July 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Obamacare enrollment inches higher  (Tami Luhby,  July 2, 2018, CNN)

More Americans who signed up for Obamacare plans are sticking with them.

Some 10.6 million people were enrolled in Obamacare in February, up 3% from the same time a year earlier, according to new federal figures released Monday. This comes despite a 3.7% decline in the number of people who signed up for 2018 coverage during open enrollment in the fall.

Those who selected 2018 plans during open enrollment were more likely to complete their enrollment by paying their first month's premiums -- only 9% failed to do so, compared to 15% the prior year.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


A Second Chance for an Ivy League ISIS Recruit (Alan Feuer, June 28, 2018, NY Times)

In the fall of 2014, federal law enforcement and intelligence officials had a problem. A new terrorist group, the Islamic State, had stunned the world by taking over large swaths of Syria and Iraq and was threatening Americans both at home and overseas. And yet, by their own account, terrorism investigators knew little about the group.

But that October, court papers say, the officials caught a break: A young American citizen, a former student at Columbia University, quietly reached out to them from Syria, only hours after fleeing an Islamic State encampment. Disillusioned by his hosts' brutality, the man proposed a deal: If they helped him get home safely, he would tell them everything that he had heard and seen.

Thus began a four-year relationship in which the man, who used the alias "John Doe" in court, worked with federal prosecutors, sharing documents he smuggled out of Syria and recounting what he learned about the terror network's culture and logistics. The prosecutors asked to keep his identity private, citing risks to his safety.

On Thursday, the cooperator's bond with the government came to an end, at least officially, when grateful prosecutors persuaded a judge in Brooklyn to sentence him to supervised release instead of prison time -- even though he had initially faced 25 years behind bars.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM

MAKE IT A CAR RACE (profanity alert):

The Race That Pairs Humans Against Horses (Harry Harris, Jun 27 2018,  VICE UK)

"Who would win in a race between a man and a horse?" is an age-old question that might liven up an otherwise dead chat in the pub after a few pints. Bolshy contrarians insisting that, on a good day, on dry ground, they could make a decent attempt. Part-time equine enthusiasts weighing in on the unpredictability of the animal and the myriad factors--weather, temperament, atmosphere, form--that could determine their success.

The thing is, you're not meant to follow through on these conversations. The hypothetical is often so much more interesting than the reality, especially when the reality involves physically pitting yourself against a beast that could end your life with a single kick. However, one of these conversations happened in a pub in Llanwrtyd Wells, mid-Wales, and the participants thought they would test it out for real.

That's why I'm at the 39 annual staging of Man vs. Horse, a 21-mile cross country race between 1,000+ runners and a maximum of 65 horses. In terms of numbers, this is the biggest horse race in the UK. Bigger than the Grand National, with the added bonus of no horses being shot in front of a baying crowd.

Man, so far, has won twice. Let's just get that out of the way. The first was Huw Lobb in 2004, beating the horse by a clean couple of minutes, and then Florian Holzinger in 2007, who reportedly announced after finishing the race: "I am the German who is faster than a horse!"

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Boys and men disappearing from psychology (DOUGLAS TODD, June 26, 2018, Vancouver Sun)

Males are disappearing from the field of North American psychology -- both as research subjects and as psychotherapists.

The evidence is overwhelming that psychological research is becoming heavily focused on girls' and women's issues, and that males are rapidly vanishing from psycho-therapeutic professions.

The consequences of these dual trajectories, say specialists, is that the distinct emotional struggles of boys and men are largely being sidelined and that many psychotherapists are lacking expertise in dealing effectively with males' psychological difficulties.

A revealing study led by the University of B.C.'s Robinder Bedi found the vast majority of 293 research articles published over a 13-year period in the influential Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy centred on female-specific topics.

Shhhhhhhh......  Don't give them any ideas.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Ocasio-Cortez just did Democrats a big favor (Dana Milbank, 6/27/18, Washington Post)

Crowley lost because of the changing demographics in his district, which had been redrawn considerably after 2010 and is now only 18 percent white. Yes, Ocasio-Cortez calls herself a socialist, but Crowley was a down-the-line liberal, particularly in recent years, and a champion of single-payer health care. The issues Ocasio-Cortez used against him were largely nonideological: moving his family to Washington and taking special-interest money. Crowley evidently didn't realize he was in trouble until too late and never sought colleagues' help in what was a low-turnout primary.

As for the insurgency, Crowley is the only Democratic incumbent to be ousted this cycle. Of the 29 candidates on the "Red to Blue" list that the DCCC endorsed during their primaries, 27 have prevailed. The Center for Responsive Politics tells me that in 85 percent of Democratic House primaries this year, 252 of 296, the winner was the candidate who raised the most money; of the 44 exceptions, 31 were women -- suggesting the reason is gender, not ideology.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


THE DIRTBAG CONVERGENCE: Anti-humanists and populists on the extremes of the American political spectrum find common cause attacking the norms of the liberal establishment of progressive plutocrats (Jacob Siegel, July 1, 2018, The Tablet)

The far left and far right converge around an axial opposition to hegemonic liberalism. This manifests in attacks on liberal democratic norms that attempt to pierce to the heart of liberal values and "anti-imperialist" rhetoric that often amounts to support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria and the embrace of Russian imperialism. The specter of an unholy illiberal alliance can be deployed to stigmatize ideas that threaten the centrist establishment, as happened with the Bernie Bro label spread by Clinton operatives to kneecap the competition. But in other cases it is abundantly real--and the histrionic outcry that greets any public acknowledgement of today's growing left-right convergence only testifies to its existence.

Dormant existential issues and first principles have returned as immanent political matters.  While the existence of the Soviet Union and narrative of the Cold War gave powerful substance to a liberal rhetoric of democracy, the failed wars of democratization in the Middle East had the reverse effect, associating the democratic ideal with the imperial sloganeering of a stumbling, ineffectual empire.

Listen to the modern prophets and you'll hear that liberalism is dying, democracy is in crisis, and capitalism is ready to explode.  "We must get it out of our heads that this is a doomed time," Saul Bellow wrote in Herzog. Fifty-four years later and the doomsday sentimentalism the novel dismissed as "mere junk from fashionable magazines" is back in full bloom.