Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trump tax plan could hurt reinsurance, which in turn would affect disaster recovery and Obamacare replacement


The Houston Chronicle pointed out today in a detailed article that the Trump tax plan would harm recovery from disasters by penalizing offshore transactions, which are often vital to the reinsurance industry.

Reinsurance is a major party of the strategy for paying for claims from major disasters, especially hurricanes and big wildfires, and probably earthquakes. Some of the risks for these are not insured by normal insurance (for example, special federally subsidized flood insurance is needed for most water damage in most locations, and earthquake insurance follows a similar paradigm. (Sinkholes, especially in Florida, can be interesting;  Florida requires the coverage for them be offered.)

But if reinsurance becomes more expensive, then coverage for floods and earthquakes especially will become more expensive and assistance to affected homeowners less.


Reinsurance can also be a useful tool in health insurance, and could have been set up to make improvements in replacing “Obamacare”, by helping cover claims of less healthy people. But the Trump tax plan could make health care reform more difficult too (even as some versions of the tax plan want to repeal the Obamacare individual mandate).
  
The Houston Chronicle story shows a picture of the flood surrounding a large home in Spring, TX, in northern Harris County. I believe that the Survival Mom on Facebook (Lisa Bedford) said she lives near there,  I recall that she was OK after Harvey, but commented on Facebook that local volunteerism in repairing homes (dealing with mold and drywall ripout) was essential to the recovery in the area.  That’s right, people who don’t have construction experience seem asked to chip in.  I don’t know how well this worked out with Katrina, where many volunteers were not allowed to work around mold. 
By United States Geological Survey - Houston, Texas at the Wayback Machine (archived on 10 February 2005), Public Domain, Link

Friday, November 17, 2017

Anti-Trump protest and resistance dragnet from inauguration day seems to ensnare some journalists


This story by Chris Steele in Truthout does need careful attention. It claims that many people who were present at the violent anti-Trump demonstrations on Inauguration Day 2017 could face up to 60 years in prison.  The charges seem to be incitement to riot.  

The article claims that bloggers or journalists making video were viewed as complicit and arrested.


It also claims that resistance protestors in Charlottesville were charge much more severely that the original white supremacist groups.

Of course, this article would need a lot of fact-checking, but if true (given the name of the website) it is certainly disturbing.

I for one is not one who sees the world in terms of tribal enemies. And I don't contribute to sites to become my "voice" of oppression. 

But, there are very disturbing stories that Trump's people might prosecute Trump's "losing" political adversary, banana republic style, as here


Friday, November 10, 2017

TSA failures of undercover tests raise further indirect questions about traveling with electronics


According to ABC News, story by David Kerley and Jeffrey Cook, the TSA failed most undercover test results of TSA screening.

The failure rate seemed to be about 80%, which was a small improvement from two years ago.


The report very casually mentions the concern about laptop bombs (which had resulted in in-cabin electronics buns from some Mideast airports last March), which has been offset by other recent findings about the safety hazards of placing electronics with lithium ion batteries in checked luggage – so right now there is no perfect solution.  The ABC video on this story automatically then plays an older video reporting that TSA was requiring some laptops to be placed in bins. It’s not clear if preferred travelers would be exempt.

Again, most of us need to take our electronics on the road and be productive when we get there, at least in the hotel rooms.  I like to have inflight Internet (even if paid for) if the flight is longer than 4 hours. 
  
I actually went to a job fair for screeners in St. Paul MN in August 2002, and I hardly believe I could have adjusted to this kind of regimentation at work. I met a couple young screeners personally waiting for a connection in Detroit that year. 
  
Wired has a good story from June 2017 on the laptop issue here



Update: Nov. 13

There are further stories about TSA concerns over the possibility of drones attacking planes.  

And there was a lithium battery explosion in a camera in Orlando on Friday Nov. 11, local TV story. .  This is still a big problem to be solved. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Federal judge in Brooklyn allows suit's against Trump's temporizing policy on DACA to go forward


On a day of multiple demonstrations in support of DACA, a federal judge has ruled that lawsuits stopping President Trump from halting DACA by fifteen states and the District of Columbia, can go forward. The ruling came from U.S. District Judge Nicholas Gurufus.
  
The Wall Street Journal story by Joe Palazollo is here.

The reasoning behind the ruling seems pretty simple – discrimination.  There’s some procedural stuff but not a lot this time.

  

States have argued that interfering with DACA even conditionally upon Congress interferes with filling positions particularly at universities. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

FBI had fired an agent over taking fertility medication


Taking lawfully prescribed drugs can get you in trouble if you have some kinds of jobs, even something to address sterility so that one can have a child within a traditional marriage.

That’s the history of hostage rescue agent Matthew Litton, according to a story Oct. 28 by Adam Goldman in the New York Times.

An administrative law judge ruled that Litton had been wrongfully discharged when he didn’t disclose the medication. The judge ruled that the government was effectively discriminating because of a disability not related to work.

  

But the details of the story of Litton’s career in the story are quite remarkable. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

GOP tax plan: trick or treat


The GOP tax plan flashed on my smartphone this afternoon as I was away on a day trip in PA.
  
It’s treats for the few, and tricks for the many, according to one CNN op-ed by Edward McCaffery. 

The doubling of the standard deduction is largely offset by the loss of the personal exemption, but there is a weakened incentive to itemize. Limitations of real estate tax deductions could hurt people in higher tax states.But eliminating the moralistic alternative minimum tax is welcome. 



But Norquist, for example, says nobody makes money from a tax cut.  It’s just that less money is expropriated from them. 




Update: Nov. 4

Vox, in an article by Jen Kirby, explains how the GOP tax plan goes against "family values" by undermining the adoption tax credit, especially for special needs children. 

Update: Nov. 8

David Brooks has an interesting perspective on how the GOP tax plan penalizes Blue state professionals and and on the need to re-educate them to get their hands dirty, here

Update: Nov 9

CNBC compares House and Senate tax plans. Expect all this to change. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some campuses see color blindness itself as oppressive


A college campus, the University of Southern Indiana, has explicitly told its students to notice people of color and not to remain color blind, as explained in this article by William Nardi at University of Massachusetts.

The “5 tips” article  talks about becoming an “ally” of a particular community (this time, women of color).

Personally, that’s not how I work, although that’s a topic for a Wordpress essay in the future. 




Here's something else quite disturbing:


I also wanted to share this article about Neo-Nazi recruiting on some southern campuses, by Eleanor Barder on Truthout (which is pushy on the donations).  Note that she links to an altright article that already has been deleted and has to be found on the Internet Archive (Wayback machine).  We seem to have deteriorated into a debate on who gets to have an identity group-based mass movement and who does not.  That article uses the word "proles", the name of my 1969 unpublished novel!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Conspiracy theories about Paddock's rampage start to make sense


Here is a theory in the Daily Wire, article by Tyler Dankhe, about Paddock’s possible motive, a kind of righteous idealism about gun control.  The theory had first appeared on a site by Mark Steyn.
So, the idea was to force America to face gun control?

I wonder if the shooter simply thought that the world is doomed, maybe over North Korea and nukes and the EMP threat, and wanted to go out making that kind of a statement, a certain contempt for mankind.


It seems that the gun collecting started about the time of Trump’s election win.  By comparison, James Holmes in Colorado had been accumulating weapons for about four months before his rampage.  Likewise, Holmes seemed contemptuous, and “the message is that there is no message”.

There are stories about a prediction made on 4chan on Sept. 11 (and some debunking of this as “fake news”). . 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trump's order today could gut Obamacare indeed


Pundits are saying that Trump’s XO today partially gutting Obamacare is an exercise of letting the strong get out of taking care of the weak (outside of their own extended families, that is).
Benju Sarlin of ABCNews analyses the order, which would be implemented gradually, here

The bike shop example is a good one.  Bike shops (maybe with shaved legs prominent) would be able to form groups across state lines, and it’s pretty clear that, whatever the visuals, most of their employees were healthier than average.  Taking one for the team is indeed an irony.


People could buy temporary limited coverage, gutting Obamacare concepts of mandatory coverages. 
  
A later news release Thursday indicated that Trump had decided to end the month-by-month cost sharing subsidies that help some people buy health insurance, CNN link.   The president says that a federal court had ruled that these payments are illegal (Aug. 2 Washington Post opinion by Ilya Somin;  Atlantic article ;  Wikipedia:  House of Representatives v. Burwell or Price).  Insurance companies still have a legal responsibility to honor the subsidies but could drop out. 

LGBT groups have decried the order, mentioning marginalized groups (people of color), but PrEP coverage could be a big issue for some men.  
  
The president had to be reminded by Pence to sign the order, an event that had also happened in March. 



Update: Oct 13

I'm already seeing people (who voted for Trump) saying on Facebook that their own subsidies, which they need for lifesaving medications. will be cut.  What's next, personal gofundme's?  Are social media friends supposed to become personal safety nets? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

White supremacists attack black man in Charlottesville, have him arrested for fighting back; litigation over "militia"


I had not even heard yet of a second W.S. march in Charlottesville, but apparently it led to a nasty incident in a garage (maybe were I parked when I went to gay pride there Sept 16). The Washington Post account is here

Apparently some supremacists attacked a black man in the garage and when he fought back they filed a complaint with police, framing the black man.  Criminal procedure required a lockup at first, until the Commonwealth Attorney can look at it.

Actually Virginia’s criminal procedure is probably safer for potential defendants than many other states (like North Carolina, that had to endure the lacrosse scandal). 



Update:  Oct. 12



The Post reports arrests of some of the men involved in starting the incident. 

The City of Charlottesville and several local businesses have sued to prevent "militia" from holding rallies in the city, as a violation of Virginia law, as explained on "The Hill". 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trump continues to deny climate change needs attention, even as hurricanes and wildfires mount in unprecedented fashion

Trump’s minions still race to play to Trump’s base of relative deprivation, as the EPA announces it will repeal some of Obama’s clean power regs, Fox story here

The government says it is getting away from picking winners and losers. The effects seem to be more on loosening up underground mining than mountaintop removal.


But Trump is taking this action in an autumn which seems like the worst ever in terms of disasters. Three major hurricanes, each unprecedented in some way; and unprecedented wildfire catastrophe in the Santa Rosa CA area (near the Russian River, which I visited in 1995), with possibly unprecedented loss of homes.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. picture of Zaca fire in 2007 


Monday, October 02, 2017

Las Vegas shooter challenges previous notions on domestic terrorism; left-wing beliefs?


It may sound almost trite at this point, to ponder the consequences of the horrific domestic terror even in Las Vegas late Sunday night, now the largest fatality count in US history, already exceeding Pulse.

The most obvious question is why the man was accumulating a cache of military assault weapons.
  
Also troubling is the idea that he was a senior citizen himself, not a young man entering the age of possible schizophrenia.

It does appear that Stephen Paddock has accumulated his cache for some time, and that this attack was thoroughly pre-meditated, very much like James Holmes’s attack in Colorado, much more so that Eliot Roger’s in California, and probably more so than even Pulse in Orlando.


And this seems to be apolitical, to prove that an attack could be mounted for no motive at all, right out of Hitchcock.
  
Ian Miltimore of Intellectual Takeout has a perspective on what feeds mass shootings today.  It pooh-poohs the idea of imprinting by violent media, but suggests that political violence is an instrument to redress feelings of powerlessness.
   
There are a couple of oddities that might connect to me.  One is that Paddock was a “professional” gambler who might not have counted cards but who used gambling sites, whose legality has been dubious. After I gave up my “hppub.com” domain in 2005 and moved everything to “doaskdotell.com”, “hppub.com” became a gambling site for a while.
  
Curiously, Saturday night, I had posted on this blog a post about a proposed bill to address the possible EMP threat, and used a picture of Las Vegas at night that I had taken on a Sunday night in May 2012, not far from the site of the massacre.  I had stayed in the Luxor, across the street from the concert site, for a few nights in December 1997.

There are already some theories attaching Paddock to the far Left, contradicting his persona of having become rich (like Trump) from real estate and casinos.

Update: Oct. 6

The Washington Post writes in an editorial today that banning bump stocks is not enough. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

House introduces electric grid security bill


The House of Representatives is considering a bill H,R. 3855 “Securing the Electric Grid to Protect Military Readiness Act of 2017”, Thomas link here introduced by Jacky Rosen, D-NV.

The bill seems to place more emphasis on cybersecurity than on the possibility of enemy (like North Korea) EMP threats (which pose separate perils to electronic equipment (E1) and to the grid transformers themselves (E3), or to extreme solar storms.



The electric grid in Puerto Rico is slow to recover because of the extreme destruction from Hurriance Maria, but also because of the utility’s financial problems and substandard maintenance before the storm. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Protests become melodramatic at Capitol over Graham-Cassidy, which does not have the votes to pass


The protests got pretty desperate over Graham-Cassidy this morning at the Capitol. .

  
Susan Collins still insists on voting no, even as the GOP tried to sweeten the grants for her state.

But Republicans say they will “move on”.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Good Samaritan faces lawsuit from the criminal he stopped with force


A good Samaritan who fought off a robber at a Starbucks in Fresno and stabbed the robber to subdue him now faces a lawsuit from the robber. Here is the abc7 story.  The mother claims excessive force and vigilantism. 
  
This all sounds perverse.  Although I would not be able to intervene myself (other than call 911). 


This makes you wonder about the law surrounding a “citizen’s arrest”.

This litigation will go nowhere. Law, and order. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GOP's latest Obamacare "repeal" throws it all back to the states


“Those Republicans” are about to try to repeal Obamacare again, and maybe replace it with almost nothing  Just proportional block grants to the states.


Think Progress is often a little too pushy and Leftist for me, but this article seems like a fair assessment of Lindsey Graham’s strategy. Judd Legum writes that be bill pits Americans against one another.  No, it begs for more GoFundMe campaigns?  
  
Matthew Yglesias weighs in on the more moderate Vox site and mentions that previous the GOP would have let states keep Obamacare if they wanted.  Apparently no longer. 

Update: Sept. 20

Dylan Matthews compares to to welfare reform, which he says failed miserably. Bill Clinton did that. Insurance companies will have to cover pre-existing conditions, but can charge a lot more.  

But the subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and individual mandates are gone.  Why not some sort of reinsurance system? 

Update: Sept 22

Here is an analysis of Graham-Cassidy and the Jimmy Kimmel test, by MJ Lee et all on CNN, here. States have to use their grants to cover pre-existing conditions (maybe with reinsurance) but have a lot of leeway on what is "affordable".  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricane Maria suddenly menaces much of Caribbean, maybe some of Eastern US


Again, another hurricane, this one Maria (like in West Side Story) has exploded.  This one started farther south than Irma but will cross further north, but may very well make a direct hit on Puerto Rico, especially east of San Juan.

The European Model so far keeps the hurricane off the east coast of the US, but some American model runs allow a dangerous landfall, probably in the Carolinas.  One run actually runs up much of the Chesapeake Bay.


This storm is supposed to weaken to a Cat 3 by the time it reaches Florida’s latitude.
A critical issue is whether High Pressure in the north Atlantic might drift back westward and force the hurricane onshore.

Here’s a story from Fortune. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Will many displaced Houstonians not return and have to resetlte elsewhere?


Peter Whoriskey and Patricia Sullivan discuss the possibility of not rebuilding in some of the most flood-prone neighborboods of Houston in a Washington Post article, “In flood-weary Houston, a call to retreat”, link here  
    
These areas would presumably include some areas deliberately flooded by reservoir releases during the recent massive rain event in late August.

However, buyouts of people and relocating them brings up many questions.  As with New Orleans, there would be questions, would they stay and work in Houston?  Would others in distant cities be asked to consider taking them in?


Maybe higher density housing, including high-rises, could be created in slightly higher areas of the City.  Texas generally doesn’t nurture high-rise living the way coastal cities do.

Even other cities, like Austin and San Antonio, around the Hill Country, have to be very careful about river flooding given the propensity for large rainfall events, especially from tropical moisture.  Ranch roads around Texas are filled with stream crossings and warning rulers. 

It would be important to know if Houston problems are affecting housing prices in other Texas cities.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"BernieCare": Sanders is serious about Medicare for All


On Vox, Jeff Stein interviews Bernie Sanders on his single-payer “Medicare for all” health care plan, link here.  The biggest problem could be the waiting lists, which would lead to partial re-privatization so that people could get surgery sooner for problems that keep them from working.  People from Canada do come to the US for surgery (Calgary Herald ).



Paul Waldman of the Washington Post explains the plan (“BernieCare”) in detail, and its implementation is gradual in the ability to cover all adults.  It doesn’t cover everything (like some nursing homes).    So how about a comparison to some quasi-privatized but efficient systems like Switzerland’s?  

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hurricanes accelerated debt ceiling crisis, forcing Trump to deal with Democrats


Trump’s debt ceiling deal, for three months, ruffled some sails, as Trump worked with Democrats, in the face of two hurricanes, and seems to be turning his image around.

Paul Ryan, in a turnabout, explained that people in Texas had been getting FEMA grants by their smartphones, in record speed compared to Katrina 12 years ago.  FEMA was about to run out of money by no later than Tuesday, after which Florida and the southeast will have to deal with Irma.  Ryan talked about "two horrible hurricanes", as Irma is called a "nuclear hurricane".  
  
 So the debt ceiling wall could come up much sooner than Sept. 29, and a political standoff could have meant cutting off FEMA aid to hurricane victims.



Matthew Yglesias explains Trump’s negotiations on Vox here   Is this “negotiation” from “The Apprentice” where Troy McClain let his legs get waxes on camera in order to “take one for the team”?  

Update: The bill passed and was signed.  The debt ceiling will come back as a Christmas present.