On The Road

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Balloon Juicers who are on the road, travelling, etc. and wish to share notes, links, pictures, stories, etc. from their escapades. As the US mainland begins the end of the Earth day as we measure it, many of us rise to read about our friends and their transient locales.

So, please, speak up and share some of your adventures, observations, and sights as you explore, no matter where you are. By concentrating travel updates here, it’s easier for all to keep up-to-date on the adventures of our fellow Commentariat. And it makes finding some travel tips or ideas from 6 months ago so much easier to find…

Have at ’em, and have a safe day of travels!

Should you have any pictures (tasteful, relevant, etc….) you can email them to picstopost@balloon-juice.com or just use this nifty link to start an email: Start an Email to send a Picture to Post on Balloon Juice

Happy Friday all – today is Asia day!

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Late Night Open Thread

I stayed up late long enough (adrenaline from the Pens game and a late afternoon nap are to blame) for Steve to decide that he needs to be fed. Now.

He now has my arm pinned down and is slowly retracting and releasing his claws into my chest, going a touch deeper each time.








Pens Win!

Off to the Stanley Cup final. Damned stressful.

And I wasn’t even allowed to sit in my chair for the game.








Late Night Open Thread: Big Swinging… Mouths

What world is this, where I am forced to agree with the words of a professional Republican strategist?

… and Tom Nichols…

To be fair, unlike most of her fellow wingnut bloviators (lookin’ at you, Sean Hannity!), I don’t think Laura Ingraham would fold like a cheap patio chair at the first sign of physical threat. Pull an illegal can of pepper spray, plant a switchblade on her opponent’s writhing body, and lie about the altercation afterwards — yeah, that’s more what I’d consider Ingraham style.



Hoocoodanode, Carrier Edition

Toodaloo, tontos:

Donald Trump stood outside a Carrier manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana weeks before taking office and boasted he just saved 1,100 jobs from being shipped to Mexico.

Inside the plant, some workers were skeptical. Carrier had promised layoffs, which Trump glossed over in his claim to save over 1,000 jobs.

On Monday, these workers were proven right. Though Trump struck a deal with Carrier promising them $7 million in local business incentives if they kept their Indianapolis plant open, the heating and cooling company warned that it would still outsource a number of Indiana jobs to Mexico, regardless. But the Trump campaign still championed the deal as a win for American workers. This week, the Carrier announced it will cut 632 jobs from its Indiana plant by the end of the year.

For labor leaders like Chuck Jones, the layoffs are a grim told-you-so moment. Jones is president of the United Steelworkers 1999, which represents employees at Carrier’s Indianapolis plant.

No one could have predicted. Wait, what?

After Trump failed to mention the major layoffs during his December speech, Jones told the Washington Post that Trump “got up there and, for whatever reason, lied his ass off.”

Trump retaliated on Twitter. “Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!” Trump tweeted of the local union leader, adding that “If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.”

Now, as Carrier warned on the day of Trump’s triumphant speech outside the plant, the jobs are leaving Indiana anyway.

“It wasn’t a shock by no means,” Jones said.

Expert businessman and his bible thumping sidekick just let the people of Indiana get fleeced for seven million by Carrier who went ahead and did what they said they would do all along. WINNING.








Open Thread: #Not All American Politicians


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Best part, for me, is that we know how badly news pics like this will chafe Lord Smallgloves’ baggy boxers.

Per the Washington Post:

Thanks to an awkward coincidence, President Trump is in Brussels at the same time as predecessor Barack Obama is in Berlin. These two trips are certainly offering contrasting views of the United States’s relationship with Europe.

Obama was in the German capital Thursday morning to appear alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a biennual festival organized by the German protestant church. The two spoke in front of a large crowd at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, with Obama going out of his way to praise Merkel.

“Not only do I love this city, but one of my favorite partners throughout my presidency is sitting next to me,” Obama said with a smile…

“If you look at public opinion surveys, Barack Obama has retained a popularity in Germany that Donald Trump has not achieved,” said Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund and a member of the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “Given the political year that we have in Germany, with a national election in September, the chancellor could be well served by showing her relations with both the past U.S. president and the current U.S. president.”



Thursday Evening Open Thread: America’s Embarrasment-in-Chief


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Look, Donald, I’m dyslexic (too), so it’s hard for me to read something out loud and not sound like a moron. That’s why, when I know I’ll have to do so, I always practice my script in advance. It’s a two-minute speech, you putz! You could’ve pre-read the thing during the commercials on your favorite Fox News shows! Get “your guys” to print it out on a big card, using Comic Sans!

Of course, the speech would still be a thuggish demand for tribute from a guy who famously can’t back up his threats, but at least you wouldn’t look like a second-grader told to read Granny’s hand-written blessing at the family Thanksgiving table…
***********

Apart from [facepalming], what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Florida Man Admits GOP-Russia Collusion

Via TPM:

A Republican political operative in Florida asked the alleged Russian hacker who broke into Democratic Party organizations’ servers at the height of the 2016 campaign to pass him stolen documents, according to a report Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.

In return, that operative received valuable Democratic voter-turnout analyses, which the newspaper found at least one GOP campaign used to its advantage. The hacker went on to flag that same data to Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump’s who briefly advised his presidential campaign, and who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.

The Wall Street Journal’s report presents the clearest allegations to date of collusion between people connected to Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The Florida man in question is GOP consultant Aaron Nevins. A campaign consultant for U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) admitted to using the stolen information to his candidate’s advantage. Funny that the tip of the iceberg would emerge in Florida of all places.

PS: I hope this story puts some focus back on the fact that other elections were tampered with — not just the presidential race. They’re going to keep doing it if we don’t stop them.

PPS: The funniest part of the story is that Roger Stone admits he received the stolen info but says he didn’t share it with anyone. As if the original ratfucker would leave a rat unfucked! It is to laugh…



Kids Today (Open Thread)

A blue jay couple that lives in our yard hatched the whiniest chick in the history of the universe this year. The nestlings fledged 24 days ago. I know this because of a photo date stamp: One chick crash-landed in the yard and subsequently failed to achieve air, and my husband rescued it and placed it back in a tree before our dogs could make a snack of it.

Jays aren’t known for their dulcet tones, but this bratty little shit is particularly shrill. It stands around under the bird feeder, flaps its wings, screeching all the while, while the parents frantically shuttle food into its open maw. You can tell the parents are goddamned exhausted by the little bastard. Here’s a shot through the window, with the fledgling throwing an ear-splitting tantrum on the ground while a parent looks on from the top of the gate:

[Dialog supplied by me.]

Sometimes I want to tell those parents that it’s time to cut the damned cord already. Their offspring is perfectly capable of flying now, shaky start notwithstanding. There are bird feeders all over the place. Let it paddle its own canoe! But I try to refrain from intervening in the personal business of other families, so I just complain about it here.

Open thread!



Bully Boy

Serial killer, cosplay afficionado, plagiarist, and newly hired employee at Homeland Security is a big fat fucking liar and it may cost him:

Sitting on the tarmac at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Jan. 15, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. sent a text message to one of his captains after a brief verbal exchange with a passenger.

The sheriff explained in the text what should be done when Riverwest resident Dan Black got off the plane.

“Just a field interview, no arrest unless he become an asshole with your guys,” Clarke wrote Captain Mark Witek. “Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?”

“Follow him to baggage and out the door,” Clarke continued. “You can escort me to carousel after I point him out.”

A copy of the text messages was provided by an attorney for Black, who is suing the sheriff, Milwaukee County and several unnamed deputies over the incident.

Records show the matter, which has drawn national attention, was big enough that federal investigators looked at Clarke and his staff’s handling of the case. Clarke has said he is taking a job as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, though officials have not confirmed this.

In other words, Clarke was lying:

Black, 24, says he was detained, interviewed and escorted out of Mitchell International Airport on Jan. 15 by a half-dozen deputies after a brief run-in with the sheriff on the plane. He says in the federal suit that he was the victim of an unlawful stop and arrest.

Since Black went public with his complaint, Clarke has threatened and belittled his fellow passenger, calling Black a “snowflake” and saying anyone, including Black, who harasses him on an airplane might get “knocked out.”

But now Clarke is giving his version of the events on the plane, which matches Black’s account, except in a couple of details.

Asshole. On the upside, we don’t know if he is a Nazi.








A Different Time

After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the directors of the nuclear weapons laboratories on both sides quickly got together in early 1992 to work on securing nuclear weapons and the materials they are made from. They were supported by their governments. NATO helped. The cooperation was a marvelous thing to see and to experience. I had a small part in dealing with leftover Soviet nuclear problems.

In 1998, I traveled to Estonia to help deal with a former Soviet uranium-processing plant. I’ve written up my experience. Siegfried Hecker, the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a primary mover in the lab-to-lab cooperation, has collected the experiences of many participants in a two-volume set, Doomed to Cooperate. He has also set up a website for more information, which is where my story appears.

Check it out. Here are before and after photos of one part of the site.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.



Hidden good news in the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina rate filing

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina just filed their initial rates for the ACA individual market for 2018. The headline will be that they are asking for a 22.9% average rate increase. The second headline is that they assume that Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies will not be paid. That assumption drives 61% of the rate increase. The SERFF filing is here.

There is subtle good news in the rate filing. Another 13% of the rate increase is driven by the reinstitution of the 3% Health Insurance Premium tax. That is a one time hit that is to be baked into the cake of future rates. This means only 26% of the entire rate increase or roughly five percentage points is due to increased medical costs or service utilization. Trend and morbidity is under control. Below are segments of the consumer justification.

5% trend is a healthy trend. That is a the trend of a market that is fairly stable and reasonably priced.

There are a few other North Carolina notes for the individual markt. Aetna is withdrawing. This should allow Blue Cross and Blue Shield to play aggressive subsidy attachment point games even as they seem to be adapting a single index rate that spreads the CSR compensation costs to all metal bands. Subsidized buyers have the chance of seeing excellent deals on the Exchanges if BCBS-NC prices in the same manner as BCBS-Tennessee prices in their single carrier counties.








Nowhere to hide

In 2010, there were over 100 House seats that Cook Political report rated as competitive. I expect that number to be at least as high in 2018. I have nothing against the DCCC but they tend to spend a lot of money in a small number of races that are winnable.

Not to get all Nassim Nicholas Taleb on you, but the probability tails here are fatter than most people think. Last night, a Montana Republican running for House choked, punched, and body-slammed a reporter, and is now facing misdemeanor assault charges. That race was close already, and the assault occurred so near to the election that it may not have a massive effect, but let’s be honest: we’ve got 238 Republican incumbent assholes running in 2018, at least a few are going to pull some kind of similar shit, and we’ve got to have Democratic candidates who can take advantage when that happens.

So this year we will be raising district funds for the eventual Deocratic nominee in all 238 districts with Republican incumbents. No quarter, nowhere to hide. If a Republican Congressman goes to Indochina…..

Goal Thermometer








Update Your Linux Machines Folks

Researchers found a major bug in Samba, a core component of many Linux and Unix systems as it controls storage and interfaces with Windows and other non-Unix things.

The issue allows a bad guy to run unapproved code uploaded remotely as a root user. Your firewall has to have the right port open, but lots of folks do that to solve a temporary need and then forget to close the port to outsiders.

So, should you have home or work Linux machines, take a few minutes and update them. This also applies to many less-obvious Linux machines such as my personal favorite, the RaspberryPi.

Many use them as cheap controllers for home storage, media centers, home automation, etc.  So don’t neglect them folks – if they get compromised, that’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to get worse.

Unrelated to this news, we’ll be tightening the site up a bit more in anticipation of increased efforts by bad guys.

On the test server front, the good news is that it’s up and running. There are still a few more details to take care of, and I’m pretty much not doing any work from now until Tuesday as I have lots of IT duties and plan to take apart, re-organize and put back together my home office. Fun fun.

Finally, don’t forget that tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern, my guest post on Oceanography will launch, with the author in the comments ready to answer questions. I found his intro to be very interesting, and it led he and me into an in-depth discussion of the numerous crises in our oceans that are here, or will be soon.

Open Thread!



Excellent (Depressing) Read: “The Seth Rich conspiracy shows how fake news still works”

Today, Dave Weigel published a story in the Washington Post on “The life and death of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory”:

When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off.

Over seven frenzied days, Dotcom had become a leading purveyor of the theory that Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot dead near his home in Northeast Washington last summer, had supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks and was killed as a result. Multiple security analysts and an FBI investigation have tied the release to hackers with ties to Russia. D.C. police have said repeatedly that they think Rich was slain in a random robbery attempt…

All that began to unravel Tuesday afternoon when Fox News retracted a story that had claimed the same Rich-WikiLeaks connection, telling readers that the article was “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News did not respond to a request for comment, but Dotcom wrote on his website that he would not speak further about his allegations…

Of course, this being the internet (and certain people & networks happy to be ghouls for profit) the morbid feasting on other peoples’ tragedy will never actually end.

Here’s Weigel’s original story, on May 20: Read more