Saturday, December 3, 2016

News From Southern Maryland

Beaver vandalizes store in St. Mary's County
The St. Mary’s County Sheriff's office said Corporal Yingling responded to a call at a dollar store in Charlotte Hall. There, he found a beaver who had made its way inside.

Police said he called for backup in the form of animal control.

There was a little bit of property damage, but animal control caught the beaver and released them to people who specialize in helping wildlife.

No doubt looking for a razor. Stupid beaver; everybody with a brain in St. Mary's County knows you go to McKay's Pharmacy for razors.

Whither Goest Thou, Obamacare Schadenfreude?

Could the GOP repeal Obamacare on inauguration day? That’s one possibility being discussed though the path to get there seems fairly narrow. From the Hill:
House and Senate budget leaders are teeing up a vote to repeal most of ObamaCare by Jan. 20, 2017, according to multiple sources.
The leaders of the House and Senate Budget committees are planning the vote for the first week of January, to deal an immediate blow to ObamaCare after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to a Senate GOP aide.
The hitch in this plan was pointed out by Mitch McConnell who told the Hill, “You have to pass a budget before you pass a reconciliation bill.” That’s what Republicans intend to do. From the LA Times:

Since Congress did not pass a 2017 budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, they hope to retroactively approve one in the weeks ahead so they can include the first part of the special instructions needed to repeal the program. But [House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy] doubted that would be completed by the time Trump takes office.

“I don’t think you can do it before [Jan.] 20th,” he said. “There’s only so many legislative days.”

Still the reconciliation repeal could be ready fairly early in Trump’s tenure. What will take longer is the replacement effort.
According to Politico  GOP may delay Obamacare replacement for years. Well, the last one was passed in haste with no input from Republicans, and we know how well that worked out.
“We’re talking about a three-year transition now that we actually have a president who’s likely to sign the repeal into the law. People are being, understandably cautious, to make sure nobody’s dropped through the cracks,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The tentative strategy is reminiscent of Capitol Hill’s infamous “fiscal cliff” days, when Congress imposed simultaneous deadlines to raise the debt ceiling, extend expiring tax cuts and fund the government. The hope was that it would create irresistible political pressure to get behind a bipartisan mega-fiscal deal.
At least Republicans Finally Have a Plan. Actually they've had several along the way. The media won't tell you that, though, because it violates the meme that the Republicans didn't. The return of the insurance company bailout (and this time it’s the GOP considering it).
. . . repeal and delay has a big problem. Specifically, once the GOP repeals Obamacare, even if that includes a multi-year phase out, there is no reason for insurers to remain in the marketplace. Many of the top insurers have already abandoned the exchanges and most of those who haven’t are losing money. Once the marketplace is formally killed by repeal, most insurers would cut their losses, leaving no one to offer plans during the ‘delay’ phase of repeal and delay.

So how do you keep zombie-Obamacare going when everyone involved knows it is dead? You pay the insurers to stick around. Here’s insurance industry expert Bob Laszewski’s take from an interview at Vox:
What you do is subsidize the carriers. You reactivate some of the policies that were meant to stabilize the marketplace in the early years, the three R’s…
But these are the things that Republicans have hated. This is what they call an insurance company bailout. But keeping them around is the only way to maintain a viable market. The problem is when you have an insurance market and the new administration declares it DOA, it will go into death throes. It will be a death spiral. The Trump administration will have put it in a death spiral. The only way to fix that is if you subsidize the market. If you just subsidize the consumers, that doesn’t do any good if you don’t subsidize the carriers.
Sen. Marco Rubio has been praised on the right for making one of the three Rs, risk corridors, budget neutral. That move prevented the administration from handing billions over to Obamacare insurers who lost money on the program and led to some insurers dropping out and a number of co-op closures. Now, according to a story at the Hill, the GOP is thinking seriously about reviving the bailout, albeit without making it look like they are reviving the bailout. . .
The problem is that if you want insurance companies to play the game, they have to be able to get something out of it. Is Trump taking aim at Obama’s Medicaid expansion with CMS pick?
Republicans in Congress pledge to use the first opportunity of the Donald Trump presidency to repeal ObamaCare. Trump has met that pledge by appointing people most likely to dismantle it from the inside. First Trump appointed staunch ObamaCare opponent Rep. Tom Price to head HHS, and now he’s picked a health-industry expert to run the agency responsible for its Medicaid expansion. Seema Verma has plenty of experience in working the margins of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion to push back against it:
President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday morning picked the founder and CEO of a health policy consulting firm, Seema Verma, to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“I am pleased to nominate Seema Verma to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said President-elect Trump in a statement. “She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems. Together, Chairman Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans.”
Verma has worked with VP-elect Mike Pence to produce a compromise on Medicaid expansion in Indiana, and then did the same in Kentucky and other states run by Republican governors. Verma helped them avoid some of the pitfalls of the expansion when they came under heavy political pressure to join the expansion. Thanks to her work, some governors were able to salvage HSAs and work requirements as part of their packages — although conservatives still howled when these states joined the expansion.

This pick addresses one of the stickier questions for Republicans after repeal: what next? Democrats have already begun to focus their attacks on repeal by accusing the GOP and Trump of leaving low-income Americans out in the cold by rolling back the Medicaid expansion as part of the repeal. Verma has worked on this issue for years, and should be able to work out a transition plan quickly to reduce the impact of repeal on these recipients, and therefore the political liabilities of ObamaCare repeal.
As the Observer observes (nope, not yet) ObamaCare’s Chickens Come Home to Roost: "Democrats, anticipating rage over huge premium increases scheduled for 2017, are already trying to blame Republicans". Well, them and Fox News: Obama On Why Democrats Failed: See, It's Because FOXNEWS! Is On the TV In "Every Bar and Restaurant".

Must read. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana explains Why Doesn't My Health Insurance Work Like My Care Insurance?
“Gee Mike, I don’t really get it. I mean, I have insurance on my car, and if I do the right thing, drive safely and don’t drive impaired, drive at a reasonable speed, drive fewer miles, then the insurance company sees me as a better risk and my rates go DOWN. If I get married or get older, my rates go down. If I move to a state with better liability laws or safer drivers, my rates go DOWN. If I drive a cheaper or safer car, my rates go down. As my car gets older, they go down.”

“I know what to do to help control my costs on car insurance and it all makes sense,” he said as I nodded vigorously, waiting for my opening. (Ken is the ultimate Straight Talker!) “But what the HECK do I do to get my HEALTH insurance rates down? I never use it, and they go up no matter what!” Ken finished, thoroughly exasperated. I smiled, nodded, drew a deep breath and began…

“Well, your car insurance company is allowed to adjust a lot of things based on who you are, your geography and your behavior before they set their rates,” I told him. “Car insurance rates can also change based also on your CREDIT rating! Turns out people with higher credit scores are less likely to be in crashes.”

“But the real problem is,” I continued, “individual health insurance has been FEDERALIZED and car insurance has not. So most car insurance companies can turn people away and not sell them insurance at all. Health insurance carriers have to take everyone who shows up, and by law, rates can’t be adjusted except for their ages.”

“So you see Ken, when insurance companies sell you health insurance in 2016, all the risk levers are gone, taken away, made illegal. We can’t adjust the rates we charge based on behavioral factors (except to punish you if you are foolish enough to self-report tobacco use) and we can’t turn anyone away.”

“So, buddy, imagine if your car insurance company had to take every driver in the world – good or bad. No adjustments for wrecks, DUIs, marital status, bad credit, expensive cars or anything like that. Imagine if all the bad driving risk in the world got dumped into YOUR car insurance company’s risk pool. Then imagine if your car insurance had to pay for all your oil changes and tune-ups, as well as when you actually have damage. What do you think would happen to your rates?” . . .
And it goes on from there. And then there's this, the handy Obamacare Organization Chart:

 Click to make large enough to read. What could go wrong?

Rule 5 Saturday - Jessica Gomes is Afraid of Snakes

Which is probably a good thing, since she was born and raised in Australia, where most of the snakes are poisonous, including some of the most deadly in the world:
Jessica Gomes (Chinese: 傑西卡戈麥斯, born 25 September 1984) is an Australian model who appeared in the Swimsuit Issue of the American publication Sports Illustrated every year from 2008 to 2015. She works extensively in Australia and Asia. She has strong followings in South Korea and in the East Coast hip hop community.

She is the daughter of a Portuguese father, Joe Gomes and a Chinese mother, Jenny. Although sources such as her Fashion Model Directory listing contain a Perth, Western Australia, birthplace, other sources state that Gomes was born in Sydney or nearby Wahroonga in New South Wales. Gomes says she was born in Sydney. She was raised in Perth. Ocean Drive writer Peter Cullum presents one of the more detailed biographical sketches of Gomes in which he claims she first lived in Sydney and then the family "opted out of Sydney for the semirural isolation of Western Australia" where she had "a semi-rural tomboy childhood". She is the youngest child in her family that includes two older sisters and an older brother.  Gomes' mother sent her to modelling classes at Linda-Ann Model Academy in Perth suburb Midland at the age of 13.
Some NSFW items from a European shoot, 1, 2 and 3.

This week, GOODSTUFFs BLOGGING MAGAZINE (270th Issue) explores weird science with Kelly LeBrock in his patented far out meta blog post. Damn it, he beat me again.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Quotable Stacy McCain

#FreeStacy Quoting My His Favorite Source
Did you know that there is an online list of quotes by me? Who started compiling my aphorisms at AZ Quotes, I don’t know, but here are a few of my favorites, with links to the original sources:

“Writing is a skill, not a talent, and this difference is important because a skill can be improved by practice.”
. . .
“When I said that the mentally ill should be in institutions, public universities weren’t the kind of institutions I had in mind.”
. . .
“One of the most annoying habits of liberals is their tendency to confuse their political agenda with moral virtue.”
. . .
“Offend a Christian and he is obliged to pray for your salvation. Offend a Muslim and he is obliged to murder you.”
Not bad. Now go get a few more going.
By the way, wouldn’t this be a good time to use the #FreeStacy hashtagand ask @Twitter @Support to restore @rsmccain? It’s rather annoying to be an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years in the news business, and to know that some whiny complainer’s bogus claim that I was “participating in targeted abuse” should have caused the suspension of an account I’d been using for seven years. Twitter’s project of silencing Hillary Clinton’s critics failed to get her elected, and they should repeal their transparently partisan policy of preventing free speech.
Since I'm not on twitter (a vice I've managed to avoid) I can't help there. However, if it's illegal for Bakers not to write on cakes because of their opinions, it should be illegal for Twitter to practice workplace bias based on opinions. They are a public accommodation in the US every bit as much as bakeries and pizzerias.

EPA Wants You to Die and Rot Without Fuss

My evidence? This article from the Bay Journal, a news organization that's a nearly wholly owned subsidiary of the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program: Let your grave enter the circle of life, not a dead zone.
Where should our remains go in a world increasingly crowded by human effects? Atmosphere, water, land: All are getting filled with the debris of our lives—waste, gases, chemicals going everywhere they don’t belong. And the human body?

Our earthly remains have become nothing less than underground time bombs for groundwater. Cadavers get pickled in gallons of formaldehyde fluid; we basically turn them into cancer-causing toxic waste.
Ultimately, even formaldehyde is decomposed by bacteria. There are very few organic compounds which are completely immune to bacterial degradation.
Most are then tucked into wood-fiber caskets, likewise saturated in formaldehyde, methyl and xylene. That’s why casket manufacturers are among the top-listed hazardous waste producers tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
I suspect they mean methyl alcohol, not "methyl". But then the people who write rarely have a science background.
The entire toxic missile then gets encased in a metal or concrete vault — the whole contraption making up a two-ton land mine to lodge in the ground. Eventual leakage is all but certain, turning the departed into poison for the very community the person might have worked hard during life to benefit.
An amusing song about an over-the-top funeral from the era of my youth, the Chad Mitchell Trio, where John Denver toiled in his youth.

Even above ground, commercial graveyards are generally dead zones vacant of habitat. Unlike the old rural cemetery full of birdsong and trees, most commercial graveyards are just chemically dependent lawns, sprouting no more signs of life than some plastic flowers.
Hey, they even have a song for this one!

Why is all of this toxic land use condoned, on a planet increasingly pinched for living habitat? That’s another mystery. The EPA, charged with regulating hazardous waste from cradle to grave, strangely overlooks all of the formaldehyde in graveyards themselves.
But what about cremation? Surely
Cremation may seem a healthier option, yet it is an energy waste and carbon emitter. Each “roasting” takes 75 minutes of ultra-high temperatures, rapidly burning vast amounts of fuel, while shooting greenhouse gases, mercury and other contaminants into the air, land and water. And it still leaves the “cremains”—including mercury and other metal toxins — which families often sprinkle in favorite nature spots, including water bodies.
The only way that you can avoid CO2 production from a dead body is to preserve it, and we've already seen they don't approve of that. And hey, you know, you don't have to leave the mercury laden fillings in the body before you roast 'em up, and they won't be needing them gold teeth neither.
But the question remains: What should be done with our bodies once organs have been donated and the bulk remains?
So they're assuming that all those bodies make suitable organ donations? I intend to use mine until their past their expiration date.
Blessedly, our biosphere has been solving this puzzle — and quite cheerfully — throughout the eons. Check out any landscape where the dead are allowed to decompose: leaf litter, rotting logs, old feathers, bones, acorn shells, dry weeds in a field.

All of this decay turns seamlessly back into life — microbes, mosses, topsoil, wildflowers, grubs for birds, mushrooms for bears, amphibians, insects — the entire web of life.
I say we start throwing bodies in Gina McCarthy's front yard.
Nature’s path is not cradle to grave. It’s what green designer William McDonough calls “cradle to cradle”—life into life. It’s how our biosphere itself evolved and got us here, and it’s meant to continue long after we’re gone.

That’s why it’s heartening that the green burial movement is resuscitating more gracious and grateful ways of returning ourselves to a world that gave us its life.
They do, however, provide a picture of an old graveyard on one of my favorite fishing spots, Holland Island:
These lower-cost, low-impact, chemical-free burials skip the absurd formaldehyde infusions — preserving water quality, woodlands and meadows, and letting remains decompose into native plants, trees, humus and wildlife habitat.
We're in the midst of this with my mother, who requested cremation, and burial in a nice site on the top of hill in Murphy's, surrounded by trees and chaparral. Many modern graves there, and no problem with the trees until the recent drought, which killed quite a number, as it has to trees all around California.

Look, I don't mind if you or yours choose to be stuck in the ground unpreserved, it seems sensible enough to me. But is it really such an important issue that we need EPA and it's house organs propagandizing us about it? Is there any part of life, and now death, free from their virtue shaming?

GAO Predicts EPA Renewable Fuel Failure

The Environmental Protection Agency's renewable fuel program is bound to fail over the next five years, a federal watchdog agency said Monday, citing the low cost of oil and the relatively high cost of green fuels.

The Government Accountability Office released two reports showing that the EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard will not reach its 2022 production target of blending 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel per year into the nation's fuel supply, while failing to achieve its greenhouse gas emission reductions.
. . .
"It is unlikely that the goals of the RFS will be met as envisioned because there is limited production of advanced biofuels to be blended into domestic transportation fuels and limited potential for expanded production by 2022," one of the two GAO reports said.

The reports showed that advanced biofuels are the primary sticking point. Under the program, the fuels are expected to comprise nearly half of the total 2022 target. The fuels are also mandated to be lower in carbon pollution than more conventional biofuels such as corn ethanol. But without adequate production, the climate change benefits of the program have been lower than expected.
We can grow enough corn, and make enough ethanol by fermentation to satisfy the demand. However, the promise of easy and cheap fuel from random biomass (cheat grass or algae) has been like a mirage; always on the horizon, and never near.

It can't fail soon enough for me. Corn ethanol has been a disaster from every aspect. It takes more energy to produce than it produces, it's taken land out of wild area to turn into field, it's ruined motors, and it's raised food prices.

But alas, it has been a bipartisan folly, with democrat envirogreenies, and republican farm interests combining to keep this nightmare program alive. And I fear the Trump administration, with it's dependence on mid-west votes, and it's willingness to interfere in markets, is not likely to fix this.

Morning Music - "Shake"

The Shook Twins, Laurie and Katelyn jam in "the van."

And the giant golden egg:
The Shook Twins are an Indie-Folk music duo of identical twin sisters Katelyn and Laurie Shook. Originally from Sandpoint, Idaho, the sisters currently are based in Portland, Oregon. Their musical repertoire consists of a wide array of instruments - with Katelyn playing the guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, glockenspiel, telephone microphone and Laurie playing the banjo, guitar, upright bass, djembe, ocarina flute, tambourine, and giant golden egg. The Shook Twins primarily play as a quartet that includes Kyle Volkman and Niko Daoussis. Kyle plays the double bass and began performing regularly with them in 2009 and Niko who plays the bass, mandolin and guitar began in 2012.