Denver Meetup: Fun, Food and a Few Surprises

Despite a bit of a mix-up on where we would have dinner (our first choice was closed), we rallied and ended up just down the road. Green balloons and all.

Eleven of us attended, with several more who could not make it. But I think we had such a good time, I’m am positive we will do it again. Maybe even a potluck at my house (oh, don’t hold me to that…)

I’ll let everyone identify themselves as they will. Three of us are missing – me, Czanne and a friend of mine who tagged along. She had enough fun she’s already thinking up her Balloon-Juice handle, but was camera shy.

This was more fun than I can detail here – good conversation, good food and terrific people – each and everyone of them. And these folks are very, very intelligent and I could have listened to their stories for several more hours.

Surprises?  Two of us are (unbeknownst before dinner) literally next door neighbors, one of us speaks Mandarin, one of us has met DougJ,  lots of military service (Go Navy!) and I’m actually a 75 year old dude named Kevin. [[One of these is not true.]]

Thanks to Scamp Dog for handling all the details!!

Consider this your evening open thread.  What’s going on tonight, anything fun?

P.S. Someone at that table owes me a bread recipe and I owe someone a whole wheat biscuit recipe. ;-)  email me and we’ll exchange those details.  whats4dinnersolutions at live dot com

Disaster Open Thread: Houston, Houston, Do You Read?

(Jim Morin via

Per the NYTimes, “Still Waiting for FEMA in Texas and Florida After Hurricanes”:

Outside the White House this month, President Trump boasted about the federal relief efforts. “In Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus,” he said. FEMA officials say that they are successfully dealing with enormous challenges posed by an onslaught of closely spaced disasters, unlike anything the agency has seen in years. But on the ground, flooded residents and local officials have a far more critical view.

According to interviews with dozens of storm victims, one of the busiest hurricane seasons in years has overwhelmed federal disaster officials. As a result, the government’s response in the two biggest affected states — Texas and Florida — has been scattershot: effective in dealing with immediate needs, but unreliable and at times inadequate in handling the aftermath, as thousands of people face unusually long delays in getting basic disaster assistance.

FEMA has taken weeks to inspect damaged homes and apartments, delaying flood victims’ attempts to rebuild their lives and properties. People who call the agency’s help line at 1-800-621-FEMA have waited on hold for two, three or four hours before they even speak to a FEMA representative.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, and six weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10, residents are still waiting for FEMA payments, still fuming after the agency denied their applications for assistance and still trying to resolve glitches and disputes that have slowed and complicated their ability to receive federal aid…

In the Washington Post, “Many Trump voters who got hurricane relief in Texas aren’t sure Puerto Ricans should”:

“He really made me mad,” said Maddox, 70, who accused Trump of trying to pit those on the mainland against Puerto Ricans, even though they’re all Americans.

“I don’t know,” said her husband, Fred Maddox, 75. “I think he’s trying.”

He continued: “It’s a problem, but they need to handle it. It shouldn’t be up to us, really. I don’t think so. They’re sitting back, they’re taking the money, they’re taking a little under the table. He’s trying to wake them up: Do your job. Be responsible.”

The divide in the Maddox household is one playing out across the country, as those who voted for the president debate how much support the federal government should give Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory without a voting member of Congress that is not allowed to vote in presidential elections…

A survey released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority of Americans believe that the federal government has been too slow to respond in Puerto Rico and that the island still isn’t getting the help it needs. But the results largely broke along party lines: While nearly three-quarters of Democrats said the federal government isn’t doing enough, almost three-quarters of Republicans said it is…

A cynic might wonder if Trump and his enablers want you to be fighting over scraps while his cronies loot the treasury.

Jeb Lund, in the Daily Beast:

Until now, America has been willing only to let the quiet calamities fester and infect and degrade, often with far more lethality, injury and contempt for cost than overnight disasters. Look to the Superfund site upstream or the refreshing orange electric-goo creeks of coal country. Or look to the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, which began poisoning its people in April 2014 and “became a crisis” in September 2015.

But the big ticket stuff—the telegenic suffering of real civilizational collapse that pops on camera next to the yellow of Anderson Cooper’s slicker and the stark green camo of a Humvee—well, that we still gave a damn enough to handle.

But maybe the big lesson of the Bush Administration’s bungling of Hurricane Katrina wasn’t that government always has to show up but rather that there is a constituency out there that no longer cares if the really visually sickening catastrophe goes not just ignored but worsened. That there is a tiered system—maybe even color-coded—of which citizens need rescuing. That there’s a virtue to cutting out the deadwood by salutary neglect. That a penny saved is a penny earned toward rescuing more critical voters. That we have to destroy the island to monetize it. That each new disaster is a chance to discover whether a new precedent of designating an expendable citizenry starts with you…

Do You, You, Feel Like I Do

Do any of you experience ASMR:

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a term used for an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia.[1][2] ASMR signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterised by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attentional control.[3][4]

I get it for a lot of different kinds of music, and a lot of people who experience it during Bob Ross’s show, of all things. For me it rolls down my forearms, my back and neck, and it makes my hair stand up. It really feels great. Here’s how random it is for me- the following two songs set me off:

When the backup singers and Kanye sing “Aww hecky naw that boy is raw” it just explodes down my forearms.

Here’s another one:

As soon as the music starts I get it mildly, but then when she starts singing, it just blows up.

What songs set you off if you experience this.

Referees, CMS and 1332’s

Good referees are consistent referees. They make the same type of call on both ends of the field in the first minute of the game and the last minute of the game. They are usually consistent across games at the same level and style. They may differ across referees. My favorite soccer referee to run a line for is a USSF National. He conducts a ninety minute group therapy session for players and will call shirt grabs tight all year long. Another USSF National referee, that I frequently worked with, won’t call a foul unless there is a compound fracture poking through the shin. Both styles work in facilitating competitive games. The teams know who is in the middle and within the first couple of minutes, the teams can figure out what the referee will and won’t call for the rest of the game.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seems like it is a good referee. They are consistent with how they are reading 1332 rules. They are reading them very tightly, but their read is the same for Minnesota as it is for Iowa. CMS is reading budget neutrality real tight. In their response to Iowa’s question on what what be considered for budget neutrality, CMS responded:

If the Departments were to pass the entire premium tax credit savings through to lowa, the waiver likely would increase the Federal deficit. This is because several .orponrnìs of the State’s proposed plan would reduce Federal revenues or increase Federal costs. First, any increase in the number of insured persons may reduce individual shared responsibility payments for failure to maintain health coverage due under Intemal Revenue Code (lRC¡ sectión SOOOa

Covering more people and thus having more people not pay the individual mandate penalty is a budget neutrality hit as called by the CMS referees. They made a similar call on Section 1331 Basic Health Plan funding so they are being consistent. CMS outlined several other areas of cost that would diminish the size of the pass through Iowa wanted.

Iowa is pulling its waiver application.

I can’t blame them. Their initial waiver was legally shaky on coverage grounds. The modified waiver could lead to a plausible hold-harmless argument if one squinted hard enough. Now that they aren’t getting the cash that they thought they would have gotten, it is not worth going forward.

The most important thing in my mind from the Iowa and Minnesota waiver processes have been the learning that other states have achieved. The rest of the country now has a pretty good idea of what type of referee CMS will be. They have seen the easy calls (reinsurance waivers in Oregon and Alaska) and a pair of strong judgement calls on funding. States know what will draw a whistle and what they can get away with now, so they should not be surprised when they file new waivers.

Medal of Honor Award Ceremony Live Stream

The President will be awarding a long overdue Medal of Honor today. The recipient, Gary Michael Rose, was an 18D (Green Beret “shooting medic”) during the events he is finally being recognized for.

Rose, who was a Green Beret, was given the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest medal for valor, four months after the mission in 1971. Monday’s Medal of Honor is considered an upgrade of that award.

The honors recognized Rose’s valiant efforts in Vietnam as he traveled with the unit, which was called the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, or MACSOG. He suffered wounds from bullets and rockets as well as a helicopter crash.

He is credited with saving more than 100 comrades during the mission.

Rose was the only medic among 16 Green Berets and 120 Vietnamese tribal fighters known as Montagnards traveling in the covert unit. They were dropped in the Laotian jungle Sept. 11 for the mission known as Operation Tailwind. As they moved into enemy territory to a North Vietnamese encampment, they almost immediately came under heavy fire and the force took multiple casualties.

In several cases, Rose used his own body as a human shield to protect members of his unit, even as he was wounded, and continued to treat others. “My focus was to take care of the guys who were hurt,” Rose recalled. “You just got to do your job and keep moving down the road.”

In the end, every soldier would be wounded, three Montagnards were killed and three helicopters crashed.

On Friday, Rose reiterated the medal will belong to his MACSOG unit, others who fought at that time and recognizes the efforts of the troops who did and didn’t make it back from the mission.

“This medal, I consider a collective medal,” Rose said. “For all of us who fought on the ground, in the Air Force and the Marines on Operation Tailwind. In a greater sense, it also honors the Special Forces during this time frame.”

What is so interesting about this award is its connection to one of the largest Vietnam War conspiracy theories. In 1998 CNN debuted a new new’s magazine show in conjunction with Time Magazine. The first episode dealt with Operation Tailwind. But not the actual Operation Tailwind. Rather it focused on what turned out to be an elaborate conspiracy theory created around the myth that the US government deliberately stranded Soldiers in Vietnam. Essentially making them missing in action. The story quickly fell apart and did major damage to CNN’s reputation. The whole thing is detailed in an excellent book by Professor Jerry Lembcke: CNN’s Tailwind Tale: Inside Vietnam’s Last Great Myth.

Here’s the live stream so you can see if the President can stay on script or whether he compounds last week’s unforced errors with some new ones.

Open thread!

Monday Afternoon Open Thread

He’s so close to figuring it out:

I set this new feeder up about a week and a half ago. Haven’t seen any birds using it yet, but the squirrels discovered it immediately. So far, they haven’t figured out how to defeat the weight-sensitive perch to get at the seeds, but I have faith that they will eventually.

There’s a lot going on in politics today. Trump basically called Sergeant Johnson’s widow a liar. Third Lady Melania Trump, who is married to a psychopath who demeans Gold Star families, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who just rescinded dozens of guidelines outlining rights for disabled students, teamed up to recognize National Bullying Prevention month.

I just cannot with any of this bullshit, so I’ll watch squirrels and wait for an expected rainstorm instead. Over to you.

Silver loading and confusion

Over the weekend, I wrote in the New York Times** why I think CSR funding may not come back:

Mr. Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing-reduction subsidies, known as C.S.R.s, and perhaps to derail a bipartisan bill by Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, that would restore C.S.R. funding through 2019 may actually lead to better coverage for more people paying lower monthly premiums.

That’s because insurers and state regulators prepared a workaround in anticipation of Mr. Trump’s move — and at least for 2018, most consumers could benefit from it.

This is the Silver Load and Gold Gap ideas that we’ve been talking about here at Balloon Juice for six months now. The basic thrust is that in normal situations, the price line runs Bronze-Silver-Gold-Platinum, but without CSR, the price line in most states will run Bronze-Gold-Silver-Platinum. And since premium tax credits are based on the relative price of Silver plans, this makes Gold and Bronze plans comparatively much cheaper in 2018 than they were in 2017 for subsidized buyers.

There is one major downside to this mechanical argument.

It is confusing and complex.
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On the Road and In Your Backyard

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!

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Monday Morning Open Thread: New Week, Same Crap


Sometimes I feel like I should just post animal videos like this one for a while, because the “serious” news stories are too depressing.

Apart from steeling ourselves — and stockpiling whatever links make you smile — what’s on the agenda for the start of the week?


(Nick Anderson via

Shots Fired


Wonder who he is talking about.

Forgot to take pictures of the dinner last night, but we do have a photo of a slightly tipsy Holly loving on Tam’s dogs:

Tonight mom, dad, my cousin Jody, and neighbor Taylor came over to watch the Steelers game and have Tacosagna, which is exactly what it sounds like- layers of tortilla with taco/burrito fixings baked like a lasagne. Also made guacamole, salsa, a corn/bean salad, and some other stuff.

How bout you all?

Open Thread: Bad Parenting, Tragi(comic) Results

Yeah, Sheriff Thirsty is throwing stones right at his own glass jaw. Bella Abzug was my first political icon; I’m all in favor of more political women wearing Big Statement Hats.

Gail Collins read Ivana’s new book, and points out that D-Jr is another victim of the broken Rich White Narcissist subculture so sadly prominent today…

I’m sort of presuming that you’re not going to read it, despite the fact that it includes several recipes. So let me summarize. The book is supposed to be about good parenting. But the most important thing you learn is that we can never say another mean thing about Donald Jr. again. Really, it sounds like the worst childhood ever. His story begins with Dad resisting the idea of naming the baby after him, in case his first born turned out to be “a loser.”

As a toddler, Don Jr. broke his leg due to a negligent babysitter. Then one day when Ivana was out of town, he and Eric called hysterically to report they had found their nanny unconscious in the basement. (She died.)

Wait, there’s more: During their infamous divorce, Dad sent a bodyguard from his office to get Junior, announcing: “You’re not getting him back. I’m going to bring him up myself.”

Ivana says she responded: “O.K., keep him. I have two other kids to raise.” Silence and 10 minutes later the bodyguard returned her son.

It was, Trump’s ex-wife concluded, “a tactic to upset me.” However for some reason, at around this time Don Jr. stopped speaking to his father and wound up getting shipped to boarding school…

Of course, his old man was reportedly physically abusive, as well.

Can you imagine the Wingnut Wurlitzer weasel screaming if this was Chelsea Clinton — never mind our most recent President’s daughters?

File This Under Rape Culture

A NY teenager was arrested and handcuffed by NYPD cops, allegedly raped, the cops claim it was consensual (which is impossible when you are under arrest), and the NY Daily News then writes it up and adds a picture of the raped teen but not a picture of the two NAMED cops.

Awesome work, media. Obligatory “Why don’t women come forward more often…”

Sunday Afternoon Open Thread: Never Eat Alone

I see you have ice cream there…

Get a cat. Never eat alone. Her favorites – ice cream, cereal and potato chips. And don’t even think about denying her.

What’s going on today? Sports? Gardening (that was my morning) or just lazin’ around the house?

Open thread.

Final Reminder: Denver Meet-Up Today

We have a time. We have a place. What we need is you!

Denver Meet-up info:

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!   5 p.m.  Rosita’s in Westminster

See you there!


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.

We are planning on 5 pm since some of you have a drive.   Now that I’m not in charge, I’m very excited to me all of you. Lurkers and introverts more than welcome! Bring your spouses, bring your friends, bring your relatives!

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Midwestern Oasis, Pt. II

Figured we could all use a nice sunny picture to start the day. From intrepid commentor Watergirl:

These black-eyed susans were a happy surprise. They are just on the cusp of being in our zone, so I mulched and mulched them some more, and they came back this spring! Not sure if you can tell from the photo, but the flowers are huge! They looked super sturdy so I didn’t think to surround them with anything, but they were knocked flat after a big rain. If I’m lucky enough that they come up next year, I will definitely provide them with some support.

Several people were kind enough to comment on my porch last week but the photos didn’t show much of it.

Totally unrelated to anything… Peppers! This is just the part of my pepper crop that I harvested this week. I got about the same amount earlier in the summer, plus the ones I harvest in ones and twos as I cook supper in the summer.

I had planted my gerbera daisy in the ground along the side of my porch in the back yard, but it fried in the sun within a couple of weeks, so I found an empty pot and planted it and moved it to the side area. It’s such a happy plant and people are always asking if it’s fake. It is not!

I couldn’t resist a close-up of my black-eyed susan vine – so much happy flower from a $7 plant every spring.

I think I shared a photo of my pink hair grass last year, but it’s one of my favorites so I am including it again. Had three of the pink hair, but the voles ate one of them over the winter. Does anyone know of a good way to get rid of voles? The traps did not work.


Here north of Boston, I picked the last brave batch of tomatoes yesterday. Next year, Ramapo goes on my must-have list. Along with Paul Robeson, Black Prince, Bear Claw, Cherokee Purple, Japanese Trifele, Vintage Wine, Opalka, Tasmanian Chocolate, Sun Gold, White Currant… Also new (to us) and now on the must-find list: Chocolate Sprinkles (a cherry variety) and Tati’s Wedding (early, productive & delicious).

I’m glad I broke down & decided against taking this year off, but reducing the number of plants was a good idea, and next year I’m planning to cut back even further. I keep buying more “just in case”, and then by Labor Day I’m sick of struggling to keep up with the day-by-day maintenance — even if it’s nice to have extras in the freezer for sauce over the long dark months. There’s a couple of varieties I really like that just don’t want to produce for me (Kellogg’s Breakfast, Blondkopfchen) and some others that I keep buying just because they’re “reliable” (Carmello, Marianna’s Peace). We’ll see if I can hold my resolve come February, and the luscious pictures in the (online) catalogs!

What’s going on in your garden(s), this week?