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

Please note that Tuesday, I added a new plugin that removes all EXIF data from images that get posted on the site. It did not clean up old pictures, but from now on, all metadata stored in the image file header for new picture submissions should be scrubbed clean to protect your privacy.

Pictures after the fold

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Late Night Open Thread: Pathologically Small Man in A Big, Big Job

Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)

Politico, “Trump’s penchant for vengeance casts shadow on health care vote”:

Donald Trump didn’t have to issue his threat seriously — “I’m gonna come after you,” he said jokingly Tuesday to a ringleader of House GOP hard-liners opposing his health care bill — to be taken seriously by the 200 Republicans gathered in the Capitol basement.

For a president with a penchant for vengeance — who named “an eye for an eye” as his favorite biblical passage, who banned media outlets from campaign events when he didn’t approve of their coverage, who after the election ousted a GOP state chairman whom he viewed as disloyal, who just last week reminded a GOP governor who hadn’t endorsed him that “I never forget” — the roll-call vote on the Republican health care plan, expected Thursday, will be the first accounting of who’s with him and who’s against him on Capitol Hill…

Greg Sargent, at the Washington Post — “Trump’s lies are failing him, and it is making him deeply frustrated”:

The events of this week are revealing with a new level of clarity that President Trump and the White House have ventured far beyond unconventional levels of dishonesty. Instead, they are revealing on their part something more remarkable and challenging to our system: a kind of deep rot of bad faith — a profound contempt for democratic process and the possibility of agreement on shared reality — that is wildly beyond anything in recent memory and strains the limits of our political vocabulary.
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In Barkest Night!

In canine day, in barkest night.

No squirrel shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship feline might,

Beware my power — Dog Lantern’s light!

I give you the Dog Lanterns of Space Sector 2814.

Open Thread!

Open Thread: That’s Not A Whip, It’s A Doormat

At the Washington Post, “The GOP’s new Obamacare repeal bill is a big defeat for conservatives”:

Republicans announced a set of changes to their proposed health-care overhaul Monday night, and while the revisions make symbolic nods to hard-line GOP conservatives, the most significant changes are social spending boosts aimed at wooing the party’s most moderate members.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan conceded last week that the original bill needed changes to rally enough Republicans to move it through the House. But as members of Ryan’s party were pulling him in opposite directions, he had a choice: He could work to draw in more centrist GOP lawmakers concerned about the projections that the initial proposal would force millions of Americans to go uninsured, or he could try to win over more of the party’s conservative members who said the bill still spent too much — especially on social programs aimed at helping Americans buy health insurance…

…[T]he real concessions went to moderate lawmakers. Between Medicaid and a system of tax breaks for working- and middle-class households purchasing private insurance, the bill includes some $150 billion in new federal spending to help make sure that Americans can buy insurance. It is a tangible expansion of federal power in the health-care sector, compared with the first draft, that indicates an appetite among moderate Republicans for a more robust social safety net.

The House Freedom Caucus, a crucial conservative bloc, will allow its members to vote as they please on the legislation.

Still, the group’s leader — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) ripped the proposed changes Monday night. “After investing hours and hours and hours of trying to find common ground between our moderate members and conservative members, and believing, because of the White House’s engagement in the process, that we could find common ground; I’ve now reached a conclusion that our leadership is going to put forth a bill that does not address any of the concerns in a meaningful way and will dare us to vote against it,” he told Axios

(Details of the proposed changes at the link.)

Walls Are Complicated

I suspect that, like me, you are not a big fan of Herr Drumpf’s beautiful wall. I have not begun to worry about it too much because I still think it’s a fantasy; there may end up being a fence with increased Border Patrol staffing and technology such as sensors and drones, but I really don’t think we’re looking at a 30 foot tall, 6 foot thick, concrete wall all along the Southern border.

This article explores some of the reasons I continue to doubt its progress anytime soon: these things take planning, surveying, and time. I think that his experience building buildings and golf courses makes him think that a wall is easy, but

Compared to building a marble palace or high-steepled church, erecting a wall may seem relatively straightforward. It isn’t. (Just ask the Chinese, whose Great Wall took 2,000 years to build and failed to keep out invaders.) Though most wall designs are fairly simple, builders must adapt to a wide range of terrains, explains Gary Clendenin, a senior hydrogeologist at ICF. The southern U.S. border alone contains desert, wetlands, grasslands, rivers, mountains and forests—all of which create vastly different problems for builders.

“The length of this thing presents challenges that just aren’t typically undertaken in a construction project,” says Clendenin.


Before a single brick is laid, teams of scientists assemble on scene to investigate a litany of details, from bedrock depth to soil chemistry. In the case of the border wall, they would have to traverse the entire length of the proposed path, working in segments to evaluate the region, collect data, develop plans. (This necessity makes the process of erecting walls—especially ones spanning thousands of miles—more challenging than building, say, a 95-story skyscraper.)

“Quite frankly, that would take years to do,” says Clendenin, who specializes in linear projects like railways and roads. McKinnon agrees. One project she worked on, a three-mile stretch of pipeline, is now on year five of field surveys.

Given the important details the article covers, I suspect that, should this current accelerated schedule result in actual construction, within 5 years there will be major collapses of sections, adding a perfect permanent illustration of the quality of his planning, work, and service to the country.

Also, since there’s not a huge oversupply of surveyors, engineers, laborers, concrete plants and trucks, and all the support (housing, food and water, medical care, repairs, etc.) just sitting around near the border wasting away, this will have huge disruptions in nearby communities such that local priorities will get ignored. Again, I just don’t think that this scale of a project will happen quickly because there aren’t enough people to do the job without taking them from other, more productive efforts in our economy.

If only every other horror he wishes to inflict upon us required so much planning and resources!

Open thread

Mushroom Crowd

This morning, Trump told Republican House members “these crowds” will fizzle if they don’t pass the Trumpcare bill. Via CNN:

In the single biggest political test of his presidency thus far, the President is looking to carry the Obamacare repeal and replace bill across the finish line. In a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, his message was blunt: You could lose re-election if you don’t vote for this legislation.

It was clear, lawmakers said, that Trump was energized by the supporters that had come out for him Monday night in Louisville, Kentucky. But that support may not last, he warned.

“We won’t have these crowds if we don’t get this done,” Trump said, according to a source in the room.

He later added: “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done.”

What Dollar General off-brand crack is Trump smoking? GOP House members are getting crowds alright — angry, jeering mobs, even in deep red districts. I don’t know if they’ll follow the marmalade hairball over the cliff on this or not, but the crowds they’re worrying about are the irate mobs they’re ducking back home, not Trump’s idiotic Nuremburg reenactments.

Open thread.

No Standards = Infinite Possibilities (Open Thread)

Good news, friends: I’ve decided to launch an eponymous upscale fashion and jewelry brand!

Those of you who know me in real life might protest, “But Betty, since you’re frequently mistaken for a bag lady, what makes you think you have the fashion cred to pull this off?” Or, “But you have no money, and no one has ever heard of you — why would anyone buy your crappy products?”

Those might have been valid criticisms in 2016, but in Trump’s America, everything has changed — via WaPo:

Although Ivanka Trump lacks a formal White House job, the president’s older daughter is moving into her own West Wing office, an administration representative said — a move that increases her profile as an influential, although unofficial, adviser to her father.

Ivanka Trump will not be on the government payroll or officially bound by its ethics rules, but she said in a statement to Politico that she will “voluntarily” follow those restrictions. She also acknowledged the unusual nature of her emerging role…

President Trump has named Ivanka, 35, the mastermind behind his child-care and maternity- leave plans, the first proposals on such issues from a Republican president. Since the election, she has sat in meetings with world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Politico reported that she is also working to obtain a security clearance and this week will receive government communications.

If the Trump spawn and Mr. Ivanka are qualified to jointly serve as de facto Secretaries of State (and the former as the official handler of “women’s issues”) by dint of their membership in the lucky sperm club, I don’t see why my dearth of fashion sense, relative lack of funds and personal obscurity should be obstacles to my dream of founding a rag-and-bauble empire.

So what role for which you are completely unqualified do you see yourself occupying over the next three years and 10 months (barring impeachment)?

I keed, but seriously, I don’t see how we reestablish standards once this debacle ends. It’s all very decline-and-fallish.

This is an open thread, and feel free to use it to discuss the Gorsuch hearings if you’re so inclined. I don’t give a good goddamn what Gorsuch says about the law since he’s the appointee of a crook and is angling to be the recipient of stolen goods. I’ll confidently assume the worst.

Should the Democrats blow up the filibuster in an almost certainly futile attempt* to block him? I say yes. It’s going to happen eventually anyway. Might as well keep their fingerprints off any Trump-associated enterprise. Anyhoo, open thread.

*Italicized text added for clarification; I think there’s almost zero chance the Democrats can successfully block Gorsuch, but I hope they try.