LOCK HIM UP! (Open Thread)

Roger Stone is back before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, trying to explain why she shouldn’t throw his sorry ass in jail. Here’s a tweet from Tierney Sneed, a TPM reporter:

Now we’re discussing how Stone found the image, among two or three of Berman Jackson. Stone said he chose it “just randomly.”

Berman Jackson: “You closed your eyes and picked?”

Doesn’t sound too promising for Stone so far.

In other news, Republican cheater Mark Harris, who stole the NC-9th district House race through election fraud, has conceded that a new election is warranted. Because he’s a cheating cheater who cheated.

Open thread!

The Gathering Shit-Storm

Thanks to the Russian government’s wildly successful 2016 effort at shoe-horning their asset into the Oval Office, we can all expect a metric shit-ton of disinformation to rain on our heads from now to election day 2020.

Every other bad actor — foreign and domestic — will jump on the disinformation bandwagon for fun and profit. They’ll divide us by race, gender and ideology at every turn.

I also expect them to get more sophisticated in their methods, with less crude and obvious messaging and more deliberate and effective media manipulation techniques.

Sometimes, the incident that kicks off a shit-storm might not even be deliberate or in the service of any particular agenda — it could come in the form of regular old “let’s you and her fight” fuckery and/or incompetence from horse-race focused media outfits.

Here’s a possible example of the latter from The Jolt, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “political insider” blog:

Klobuchar’s ATL fundraiser raises hackles among Stacey Abrams supporters

Newly announced Democratic presidential candidate and blizzard survivor Amy Klobuchar, the U.S. senator from Minnesota, has a fundraiser in Atlanta on Friday at the home of Gordon Giffin, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada.

Many supporters of Stacey Abrams are expressing private displeasure…

One national Democrat operative with deep ties to Georgia, who didn’t want to be identified by name, criticized Klobuchar for holding her first event in the state with “Georgia’s old guard of failed Democratic moderates.”

“If you’re running for president and making your Georgia debut, you embrace Abrams, you embrace the new Democratic voter coalition and you don’t treat the state like an ATM,” the operator said.

The AJC blog post was tweeted by Politico’s Daniel Strauss, where it generated outrage at Klobuchar’s apparent snub of Abrams. Only it now looks like it’s 100% bullshit. Abrams’ former campaign manager responded to Strauss’s tweet:

Small tempest in a tiny teapot, and maybe this was a case of jumping the gun rather than malicious disinformation in service of an agenda. But this is the type of crap we’ll need to be on the lookout for in the coming days. I don’t think we’re equal to the task.

New Mexico goes big and goes small

New Mexico is fascinating right now on the health policy front. They are going big:

New Mexico has been working towards a Medicaid buy-in program for a couple of years now. They have outlined options and weighed some of the trade-offs. Right now an off-exchange only buy-in is the simplest lift but they are thinking about other, more comprehensive and more complex, options as well.

And New Mexico is going small:

The bill passed the house. It will expand the scope of practice for dental technicians to do more. Dental therapists have started to become common on the West Coast and the Mountain West as a way to get some services out into under-served communities including American Indian reservations. Dental therapists should put some downward pressure on provider pricing. It is a step that addresses an immediate need of taking care of teeth, an intermediate need of placing downward pressure on some medical prices, and a long term objective of reducing inflammation which should reduce negative health events.

New Mexico is going big and New Mexico is going small. Successfully changing systems of care require both. And these two things don’t need to be locked together. If you live in a state that can’t or won’t go big, you still likely live in a state that can go small. Little nudges and hip checks are useful correctives.

On the Road and In Your Backyard

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!

Read more

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Warmed-Over Meme

(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)

He seemed so new and novel back in 2016, but sensibilities change! Moira Donegan, in the Guardian, “Why vote for Sanders when you can have Elizabeth Warren instead?”:

In the 2016 primary, Democratic voters were presented with a choice: Sanders, who represented the potential of redistributive policy, and Clinton, who represented the possibility of shattering, as she put it, the last, highest glass ceiling. She dismissed his ideas as impractical; his supporters attacked her with a virulent misogyny that belied their nominal commitments to equality. For leftist women, to express enthusiasm for Sanders’ policy proposals was seen as condoning the sexist attacks on Clinton. To defend Clinton from sexism meant that we would be accused of condoning the worst choices of her history. This choice, between Sanders and Clinton, redistribution and representation, has been the central conflict of American progressive politics in the years since. You can have either redistribution or representation, the thinking goes, but not both.

Sanders’ announcement, and the resurgence of the party divisions that it has already ushered in, is especially maddening to those of us who would rather avoid a repeat of this bruising 2016 primary fight, as there is already a candidate with a long record of commitment to redistributive policies and a proven ability to combat inequality: Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts.

Like Sanders, Warren has a long career of railing against the injustice of a country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Unlike him, she has a proven track record outside of the Senate, helping to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama administration and writing the book – actually, writing several books – on how to help working families by making finance and debt laws more fair.

But unlike Sanders, Warren does not have the baggage of the 2016 primary, which will weigh Sanders down and alienate large swaths of the Democratic base. She is a woman, an essential identity trait in a party that is increasingly dominated by people of color and accounts for the votes of half of all white women, who rightly want to see themselves better represented in a party whose leaders have been much older, whiter and more male than actual voters. And she does not ask voters to make the choice that was posed to them in the 2016 primary, between fiercely attacking economic inequality and tackling the gender and racial injustices that perpetuate and exacerbate it. Her statements and policy proposals, more detailed than those of the other early frontrunners, and show that she is committed to doing both.

Why would Democratic voters choose Sanders when Warren is running? The two are not ideologically identical, but the differences between their major policy stances, on regulation of financial services and the need to extend the welfare state, are relatively minor, especially compared to the rest of the field. Warren calls herself a capitalist, the Sanders partisans point out, while Sanders is unafraid of the label “socialist”. That’s one thing. But this point has the quality of a post-hoc rationalization. It is cited by those seeking a politically acceptable reason to vote for a man and not for a woman – those who would vote for this man, and perhaps not any woman, no matter what. The fact is that Warren is to the left of Sanders on some issues, notably gun control. If the primary contest becomes a race to the left, it is not entirely clear that Sanders would win…

As always, I’m agnostic about Warren ending up as the Democratic nominee; if she doesn’t, the winner will almost certainly be another very strong candidate (I could most certainly vote for President Harris, right now). And, selfishly, in that case Warren will still be my Senator, hopefully for many years to come. But Sanders has disqualified himself irretrievably in my eyes, and in those of many other staunch Democratic voters as well.

Samantha’s New Do

BFF Tammy took Samantha and Charlie to the spa, and they got major haircutes. Now, I want to go on record that I think Samanthat looks fabulous and adorable, but Tammy cried when she saw them:

Remember, she had some horrible disease and almost died and had to have her teefus removed, that’s why we have so much tongue action. I love her almost as much as I love Lily.

Domestic Terrorism Open Thread: Just Another MAGA ‘Patriot’

(GWUPOE — I didn’t recognize it, either — is the Program on Extremism at George Washington University)

From the Washington Post:

Christopher Paul Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland” and said, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and searched the Internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.”…

Hasson, 49, of Silver Spring, is expected to appear before a judge for a detention hearing in federal court in Greenbelt at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Hasson was arrested Friday on ­charges of illegally possessing weapons and drugs, but the government said those charges are the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.” Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland outlined Hasson’s alleged plans to spark chaos and destruction, describing in court documents a man obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views.

“Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads,” Hasson wrote in a letter that prosecutors said was found in his email drafts. “Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world.”…

Hasson has been working at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington since 2016, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993 and in the Army National Guard for about two years in the mid-1990s, the filings state….

Court documents do not detail what prompted federal law enforcement to begin investigating Hasson but contend that Hasson had been studying the 1,500-page manifesto of right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who unleashed two attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people in Norway, and echoed Breivik’s attack preparations…

In an email drafted in June 2017, he contemplated biological attacks and targeting food supplies, according to the court filings. He considered the merits of a “bombing/sniper campaign.” And he included a “Things to do” list that mentioned purchasing land “out west or possibly NC mtns” for family and researching tactics used during the civil war in Ukraine.

“During unrest target both sides to increase tension,” Hasson wrote in the email, according to the court filings. “In other words provoke gov/police to over react which should help to escalate violence. BLM protests or other left crap would be ideal to incite to violence.”…

I’m with Mr. Pierce on this:

… [T]his really may not have been the best day for the president* to be calling media outlets enemies of the people. After all, there are some people out there who still take him seriously.

Andrew McCabe Broke Some News Today

Apparently a lot of news! McCabe did an extended interview with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon. I’d like to highlight a couple of important items that were revealed.

The question that didn’t get asked, and even if it did, I’m not sure McCabe would have answered it, is whether he’s got a copy of the four page draft that the President wrote to justify firing Comey? If McCabe has a copy, that’s going to make his lawsuit much, much easier. And if he doesn’t, the discovery is going to be amazing.

McCabe apparently made some other news in his chats with the former DOJ and FBI officials who Wallace had booked as her contributing commentators for the remainder of the segment.

According to Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for National Security (that’s the counterintelligence and counter-terrorism division), McCabe related to Figliuzzi and former DOJ spokesman Matt Miller in the green room before the show that he didn’t open new investigations into the President. Rather, he added the President to the existing and ongoing counterintelligence investigation into the Russian active measures campaign against the US. Figliuzzi also related that McCabe informed them that he also added the obstruction of justice investigation into the President’s actions to that ongoing investigation into the Russian active measures campaign against the US. It is this counterintelligence investigation that Robert Mueller inherited when he was appointed as the special counsel.

I know everyone is stressed right now, especially given CNN’s somewhat credulous reporting and The Washington Post‘s much tighter reporting that the Special Counsel is winding down his investigation. And what that may or may not mean. I know others are still angry that no one was doing anything to stop this from happening as it was happening. What was revealed today, however, confirms what we knew: that something was, indeed, happening. Specifically a counterintelligence investigation had been opened into the President’s campaign, his business, a number of people within the President’s orbit, and then ultimately the President in regard to the Russian active measures campaign against the US.

I have no idea what next week is going to bring, let alone March, but I do know something about counterintelligence and counterintelligence investigations. And that something includes that these things are designed to be completely compartmented, not to leak, and to take as long as they take. Because the purpose of them is to identify, delineate, and then stop the threat to US national security. Sometimes this means prosecutions. A lot of times it doesn’t. The Venona counterintelligence investigation lasted from 1943 until 1980 and the materials it produced weren’t declassified until 1993!

At this point we don’t really know whether the Special Counsel is, indeed, finishing up. Or whether he’s just streamlining for the next phase of the investigation he’s pursuing. Or if he’s just handing everything off to the career prosecutors in the appropriate Federal districts, as well as the appropriate state (New York and Maryland) and local (Washington DC) prosecutors who will bring the rest of the indictments and carry out the rest of the prosecutions based on the work that the Special Counsel’s Office has been conducting for the past two years. But we do know that some people, even as we’ve discovered that they are flawed, working in Federal institutions that don’t always get it right, stood up and made difficult decisions to ensure that the appropriate investigations were opened and situated in a way that they could be conducted.

I’m going to leave the last word here to former US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce Vance:

Everybody take a deep breath and cut yourselves and everyone else a little slack. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And as BettyC has highlighted for us all, there’s a new sheriff in DC and she takes her responsibilities as the leader of the co-equal legislative branch of government very seriously. As do her deputies.

Open thread!

PS: I fully expect that if Attorney General Barr tries to bury Special Counsel’s work so it never sees the light of day that it will leak. And before that happens, as was the case with Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker, I expect information to leak about Barr and his past actions and activities. As was the case with the leak about Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak that forced his recusal and the leak that the company that Whitaker had been involved with was under Federal investigation, something will be leaked about Barr as a warning shot across the bow. Sessions was smart enough to get the message. I’m not sure if Whitaker was, but it really didn’t seem to matter. We’ll have to wait and see if Barr is as smart as Sessions.

Notice Issued (Open Thread)

Pelosi forbids further fuckery:

I can sleep at night now that she’s leading the House. Mostly. Open thread!

“Step firmly down upon the rake of history…”

As Trump and GOP-driven buffoonery and malfeasance consume almost every minute of our news cycle in the U.S., our cousins across the Atlantic continue hurtling toward a world-historic catastrophuck of their own:

TL;DW summary from Mr. Oliver:

“A true act of political courage wouldn’t be to call for a second referendum…it would be to acknowledge that the first one was fatally flawed and that carrying it out would do long-term damage to the country and then cancelling Brexit altogether. But, it seems that there is no way that’s going to happen. Instead, Britain seems determined to step firmly down upon the rake of history and suffer the consequences.”

The Post reported on an interesting development this week that may be related to political courage:

Disgusted by Brexit hard-liners, three lawmakers abandon Theresa May’s Conservative Party

LONDON — With Britain’s chaotic departure from the European Union just weeks away, three prominent lawmakers abruptly resigned Wednesday from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, saying the government has surrendered control to reckless, hard-line Brexiteers who are endangering the country’s future.

The Conservative members of Parliament who resigned will join a new “Independent Group” of lawmakers formed earlier this week by eight legislators who quit the opposition Labour Party.

The creation of a small but potentially powerful independent bloc of 11 — now composed of moderate rebels from both parties — suggests that seismic forces are at work in British politics.

The report notes that the eight Labour MPs left their party earlier this week over Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and the party’s anti-Semitism issues. Analysts cited in the article say the newly formed group of independents make a no-deal Brexit (worst-case scenario) a tiny bit less likely.

As I mentioned to valued commenter Sloane Ranger in an earlier thread, the same forces (foreign and domestic) are tearing our countries apart. I hope (without much expectation of that hope being realized) that sanity ultimately prevails on both sides of the pond.

Open thread!

Which might be better than tv

Tucker was too much of a coward to air this but it’s one of the best things ever: the Dutch historian who dunked on the Galtians at Davos doing a number on Tucker Carlson (via leaked cellphone footage).

Breaking: Mueller Report/Conclusion Coming This Month Or Something Maybe?

Via valued commenter Dorothy A. Windsor:

Well there’s a statement you can parse six ways to Sunday. CNN:

Washington (CNN) Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller’s confidential report, according to people familiar with the plans. The preparations are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation.

The precise timing of the announcement is subject to change.

The scope and contours of what Barr will send to Congress remain unclear. Also unclear is how long it will take Justice officials to prepare what will be submitted to lawmakers.


Something good today

Let’s celebrate something good this week. It could be small. It could be big. Just make sure it is something good.

For me, I’ve become an uncle again. I have two absolutely amazing new nephews. Their big brother is adjusting to the trauma of not being an only child. If everything works out well, I’ll see them all this spring after the grandparents and other, far more, helpful relatives get out of my brother and sister-in law’s way.

So tell me something good about your week!

“Who’s a good debate moderator? You are!” (Open Thread)

Like me, you’re probably expecting the upcoming primary debates to be a shit-show thanks to crappy moderators angling for click-baity soundbites. Someone in my Twitter timeline (can’t remember who, and Twitter doesn’t make backtracking easy) asked folks to suggest unconventional debate formats.

I think a Puppy Bowl-style forum would be revealing since dogs are generally good judges of character; here’s Elizabeth Warren cavorting with the Obama Bros’ dogs during a podcast appearance:

I’m only half-kidding. Trump claims he doesn’t have a dog because he doesn’t have time for one, but we know that’s a lie because a) Ivana’s dog hated his guts, and b) he has time to tweet nonsense like this every day:

Of course, the rest of us know Sanders entered the race yesterday, but Trump just found out this morning during the Fox & Friends Presidential Daily Briefing. Anyhoo, fuck that motherfucker — back to debate formats.

A while back, someone here suggested allowing the League of Women Voters to run them, which is a fine idea, IMO. But the networks aren’t going to let that cash cow out of the barn.

If I were running the DNC, I’d start working the refs now to demand a substantive debate. Or, failing that, maybe a Puppy Bowl. It would be more entertaining and revelatory than watching Jake Tapper — or, God help us, Hugh Hewitt — ask inane, loaded questions. And with all the women running this time, you know the sexist knobs at the networks will be unable to restrain themselves from attempting to provoke a “cat fight.” Yeah, dogs would be better.

Open thread!

MLR checks this year

Given the recent news that CSR payments are very likely for Q4 2017 and somewhat likely for all of 2018, I want to reprise a post from September 2018 on Medical Loss Ratios (MLR).

MLR is part of the ACA. The regulation requires insurers to refund customers money if the small group or individual market plans spend less than 80% of net premiums on claims or quality improvement expenses and for large groups, the insurer must spend 85% of net premiums on claims or quality improvement.

MLR has not been a big deal. Insurers quickly adjusted their pricing schemes and provider contracts to minimize their MLR exposure. Individual market insurers had massive MLRs in 2014 and 2015, meh MLRs in 2016 and “normal” MLRs in 2017.

MLR is a minor story this year. It is $76 here and $122 there. If I got a $122 check in the mail, I know I won’t complain but it is not huge income shock and given insurer pricing it is not a common income shock.

However, I am expecting MLR to be a big deal in 2019 for individual market buyers. The big story on the ACA individual market pricing is that insurers massively overpriced 2018. Bob Herman at Axios has done yeoman work

Between the lines: These data suggest the Blues have raised premiums well beyond what they thought they’d ultimately pay to providers….

MLR is based on rolling three year calculation. The Fall 2019 rebates will be based on a “meh” 2016, a “normal” 2017 and a “wicked low” 2018. I think states that had mostly monopolistic insurance markets in 2017 and 2018 (including North Carolina) will be more likely to have significant and widespread MLR rebates to the individual market buyers than states with very competitive markets.

MLR rebates in 2019 will be widespread and they could be large in some states. This is going to be a fascinating economics experiment and an interesting political event.

A normal 2017 will be slightly low 2017 if another $1 to $1.5 billion dollars of CSR payments are eventually recovered by insurers.