Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Happy Hannukah!


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Apart from the immediate topic(s), what’s on the agenda for the day?

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On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

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Late Night Side-Eye Open Thread — Trump to NASA: “To the MOON, Alice!”

I was too young for the Honeymooners, but I’ve read that in 1956, young Donald Trump was trying to buy friends with the lure of his parents’ still-novel rec-room television. So, yeah, hurrah for a new Space Age, but given Trump’s hostility to science in general, my first thought was of Trump shouting out Ralph Kramden’s (futile, bootless) threat… which is still enough of a popular catchphrase to have its own entry in the Urban Dictionary…

President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 on Monday, directing NASA to return Americans to the surface of the moon and onward to Mars.

The order declares NASA must lead U.S. astronauts in “an innovative space exploration program.” The announcement continues the White House push to end dependence on Russia for manned launches, which began when the space shuttle program retired six years ago.

“It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use,” Trump said during the signing. “This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint. We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and, perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond.”

It has been 45 years to the day since Apollo 17 landed, the most recent mission to the moon…

Video of Trump’s full speech here:

“We are the leader and we’re going to stay the leader, and we’re going to increase it many fold,” Trump said in signing “Space Policy Directive 1” that establishes a foundation for a mission to the moon with an eye on going to Mars.

“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars,” Trump said. “And perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Back in June, China’s space official said the country was making “preliminary” preparations to send a man to the moon, the latest goal in China’s ambitious lunar exploration program.

Trump’s signing ceremony for the directive included former lunar astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt and current astronaut Peggy Whitson, whose 665 days in orbit is more time in space than any other American and any other woman worldwide…

“And space has so much to do with so many other applications, including a military application,” he said without elaboration.

In approving the new policy, Trump abandoned what had been a goal of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, who in 2010 backed a plan to send humans to a near-earth asteroid.

NASA said initial funding for the new policy would be included in its budget request for fiscal year 2019…

Funding yesterday and funding tomorrow, but never funding today.

On the ‘job creation’ side, maybe O.J. Simpson can reprise his role



Tis the Season

Had the parents over for dinner since they are leaving in a couple days for their annual winter migration to the beach, then hit the world famous Oglebay Park Festival of Lights. You’ll have to go to the link because FYWP isn’t allowing me to upload pictures.

Speaking of the holidays, here’s a request from a BJ reader:

HI everybody, longtime lurker and rare commenter LibraryGuy here. John’s given me the chance to ask for some help from the community, so here I go:

My name is Tom Riker, and my wife Rhea co-owns and manages a tiny gift shop in Woodstock, NY called Woodstock Reveries. The store is filled with jewelry, tote bags, purses, mugs, and crystals, most of which are made by small artists she has reached out to around the country. Working almost every day for the last 3 years, she has grown the store’s sales every month since 2014. She’s even managed to put most of the gifts into our online store. Being an animal lover, Rhea also donates a portion of many of our products to animal rescue groups, including Animal Lovers League, New York Bully Crew, and Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

Unfortunately, our new landlord just announced last week that he will not continue our month-to-month rental past the end of the year, so now we are scrambling to find a new home while we handle what we hope is a good holiday season (and get ready for a mandatory move!). This has wrecked our budget and leaves us trying desperately to set aside money for a higher rent, a deposit, and moving costs. This was not on our list for Hanukkah!

I’m here today to appeal to my fellow Balloon Juicers that, if you have any remaining holiday
shopping, or shopping after the New Year, you can check out our online store and see if there’s anything you like. I handle all the shipping and most orders go out USPS Priority Mail (with tracking) within 24 hours. Anything will help, and we can even ship items internationally (just contact us directly).

Our store website is here: http://woodstockreveries.com/ and if you want to know more about us or our pups, you can click here: http://woodstockreveries.com/about/
Thanks for listening!

What else is going on?








Last Best Hope

An excerpt from President Lincoln’s annual message to Congress, 1 December 1862:

It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In givingfreedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.

Hold the line!



Bitcoin: Beanie Babies for Techno-Libertarians?

I’ve got nothing against collectibles, and I have the Franklin Mint plates to prove it. But most of the little I know about economics I got from reading J.K. Galbraith, so whenever people start talking about Free money — guaranteed to appreciate!, the alarm bells go off. From the Washington Post:

Bitcoin soared past the $17,000 mark on Thursday, a dizzying run for a digital currency that was worth less than $1,000 at the start of the year and was once largely the preoccupation of technologists or those looking to avoid scrutiny to launder money or buy drugs and weapons online.

The fast rise — it has gone up more than 40 percent this week alone — is creating a buying frenzy among eager speculators around the world and helping push bitcoin into the mainstream. And it is also forcing U.S. regulators to grapple with whether to legitimize a product that operates outside the control of any government or financial institution.

The run-up in price comes as bitcoin enthusiasts prepare to reach a new landmark. On Sunday, a bitcoin product will trade for the first time on a U.S. financial market, making it almost as easy to bet on the virtual currency as oil, corn or the euro…

McClatchy:

Much of the computer power sustaining bitcoin occurs at massive complexes – or farms – in rural China running on electricity from coal-fired generating plants in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia. Reporters from Quartz and Bloomberg visited one of the massive farms in August, and said it had eight warehouses containing 25,000 processing machines, or about four percent of the global bitcoin network.
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Monday Afternoon Open Thread

Here’s a local osprey surveying a pond from a platform built by the power company. The power company builds these things so ospreys won’t nest on the light poles and screw up power transmission.

Looks like I’ll be taking a short road trip later today to go see my grandmother. She’s almost 100 and has pneumonia, poor old bird. The prognosis is not good, but she may surprise us yet.

Anyhoo, keep an old lady in your thoughts, if you would. Open thread!



Who’s bad?

I thought this would be a fun topic for a Monday: what’s the worst newspaper column you’ve ever read? Doesn’t have to be in the Times or WaPo, if you can find a link to it, it can be part of the competition. This (via Atrios), is strong contender:

You’re the straight-A student with a too-heavy bookbag and an after-school job at the YMCA. The cool kids are in Philly. They drink Sugar Wash Rum and tool around on shabby-chic bicycles. You pay car insurance and decide state and national elections; the cool kids would only carshare to your zip code if it meant wrapping their tattooed arms around a rare batch of Tired Hands milkshake India Pale Ale.

[….]

When Donald Trump took the White House with a shocking win in Pennsylvania, it was voters in some of your zip codes (I’m talking to you, Bucks County) who, along with people in the far-away counties of the state, made it happen. Philly was pretty much a nonfactor in the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes.

Bobo’s Russia piece and all of Von Drehel’s recent pieces are up there too, but I give this edge because it mixes vapid NASCAR-dads-at-Applebee’s style political commentary with inane jokes about hipsters in a way that I haven’t seen in a while.



Midday Odds and Ends

The Washington Post on the attempted terrorist attack in NYC this morning:

Authorities said a low-tech device was detonated in the New York City subway in an incident that the mayor called “an attempted terrorist attack.”

A man suspected of setting off the explosion Monday morning in Midtown Manhattan was identified by authorities as Akayed Ullah. The blast, which occurred in the area of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, at 42nd St. and 8th Ave., resulted in serious injuries to the suspect and minor injuries to at least three others, authorities said during a morning news conference.

Ullah sustained burns and lacerations to his hands and abdomen, authorities said. Police said he was taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment and then taken into custody. Three other people also suffered minor injuries caused by being in the vicinity of the explosion, including ringing in the ears and headaches, police said.

Thank dog the idiot attacker was inept. Oddly, as of this moment, Trump has not tried to make political hay of the attack on Twitter, which is unusual to say the least. Maybe he’s keeping his powder dry until 10:30 AM, when Brave New Films will hold a press conference with some of the 16 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct:

There should be an investigation. Trump surrogates are claiming people already knew about these allegations and voted for Trump anyway, so no backsies. But there was never an investigation, and he wasn’t an elected official then. There should be one now.

Speaking of degenerates, AL.com reports that two polls show Roy Moore with a lead over Doug Jones in the AL senate race. But a Fox News poll shows Jones with a big lead:

Is this Fox News trying to goose Moore supporters to the polls? Possibly.

What else is going on? Did anyone else binge-watch “The Crown” this weekend? Open thread!



New York’s BHP problem

Tim Jost at Health Affairs picks up on an important letter that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent to New York. New York runs a Basic Health Plan. A BHP allows a state to take 95% of the funding for advanced premium tax credits (APTC) and cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies to cover the population that makes between 138% FPL (~$16,500 for a single individual) to 200% FPL ($24,040 for a single individual) with basically an enhanced Medicaid program.

Politico is reporting, “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has told [New York’s] budget office that if Congress does not fund the cost-sharing reduction program in the next three weeks, the federal government will stop paying for a portion of the state’s Essential Plan, creating a nearly $1 billion hole in the upcoming budget.” The Essential Plan is New York’s Basic Health Program.

CMS’s position is apparently that if the Congress does not fund the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), New York is not due 95 percent of CSR payments.

Tim notes that the House Republicans have made the argument in court that CSR was not tied to BHP payment flows and that New York most likely has a strong case to get the money eventually but this is a problem.

New York runs its own exchange. It has a motivated insurance commissioner. It might have an alternative solution that it can execute quickly to fill that billion dollar hole.

If New York State in mid-open enrollment decided that all filed rates were $120 per member per month too low, they might be a able to impose a premium surcharge on all on-Exchange policies. On-exchange, subsidized buyers would be insulated as all premiums would increase by a fixed amount. This would mean that the subsidy benchmark would increase by the same amount. No subsidized buyer would be worse off.

Non subsidized buyers could be held harmless if they pay the surcharge and also get an automatic rebate equal to the surcharge. This gets around the requirement that all on-Exchange plans also have to be sold off-Exchange.

This is a kludge, but it protects the New York state budget and the Essential Health Plan for another year. And next year, the state commissioners could require a state health insurance tax built into the individual on-Exchange premiums while also requiring cloned off-Exchange filings with no difference in plan attributes where that tax does not apply.








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

In keeping with tradition, I did try to load Bill’s old submission from a while back (seems like years, tbh) for today’s post, but it crapped out…which was something I recall, now. And so I tried another  old submission from and it also failed. I think I remember this too.

So I went back through submissions and found this. Now I know some of you have made some great submissions in the past few days, and I’ll run them – next week! I’ve still got some housecleaning to complete; regardless of these errors, I’ve got a few to work through and so I hope to start with Bill’s old post next Monday (if the issue can be solved), and then begin working with some of these great new submissions after that. This week is working through some old submissions and some personal pics as well.

In light of losing my mom, I’m also planning a post sharing the detailed obit we passed out at the funeral and associated events. This will entail losing my semi-anonymity, and will be later this week. Given the academic bent of so much of the site’s readership, I expect a few readers will know of her, which would be amazing. I’ve always gotten such energy and love from folks she’s affected, around the country and especially around the world.

But first – as so many of us are dealing with cold and remnants of snow – let’s turn our gaze to the Big Island of Hawaii. Having spent almost 10 years living in rural, sunny, dry Southern Colorado, this looks very, extremely inviting, especially knowing there’s tons of fresh seafood available since you’re not land-locked but smack-dab in the middle of the Pacific. If that’s not heaven on Earth, I’m not sure what is.

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Monday Morning Open Thread: Find Joy Where You Can


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What’s on the agenda, as we start the new week?
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Meanwhile, in Alabama…



Sunday Night Open Thread

Uneventful weekend here, mainly filled with sports. Army/Navy, Backyard Brawl, and the Pens/Leafs yesterday, and tonight the Steelers/Ravens hatefest. I paid very little attention to politics.

Had a good dinner tonight- thai red curry with shrimp over zucchini and squash noodles.

It was delicious.

I am seriously ready for some snow.








Sunday Evening Open Thread


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What’s on the agenda as we wrap up the weekend?



Open Thread: Steve King Will Not Be Out-Bigoted


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This will indeed be a tough year for competitors in the Worst Person in National Politics Award, but Steve “Pigmuck” King is a dependable, oft-tested professional!


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Despite that, he’s *not winning the wider argument…