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.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: A New (Bladeplay) Hope

“Database connection error” strikes again… sorry this is late!

Per the Washington Post, “Lightsaber dueling officially becomes recognized by French fencing federation”:

… “With young people today, it’s a real public health issue,” Serge Aubailly, the federation’s secretary general, told the Associated Press. “It’s becoming difficult to [persuade them to] do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one’s thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural.”

Instead of containing plasma, the lightsabers being used for duels here on Earth are made from rigid polycarbonate — not to be confused with carbonite, eh, Han Solo? — with LED lighting and, in some cases, proper sound effects built in.

To ensure action that resembles what fans have thrilled to in the movies, as well as to distinguish the dueling from its more traditional cousins, rules require participants to point the tips of their lightsabers behind them before attempting to land blows. While doing so, they are temporarily immune from attack, leading to clashes marked by sweeping movements.

The duels use a scoring system in which strikes to the head are worth five points; to the arms or legs, three points; or to the hands, one point. Winners are determined by the first to notch 15 points, or whoever is ahead after a three-minute round. Alternatively, if both competitors reach 10 points, the duel goes to sudden death, with the first to land a blow to the head or body becoming the winner.

Fighters wear masks and body armor, with the lighting appropriately low, all the better to make the glowing lightsabers pop.

“We wanted it to be safe, we wanted it to be umpired and, most of all, we wanted it to produce something visual that looks like the movies, because that is what people expect,” a French tournament organizer told the AP…

I’m sure there are a lot of Star Wars fanbois currently torn between booking the next flight to France and screaming MAH CHILDHOOD IT HAZ BEEN STOLEN!!! (because, and I say this as a first-gen Trekkie, this is how we roll). Kinda looking forward to fencer Charlie Pierce’s take…

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!

Some great stuff today, as on all Wednesdays, but an especially nice pick-me-up today- thanks 🐾BillinGlendaleCA!

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Late Night Politicking Open Thread: Bernie Sanders Has His Defenders

… And they’re not Democrats, either.

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Late Night Diversion Open Thread: It’s In the Blood

“I’m a bird dog, retrieving some… pre-born birds!”

Also, bad news for Peter ‘Bathory’ Thiel, from Bloomberg:

Taking a young person’s plasma and infusing it into an older person to ward off aging — a therapy that’s fascinated some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley — has no proven clinical benefit, the Food and Drug Administration said.

The agency issued a safety alert on Tuesday about the infusion of plasma from young donors for the prevention of conditions such as aging or memory loss, or for the treatment of such conditions as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease or post‐traumatic stress disorder…

Ambrosia’s website was updated Tuesday to say it has “ceased patient treatments” in compliance with the FDA’s advisory

… Plasma infusion is an approved use by the FDA in trauma settings or in patients whose blood doesn’t coagulate. But, the FDA says, there are risks, including allergic reactions, circulatory overload, lung injury and infectious disease transmission.

“We’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies,” Gottlieb and Marks said. “Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them, and are potentially harmful.”

Post Grooming Pics

Slightly less floof, no matting, coat feels amazing, plus he smells good and his nether regions have been attended to:

He even made it to the groomer and back without shitting himself and the crate, which trust me, is more traumatic for me than for him. He also got a little tuna for dinner. He’s a very good boy and he is very happy.

Trump Treason Long Read Open Thread: Why Matt Whitaker Was So Sweaty Under Questioning

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away…

Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.

An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.
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They Play The Long Game and They Tell You Their Every Move

Many of you have heard about Clarence Thomas making the news:

ustice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits.

He said the decision had no basis in the Constitution as it was understood by the people who drafted and ratified it.

“New York Times and the court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Justice Thomas wrote.

This is, of course, completely unrelated, I am sure, to conservative animus to a free press calling out right-wing perfidy. It also has nothing to do with Donald Trump’s longstanding war with the media and, notably, Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post. This is also completely unrelated:

Lawyers for 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School junior who faced off with Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last month, have filed a $250 million lawsuit against The Washington Post, one of many newspapers to report on viral video of the incident.

“This is only the beginning,” said the attorneys, Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry, on their firm’s website, noting that it was the “first lawsuit” on Sandmann’s behalf.

This is also unrelated to the Covington boys hiring a right wing PR firm hired by Scott Jennings, a protege of Mitch McConnell. Why, I’d even wonder what roads some of the attorneys at Hemmer, DeFrank, and Wessels traveled. Who clerked with who, who went to law school with who, etc.

Or maybe I am just being paranoid and conspiratorial. But I have no doubt that the free speech zealots on the right at the court will suddenly drop that position if it helps their side. They’re all hacks and frauds.

You Do Understand Why He is Doing This, Don’t You?

Cheryl wrote about the administration’s attempts to nuclearize the Middle East, but I just want to make sure something is crystal clear. Obviously, there are probably a ton of people trying to get filthy rich off this, and I am sure someone promised Trump or his family money somehow for this, but I think it is super important we remember why Trump signed off on this and is letting people pursue it.

It’s because one of Obama’s major issues was nuclear proliferation. It’s something he was interested in and pursued as a Senator, it is something he talked about frequently, and something he believe was extremely important. It’s one of the first things he pursued in 2009 in Prague, it’s why he worked so hard to achieve the Iran deal, it’s why he was very focused on the 2016 Nuclear Summit- it was a big deal for him.

Obviously, like everything, his record did not meet his goals, but goals are, you know, aspirational. But it was very, very important to him.

And that’s why Trump is doing everything he can to dismantle it. Sure, there are hawks who wanted to kill the Iran deal for a variety of reasons, but for Trump, it was because Obama’s admin negotiated it. It’s why Trump walked away from the INF. It’s why he is ok with this.

Everything Trump does is about Trump- of course he is surrounded by enablers and opportunists who realize he is a dolt who can be used to achieve their own ends, but Obama humiliated Trump at the WHCD several years ago, so everything that Obama has done must be destroyed.

It’s important we remember that with a narcissist and a sociopath like Trump, the motives are always right there in the open. There’s no reason to wrap yourself around an axle trying to figure out why Trump would be ok with this. It’s that simple- he’s doing it because Obama would oppose it. It’s the same with the fucking ACA and everything else.

Heartland Values

Those of who who read TPM might have heard about the novel argument for the death penalty made by Wyoming State Legislator Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne), but wait, hold her beer.  First, for those who missed it, her Jesus-based reason for the death penalty:

“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me,” she said. “I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”

Second, what she told some LGBTQ high school students while discussing a workplace protection bill for LGBTQ employees:

The students wanted Hutchings, their district representative, to support the bill, according to the complaint letter.

According to the complaint, she responded by saying: “If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Line up the 100 biggest assholes in the country and the first 25 will be state legislators.

(h/t to a long-suffering Wyoming reader)

The WV Education Bill is Mostly Dead

Dropped off Steve at the groomers, and on my way home, I picked up a dozen donuts , a dozen paczki, some apples, and a case of bottled water and dropped it off at the teacher strike. By the time I got home, the bill was mostly dead:

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted today to kill an education omnibus bill that would have provided a pay raise to teachers and school workers, but would also have opened the door to charter schools and private education savings accounts, among other measures opposed by teachers and school workers unions.

The House vote to kill the bill, officially a vote to postpone it “indefinitely,” was 53-45. A previous motion to delay consideration of the bill until 4 p.m. failed by the same margin.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The Senate will need to learn that the House of Delegates is a co-equal branch of government, and learn to work with them rather than trying to just ram shit through. Additionally, it is worth remembering that what they were trying to do was to take the teacher pay raise that Justice promised last year, and add in a bunch of egregious nonsense, and force it through that way. However, it ain’t just over yet:

BREAKING NEWS: It’s been brought to our attention that Delegate Steele (R-Raleigh) switched his vote at the last minute even after giving a passionate speech against those who killed SB 451 with the Motion to Postpone Indefinitely. It appears the Republicans still have some tricks up their sleeve, because according to parliamentary procedure the Republicans could technically move to make a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Postpone Indefinitely which would bring the motion back to the floor for another vote. Only Delegates who voted in favor of the winning motion can move to reconsider it. In a process full of dirty parliamentary procedure tricks, it appears we aren’t out of the woods quite yet. Ultimately, we don’t think they can flip enough votes to change the outcome, but it’s a possibility….

They’re sneaky and shameless. In the years before social media and cell phones, they would have gotten away with it.