Why Are We Doing This?

Early moves by insurers suggest that another round of price hikes and limited choices will greet insurance shoppers around the country when they start searching for next year's coverage on the public markets established by the Affordable Care Act.
Before Obamacare, I had a policy I kept from 2003 until, years after it became a grandfathered plan I couldn't change in any way, I lost it because the company quit selling it. I was never in a position of having to go out each year and "search for next year's coverage." Now I am in exactly that position.

Before Obamacare, that plan that I had changed only in that the premiums went up slightly from year to year. After Obamacare, the cost tripled before the policy was discontinued.

Before Obamacare, that plan had a network I didn't even have to worry about because any doctor you happened upon would certainly be on it. If you got drug to the hospital for some reason, you didn't have to first check to see if everyone in that hospital (including the anesthesiologist) was on the plan. They would be on the plan. Now, you have to agree to pay charges without having any idea if your network includes anyone at that hospital.

Nor can you check, actually, as the ACA's website doesn't have fully updated information for this year. You can find out if they took the plan last year, but every year, networks narrow and prices increase.

Why are we doing this?

Dolly Parton Lights the Way

I just passed through Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The damage from last year's fires is still highly evident in that town and the surrounding country, and will be for some time. By coincidence one of my cousins is a civil engineer up that way, and he has his hands absolutely full trying to rebuild the hundreds and hundreds of structures that were destroyed -- indeed, I think he said it was a few thousand structures he had on his plate. There is a real shortage of engineers who are experienced working on mountainsides, and thus there isn't the flood of help from outside the Tennessee mountains that one would expect.

So it is with pleasure that I read about native daughter Dolly Parton's extraordinary generosity in helping her fellow folks. Having grown up in tremendous poverty, and then attained substantial wealth, she never forgets how hard life can be in those mountains.

"The Ctrl-Left"

Via Anarchyball, an amusing term for the Antifa aspects of the left wing. It's meant as a parallel to the "alt-right," of course.

A Genuine Problem with the System

Reportedly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling for his prosecutors to -- as a matter of course -- seek the harshest possible charges with the longest possible prison terms when prosecuting cases.

Well, actually, that's not quite what he said.
The policy memo says prosecutors should “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” — something more likely to trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Those rules limit a judge’s discretion and are typically dictated, for example, by the quantity of drugs involved in a crime. The memo concedes there will be cases in which “good judgment” will warrant a prosecutor to veer from that rule. But any exceptions will need to be approved by top supervisors, and the reasons must be documented, allowing the Justice Department to track the handling of such cases by its 94 U.S. attorney’s offices.
Mandatory minimums are a problem. Sessions, as a former lawmaker, bears some of the responsibility for that problem, but certainly not all of it. The heuristic that one should usually pursue the "most serious, readily provable" crime isn't even a bad standard: if a serious crime isn't readily provable don't pursue it, but if it is then of course it's your job to nail criminals for their serious crimes.

I would have left a lot more room for that "good judgment" exercise by lower-level officials, rather than requiring high-level officials to sign off on such uses of judgment. Still, it's not an unreasonable policy on its face.

What makes it a problem is, then, the mandatory minimums that exist in the law. That's a problem for legislators, not the Justice Department. I agree with the analysis that such minimums are not appropriate as a general principle. Nevertheless, it's not on the Justice Department to refuse to enforce the law when a crime is "readily provable" just because the law is badly written. It's on Congress to fix the law.


My congressman, Doug Collins of Georgia's Mighty 9th, is working on trying to reform the laws in the way I'm discussing here. Specifically, he is focused on dealing with the mental health aspects of crimes. Collins is a former Air Force chaplain whose father was a state trooper.
"I've spent a lot of time with our sheriffs and going to our jails. One question I always ask is, 'How many in your jail would you classify as mental health or addiction issues?' The answer is that it ranges from about 35-40 percent of incarcerated individuals in some jails."...

"We're looking at the whole issue, at folks dealing with serious mental issues, but also from an economic perspective, the money perspective, making the best use of taxpayer dollars to not just incarcerate folks without getting them help," he added.
Mandatory minimums aren't the right answer to these issues. They might be to some issues -- I think I broadly approve of Project EXILE's moves to punish drug gangs who use guns with harsh penalties, as at least it pulls these kids off the street until they're too old to go around gunning each other down (as well as, being untrained thugs, often innocent people who were proximate to their targets). But there are many cases in which these mandatory minimums should be rethought by Congress.

Who Says Trump Wants a New FBI Director?

Democrats in Congress may be outsmarting themselves.
So, Democrats are hinting to President Donald Trump, want a new FBI director? Then agree to an independent investigation of your campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

Democrats control only 48 Senate seats, meaning they need to pull three Republicans over to their side. The bipartisan angst over the abrupt firing of James Comey on Tuesday could give them the leverage they badly need.

They want a special prosecutor, or perhaps a special panel, to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Republican leaders oppose an independent probe, but some GOP senators are sympathetic.
Say that one of Trump's goals is making the Russia probe go away. What's more effective in attaining that goal: agreeing to a semi-permanent institution like a special prosecutor, or allowing your opponents to make sure the FBI remains headless?

If you really think there's something to all this, as Democratic leaders claim to do (although even Chairman Grassley concedes that the President is right to say that he isn't personally under investigation), why would you offer this deal? If Trump turns it down, he can charge you with being the ones who are 'obstructing justice' by playing politics with a major police agency. You, by contrast, will be in the difficult position of claiming that (a) 'serious crimes have been committed!' but also that (b) 'Therefore, we must refuse to appoint a new head of the bureau that would investigate such crimes.'

All this chaos is good for somebody, but I'm not sure that somebody is any of us.

PR Grandmaster

Scott Adams argues that the average guy's main takeaway from President Trump's letter firing Comey is the odd sentence thanking him for informing him that he was not under investigation.  Adams credits Trump with getting his opponents in the media to intone "not under investigation" non-stop for several days, thus laying out one simple and comprehensible concept while thoroughly confusing the public on nearly other aspect of the firing.

Death to Trump(-supporting TV Show)

We don't do TV here at Grim's Hall, so I've never seen the show in question, but it apparently enjoyed high ratings. That's not a reason to avoid canceling it, in today's America; it's the reason to cancel it.
Every week, the half-hour comedy, one of the very few aimed to appeal to America's heartland, won its time-slot in the all-important demo, including 6.4 million overall same-day viewers. Deadline further adds that "[w]hile most returning shows were down year-to-year 20-30%, LMS was virtually flat, off just by 5% in total viewers and adults 18-49[.]"

Those are very impressive numbers for a show that has been around for six full seasons.

But that is not all!

Last Man Standing was ABC's Friday anchor, meaning a show that could not only be counted on to win the night but one that kept viewers tuned in to whatever shows came after. Anchors are also crucially important when it comes to launching new shows.

But that is not all!

The real money in the sitcom business comes from syndication rights, selling the reruns on a per episode basis to other networks. Last Man Standing is not only a syndication smash, a virtual cash cow, per Deadline it is the "rare off-network ratings success story these days."

When a show does this well in syndication, every episode becomes a bar of gold, a likely source of rolling revenue for years and years to come.
Doesn't matter. What's important is making sure there is absolutely no cultural affirmation for "America's heartland."

#2 AG Meeting with Senate Intel Committee

Given Sessions' recusal, this guy can approve a special prosecutor on his own -- and no one can stop him if he decides to do so, not the President and not the Senate. I wonder if he's decided to pull the trigger.

Sally Yates is from Georgia?

Apparently she is -- native born, even, and educated at the University of Georgia -- and some are pushing her to be our next governor.


Yuval Levin warns that the voters who won the 2016 election don't see much worth conserving:
I think of alienation as a sense of detachment from one’s own society. It’s looking out at the society you live in and thinking, “That’s not mine” and feeling no connection, no links—seeing it as distant, as hostile, even seeing it as boring. We should never underestimate the power of boredom in social life. That kind of alienation was very much on display in the last election and in some people’s—especially early on in the Republican primaries, in the most devoted Trump supporters—there was a sense that “This society isn’t ours. We have got to blow this up and try again.” I think that’s dangerous in general, but it’s particularly dangerous to conservatism because conservatism in a sense is a sense of attachment and ownership and defensiveness of one’s own society. It certainly can see problems and is inclined to be rather depressed about things most of the time. But that follows from a sense of loss, not from a sense of alienation. It can lead, therefore, in its most constructive forms to a determination to revive, revitalize, recapture institutions, rather than to this sense that “it’s all over” or “the only option we have left is a Hail Mary pass.”
I think that the sort of alienation that was evident in some of Trump’s supporters is very dangerous for the American right because it tends to make the right less conservative. And to make the right hostile to its own society. First of all, I think America doesn’t deserve that. We have a lot of problems, our institutions are in real trouble, but things are not nearly as bad as the way in which Trump described them. Just think about the convention speech and, in some respects, even the inaugural. This describes an America that is much darker than reality and when you do that, it doesn’t leave room for thinking about solutions. It doesn’t leave room for thinking about how to come back.
I didn't see the inaugural address that way. Despite my skepticism about Trump, I heard the message that we're tired of being told we're locked into policies that demonstrably don't work, just because someone has decided that the alternatives are unthinkable to the progressive chattering class. I certainly acknowledge a "burn it down, plow it under, salt the ground it stood on" vein in my politics, but not because I'm willing to replace the status quo with just anything. I want either to replace it with policies with a proven track record or, if necessary, to replace it with something new and experimental, but only if we're committed to observing its results and changing it if it doesn't work, either. I'm tired of the magical thinking, from climate science to free lunches.

Ruby Soho

It's a ska take on what I guess is now a punk rock classic, though I am old enough to think of it as a late comer.

Call it an Irish Pub

"I'll up & burst yer filthy mug,
If you draw one more shamrock in me beer!"

Nothing Says "Discrete" Like MOLLE Webbing

It's probably a great product, but I am deeply amused by the marketing.
Set up your discreet mobile field office with the Tactical Shit Snowden Computer Bag that is designed to hold a 17" laptop. The pack unzips to become a portable field desk with multiple pockets for all your gear, documents, pens, power cord, etc. The padded perimeter rim will not only protect your computer, it will also keep the sun off the screen during daylight operations.
What's the MOLLE for anyway? Rigging a holster and an ammo pouch to the outside of your computer bag?

German Police Do Not Appreciate Car Culture

Stars & Stripes has an article on how much the German police do not look kindly on American servicemembers' muscle cars. Near one military base, the police are establishing a special unit to crack down on American custom cars.

It's a basic clash of civilizations. It's the clash between this:

...and this:

Well, This Will Be Fun

Trump firing Comey is going to produce a political fireball, I'll wager.


Havok Journal has a piece by one such.
The first time I played a set of highland bagpipes, the feeling was immense and indescribable. The ability to command such a powerful instrument and convey a mood of elation or utter sorrow was incredible. The first time I fired a M2 .50 caliber machinegun, my brain was equally unprepared to wholly understand what my hands were wielding and what they were then capable of.
Not everyone likes the bagpipes, but then again not everybody loves Ma Deuce either!

Refugees and Terror

We've seen anecdotal evidence that the vetting refugees receive doesn't stop them from turning terrorist. We've also seen arguments that we shouldn't expect it to given the paucity of information actually available to vet people coming from failed states, war zones, or enemy states like Iran.

Now we have something like a statistic from James Comey, head of the FBI: refugees make up 15% of their active terrorism cases.

What we don't get from Comey is a sense of whether these refugee terrorists are motivated by, say, attachment to a drug cartel or to, say, some religious doctrine. The United States admitted 85,000 refugees in 2016 alone, meaning that the 300 cases Comey cites would remain a tiny fraction of the refugee population. Even if it were 85,000 total rather than 85,000 annually, that's just 0.0035%; in fact, it would be orders of magnitude lower when you consider the whole population.

Still, refugees as a whole are a tiny fraction of the American population, so it remains surprising to see them so prominently figuring in terrorism cases. Those refugees from 2016 represent 0.00024% of the American population, and treating the population as a whole would only move the decimal at most a few places: we're still going to be talking way less than one full percentage point, not 15 percent.

Beware Skotland

A Norse travel guide has been recovered recently, written on 800 year old sheets of vellum.
THE very rough guide to Scotland offered the would-be traveller the following warning. Be very careful there, it says – the natives are dangerous, the language incomprehensible and the weather is awful....

The chronicles have been interpreted by Gisli Sigurdsson, a historian at Reykjavik University... Sigurdsson said the sagas were a warning to travellers that they would encounter a general foggy area, dangerous landings, hostile natives and language problems. They wrote that the people would probably attack you immediately.
That sounds about right.

Fixing Health Care

So I'm trying to figure out what to say to my Senators. Here's one idea.