What Do We Get in Trade for Joe Scarborough?

Breaking news from the who-the-hell-cares department, but MSNBC token Republican Joe Scarborough, of the Morning Joe show, has left the Republican Party. . .   I’m shocked, shocked I say!

Actually I really was shocked.  I thought Scarborough left the Republicans years ago.  He didn’t vote for the Republican nominee not just last year, in 2016, but the last go around, in 2012.  If you never vote for Republicans, on what basis do you call yourself one?   Well maybe he was an “MSNBC Republican.”  If someone’s primary political issue is gun control and their most hated senator is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, you are either Senator Diane Feinstein or… “Conservative” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.  But Joe’s left leaning positions aren’t new.  I used to think Joe was trying to just keep his job.  MSNBC did fire Pat Buchanan for driving while conservative, so I figured, if you like those nice paychecks, you have to sing their tune.

When the network takes an editorial position, they can count on Joe to follow along loyally. The key to that is to join, or as is often the case, lead, the mob. Joe is the first one to pick up the torch and pitchfork and begin to emote, throwing logic and reason to the wind and just feel. He did it with Newtown, with Joe calling for tight gun control regulations (they did this daily on the show for almost 6 months after the shooting). If there is any incident that generates a purely emotional mob response Joe is there for it.

The Gabby Giffords shooting? He was there to warn the right to stop targeting innocent lefty politicians. He joined in blaming Palin and the Tea Party for the shooting.

Trayvon Martin? He joined the network in emoting about tea and skittles over and over again, even while his network was editing 911 calls from the shooting.

Ground Zero Mosque?  He demanded that be built too.

So the reason why Joe Scarborough can make it on MSNBC as a Republican is because he has been a faithful team player.  But now that he’s come out of the closet, he doesn’t need that.  It turns out that he can now to be free to be himself: A confused guy undergoing a mid-life crisis.  How else to explain first the affair, then divorce, and now engagement to co-host Mika Brzezinski?  And now a ridiculous “music” career, including Manhattan gigs and music videos.  Videos mind you, that he, without the least bit of shame, airs on his show.

As for Joe’s affair and divorce, each marriage is a mystery, so maybe I shouldn’t judge that, but I feel perfectly free to judge falling into the arms of Brzezinski.   Without claiming any psychic powers, I can tell you that on his deathbed he’ll regard his affair and engagement to Brzezinski as his biggest mistake (assuming he didn’t kill that intern in his office in Pensacola).

And yet I’ve been a long time viewer to Morning Joe.  For all the flaws of its hosts, it’s been different than any other dull and dumbed down morning show.  It’s provided some drama, such as when Mika and Joe got into a fight when she called him a chauvinist (I didn’t know at the time it was flirtation), and Yuval Levin discussing the Burkean and Paine traditions of American political thought.  You can’t get that on the Today Show. And Joe Scarborough did great work in eviscerating Paul Krugman on a debate on the Charlie Rose Show.  It’s always entertaining when a University of Alabama grad, ex-Politician, and TV host, gets the better of a New York Times columnist and Professor of Economics in his own field.

So while I’ve enjoyed the longer conversational style aspects of Morning Joe; the show’s #nevertrump descent into pure snarkfest had ruined what was formerly a useful show, and turned it into a 3 hour morning long Cobert Show, only without the attempts at humor, all the while the main host acts out his mid-life crisis on live TV.

But as Joe pursues establishment approval that will never come, no matter how much he debases himself, he won’t be missed on the right, even if he takes all 12 or “Joe Scarborough Republicans” with him.

So bye Joe.

But, do we get anything in trade?  If we’re trading Joe to the left, does the left have anything to offer us?  Well as a matter of fact…

You may not have heard of Laci Green, particularly if you’re over thirty and don’t follow Social Justice Warrior intersectional feminism (and who does?) but in the world of YouTube, she’s a big star. Her feminist blogger YouTube channel has a million and a half subscribers and 146 million views.  That’s a big audience for a lot of feminist yammering about Planned Parenthood and pansexuality.  But then something weird happened earlier this year…

Suddenly Laci was talking about meeting some anti-feminist video bloggers and listening to different perspectives.  “Listening to different perspectives” is exactly the opposite of what’s typical on the left these days, and particularly among the SJW set.  Why oh why would she suddenly be interested in “different perspectives” that run counter to not just her world view and politics, but her business model?

You guessed it, she met a guy.  And the guy she met is an anti-feminist you tuber who goes by the name of Chris Ray Gun.  If you were a publicist, you could hardly craft a better Romeo & Juliet storyline.  The MTV movie practically writes itself. In the world of you tube, Chris Ray Gun is a much smaller commodity than Laci Green is, but at almost half a million subscribers, he’s still a pretty big deal.  But Chris shows no signs of reconsidering intersectional feminism, Laci is the one with her worldview shattered.

But that shattering is a long term process and as Laci struggles to deal with other perspectives on feminism than the ones she picked up at Berkeley, she’s dealing with the blowback of rethinking her worldview.  One can’t predict where that will lead.  With Joe Scarborough, once he began the process of status seeking among the establishment, the conversion was only going to go one way.  But a move to the right is a different story.  That’s usually with the understanding that, as Whitaker Chambers thought, that it’s a defection to a losing side.  And you lose everything else as well, your old friends and your old, respected position.  In Laci Green’s case, it could cost her a business.  So the process of conversion isn’t assured.  On the other hand, trading Joe Scarborough; for even a feminist who is willing to have a conversation; is more than a fair trade in my opinion.

 

A Quick Fix to the Senate Health Bill

I had hoped that the Senate, toiling away in secrecy, would toss out the crap sandwich of the House bill and replace it with something shiny and new that I could really get behind.

No such luck.  The “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” is mostly the same crap sandwich, with some of the crust trimmed off.  As I wrote about the House bill last month, this bill, or something like it, would wreck healthcare and ensure Democratic ascendency, in the same way that Obamacare strip mined the Democratic majority in the House and Senate.

It’s not quite a total loss.  It did move in the right direction to fix some of the problems I had pointed out in the House bill, such as restoring tax credits based on income rather than age (I never got an explanation for that).  But of course it fell far short of providing reasonable tax credits.

As for pre-existing conditions, the main issue that tortured the public discussion of the House bill, the Senate appears to have just given up and is keeping the Obamacare requirement.  So after all the trouble, when it comes to pre-existing conditions, it’s Obamacare after all.

Although there’s no CBO score on the bill yet, it will probably come out similarly to the House Bill since it keeps much of the same structure for slowing Medicaid Expansion and although I’ve already criticized the way the CBO score was arrived at, it won’t matter in terms of a Democratic talking point; 26 million will lose their healthcare.  You’ll hear it all over cable news until the vote, then in campaign ads for the 2018 election.

How to solve this issue?  Here is the difference between politicians and regular people; I can conceive of a fairly simple answer that would never occur to a professional, and it’s not one I’ve yet heard either in public policy articles or blathering about on cable news.

Consider: There are about 14 and a half million people covered under the Medicaid expansion from Obamacare.  You can criticize Medicaid all you want in terms of studies on health outcomes or availability of providers, but if you’re on it, it’s free (to you).  There are no premiums, deductibles, or copays.  So even if you provide market alternatives to that, none of them are going to be as cheap to the patient as free Medicaid is.  People being kicked off Medicaid will generate stories for years for the Democrats.  There will be no end to the number of hard luck stories (and the children! Think of the children!).  That will fill nightly news and newspaper stories for years to come.

So just let those people keep Medicaid.

That’s it.  No complicated policy issue or complicated public/private program.  Just allow the people who are currently covered by the Medicaid expansion, as long as they meet their income eligibility, keep their Medicaid healthcare.  It’s not a new entitlement since it won’t be open to any new applicants; it will just cover those who currently have it.  Eventually those numbers will shrink, either by people improving their lot and exceeding the income eligibility, or worst case, aging into Medicare.

Will it cost money?  Yes, but frankly, the Republicans seem to be under some sort of delusion that they can turn health care into a tax cutting bill.  I don’t see how that’s realistic.  At some point they are going to have to realize that the bill is going to have to be revenue neutral.

More importantly, this buys time to fix what’s ailing in the individual insurance market.  Obamacare has wrecked and nearly destroyed the individual insurance market and I don’t think that’s going to be fixed on the day of a bill signing.  This will probably take years, so the fewer people in that market, to buy time and give reforms time to work, the better

First You Shoot a Congressman…

Well they finally went and done it.  A radicalized leftist, James Thomas Hodgkinson, tried to assassinate several Republican members of Congress.  It’s been leading to this for a long time, and I guess we were all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I had written back in January about how illiberal liberals are becoming.  They’ve decided in mass that the purpose of democracy is to provide Democratic Party victories, and if it fails, then plan B is perfectly acceptable, whether it’s intimidating electors or asking the military to stage a coup d’etat.  If the conspiracy theory of “Russia Russia Russia” helps move that along, fine.  If not, move on to something else, like hitting someone.

So after the inauguration, this happened…

…when White Nationalist Richard Spencer was hit in the face during an interview.  Needless to say, the internet was highly amused. .  It seems that many on the left do think it’s OK to “punch a Nazi.”  A “Nazi” of course being defined downward as anyone you oppose politically, like a Trump supporter.  Spencer, the example, is a white nationalist, but he isn’t a Nazi, and even if he were, he shouldn’t be punched on the street without provocation. Steve Scalise isn’t a Nazi either, but I guess he’ll do until a real one comes along.

Certainly since the election we’ve had the rise of Antifa, which has been busy engaging in street battles. Journalists, pundits, and media experts are giving the OK to violence.  Even government officials are getting into the act.

And so are entertainers.  

 

Loosely defined of course.

OK, we get it.  The left wants war.  Not just a metaphorical one, but a real one. And oddly, they want to go against the people who have all the guns.  Well no one claimed they were rational…

This I think is how our democracy will die.  When enough people think political violence is justified, regardless of election results, then “elections” will eventually be decided by political violence and the threat of it, just like any 3rd world “democracy.” I’m just really sorry I’ve lived to see the beginning of that process.

 

 

 

 

 

My Dinner With Ikea

J/K.  I didn’t actually eat there, although I noticed that every menu item helpfully had the calorie count, from the Americanized Chicken Fingers to more native Swedish meatballs and Salmon (mm…Sjorapport!).  Actually, I had hoped to have shed this mortal coil without actually ever entering an Ikea, but man plans, God laughs.  My daughter, getting ready to move into a new apartment, wanted an Ikea dresser, and the fact that we already had a dresser sitting in the garage for her (made from Wal-Mart’s finest particleboard) did not tempt her in the least.  Instead, she wanted to spend whatever meager funds she had on a new dresser. So off we went.

After crossing the desert (Interstate traffic during rush hour) we eventually made it to this false temple of consumerism. Frankly, my initial impression was, “what’s the big deal?”  It looked like a Costco, warehouse ceilings and all.  But as we wandered through the various home furnishing displaces, I recognized Ikea for what it really was, Service Merchandise.

Service Merchandise was a retail store that existed until 2002 (it now exists as a web only business).  It was much like any comparable department store of its day, Sears, JC Penny’s, or Zayre, but it had a gimmick. Instead of filling up a cart with their useless crap, you actually took a ticket, went to a service desk to pay for your items, and the boxed item would come out on a conveyer belt from the warehouse, like a baggage carousel.  I have childhood memories of shopping this way and found it annoying.  But at least the right boxes were delivered to you.  The Swedes had figured out a way to dumb down even that process.

In the display room area of Ikea, you didn’t even get tags with the numerical code of the item; you had to write those down yourself.  Then you went to the warehouse area, and wandered through it until you actually came across the correct shelving and boxes.  Service Merchandise was way ahead of its time compared to Ikea. But…it wasn’t hip to shop at Service Merchandise; the opposite in fact.  Ikea on the other hand, seems to have some sort of cool factor.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why, but cool isn’t something you figure out, you either get it or you don’t, and when it comes to Ikea, I’m clearly in the latter category.

One interesting thing I noticed was about the people who shopped there.  There were a pretty high number of women wearing hajibs. In spite of that, I rated the Head Chop Threat Level Matrix to be low.  I don’t think it topped a 2.  After all, Sweden is practically a colony of the Caliphate, so I imagine that they want to safeguard their new possessions.

To me, the real disappointment about Ikea is that the furniture is not particularly attractive or interesting looking.  I just wouldn’t care to have it in my house.  Hopefully, I won’t have to repeat my visit there, and if I can accomplish that modest goal, then I’ve had a life well lived.

Conservatives vs Pre-Existing Conditions

 

The CBO score for the House Republican health bill came out last week and the news is “unexpectedly” bad: 14 million more people uninsured next year and 26 million by 2026.  These numbers are crap of course.  Not just because the CBO is notoriously wrong (remember their rosy predictions about Obamacare?) but because their comparisons are not based on reality.  As the Legal Insurrection site notes, the CBO used a March 2016 baseline that they had previously acknowledged was wildly inaccurate. With health plans dropping like flies from Obamacare exchanges all over the country, if you do nothing, you’re likely to get a similar result of increase in uninsured by 2026.

But the purpose of the CBO report wasn’t to provide a statistical analysis of the possible effects of a healthcare replacement plan, it was to provide talking points to the Democrats, and on that basis, mission accomplished.  And that’s why Mitch McConnell is trying to stall bringing up the healthcare bill in the Senate for as long as possible.  It’s a policy, political, and PR nightmare.

But the real nightmare in the health care debate boils down to the one issue that actually frightens people, stirs them to show up to town halls, and dominates the cable news coverage of health care policy is pre-existing conditions.  How to handle pre-existing conditions occupied the majority of debate on the House plan, and ultimately failed to satisfy.  The AHCA has planned to handle pre-existing conditions through high risk pools.  The way they are supposed to work is that people with pre-existing conditions would sign up for their health plans like normal, but money set aside in high risk pools in each state would go to subsidize the insurance companies directly for each customer with pre-existing conditions.  This was based on a highly successful program in Maine. The problem with rolling that out nationwide is that we have no good way to estimate either the costs per person or the number of people involved.

Our guide to how little we know about the pre-existing population lies in an Obamacare program called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (called either PPACA or PCIP). PCIP was set up to provide health insurance as a bridge until the requirement for individual health plans to accept everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions, kicked in. The assumptions were wrong both in number of enrollees and how much they would cost.  The original cost estimate per enrollee was $13,026.00 and in only 11 months was upgraded to $ 28,994.00 per enrollee. And how many people are affected by pre-existing conditions?  Up to 130 million people according to most government estimates. So how many were actually enrolled in the PCIP program?  At its peak, there were never more than 114, 959 enrollees.  So the entire US health system was re-arranged to accommodate a little more than 100,000 people.  Interestingly 78% of PCIP spending went to only four conditions, cancer, heart and circulatory diseases, post-surgical care, and joint diseases.

So there is a major gap between pre-existing conditions, the propaganda talking point, and pre-existing conditions, the actual policy issue.  And these lead me to notice some curious conservative commentary on the issue.  Prior to the House vote, columnist Anne Coulter wrote a column about the House bill in which she made the remark, “Until the welfare program is decoupled from the insurance market, nothing will work.”  But the biggest player in the conservative pundit class is radio host Rush Limbaugh.  With a 20 million person radio audience, he can move or set the agenda among the right. So what are Rush’s views on pre-existing conditions? He spent quite a bit of time discussing the issue on his show after the House vote, but what caught my eye was this:

“What ought to really happen here is, the simplest way, is to take whatever the percent, 4% who have preexisting conditions and designate them as a special class who are going to have medical expenses covered by some funding mechanism that may be part of the overall bill or not, but don’t commingle these people with the genuine insurance that’s going on elsewhere. ‘Cause then we’re not talking insurance. And it does matter because that’s the way they’re able to convert this into a massive welfare bill while everybody thinks it’s insurance. It’s another sleight of hand.”

To me, it sounds like both commentators are arguing that pre-existing conditions should be handled outside the normal insurance system and covered by a government program.  I think this shows a movement that’s removed from where the House Freedom Caucus is on the issue.  The problem is that no one in the Republican Congress will squarely address the issue.  Putting together a bill to replace Obamacare would be much simpler if they just came out and admitted that people with pre-existing conditions should be served outside of the insurance market.

In other words, a government program.

I had addressed various health reform proposals in general and pre-existing conditions in particular 5 years ago during the Obamacare court fight. At the time I addressed two major issues that needed to be in a future health reform bill:

  1. Tax Credits and deductions to cover the costs of insurance premiums in the individual insurance market.
  2. Some manner of dealing with pre-existing conditions, preferably by some sort of 2nd payer coverage.

I thought I would expand on just how I would cover pre-existing conditions if I were writing the bill.  As stated I would pay charges related to pre-existing conditions with a second payer plan; I’m thinking Medicaid.  But first, some background:

Second payers are plans that pay in addition to regular insurance plans.  People most commonly run across them in Workers Comp and Auto accident issues.  For example, you’re in a car accident, and are taken to the emergency room.  Normally an emergency room visit and associated treatment and tests would be paid by your regular health insurance, but because you have auto insurance and in an auto accident, your auto insurance would be billed first.  The auto insurance pays whatever they are contracted to pay in those circumstances, and the bill goes to your health insurance, which pays whatever it’s contracted to pay minus what was paid by the auto insurance.

Now years ago, some HMO plans would pay for pre-existing conditions, but not right away.  You are a new member on an HMO plan, but you have diabetes.  You could use your insurance for any medical condition except the procedure codes and diagnosis’s associated with diabetes for a period of time, either a year or two years depending on the plan.  After that period was over the HMO would start picking up the costs of diabetic treatment.  This way, the health plan didn’t immediately go into the hole over a brand new member who brings expensive health issues to the plan.  Obviously, this isn’t great at all if you have diabetes because it means you are paying for all of your diabetic treatment and medicines out of pocket until your waiting period was over.  For many however, it was better than no insurance at all.

So how would my plan work?

When you sign up for a health plan on the individual health insurance market in your state, part of the application process is identifying if you have a pre-existing condition.  If so, you are automatically signed up in your state’s Pre-existing Medicaid plan.  This is a secondary payer that only pays if during your first two years in your health plan (or whatever time period is arrived at) you have charges related to your pre-existing condition.  So, let’s say you have heart disease as a pre-existing condition, you go to the doctor for some issue related to that, the doctor files insurance like normal, and it goes to your insurance company.

Since you’re in the first two years of your health plan with this insurance company, and the procedure codes and diagnosis codes are related to your known pre-existing condition, your insurance company denies the claim but then sends it to your state Medicaid, which processes and pays the claim.  For you, the process is seamless, your insurance company gets out of paying charges, and Medicaid pays the doctor.

So, why do I think this is better than the currently proposed high risk pools in the AHCA?

First, we don’t know what the costs are going to be and who is going to need help.  That was the problem with the Obamacare PCIP; far fewer people signed up than expected, but it cost way more per person than expected when they did sign up. So there are a lot of unknown costs associated with this.

Secondly, under high risk pools there seems to me a thin line between subsidizing patients with pre-existing conditions and subsidizing health insurance company profits.  Are the insurance companies just going to present a bill to the high risk pools and they will just pay no matter what?  Who knows?  There isn’t any transparency in knowing what you’re paying for so you can never predict what the costs are.

Third, Medicaid pays out under the cheapest rates available, cheaper than Medicare and far cheaper than private insurance rates.  If the government is going to subsidize pre-existing conditions somehow, why not do it in the way that provides the cheapest rates, and the most transparency? Medicaid will be able to grow a database of all pre-existing conditions, their frequency, and their costs for the private insurance market.

One way or the other, the government will be paying for this. Either the Senate puts together a plan that the President signs, or Obamacare continues to fall apart and a new Democratic Congress will be elected to fix healthcare, and if they do it, given previous experience, it won’t be cheap, transparent, or voluntary.

 

With 12 Monkeys, Cable tries to Binge

When Netflix started to do original programming and released the entire season at once, I thought, “What an original idea!  But how are you going to keep up the excitement of a show if you release it one shot and you’re done?”  Although it does limit the time frame of “buzz” it turned out to be a successful business model.  People can move at their own pace, which could be anywhere from watching the show on the traditional once a week schedule to all at once, bleary eyes and lost weekend included.

But I was surprised when the Syfy Channel decided to do the same thing for returning show 12 Monkeys. Airing season three over three nights, the network is trying something different.

It’s an odd choice for a cable network.  They have airtime to fill, so why blow an expensive season of an original show over a weekend?  And before you say it, no; this is not like showing successive Twilight Zone episodes over New Years. That’s simply to fill airtime during a period when viewing will be exceptionally low.  But dropping an original show is a streaming service move, which Syfy definitely is not.  So what’s up?

Well after watching Friday night’s initial 4 episode blast, I have to say I agree with both the TV Guide and TV Line reviews: This show was meant to be watched in a binge format.  Having watched Season’s 1 & 2 in the traditional once a week format, you often forget where you left off.  After all, this show is complicated.  Each episode takes place in more than one time period, sometimes with the same characters at different points in their lives. Sometimes, death comes first, as for the character of Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), who’s skeleton was discovered in the very first episode way back in season one.  Sometimes it’s in the middle, like for former asylum patient Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), who’s death was shown last season.  Not to worry though Jennifer fans, her younger self is featured pretty prominently this season.

And a good thing too.  The character steals every single scene she’s in, adding humor in otherwise grim situations without detracting from the grimness of the situations because…well she’s crazy.  So far my favorite episode of the season is episode 2, which is a Jennifer-centric episode.  Jennifer trapped in the past tries to figure out ways to catch the attention of the future so she can be rescued.  It’s entertaining and still moves the plot along.  So more Jennifer.

 

One character that I like, but has been degraded somewhat is Deacon (Todd Stashwick), the formerly ruthless leader of a violent gang in the future.  In earlier seasons, Deacon made a great foil as a villain more interested in looting the time travel facility than saving the human race. Unfortunately, the violent, evil, but witty bad guy has been tamed somewhat by his attraction to Dr. Railly. It’s not the first time on TV and movies an alpha male bad guy has been tamed by love, but it isn’t very realistic.  Hopefully Deacon gets his evil mojo back.

So maybe binge watching cable isn’t a bad idea after all.  Particularly if it encourages the production of more complicated dramas that may be digested better in very large bites, rather than doled out bit by bit on a weekly basis.