Open Thread: Mitch McConnell Says Mission Accomplished, Tovarish!

Note the individual in the top left corner. As we remove our government from the death-grip of these traitors, let’s not let the media overlook how much the entire Republican party has been willing to cede to foreign oligarchs…

Open Thread: Mexico For The Win

This made me smile.

Open thread

(Also – anyone who asked me a question in the bottom of this thread, I answered)

Open Thread: Could the Narrative Be Shifting?

Probably too much to hope from our Media Village Idiots, but still… “Why Democrats refuse to pay Trump’s ransom in the shutdown fight”:

I think there are several factors playing out simultaneously. For example, congressional Dems care about the efficacy of public policy, and they realize that a giant border wall is a bad idea. It’s from this starting point that Dems’ spines were stiffened by multiple independent polls, each of which showed the American mainstream rejecting the president’s idea and blaming Republicans for the shutdown.

Relatedly, Democratic leaders know that Democratic voters would never forgive them if they simply caved to the White House’s absurd demands.

At the same time, Trump has made it easier for Dems to stick to their guns by refusing to offer them anything: the president hasn’t tried to broker a deal; he’s simply told Schumer and Pelosi to meet his demands in exchange for nothing…

But it’s against this backdrop that there also the question of incentives. Trump is trying to bypass the traditional American policymaking process – introduce an idea, send it to committee, allow for congressional debate and amendments, hold a series of legislative votes, etc. – by simply jumping to the end. He wants a wall, and he’ll hold government agencies and government workers hostage until he gets one.

If Dems agree, it will tell this president – and future presidents – that the easiest way to succeed is to embrace the politics of extortion. For the remainder of Trump’s term, no matter how long that is, he would know that he can get what he wants simply by demanding a series of non-negotiable ransoms…
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Afternoon Open Thread

Long day at the vet hospital- they were super backed up and the trip took all day. Which is ok, because I don’t mind waiting because I know they are doing their best to save someone else’s dog and would do the same for me were it an emergency, but that doesn’t make the day any less long. Lily is fine.

I see Trump is up to his usual bullshit.

Dick Maneuver

To retaliate against Speaker Pelosi for taking away his TV time, Trump revealed a previously secret plan for a congressional delegation to a war zone, possibly endangering lives, and has denied Pelosi and other members of congress who were to be part of that delegation permission to use military planes to visit Afghanistan. No, really:

From The Post:

Pelosi was planning to leave for Afghanistan on Thursday afternoon, according to a Democratic aide, but it was unclear whether Pelosi’s trip included the other destinations mentioned by Trump. The aide requested anonymity to discuss plans that had not been made public…

Trump didn’t explain what authority he has to cancel Pelosi’s trip, but it would likely require the use of military aircraft controlled by his administration. He said Pelosi could fly commercial if she wanted to go forward with the visit.

Southwest has a DC-Kabul flight, right? That people use for routine “excursions” to Afghanistan?

Good God, what a petty dickhead.

UPDATE: Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, responds via Twitter:

The CODEL to Afghanistan included a required stop in Brussels for pilot rest. In Brussels, the delegation was scheduled to meet with top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies–to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance.

This weekend visit to Afghanistan did not include a stop in Egypt.

The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines.

The President traveled to Iraq during the Trump Shutdown as did a Republican CODEL led by Rep. Zeldin.

Pitch perfect.

Those New Russian Weapons

Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russia is building a suite of advanced nuclear weapon delivery vehicles – Hypersonic missiles, an underwater drone, a nuclear-powered cruise missile. The American Missile Defense Review is, in part, a response to that.

The new Russian weapons sound amazing! The underwater drone, Putin would have us believe, could sneak up on the east coast of the United States and cause a radioactive tsunami! The nuclear-powered cruise missile could cruise around the globe twice and then nuke Florida!

Putin has shown all that on animated videos. A few frames appear to be actual photos, but the videos are mostly animation.

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The time has come for all good men to get together with one another

Apologies if there’s already been threads about this that I missed, but…what can we do to help furloughed federal workers? Let me know in the comments and I’ll frontpage the best suggestions. Are any of you furloughed federal workers? What can we do to help you?

Notice and prepping for 2020 open enrollment

The Notice for Benefit and Payment Parameters (NBPP) is an annual rule that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) puts out. NBPP is the operational rule book for the Affordable Care Act. It determines what types of plans can be offered, how pricing is determined, when do things need to be approved, and whether or not Silver Loading is allowed or a Broad Load is required. This is all big stuff for the ACA markets.

Traditionally, NBPP is out in late fall. NBPP 2019 was out in early December 2017.

NBPP 2020 is still not available. It is moving through the regulatory process right now and depending on how different entities that still have to review the rule are funded, it could be coming out soon or it could still be a while.

I am not too worried yet. Insurers want as much time to make plans on a fixed rule set as possible. However, there is still time in the plan construction process. In 2017, the Trump Administration released a preliminary rule in mid-February that significantly altered several key benefit and actuarial parameters. The most notable change was increasing the allowable bands of de minimas variation in actuarial value for all metal plans. The final rule was issued in April, 2017. Insurers were able to alter their plan offerings to incorporate the new parameters without too much stress.

NBPP-2020 ideally should have been released for notice and comment around Halloween and the final rule should have ideally been out by the New Year. But as long as it is released in the near future and far more importantly as long as it does not contain massive policy changes like mandatory Broad Loading of CSR, insurers can roll with the punches and give their actuaries and plan designers more coffee as they deal with a less than timely partner.

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

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the picture (this one’s for Betty)!

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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Whatever Gives You Joy

You should definitely watch Ms. Ohashi’s performance with the sound on.

However, concerning The Hu… YMMV. (John Wayne would absolutely have been a fan, though!):

If you’re in the mood for nostalgia, click on Sanchez’s tweet for more obsolete childhood memories…

Cold Grey Pre-Dawn Open Thread: Rudy Pounds the Table

There’s an old legal proverb: When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither the facts or the law are on you side — pound the table!

Or it could just be sundowning, but a lifelong grifter like Giuliani would try to make ‘sundowning’ work for him, ala Vincent Gigante.


Small Potatoes & Few in the Hill: The NYTimes Presents Sen. Sanders with A Status Update

During the 2016 campaign, Sanders was of infinite use to the NYTimes hierarchy in their decades-long quest to demonize Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s not running in 2020, and it would seem the NYTimes wants the widest audience possible to know their current far-more-lukewarm assessment of the Vermont Independent:

Senator Bernie Sanders met on Wednesday with former staff members who conveyed their dismay over the mistreatment of women during his 2016 campaign, in an effort to calm the unrest over sexism that is overshadowing his possible 2020 bid.

Mr. Sanders met with roughly two dozen former workers for about an hour in a conference room at a hotel near the Capitol. The meeting was convened in response to a recent letter sent by more than two dozen people who worked on Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign, asking to meet with the senator and his leadership team to discuss issues of harassment.

The senator did not make himself available for comment afterward, and some attendees said they preferred to keep the discussions private. One woman said she found the meeting exhausting but declined to elaborate…

Among those close to Mr. Sanders who attended were Jeff Weaver, his 2016 campaign manager, and Ari Rabin-Havt, Mr. Sanders’s deputy chief of staff. There were also some people from his campaign arm, including Arianna Jones, a communications aide. Mr. Sanders’s wife, Jane Sanders, made a brief appearance.

Mr. Sanders skipped an important Senate vote on Russia sanctions to attend the meeting around noontime. He was the only senator not to appear as Republicans blocked a Democratic resolution to prevent the Trump administration from easing sanctions on a Russian oligarch. The measure, which required 60 votes to proceed, was defeated, 57 to 42, and his vote would not have affected the outcome.

There were some signs of trouble even before the meeting began. Some attendees were upset that the draft of the agenda did not directly address specific allegations of mistreatment of women, or say which top Sanders aides would attend. Several women said the travel logistics were poorly handled, with some saying they were not invited until 48 hours before the daylong meeting was scheduled to begin…

Truly, a climactic change of attitude. Perhaps the NYTimes will be able to unearth copies of Sen. Sanders’ tax returns this time?

Dispatches from Balloon Juice HQ

A little bit of everything in this picture. To the left, Steve’s litterbox, which was just changed, which means he immediately races upstairs to the litter box, and then rearranges the litter so it is just right, shooting it all over the upstairs. Remember, Steve rarely uses the damned thing, as he mainly goes out doors. Dick.

And then while it is true that there is a dog bed in every damned room of the house and two in some rooms, I do suppose that they are not made out of high threadcount bed sheets and have that ripe smell, so Rosie has somehow toppled the hamper and taken the liberty of creating her own sleeping quarters out of my bedsheets and dirty knickers. Asshole.

I’ll deal with it in the morning I suppose.

Economists Who Are Really Bad At Their Jobs For $200: Who Is Kevin Hassett?

Kevin Hassett is a really, really, really bad economist. He’s so bad that he’s basically Megan McArdle’s idea of someone who is good at math. This wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t also the chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. First Hassett made this really tone deaf remark in a TV interview:

We now know that that was only the shot, here’s the chaser:

Here’s the video if you want to see it with your own eyes and hear it with your own ears:

I’ve been hesitant to write about the shutdown, especially its effects on contractors, because I am one. But I think it is important that people realize that Hassett’s failure to be even remotely competent at his job by not accounting for the effects of contractors being out of work is actually worse than he’s now owned up to. Does anyone know, by any chance, what happens when a veteran owned or minority owned or Native American owned or Native Alaskan owned or some combination of those owned small business gets a contract award from a part of the government, say the Department of Defense, that is not shutdown right now? The answer is quite simple. In order for the contract award to be finalized so that actual people waiting for start dates and on boarding dates can be issued, the Small Business Administration has to verify that the small business is indeed a small business. This is routine paperwork. Unfortunately, the Small Business Administration is currently closed because of the shutdown. As a result that routine paperwork certifying that small businesses are, indeed, small businesses cannot be issued. This means that every contract award to a small business, whether owned by a veteran or a minority or a Native American or a Native Alaskan or by some combination, can’t be finalized. The people lined up to fill the positions in those contracts can’t start. And the ripples through the economy get larger.

This effects everything from new contracts for maintenance and janitorial services to food service to IT to a whole range of other technical specialties – many of them essential for national security. And it is important to remember that a lot of these companies and the people that work for them have been stretched thin over the past five years because of the combination of the Budget Control Act (doing business as the sequester), as well as the inability of the GOP majority Congress to pass a budget and regular appropriations from 2015 through 2018 or the GOP majority House to actually do its job in terms of appropriations from 2011 through 2014 because they were using the budget as leverage against President Obama. Every time the US has approached a shutdown or a rolling, short term Continuing Budget Resolution (CR) is passed, it effects whether people start new contract assignments. And because of the sequester, when this happens repeatedly, contract award money for specific positions can be, and often is, clawed back to fund other needs that aren’t provided by contractors. All of these budgetary failures, from those created by the GOP majorities in the House and the Senate from 2015 through 2018 and the House GOP majority’s budgetary brinksmanship from 2011 through 2014.

Another major issue is that the longer the Small Business Administration is closed and these contracts awarded to small businesses can’t be finalized, especially for essential functions, the more likely that the government agencies that need the work done will seek an exemption to policy and make a default no bid award to one of the non-small business companies that have prime contracts with that department, agency, and/or office. Not only does this mean that the contractors expecting to start these jobs will never do so, the small businesses that employ them will lose the award, but that the point of having laws and regulations that privilege small businesses in these awards will be thwarted.

The simple reality here is that nothing will happen to get Senate Majority Leader McConnell to actually function as he was the leader of one half of a co-equal branch of government until something catastrophic happens. Not even Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s excellent social media skills. As I wrote yesterday, McConnell is immune to the type of pressure that she and her colleagues tried to bring to bear today. Until or unless something really bad happens, civil servants and contractors are going to continue to either have to work without pay or are going to be on furlough. That money, as well as money that should have started flowing into the economy through new contract awards to small businesses, but can’t because the Small Business Administration is closed because of the shutdown, will continue to not circulate through the economy. And the failure of that money to be circulated, through mortgage and rent payments, through the purchase of groceries and clothes, through car payments, gas purchases, and paying for mass transit to get to work, for haircuts delayed, and for non-essentials like movies, the occasional dining out, or other social activities, will have a massive effect on both the macro and micro economies of the US. And those effects won’t be positive.

Open thread.

Proof of Life: Denver Meet-Up

From commentor Comrade Scotts Agenda of Rage:

Low key evening at a nice, low key microbrewery. Left to right: Scamp Dog, PsiFighter37 and moi, comrade scotts agenda of rage.

Hopefully we can pull more Denver folks out of the woodwork for another one this year.