evidence to prove anti-Semitic intent. There is good reason, however, to doubt that the order can actually be used to suppress non-bigoted disapproval of Israel on college campuses.

Title VI bars discrimination on the basis of “race, color or national origin” in programs that receive federal assistance—most notably here, educational institutions. It does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, an omission that raises difficult questions about religions that may have an ethnic component. For example, people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities can be Muslim. But Islamophobia often takes the form of intolerance against individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern origin. If a college permits rampant Islamophobic harassment on campus, has it run afoul of Title VI?

In a 2004 policy statement, Kenneth L. Marcus—then–deputy assistant secretary for enforcement at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights—answered that question. “Groups that face discrimination on the basis of shared ethnic characteristics,” Marcus wrote, “may not be denied the protection” under Title VI “on the ground that they also share a common faith.” Put differently, people who face discrimination because of their perceived ethnicity do not lose protection because of their religion.

The Obama administration reaffirmed this position in a 2010 letter written by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who is now the chair of the Democratic National Committee. “We agree,” Perez wrote, with Marcus’ analysis. “Although Title VI does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and members of other religious groups violates Title VI when that discrimination is based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, rather than its members’ religious practice.” Perez added that Title VI “prohibits discrimination against an individual where it is based on actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity.”

On Wednesday, I asked Perez’s former principal deputy, Sam Bagenstos—now a professor at University of Michigan Law School—whether he felt this reasoning equated any religious group of a nationality or race. “The key point we were making,” he told me, “is that sometimes discrimination against Jews, Muslims, and others is based on a perception of shared race, ethnicity, or national origin, and in those cases it’s appropriate to think of that discrimination as race or national origin discrimination as well as religious discrimination. It doesn’t mean that the government is saying that the group is a racial or national group. The government is saying that the discrimination is based on the discriminator’s perception of race or national origin. That’s a very different matter from saying that anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian speech constitutes discrimination.”

Trump’s EO does not deviate from this understanding of the overlap between discrimination on the basis of race or nationality and discrimination against religion. It only changes the law insofar as it expands the definition of anti-Semitism that may run afoul of Title VI. In assessing potential violations, the order directs executive agencies to look to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition—chiefly “hatred toward Jews” directed at individuals, their property, their “community institutions and religious facilities.”

There is much more at the link, including an analysis of why this is likely to have little actual effect in combatting anti-Semitism on college and university campuses. If you have the five minutes, I highly recommend clicking across and reading Stern’s entire article.

Since I believe in marking my beliefs, assessments, analyses, and statements to market, especially if I’m wrong, I just want to state clearly that last night’s post was inaccurate. It was inaccurate because I wrongly described what the forthcoming Executive Order was going to contain and what it would do. And this inaccuracy was based on incorrect reporting from The New York Times. While the larger context within the post about why Judaism is a religion, not a race or nationality is correct, the premise for the post is not. I am not going to pull the post, but I am adding an update with a link at the bottom to this post for anyone who comes upon it from this point on.

I sincerely apologize for riling everyone up and making everyone less informed. That is not the objective I’m trying to achieve here.

Open thread!

The post Marking Beliefs To Market: My Post Last Night Was Wrong Because the Reporting It Was Based on Was Factually Incorrect appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

People Like Us

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 09:26

I don’t know who said it recently, but someone mentioned that Democrats might do better worrying about how their candidate is going to appeal to black voters in Philly, Detroit and Milwaukee. To me, that makes as much or more sense as trying to figure out how to turn fickle Obama/Trump voters back to a Democratic candidate. Fundamentally, though, it’s hard for people who follow politics closely, and who care deeply about the outcome of the election, to determine how to motivate the occasional voter.

In addition to not understanding the behavior of the occasional voter, I also don’t understand the behavior of the calculating voter – the one who, for example, likes Warren or Booker, but thinks that their most admired candidate is too liberal or too whatever to appeal to the occasional voter. The history of politics is full of winners who seemed unlikely at this point in the race (the current President being one, Obama being another).

Since voting nature is essentially unfathomable, isn’t the best approach just to support the candidate that appeals to you? At least you’ll be genuinely excited to support that candidate, which is a major part of motivating others.

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Categories: Politics

Open enrollment and zero premium plans

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 06:59

The ACA open enrollment period for almost everyone will be ending in the next week.  After this Sunday, anyone who is looking for individual market insurance will need a special enrollment period.  So get enrolled.  And be ready to think about zero premium plans(**).  Zero premium plans are common and they prompt a need to figure out  what the relevant comparison is for decision making and prioritization.

The critical question from an analytical point of view is compared to what?

One way to look at this is that  zero premium Bronze plan with a $6,000 to $7,900 deductible and maximum out of pocket limit is vastly superior to the alternative of a zero premium plan with an infinite deductible, higher cost per unit of service and no potential pre-deductible services.  In that case, Bronze is great.

The other way to look at a zero premium Bronze plan is that it has a $6,000 to $7,900 deductible and out of pocket costs while Silver and Gold plans may have monthly premiums but potentially far lower out of pocket costs.  Spending $0 on premiums for a Bronze plan or  $12/month for a CSR-94 plan with a $600 deductible changes the analysis.  Bronze is, most likely really bad.

There is a middle case of a zero premium bronze plan and a $150-$200 month Silver 73 or low Gold plan with a $3,000 deductible.  In those scenarios, for people with bottom 60% health expenditures, it is very unlikely that they will incur enough claims where the cost sharing differences matter much less where the cost sharing is different enough to make up for the extra premiums that were used to buy lower cost-sharing.

Everyone who is likely to be subsidy eligible, go look.  Zero premium plans are widely available and provide at least hit by a meteor protection.



** DISCLOSURE:  I have a zero premium paper coming in the near future. My co-author and I also just got funding to do even more wicked awesome stuff in this domain.

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Categories: Politics

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: YES QUEEN!

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 05:56

And too also:

“Wanna find out if I still have those ball bats in my office, boys?”

At the first appearance in the Capitol’s stately Rayburn Room shortly after 9 a.m., Pelosi spoke of Congress’s “solemn” duty to act as a check on the president before ceding the floor to the Judiciary Committee chairman to announce impeachment articles accusing the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. At the second press conference, Pelosi was flanked by about two dozen Democratic lawmakers, the atmosphere joyful as she touted the newly forged deal on USMCA.

If she experienced any cognitive dissonance over slapping the president with impeachment articles before handing him a bipartisan legislative victory, Pelosi did not betray it to reporters. When asked by CBS News’ Nancy Cordes if it was a “coincidence” that the two announcements were made on the same day, Pelosi swiftly responded that it was not. Congress only has one more week before a long recess, and that means multitasking, she said…

Speaking at a conference hosted by Politico later on Tuesday, Pelosi said the USMCA deal “isn’t about politics or giving the president a win,” and that Congress shouldn’t walk away from a deal that benefits Americans because the president is involved.

But the deal also holds undeniable political benefits for the 40-odd freshmen Democratic lawmakers who flipped Republican seats in 2018, many of whom promised to work with Mr. Trump when necessary and were wary of impeachment before the Ukraine scandal. Several of these members were at the podium with Pelosi as she made her announcement, including Congressman Colin Allred of Texas, Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia and Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer of Iowa…

The House is expected to vote to impeach the president and to approve USMCA next week before leaving for the Christmas holiday, setting up the prospect of the House approving both on the same day. Congress must also approve the National Defense Authorization Act and 12 spending bills to fund the government ahead of its scheduled departure on December 20.

Despite the news cycle accelerating at breakneck speed, Pelosi appears to be unfazed…

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Categories: Politics

Late-Night Dystopia Open Thread: Floriduh Cops

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 03:22

In a world with less terrible / outrageous news every day, I have the feeling this incident might’ve gotten more attention.

Most of those officers — 13 — were from Miami-Dade Police Department, having followed the truck into Broward County during a long chase, said Rod Skirvin, president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association.

Four people were killed in the shootout Thursday evening at an intersection in Miramar: two robbery suspects who’d hijacked the truck; a UPS driver they had taken hostage; and a bystander, police said.

The shootout happened as a police chase ended after the hijacked UPS truck got stuck in traffic. Gunfire erupted from inside and outside the truck, though it’s not clear who fired first.

Police officers left their vehicles and crouched behind cars — their own and others at the intersection — as shields as they approached, video from the scene showed.

Suspects Lamar Alexander, 41, and Ronnie Jerome Hill, 41, both of Miami-Dade County, were killed, the FBI said.

Also killed were the hijacked UPS driver, Frank Ordonez — who relatives said had been substituting for a colleague who’d called out from work — and bystander Richard Steven Cutshaw, officials said.

Whether Ordonez and Cutshaw were shot by police is under investigation, the FBI has said.

At least 13 police officers were shot at, but none was injured, according to Steadman Stahl, president of the South Florida Police Benevolent Association.

The chase began after Alexander and Hill robbed a jewelry store Thursday afternoon in Coral Gables, near Miami, and hijacked the UPS truck, police said.

Police radioed that gunfire occasionally erupted from the truck even as police chased it, CNN affiliate WSVN reported…

Ooooh, hot pursuit! Stealing jewelry is wrong, and pistol-whipping a store employee is worse, but I can’t see how making sure the perpetrators didn’t escape was worth shooting two people whose only crime was going to work that day.

… “Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” said David Klinger, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. The incident “was really, really bad.”

But as chaotic and calamitous as the episode was, it was also “a perfect example” of why police are allowed to use deadly force against dangerous criminals, Klinger said. Authorities said Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill had left a trail of violence behind them that evening. Stopping them by any means — even with bullets — was “absolutely the right thing to do,” Klinger said.

“In a situation like this, the police are reactive,” Klinger added. “This is not a situation they want to be in. Their hand was forced.”

The dramatic exchange of gunfire followed a high-speed chase through two counties that thwarted residents’ commutes at rush hour. The men had tried to rob Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables, triggering a silent alarm about 4:15 p.m., police said.

They said a female employee of the store was injured as the robbers and the store owner shot at each other. The gunmen fled north in a truck, then commandeered a UPS truck while the driver was making a delivery, police said. Several police cars pursued the UPS truck, with the UPS driver trapped inside, until the vehicle was boxed in by traffic in Miramar and officers surrounded it….

Geoff Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, said that other than having a SWAT truck with heavily armed tactical police officers, he did not know of alternative ways that police could have safely ended the pursuit. The gunmen had proved that they were willing to resort to violence to escape and could have endangered other people in the area, such as by hijacking other cars, Alpert said.

“This is why the police are trained to do what they do,” he said…

Seems like the cops could’ve given the perpetrators a few minutes, just so the “they shot first” defense would be a little clearer. (Unlucky damned hostage was about to end up dead anyways.) I’m told that Coral Gables is one of South Florida’s most sought-after shopping destinations”, but we haven’t quite descended to the point where richer zip codes get a free pass on extrajudicial murder, have we?

Bonus cameo from another newsmaker:

The post Late-Night Dystopia Open Thread: Floriduh Cops appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

I Did NAZI That Coming: The President Will Sign an Executive Order Declaring Judaism a Race and Nationality

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 23:43

 The President Will Sign an Executive Order Declaring Judaism a Race and Nationality

From The New York Times (emphasis mine):

President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday.

The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students. In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — or B.D.S. — movement against Israel has roiled some campuses, leaving some Jewish students feeling unwelcome or attacked.

In signing the order, Mr. Trump will use his executive power to take action where Congress has not, essentially replicating bipartisan legislation that has stalled on Capitol Hill for several years. Prominent Democrats have joined Republicans in promoting such a policy change to combat anti-Semitism as well as the boycott-Israel movement.

But critics complained that such a policy could be used to stifle free speech and legitimate opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the name of fighting anti-Semitism. The definition of anti-Semitism to be used in the order matches the one used by the State Department and by dozens of other nations, but it has been criticized as too open-ended and sweeping.

For instance, it describes as anti-Semitic “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” and offers as an example of such behavior “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The order to be signed by Mr. Trump would empower the Education Department in such actions. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the department can withhold funding from any college or educational program that discriminates “on the ground of race, color, or national origin.” Religion was not included among the protected categories, so Mr. Trump’s order will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.

Much more at the link.

Any assertion of Judaism as a race and nationality is bad, as well as factually inaccurate. Making it official US policy, by way of an executive order, is potentially catastrophic. Other states that classified Judaism as a race and nationality include NAZI Germany in the Nuremberg Race Laws and the Soviet Union. The Nuremberg Race Laws went into effect in 1935 and were modeled on racial purity and separation laws from the Jim Crow south after Reconstruction was overthrown. In the case of the Soviet Union, the Soviet equivalents were a legacy and carryover of the pre-Communist Russian anti-Semitism that had permeated Russian life.

No one who isn’t either in denial or has decided to put political or personal profit ahead of reality, facts, and the truth needs any more evidence that the President and his administration are pushing a white supremacist agenda and are winking and nudging and signaling in a variety of other ways to Americans who would like to see the United States become a white, Christian herrenvolk. The Attorney General has now given two speeches in the past two months implying that this should be the case. But this new executive order is a significant development. And that is not meant to downplay what our fellow citizens; be they religious minorities like Muslims and the Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists mistaken for them because of superficial physiological resemblance; ethnic minorities whose families originated in Central and South America, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and/or Africa, or LGBTQ Americans have been going through since January 2017. Rather it is an acknowledgment that things are accelerating in a bad direction. When governments declare Jews to be a race and nationality apart from the rest of the citizenry, bad things begin to happen. And they begin to happen quickly.

The defenders of this dangerous stupidity – and if you go and read the rest of the article you’ll see this includes the head of the Anti-Defamation League and one of Senator Reid’s former senior staff member, as well as a number of others – who think this is a good thing because it will somehow provide protection on campus against pro-Palestinian advocates are deluding themselves. It won’t. It will be, however, a loaded gun just lying around waiting for a smarter, better organized, and more determined anti-Semite and racist than the President to pick it up and use it.

Right now there is an attempt by the ultra-religious in Israel facilitated by Netanyahu, as well as some Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the US to redefine Judaism. And it may be the dumbest argument regarding who is and isn’t Jewish ever. Even more so since it is being made by other Jews. It takes the worst portions of the anti-Semitic arguments that Jews are a race or ethno-nationality apart from all others and pushes all Jews who aren’t as devout ,or devout in a way that the person making the argument approves of, into the racial/ethno-national category. Jews who are devout, or devout in the way that the person making the argument approves of, count as actual Jews because they’re religious. So the good Jews are Jewish because Judaism is a religion and the good Jews are observing it correctly and that is the only thing that sets them apart from non-Jews. The bad Jews are Jews who aren’t really Jewish because Judaism is a race or ethno-nationality, the bad Jews are either not observing the religion correctly or at all, and therefore because they are racially Jewish they are set apart from everyone including Jews who are Jews because they are observant of Judaism, which is a religion and not a race. I’ll pause here while you diagram this so you don’t get lost…

All this executive order does is facilitate this separation of Jews out as distinct from other Americans. And despite the advocates within Judaism of trying to define some Jews out of the religion, when someone more motivated, smarter, and well organized eventually comes along and decides to pick up this loaded gun and use it on American Jews, that person is not going to discriminate between the Jews who are religious because they’re Jewing correctly and those who are a race because they’re Jewing wrong.

I am going to say it once again: being opposed to the State of Israel in general and specific policies and positions of the Israeli government IS NOT anti-Semitism. It may be anti-Zionist or anti-Israel, but it IS NOT anti-Semitism. In fact it is what Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, actually wanted to happen. He argued that one of the reasons that Jews needed their own state was so that issues would be elevated to state level disagreements thus reducing or obviating anti-Semitism. This was the central premise of his book Der Judenstaat! I learned this sometime between the 2nd and 5th grade in Judaic Studies at The Hillel School of Tampa. Why those who support this stupidity can’t seem to learn it, remember it, and/or understand it is beyond 7 to 10 year old me! As well as current me.

Those pushing for this are out of their minds if they think this is a good idea. Judaism is a religion. It has been a religion since the early rabbis moved the ritual practices away from a focus on sacrifice in the Temple to an adherence to commandments, prayer, and Tikun Olam. 2,000 years later there are Jews of almost every ethnicity and nationality. American Jews, or Jewish Americans if your prefer, like our fellow citizens, are descended from immigrants from all over the world. What sets us apart culturally is religious belief, adherence, and practice – not some whacked our racial or genetic theory. And while it is true that some Jews have some specific genetic markers that trace back to the Middle East, they actually share those with two other Middle Eastern groups: the Palestinians and the Druze. And that makes perfect sense as some of today’s Palestinians and Druze are most likely the descendants of Judaeans who did not flee into exile after the Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple and who eventually converted to different religions over time as different groups took over the area. And that is what really sets Jews in the US or anywhere else, outside of Israel, aside from their fellow citizens: religious belief and adherence, not race or ethnicity.

Whichever day the President signs this executive order making it the official policy and position of the United States that Judaism is a race and nationality will eventually be remembered as a very bad day for American Jews. It took a long time for the majority of white Christian America to extend whiteness to America’s Jews, which has allowed almost all of us to pass and provided us with a modicum of social, cultural, political, and legal protection since the late 1960s/early 1970s. When the President signs this executive order, the official position of the United States will become that Jews are a distinct Middle Eastern race and nationality with a specific right to self-determination. And when that happens we won’t be white anymore. And the issues surrounding pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel advocacy won’t actually be resolved. But the white supremacists, the neo-NAZIs, and the white Christian herrenvolkers will be very happy because the official position of the US government and the current President and his administration will confirm what they believe to be true.

Open thread!

The post I Did NAZI That Coming: The President Will Sign an Executive Order Declaring Judaism a Race and Nationality appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Bedtime Respite Open Thread: “Hair Love”

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 22:01

(Thanks to commentor Rikyrah)

Many of you have already seen it by now, but hey, cartoons are made for re-watching…

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Categories: Politics

Must Be The Season of the Witch

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 20:56

I’ve noticed in the last few weeks a real uptick in the attacks on the Democratic nominees, and I don’t know if it is just the usual mania that happens in every primary, bitterness from supporters whose candidates have already dropped out, or ratfucking from the far left and/or Republicans. I expect some degree of the all of these, but I don’t know the extent of the last.

It’s dispiriting, to me, at least, because other than the crazy aura lady and that cultist from Hawaii, I’d vote for every single one of the Democrats remaining- even that Elon Musk like guy whose name escapes me at the moment. Obviously I have have my favorites, but really, anything is better than the current crisis. I dunno if I am just numb and nihilistic, removed from the process because WV votes so late and is inconsequential anyway because of our size and the fact that we will go for Trump regardless, or stupid, but everything for me is the general election. They’ll all be fucking fine compared to Trump.

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Categories: Politics