Meanwhile, in New Zealand…


(Warning – wrenching video below the fold)
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Road Trip

I’m heading down to Sullivan’s Island tomorrow with Tammy, Lily, and Samantha. Basically since my parents stayed two weeks longer than normal (because of dad’s heart surgery), my brother, who normally goes down and helps them pack and takes a bunch of stuff back with him could not go as planned. So I have the cargo carrier on the family truckster, the oil changed, and am hitting the road bright and early in the AM.

I’ll have Tammy so there will be lots of pictures.



Respite Open Thread: You Look Like a Nice Guy

I love gorillas. And they seem to really like this guy.

As promised, some pet pictures. Tonight from geg6:

The new kitty, Cleo, is doing well

A little Lovey:

No family resemblance at all with Thurston, LOL

And Koda is looking good, hogging the couch!

Soaking up some rays!

Thanks to everyone who sent me pet photos. Keep ’em coming, along with any fun or good news stories you’d like me to highlight.

And now for some news – Sunday we’ll have a writing chat, our own WereBear has written up something to share and we can all catch up on where we are at on projects. See you there – 12:30edt/11:30cdt/10:30mdt and 9:30pdt.

Non-political open thread.  Be kind.








President Obama: On Helping the Midwest, and Mozambique



Trump Crime Cartel Open Thread: J-Kush, Real Estate Developer, Will SOLVE the Middle Eastern Puzzle

… and without Israel (i.e., Netahyahu) having to lift a finger, or give up an inch!

This is a middle-schooler’s game of Risk — or, more likely, one of those notorious NYC developer deals where Company A swaps two parking lots and the air rights over Parcel B to the city in return for a frontage easement on Parcel C that will allow Company D to build out, on the understanding that Company D will then invest a few mill in Company A’s overleveraged Rental Tower F. Of course Kushner has no idea what’s at risk here, and if he did, he’d assume it was somebody else’s problem to clean up after him.

For her new book Kushner Inc., journalist Vicky Ward interviewed some 220 people to better understand the roles of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump within the tumultuous White House. Ward found that the power couple is quite power hungry, demanding to travel free on the State Department’s dime and skirting around the “no’s” of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson…

The White House envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, has denied the book’s details of the Middle East plan. Whether or not the final product looks like the draft described to Vicky Ward, Kushner’s peace proposal is expected sometime after Israel’s election scheduled on April 9. Last month, Trump’s senior advisor described his plan — in a typically vague statement — as “really about establishing borders and resolving final-status issues … The plan will have a broad economic impact, not only on Israel and the Palestinians, but on the entire region as well.”

From the extract at Amazon, Vicky Ward’s new Kushner, Inc: Greed.Ambition. Corruption.… does not look like a gripping read. But the details put out so far are, if nothing else, illuminating.



Let’s Compare and Contrast

Mistermix discussed the responsible and sane approach that New Zealand took after one (1) mass shooting, so let’s take a look at what is going on deep in the heart of the Idiocracy for some contrast:

An active-shooter training exercise at an Indiana elementary school in January left teachers with welts, bruises and abrasions after they were shot with plastic pellets by the local sheriff’s office conducting the session.

The incident, acknowledged in testimony this week before state lawmakers, was confirmed by two elementary school teachers in Monticello, who described an exercise in which teachers were asked by local law enforcement to kneel down against a classroom wall before being sprayed across their backs with plastic pellets without warning.

“They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing,’” said one of the two teachers, both of whom asked IndyStar not to be identified out of concern for their jobs. “They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times.

“It hurt so bad.”

Now, these teachers and the state’s largest teachers union want to stop this from happening in other Hoosier schools. The Indiana State Teachers Association is lobbying lawmakers to add language prohibiting teachers from being shot with any sort of ammunition to a school safety bill working its way through the Statehouse.

“What we’re looking for is just a simple statement in this bill that would prohibit the shooting of some type of projectile at staff in an active shooter drill,” said Gail Zeheralis, director of government relations for the ISTA during testimony in support of House Bill 1004 before lawmakers Wednesday.

jesus fucking tapdancing christ

One nation bans the guns used in mass shootings, the other lines their teachers up and shoots them in the back to help prepare them for the inevitable future shootings.

Whoever though a union would have to write “The school board can not shoot the teachers with plastic projectiles” into the next contract?








Trial Balloon From Camp Biden?

Yeah, it’s from Axios (Tagline: Like Politico — but even more vapid!).

Approximately one in every 71.9 articles that outfit labels “SCOOP” actually is, and this one seems more credible in that they don’t overstate their sourcing, forthrightly attributing it to “advisers” and noting that Biden’s take “couldn’t be learned.” That said, it might be a load of bullshit.

Anyhoo, the article says advisers know the move could be perceived as a “gimmick” and that picking a running mate for a package deal rollout would be awkward during the debates. (I can see Tapper asking, with that patented look that he thinks is Murrow-like but actually registers as constipation, “Why not choose one of these fine Democrats, Mr. Vice President?”) It could be construed as presumptuous, the advisers also fretted, according to Axios. (Ya think?)

I can understand why such an offer would tempt Abrams if indeed it was made and is being entertained. For all his faults as a 2020 candidate, Biden was a strong VP to a beloved and successful Democratic president. At this stage, Biden would enter the race as the front-runner. Abrams has so much to offer as a candidate and public servant, and this would catapult her to new heights at a relatively young age.

On the other hand, it seems so nakedly cynical on the part of the Biden campaign: Here you go, ladies and black people; I’ve ticked your ‘identity politics’ boxes, now kindly forgive the Anita Hill and crime bill business and give me the damned nomination I’ve been seeking since 1988.

My first reaction is that I hope Abrams tells Biden’s advisers to go pound sand. What do y’all think?



Boom

Jacinda Ardern and her government are not fucking around:

“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” said Ardern.

The ban on the sale of the weapons came into effect at 3pm on Thursday – the time of the press conference announcing the ban – with the prime minister warning that “all sales should now cease” of the weapons.

Ardern also directed officials to develop a gun buyback scheme for those who already own such weapons. She said “fair and reasonable compensation” would be paid.

The reason that the ban had immediate effect was to avoid stockpiling.

2,288 days have passed since Sandy Hook.








What The Hell Were They Regulating

This is mind boggling:

As the pilots of the doomed Boeing jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits.

One reason: Boeing charged extra for them.

For Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, the practice of charging to upgrade a standard plane can be lucrative. Top airlines around the world must pay handsomely to have the jets they order fitted with customized add-ons.

Sometimes these optional features involve aesthetics or comfort, like premium seating, fancy lighting or extra bathrooms. But other features involve communication, navigation or safety systems, and are more fundamental to the plane’s operations.

Many airlines, especially low-cost carriers like Indonesia’s Lion Air, have opted not to buy them — and regulators don’t require them.

Now, in the wake of the two deadly crashes involving the same jet model, Boeing will make one of those safety features standard as part of a fix to get the planes in the air again.

Thoughts:

1.) What the fuck are you regulating if you have decided the safety features are… optional.

2.) Imagine buying a car, and then being told the brakes are optional.

3.) Since the regulators clearly are not doing their fucking jobs, every time you buy a plane ticket, it should say on the ticket, “THIS PLANE DOES NOT HAVE THE SAFETY FEATURES.”

In other news, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan is under investigation for using his office to help… Boeing, his former boss. BECAUSE OF FUCKING COURSE HE IS.



Kansas Medicaid expansion moves forward

Medicaid Expansion took another step forward in Kansas.

We know from 2017 that the Kansas House and Senate had a working majority to pass Medicaid Expansion. Then Governor Brownback (R) vetoed the bill and the legislature was a few votes short of overriding the veto.

Recently elected Governor Kelly (D) has made Medicaid Expansion one of her priorities. The governor’s mansion and signature will not be a stopping point of an expansion. The bill still needs to go through the Senate where the Senate majority leader is an opponent and is not under any obligation to schedule a vote.

One of the modifications that passed in the Kansas House last night was a premium requirement. This will make currently insured individuals who are low healthcare spenders worse off.

Right now, a single individual earning precisely 100% +$1 of the Federal Poverty Level pays $21 per month for the benchmark Silver plan with a 94% CSR benefit. A family of four earning $25,600 currently pays $44 for the benchmark Silver plan. These families will pay more in monthly premiums by 20% or 120%. There will be a lower out of pocket expense if they are using a lot of services. Low utilizers who are currently buying on-Exchange plans will be worse off.

This is a value judgement on the probability of a counterfactual. Is a Medicaid expansion that makes some people worse off worth it? In my moral universe, it is as right now, as a single forty year old earning under 100% FPL in Wichita is paying $375 a month for the cheapest plan. The premium is at least three-eighths of this person’s annual income. That plan’s deductible is over half of their annual income. Less than optimal Medicaid Expansion makes these folks far better off.








Statewide monopolies on Healthcare.gov

Monopolies are usually a bad thing.  They lead to higher prices.  They lead to poor service.  They lead to rent extraction to pay for hookers snorting the finest blow.  All of that is true.  But given price linked subsidies for the 100% to 400% Federal Poverty Level, monopoly insurers have the ability to choose the size of their covered risk pool.

There are several flavors of monopolies within a given state.  The smallest and least powerful is a single insurer covers a county or set of counties in the state while adjoining counties have multiple insurers.  In 2019, UPMC Health Plan (my former employer) in Pennsylvania is the sole ACA insurer in several rural counties.  UPMC’s pricing and plan offerings would be influenced by risk adjustment concerns and potentially marketing concerns from other, more competitive regions. A state can have multiple counties with a single insurer while having multiple monopoly insurers.

The next flavor is a state where every county has only a  single insurer but there are two or more insurers.  Arizona in 2018 was like this.  Insurers still need to be concerned about how other insurers price due to risk adjustment concerns but there is a good amount of flexibility.

Finally, there is a single insurer covering the entire state.  From 2014-2016, this was rare on Healthcare.gov.  Now it is becoming more common.

I think 2018 is fundamentally an analytical mulligan for most ACA studies. It is a dividing year between how the Obama administration ran the exchanges and how the Trump Administration will run the exchanges. Insurers did not know what the rules would be until three weeks before open enrollment when CSR payments were terminated. When insurers don’t know the rules they either raise rates or run like hell.

In 2019, the four monopoly states have no more than three Congressional districts (Nebraska) and most have only a single representative.  These are very small states.  The same pattern was true 2014-2016.

I am curious about the insurer strategies in these true monopoly states.  I think going forward, we should expect a few states to be single insurer every year and that those states will have the opportunity to choose their own risk pool and enrollment profiles.








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Always Keep Fighting



Respite Open Thread: Little Turtle Having A Ball

This made me happy.

I’ve had some requests for a place to talk about anything that is not politics. So I’m collecting some pet pics and I’ll try and get some fresh pics of my crew this week, and I’ll try to make a post a day with something fun and NON-POLITICAL.

Please honor that for the jackals who need a break. Be kind.

Send me your pet pics or good stories:  whats4dinnersolutions (at) live (dot) com

I’m watching Queer Eye – I’m way behind – I can only do one episode a week or so, because I find them so emotional. I love these guys.  I also usually end my evening with an episode of Dick Van Dyke while I pick up around the house. Like a warm, funny hug before turning off all the electronics and opening a book. Which btw, the two I’m reading now are Good Omens and our Dorothy Winsor’s Finders Keepers. I’m a very…..slow….reader….mostly because I love to savor my books.

Politics-free open thread








The Electoral College: Kill It With Fire

(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)
.

Not that it has many defenders among the BJ commentariat, I’m guessing, but here’s some interesting tidbits if you care to share:


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