Scott Cain's website

Bioinformatics, Perl, Cool Stuff
Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system


Balloon Juice
Syndicate content Balloon Juice
Updated: 1 hour 18 min ago

Open Thread: Trump Lies About Fallen Soldiers & Actual Presidents

2 hours 6 min ago

There is nothing this person will not lie about. THANKS, REPUBLICANS!

Trump was responding to a question about why he has not yet made remarks about the four special operations servicemen killed in Niger almost two weeks ago. Trump, speaking from the Rose Garden in a surprise press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans on contacting the families soon.

“If you look at President [Barack] Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I am able to do it,” said Trump. “They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call. I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I’m going to be calling them.”…

The office staff is having a little trouble finding those phone numbers, y’see. And they tore the place up looking for the roll of stamps, but how often do letters get sent, these days?

Look, those soldiers will be just as dead during the off-season, but there’s only so many days suitable for a few rounds of golf. The man has his priorities.

“President Trump’s claim is unequivocally wrong,” a former Obama official said in a statement to ABC News. “President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to Section 60 at Arlington, visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star Families at the White House and across the country.”

“President Bush wrote all the families of the fallen, and called and/or met privately with hundreds if not thousands,” a spokesperson to former President George W. Bush told ABC News.

An aide to President Bill Clinton also called the claim false. “He did call the families of fallen soldiers while in office,” the official told ABC News.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, former White House deputy chief of staff and a longtime scheduler for Obama, told ABC News, “It is unconscionable that a president would dare to ever portray another as unpatriotic, which is essentially what he was doing.” …

He may be squatting in the Oval Office, but Donald Trump will never be “a president”.

(Also, too, if glum-faced Mitch McConnell had the political sense of my little dog, he’ve tried to distract his “leader” before he dug that trench any deeper — by faking a heart attack, if necessary. Nobody outside the 27% believes your ‘No True Republican’ bullshit, McConnell.)


(Trump would probably explain that he prefers soldiers who don’t get wounded and suck up money that could better be spent on tax cuts shiny new weapons.)

Categories: Politics

Open Thread: Everything’s Bolder in This (Mal)Administration…

4 hours 49 min ago

In a terse letter to Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — leaders of the House oversight committee — President Donald Trump’s congressional liaison Marc Short declined to indicate whether any administration officials had used personal email accounts or messaging services, despite reports suggesting such communications were common in the West Wing.

“The White House and covered employees endeavor to comply with all relevant laws,” Short wrote in a two-page reply delivered late last week and obtained Monday by POLITICO.

Short’s statement comes despite recent revelations that several senior aides to President Donald Trump routinely used private email addresses and personal devices for government business. Among the current and former aides who POLITICO found at least occasionally relied on private email addresses were Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Gary Cohn and Reince Priebus.

In a similarly brief letter, Short also declined to provide records in response to a separate inquiry by Gowdy and Cummings into the use of costly private air travel by top administration officials.

The White House’s limited responses set up a potential confrontation with Gowdy, a hard-nosed prosecutor with subpoena power and a track record that includes sharp criticism of Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state. Cummings said last week that he hoped the committee would subpoena any information that the White House declined to provide, as have other Democrats…

Anybody want to bet that Witchfinder Gowdy will take more than a token interest in Lawyer Short’s curt dismissal of his mighty prosecutorial powers?

At least now we know why so many high-ranking Repubs have suddenly started wringing their pale plump hands over the reckless, out-of-control Trump cartel’s totally unprecedented “takeover” of the GOP — suddenly it’s in the Party’s interests to pretend they had nothing to do with this gang of thieves and con artists. Shocked! they are shocked! that there might be gambling going on in their personal branded casino!…

Categories: Politics

Reefer Madness- Not Only Insane, But Literally Killing People

5 hours 44 min ago

This should surprise NO ONE:

Marijuana legalization in Colorado led to a “reversal” of opiate overdose deaths in that state, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years,” write authors Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher and Alexander C. Wagenaar.

The authors stress that their results are preliminary, given that their study encompasses only two years of data after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014.

While numerous studies have shown an association between medical marijuana legalization and opioid overdose deaths, this report is one of the first to look at the impact of recreational marijuana laws on opioid deaths.

Marijuana is often highly effective at treating the same types of chronic pain that patients are often prescribed opiates for. Given the choice between marijuana and opiates, many patients appear to be opting for the former.

From a public health standpoint, this is a positive development, considering that relative to opiates, marijuana carries essentially zero risk of fatal overdose.

The reason it is important to separate “medical” marijuana and recreational marijuana usage is that “medical” marijuana is a lot of the time shit, and second, those being perscribed medical marijuana are probably a small subset of the population and in such bad shape they are probably also on other pain pill regimens.

Regardless, this is a good thing, and why the lying murderous fucks in big Pharma and the people they have paid off oppose legal marijuana.

Categories: Politics

Proof of Life: Pics from the Seattle Meet-Up

6 hours 49 min ago

From first-class party promoter Casey L:

The Seattle BJ Meetup was terrific, except that the Guest of Honor, Yutsano, apparently went to the wrong Elliott Bay Brewery. There is more than one, and we were at the one in Burien; possibly our Absent Host went to the one in Lake City :(

We did have a good turnout- 12 people! – and I’ve attached some photos. Maybe you’ll get more from other attendees.

In the first photo, from right to left:

Beautifulplummage, Bonnie, Filbert, Lurker1, Lurker2, HG Wolf (Heidi), Connie (Bonnie’s twin sister), and part of MikeJ’s face

Left to Right: HG Wolf, Connie, MikeJ, and Bumper

That’s me, CaseyL, on the left.

A couple latecomers, Susan and Roger (The Lodger).

We had a great time, but are really sad Yutsano wasn’t there. Hopefully next time!

Good-looking crew — thanks, Casey!

Categories: Politics

Bergdahl Pleads Guilty

9 hours 7 min ago

Closure in the Bergdahl case:

The Latest on the court-martial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his post in Afghanistan (all times local):

11:20 a.m.

A military prosecutor says he has made no agreement to limit punishment for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in return for the soldier’s guilty pleas to charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.

After Bergdahl entered guilty pleas to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the prosecutor, Maj. Justin Oshana, told the judge that there’s no pretrial agreement between the two sides.

The judge, Army Col. Judge Jeffery R. Nance, spent Monday morning asking Bergdahl questions to make sure he understands what he’s pleading guilty to, and that his offenses carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. The judge asked him one last time if he wanted to plead guilty, and Bergdahl replied, “yes.”

This is the system working. I still maintain that all the people screaming “fuck him” or “leave him” are wrong, as I have said all along. You bring your men back, and if they have done something wrong, the military will deal with it.

Categories: Politics

Reluctantly the panic begins to catch

10 hours 27 min ago

It’s not often that I say this but good for Joe Manchin:

One Democratic senator called on Trump to withdraw the nomination of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position requiring Senate confirmation. Another quickly introduced legislation to undo the law that Marino championed and that passed Congress with little opposition.

In a statement, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said he was “horrified” to read details of an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” that detailed how a targeted lobbying effort helped weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise. He called on Trump to withdraw Marino’s nomination.

I assume the nomination will go through anyway.

And as opioids 100 people a day, Trump will do nothing. Eventually, there will be some symbolic bullshit that he’ll do that, that will make Fareed and Van Jones declare that he’s become presidential, but that’s about it.

Categories: Politics

Monday Midday Open Thread

12 hours 20 min ago

Feeling kinda stuck today, not unlike Batman and Robin:

The photo is from the @BatLabels Twitter feed, which, as its name suggests, primarily features things that are labeled from the old Batman TV series, e.g., “UNDETACHABLE GLUE PAD.”

Besides that, I got nothing. Open thread!

Categories: Politics

Misunderstanding the No CSR World

16 hours 6 min ago

I want to highlight a story that I think has a fundamental mis-analysis of the individual health insurance policy world where there are no more Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies being paid.

Now the piece that has me scratching my head is from the Washington Examiner and a story about Senator Johnson (R-WI) willingness to appropriate CSR in exchange for policy concessions from Democrats:

Johnson told the Washington Examiner Friday he hopes to put out legislative text sometime next week on a proposal that funds insurer payments in exchange for reforms to Obamacare. His proposal includes expanding the duration of short-term plans and expanding health savings accounts….

Johnson said he is talking with some House Republicans to get their support for a deal. This is key because Republicans have derided the CSR payments as “bailouts.”…”I hope this would inform them what type of deal the Senate would have to come to with any hope of passing the House,” he said. “People need to realize there is a strong resistance to doing this among conservatives.”

Johnson also wants to let all Americans buy catastrophic plans, not just those under 30 years old as is the practice now.

He seems to think that Democrats need to offer policy concessions to protect the individual market. I think he is wrong.

At least forty states have taken steps to protect all on-Exchange buyers from CSR costs in 2018. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that all states will converge to local regulations that shift the entire cost of CSR to only Silver plans thus lifting the relative price point of the subsidized Benchmark plan. This higher premium for the Benchmark plan means that Bronze and Gold plans are significantly cheaper for subsidized buyers. Insurers will also quickly figure out that they need to offer unique Off-Exchange only Silver plans to protect the non-subsidized buyers.

The CBO also projects that not paying CSRs and having insurers cover their CSR costs through higher premiums will lead the federal government to spend an additional $194 billion dollars over a decade. Some of this increased cost is due to higher enrollment but most of the increased costs is not tied to increased claims costs. It is a shift from a narrowly structured, tightly means tested subsidy to a more broadly structured, loosely means tested subsidy. This gives states a lot of flexibility. Steven Chen at Health Affairs outlined how California could use CSR uncertainty to fund aggressive 1332 waivers.

These are acceptable long term outcomes for Democrats and liberals. More people get covered. If there are no 1332 waivers, the coverage expansion is expensive and inefficient. If states use 1332 waivers to subsidize off-Exchange individuals with a reinsurance program, more people will get covered and the spending will be more efficient. The transitional year of 2018 will be a scramble but from a political perspective, this is acceptable for Democrats as the public believes that the Republican party should be responsible for health care.

Inaction means, over the long run, more people will get low(er) out of pocket expenses/lower deductible insurance for lower premiums through structured, subsidized exchanges. I think that after a year or two, the expected social contract of what “acceptable” publicly subsidized insurance will move to Gold instead of Silver plans. Lower cost Gold plans and very affordable Bronze plans will increase long run uptake of PPACA insurance among people who earn between 200 percent and 400 percent FPL. This is a group with more political power than Medicaid recipients and Medicaid recipients were able to successfully mobilize to defend their interest this year. Appropriating CSR and thus maintaining the status quo is closer to conservative policy and ideological preferences than resetting the effective benchmark to Gold.

So as I argued in August, CSR inertia favors Democratic policy preferences. Senator Johnson does not realize that the ground has shifted.

All of this CSR stuff is convoluted, complex, unneccessary and weird in its implications and end results.

NB: Finally, I don’t understand the mechanical impact of expanding Catastrophic plans to everyone. Catastrophic plans are 57% AV plans that can be sold to people under the age of 30 or who otherwise cannot buy an ACA plan. Catastrophic plans are part of the shared risk adjustment process but they are not part of the common index rate. Catastrophic plans have their own risk adjustment but interact with the common index rate. Most counties will have a less expensive Catastrophic plan than the least expensive Bronze plan because the Catastrophic plan is covering a healthier group of people right now. However if Catastrophic is opened up to everyone, it is just a slightly funkily designed Bronze plan with no pricing advantage. If the conservative goal is to offer a lower premium but higher out of pocket plan, then they should really go to the Copper design at 50% actuarial value. This is a minor piece of mechanical confusion on my part.

Categories: Politics

Plan Types aren’t everything

16 hours 24 min ago

There are four basic plan design types. They are based on two elements. Is there a Primary Care Provider (PCP) gatekeeper requirement? Is there an out of network benefit for non-emergency changes?

That is it. There is nothing inherent to a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) that makes it immediately superior to an Health Management Organization (HMO) or an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan design. Plan type does not drive network.  So when you have to choose a plan during open enrollment, don’t automatically choose a PPO until you look at the trade-offs.

If we hold everything else equal, PPO plans will be more expensive than anything else.  They are the most permissive. They don’t require referrals from PCPs for services, and they will give some money to any provider anywhere in the country when they perform a service.  There is a lot of leakage from the contracted network.

EPO’s don’t pay out of network benefits.  They also don’t require primary care referrals for in-network specialists.  They tend to be a middle ground on the hassle factor.  HMO and Point of Service (POS) plans require PCP referrals for complex and specialty care.  Some plans will have stringent gatekeeper requirements.  Other insurers will have loose requirements.  That will vary.  HMO plans will not pay non-emergency out of network benefits.  POS plans will pay out of network charges to some degree.

Network size is independent of plan type.  Some HMO networks are massive and some PPO networks are tiny.  Some insurers will have one basic network that they use for multiple plan types.  It will all vary.

The top 20 plans in the country according to NCQA in 2015 were a mix of plan types.   Not all PPOs are great, not all HMO’s are bad.

When you are choosing your plan during open enrollment, please be ready to think through the trade-offs.

Categories: Politics

On the Road and In Your Backyard

18 hours 51 min ago

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


Today, pictures from valued commenter

Categories: Politics

Monday Morning Open Thread: Break Out the Light Therapy Boxes

18 hours 56 min ago

(Drew Sheneman via

Something this weekend about the quality of the light, or the lack thereof, reminded me it’s probably time to start using my light therapy box again. If the turning season makes you SAD, remember that self-care is especially important as the days get shorter here in the northern hemisphere.

Apart from turning inward with the season, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?

It’s not just us sensitive left-wing snowflakes — even the robust denizens of MAGAmurka are feeling abused and misunderstood these days. Eric Levitz, in NYMag, says “Trump Keeps Getting Mad When He Finds Out What His Policies Actually Do”:

[T]here is one sense in which Trump is genuinely a man of the people — or, more precisely, of a certain subsegment of said people: Like millions of ordinary Americans, Donald Trump watches a lot of Fox News, but isn’t really interested in politics.

No occupant of the Oval Office has ever shared the average person’s disinterest in policy, parliamentary procedure, and the rudiments of American civics to the extent that Trump does. He is America’s first “low-information voter” president.

This was surely one source of his appeal on the campaign trail. The candidate spoke about politics like a regular Joe. Which is to say, like someone who doesn’t know much about politics but heard (or misheard) an outrageous thing about “Obummer” on Hannity last night. Jeb Bush read white papers, gave speeches at D.C. think tanks. Donald Trump watched Fox & Friends and shouted at his television. The billionaire might live in material conditions more opulent than his supporters could ever imagine. But unlike every other candidate in the GOP primary, in one small — but real and visceral — sense, Trump and the Republican base lived in the same world.

But if blithe ignorance about politics and mindless faith in the claims of right-wing pundits worked for Trump as a candidate, they’ve proven less effective for him as a president.

Specifically, the fact that Trump is too lazy and disinterested to craft (or even read) his own policy proposals has led him to outsource his agenda to congressional Republicans. And the fact that he gets most of his news from the GOP’s propaganda network has led him to assume that the party’s talking points bear some resemblance to political reality…

…Like the millions of low-information voters who elected him, Trump was duped by Fox News. And now he — and, to a lesser extent, they — are growing disillusioned with his presidency…

Even Mr. Megan McArgleBargle, professional libertarian happytalker, begins to suspect there’s no pony buried in that vast pile of horse shit…

Mr. Trump, of course, is the biggest sideshow of them all. He exploited the gap between the base and the elites, embodying the dysfunction and disarray that already existed.

Like all presidents, he serves an organizing function for his party, orienting it around broad goals. But Mr. Trump’s goals have more to do with Twitter feuds and personal aggrandizement than any particular policies. Under Mr. Trump, the party’s chief internal debate is not so much about which governing vision to pursue but whether there should be one at all.

This reality is not lost on all Republicans. Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, one of the party’s most libertarian members, recently said that when he realized that primary voters backed him and his fellow libertarians Rand Paul and Ron Paul, it wasn’t for their ideas. Instead, he said, “they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race — and Donald Trump won best in class.”

Republican voters weren’t voting for any policy outcome. They were voting for chaos. And that, more than anything, is what the party has come to stand for.

A more conventional Republican president might have smoothed over some of these intraparty conflicts, and almost certainly would have managed passing legislation with more skill. But the essential divisions would still have existed…

For years before Mr. Trump was elected, Republicans lacked a consensus plan to replace Obamacare, and their tax reform plans were vague. Republicans blew up the deficit under Mr. Bush before complaining about it under Mr. Obama, and the party has fought bitter internal battles over immigration for decades.

Republican voters, meanwhile, were attracted to shallow political entertainers and obviously unqualified candidates long before Mr. Trump threw his hat in the ring.

Mr. Trump didn’t cause any of this. He just took advantage of it. He is the most successful huckster of the bunch…

As though “huckster” wasn’t the highest form of human intellect, in Ayn Rand’s fantasyverse. Don’t go away mad, Peter — just go away!

Categories: Politics

Late Night Open Thread: Doubling Down

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 23:16

When life gives you a new version of an old Nazi-punching video game to market… own the fuck out of your Nazi-punching.

Thereby chafing the highly refined sensitivities of a group that usually delights in screaming snowflake! and flaunting FUCK YOUR FEELINGS t-shirts…

Critics aren’t exactly arguing that the Nazis were nice, decent folks, but they say that in co-opting the president’s tagline, the video game company is quietly equating Trump supporters with Nazis.

Others claimed that the video game — or at least its marketing — is simply parroting the aims of the antifa, a loosely affiliated group of mostly communists, socialists and anarchists who aim to stop the advance of white supremacy, sometimes violently.

Is it good to give people in that group tacit justification to attack people who fit an ever-expanding definition of Nazis?…

The definition is hardly “ever-expanding”; marching with Nazi flags and screaming Jews will not replace us! has fit the parameters ever since the 1930s. It’s just that you didn’t used to see them mobbing around American college campuses, at least not with their faces unmasked.

When this kerfuffle first popped up a couple weeks ago, commentor dmsilev linked to an article in Ars Technica:

Bethesda, publisher of the upcoming shooting game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, has issued a formal response to decidedly informal (and largely anonymous) criticisms surrounding the anti-Nazi game. In doing so, however, the company has made the curious decision to try to absolve itself of particularly political overtones…

After explaining the series’ premise to the uninitiated—that gamers control one soldier, BJ Blazkowicz, as a one-man-army against a rising Nazi order—Hines tried to dance around the series’ inherently charged subject matter. “Bethesda doesn’t develop games to make specific statements or incite political discussions,” he said to Games Industry. “We make games that we think are fun, meaningful, and immersive for a mature audience.”

Unfortunately for Hines’ argument, it’s hard to imagine any American era in which a violent, gun-loaded battle against a violent, anti-Semitic culture wouldn’t reverberate in a political way. Bethesda may simply be astonished that one of the media world’s longtime easy-target villains, the freaking Hitler-led Nazis, would ever attract anything that approaches “defenders.” Hines admitted this to GI to some extent: “In Wolfenstein‘s case, it’s pure coincidence that Nazis are marching in the streets of America this year. And it’s disturbing that the game can be considered a controversial political statement at all.”…

Looks like Bethesda has decided there’s no percentage in trying to soothe Nazi-sympathizing fee-fees. Given the responses to the top tweet (“I don’t even game and I might buy this fucking thing”), this may have been the better choice!

Categories: Politics

Conflicting Reports from Kirkuk

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 21:40

I’ve been covering the potential for an Iraqi Civil War between Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds for Kirkuk and its surrounding areas since before the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum in September. Tonight we’re getting conflicting reports out of Kirkuk about what is actually going on.

From the Government of Iraq:

There have been reports of US led coalition aircraft over Kirkuk:

And that attacks have begun despite PM Ibadi’s orders:

From al Jazeera (emphasis mine):

Iraqi security forces have launched a “major operation” in the Kurdish-held region of Kirkuk to take control of a strategic military base and oil fields, according to Kurdish and Iraqi officials.

The aim of the advance early on Monday was taking control of the Kurdish-controlled K1 airbase, west of Kirkuk, Lieutenant Colonel Salah el-Kinani, of the Iraqi army’s 9th armoured division, told Reuters news agency.

Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) PresidentMasoud Barzani, also said on Twitter that Peshmerga forces had been ordered “not to initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting”, then they had the “green light to use every power” to respond.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Erbil, said Kurdish forces in and around Kirkuk “have vowed to defend it to the last man”. He added that the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk has reportedly called residents to arms, “saying anybody with a weapon should take it up and defend the city”.

It seems as if all diplomatic efforts have failed,” said Stratford, calling the push a “very worrying” development.

At this point it is unclear what exactly is going on. While the reports of actual fighting are scattered and only partially confirmed, there are two armed forces moving into close proximity of each other. And those two forces have very different objectives. Cooler heads may yet prevail, but it won’t take much for this to get really ugly really quickly.

Here’s a live stream from Kirkuk:

Categories: Politics

Denver Meet-Up: It’s On

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 20:25


Okay, I got my help, so the meet-up is on. Here’s the info and thanks to Scamp Dog for taking over setup duties. From him:

Hello Juicers, how about Denver area get-together at Rosita’s (8050 N Federal Blvd, Westminster, CO) on Sunday, October 22nd? I will make reservations the day before, and try to scare up some green balloons to mark our table.

I’m thinking about 5 pm since some of you have a drive. Give us a head  count and if all that sounds good in the comments.  Now that I’m not in charge, I’m very excited to me all of you. Lurkers and introverts more than welcome!

Categories: Politics

What Exactly is the Military’s Role in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands?

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 17:44

We’ve had a lot of discussion in the comments over the past couple of weeks about not just what is going on with the disaster response, emergency management, and/or humanitarian assistance missions in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but also what exactly the US military’s role is. The US military is currently involved in assisting with all three components of the response: disaster response, emergency management, and humanitarian assistance. They are specifically doing so through what is called Defense Support of Civil Authorities, which is abbreviated as DSCA and pronounced as disca.

Defense Support of Civil Authorities is defined in Joint Publication 3-28/Defense Support of Civil Authorities:

Defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) is support provided by federal military forces, Department of Defense (DOD) civilians, DOD contract personnel, DOD component assets, and National Guard (NG) forces (when the Secretary of Defense [SecDef], in coordination with the governors of the affected states, elects and requests to use those forces in Title 32, United States Code, status or when federalized) in response to requests for assistance from civil authorities for domestic emergencies, law enforcement support, and other domestic activities, or from qualifying entities for special events.

DSCA in the US presents a unique challenge based on the history of the country and the interaction of the federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments and private and nonprofit organizations. These relationships establish the multiple layers and mutually reinforcing structures throughout the state and territorial governments for interaction based on the US Constitution, as well as on common law and traditional relationships.

US Army North has been mobilized as the Joint Land Force Component Command (JFLCC) to coordinate the US military response. This includes Task Force 51*, which is contingency command post. Specifically:

TF-51 is Army North’s contingency command post and conducts Defense Support of Civil Authority (DSCA), homeland defense and theater security cooperation in order to promote the defense and security of the United States​

There are also US Army Corps of Engineers, US Army Civil Affairs, and US Army National Guard – primarily from the Puerto Rico National Guard, as well as US Marine Corps personnel from the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group/26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (USS Kearsarge, USS Arlington, and USS Oak Hill) plussed up with USS Wasp, US Coast Guard Sailors, and the USNS Comfort on site assisting. There are also civilian personnel from a variety of US government civilian agencies.

The Commanding General of US Army North is not actually in charge of the response. Rather a FEMA executive on site is responsible. Unfortunately everyone defaults to “the US military is there, there’s a 3 star commander on site, the US military is in charge”. This is not actually the case. Because of how the news media has covered things since 9-11 everyone expects the military not only to perform, but to work miracles. This is largely a result of the US military being the only US governmental institution that is viewed positively by a majority of Americans. Whether the result of good public relations, the concerted effort not to treat uniformed personnel returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom the popular perception about the way returning Vietnam veterans were treated**, or a combination of the two, there is a pervasive belief among elected and appointed officials, as well as the US citizenry that the US military can do anything and everything. This combined with the significant divide that has grown between the All Volunteer Force and the rest of Americans, as well as a general lack of knowledge and understanding about what the US military does and does not do, can and cannot do, all contributes to the default belief that if the US military has responded, then it is in charge. So if things aren’t going well, then someone in uniform must be screwing up.

It is important to remember that LTG Buchanan, the Commanding General of US Army North, is not the military governor of PR and that martial law hasn’t been declared. In this mission he and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines under his command actually work for Michael Byrne, who is the Federal Coordinating Officer for Puerto Rico. While it is absolutely correct to question exactly what is going on with the response to the crises in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, it is important to remember who is running the show – FEMA – and who isn’t – the US military. Moreover, we don’t know what the Memorandum of Agreement is between FEMA/DHS and US Army North/Department of the Army that delineates who is doing what in regard to the Federal response to the crises in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as it is not posted anywhere public facing. Here’s an example of a Memorandum of Agreement between FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers from 2008 to give you an idea of what they look like. Here’s the manual for US military support to FEMA in these types of situations to give you some idea of how things should go.

That doesn’t make what we’re seeing in news reports and eye witness reports on social media about the inadequacy of the response okay. It just means that other than knowing that things aren’t going well, despite official pronouncements from various parties in DC, we don’t really know why they’re not going well. As in the root causes. Is the Memorandum of Agreement too limiting? Has too little resources, specifically actual food, water, clothing, medical supplies been queued up? Or delivered on site? Are there too few personnel on site when accounting for US civilian and military personnel? All of these are legitimate questions. But just because the US military on site gets all the press, and just because we’ve become conditioned to assume that they are both hyper-competent and always in charge wherever they are deployed, this is not always the case. And it is certainly not the case in the US response to the hurricane created crises in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

* Full disclosure: the Chief of Staff for Task Force 51 is my former student from my last year (academic year 2014) assigned at USAWC. I have not been commissioned by him, anyone else at the Joint Force Land Component Command in Puerto Rico, or anyone else in the US military to write this post.

** There is a popular perception in the US that returning vets from Vietnam were treated poorly by the American public. In terms of actual history this isn’t exactly what happened, and there are a lot of nuances, but this is the popular perception.

Categories: Politics

Whip It Good

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 16:41

Wait? What?

Well Adam L. Silverman, seems not all the crazies are in Florida. I don’t even know where to go with this one.

Open thread.

And you know, this is obligatory.

Categories: Politics

Moar Sunday Sportsball Open Thread

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 15:44

(Mike Luckovich via


Yeah, I suspect there’s a lot more Trumplodytes bitching about the NFL than actually boycotting. Situation’s getting completely meta…

Categories: Politics

Sportsball & Politics

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 12:58

A while back in an early morning thread, I mentioned that one of my Trumpster uncles texted a meme about the take-a-knee protests. It was a photo of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, and the caption was, “And just like that, 63 million Americans said ‘Fuck the NFL.'”

I responded to the text with something snarky, along the lines of, “Who could have foreseen that when liberal and conservative America divorced, the libtards would get custody of the NFL?”

My uncle then huffily informed me that it was HUMOR, not a political debate. I dropped it, but this was at the beginning of Trump’s hissy fit about the NFL, so I found the claim that the meme wasn’t political disingenuous.

But one of y’all (can’t remember who, sorry) replied that my uncle may have really not seen it as political. Turns out, you were right. There are vast swathes of folks who see taking a knee during the national anthem as tantamount to pissing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and pooping on Mom’s apple pie.

Trump, who is a moron just as Tillerson said, does have a demagogue’s talent for exploiting wedge issues, and he used his weekly address to gin up more outrage among the base on this issue. After blathering about the military he never bothered to join, Trump said:

Before watching a football game, you want to see those players be proud of their country. Respect our country. Respect our flag. And respect our national anthem and we think they will. We certainly hope they will.

Like most of what Trump does, this is a dominance thing with racial overtones. The majority of NFL players are black, and there’s only one owner who isn’t white. Some folks are crediting Trump with a victory over the NFL here, but I don’t think the story is over, not by a long shot.

Virtually all the stakeholders are rich men — players, owners, broadcasters, etc. And while the owners and networks have exponentially more money than the players, the players are the product. Will they allow themselves to be bullied into silence by the likes of Trump?

I read this morning that a couple of networks carrying today’s games don’t plan to broadcast the anthem. The NFL and networks desperately want the issue to go away. But will the players use it to assert their own independence and, hopefully, counter the bullshit narrative Trump is pushing about the nature of the protests?

If they do, will anyone hear them? My uncle won’t, but he’s not among the reachable, IMO. However, if Trump takes the bait (which he seems genetically incapable of NOT doing), could public perceptions shift when the highest elected official in the land makes ever more overt demands to mandate patriotic displays?

I don’t know. But it should be more interesting than some of today’s games.

Categories: Politics

Writers Chatting: Chapter 9

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 12:36

Welcome back. I don’t have a guest today but I think there is lots to talk about. After the last writing post, I thought it would be a good time to continue to discuss self-publishing.

What are the best ways to go about finding and evaluating resources such as a good editor, a cover artist, beta readers and how best to market yourself.  Even if you’re not there yet, we’ll all need these resources eventually.

(For the posts on putting together query letters for traditional publishing, click here, looking for a literary agent, click here)

Let’s start today with a reminder of who you are and where you are at in your writing journey.

And also, a reminder, National Novel Writing month is next month. What would you like to do for it? I will be gone for two weeks in November, but I can set some open writing threads up to auto-publish if you guys have a plan.

Ok, take it way and keep it positive and fun….


Categories: Politics

Readership Capture: The Obamas Continue to Push the Envelope

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 09:54

This is very cool, at least for us snooty high-culture types. From TPM:

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery on Friday announced the two artists commissioned to paint the gallery’s official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.

The former President, the Smithsonian said, selected Kehinde Wiley to paint his portrait. And Michelle Obama chose the painter Amy Sherald.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the pair are the first black artists hired by the gallery to paint portraits of the President and first lady. The publication noted that, far from being lesser-known names in the art world, as is often the case with presidential portrait painters, both Wiley and Sherald have “major followings.”…

Sherald and Wiley have those followings because they deserve them. I haven’t had the good fortune to see either of these artists’ work in person, but I have read enough about them to be excited by this choice. Barack and Michelle Obama are, of course, very smart people whose tastes extend well beyond the usual ‘safe’ sanitized portraitists. If you click over on the YouTube clips, there’s tons of other meaty visual material from both artists to help enlighten your weekend…

Categories: Politics