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



Late Night Open Thread: All the Right Enemies, All the Wrong Friends


.

I am not, in general, a big fan of the ‘Trump’s using this as a distraction’ theory — flinging all the crap he can find to see what sticks is not advanced strategery. But when it comes to their golly-gosh SCOTUS nominee, the Repubs are sure making a valiant, all-out effort to turn the slightly steaming pitcher of vodka-scented yellow liquid of this week’s Trump/FBI revelations into something that could plausibly be sold as lemonade…



Tuesday’s gone with the wind

I’m assuming that the Freedom Caucus will get Trump to cave in completely to their demands on AHCA, even if those demands make it impossible for the Senate to pass it without a filibuster. I’d like to think that at a certain point, these turn off the GOP moderates. Maybe that’s starting to happen:

The Republican push to replace Obamacare – backed forcefully by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan —is in jeopardy, as a last-ditch bid by the White House to win conservative support late Wednesday appeared to repel moderates.

Moderate Republicans huddled with Speaker Paul Ryan and House leaders for nearly two hours Wednesday night but emerged without consensus. Immediately after exiting the meeting, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), leader of the House’s moderate Tuesday Group, panned the bill, known as the American Health Care Act.

“After careful deliberation, I cannot support the bill and will oppose it,” Dent said in a statement upon leaving the meeting. “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals.”








ACHA EHB CBO state of play

Right now there are three primary possibilities for the ACHA tomorrow:

1) No vote is taken as more wrangling and tweaking occurs
2) Vote fails as the combination of Tuesday Morning Group Republicans and the House Freedom Caucus vote against the bill from both ends of the Republican caucus. This is where we were most likely to have been at at 1800 EST on March 22, 2017
3) ACHA advances as the House Freedom Caucus gets a major policy concession, the elimination of Essential Health Benefit requirements.

#3 is what I want to discuss. It would produce a massive cluster. The bill needs to go through the Senate as a reconciliation bill with several significant requirements. One of those requirements is the items are germane to the budget. Since the other parts of the bill have stripped the link between premiums and subsidies, lower premiums are not germane to the budget. It will get stripped.

More importantly, the optics will look ugly. The Congressional Budget Office

If there were no clear definition of what type of insurance product people could use their tax credit to purchase, some of those insurance products would probably not provide enough financial protection against high medical costs to meet the broad definition of coverage that CBO and JCT have typically used in the past—that is, a comprehensive major medical policy that, at a minimum, covers high-cost medical events and various services, including those provided by physicians and hospitals.

IF Essential Health Benefits are dropped from the bill, the CBO will project that insurers will respond by offering very skinny benefit packages (no maternity or substance abuse inpatient services for instance as both qualify as high cost events) that are targeted to be priced at precisely the subsidy value. If there is no regulation as to what a carrier needs to include with a given maximum out of pocket requirement, two things will happen. A lot of people who otherwise would not use their subsidy would use their subsidy. And most people who are buying mostly on price will be buying policies that the CBO does not deem to be insurance.

Jed Graham has been bird-dogging this angle hard:

Because the GOP bill would mostly retain ObamaCare coverage rules, insurance would be unaffordable for lower-income and older adults with the new, smaller tax credits on offer, so some 30 million people wouldn’t claim the GOP tax credit averaging $3,000 in 2020 and rising with inflation. That would add up to more than $600 billion in unclaimed subsidies through 2026, or roughly the same $600 billion amount by which House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan cuts taxes. Those unspent subsidies go a long way to explaining why CBO found that the American Health Care Act would reduce deficits by $323 billion over a decade.

So the end result if Title 1 is the price of passage is the following:

  • Guarantee failure in the Senate
  • Adds to the deficit immediately
  • Adds millions more people to the ranks of the uninsured as defined by the CBO over and above the 24 million that is the current score

/Dave Anderson +3

Update 1:
And it looks like Option #3 is on the table

Update 2

Dave +3.5



Little House Update

I found this neat little table for 20 bucks, and I had the mirror already, so I put it in the upstairs hallway in between my bedroom and the spare bedroom:

About two years ago, I found this massive file that was a scale representation of the universe, and I had a friend blow it up put it on canvas and frame it, but I never had a place to put it until now. I think it looks great in my office.

Finally, ABC’s kids are coming down for a visit the first week of April, so we set the blue third floor bedroom up for them (and that is a royal we- all I really did was pick up the twin beds off craigs list and be my usual patient saint-like self as she shopped for the bedding and stuff).

The boys already play hockey and are lax curious, so I had a buddy of mine custom string some sticks in their favorite colors. Gonna do some craigslisting for cheap bikes because Bethany is great for kids to ride around. She made the lamps. She’s very crafty and can do all sorts of cool things like that. I’m kinda lucky.



We Are at War. It is High Time That Our Leaders Begin Acting Like It!

Last July, when the hacking into the DNC became public knowledge, I wrote that we are at Cyber War. That what had happened was an act of war, though confined to the cyber domain. Today’s events are just the latest reinforcing example that we are at war, even if it is not formally declared. Russia has long believed that they were, at least, in a new cold war with the US and the West. Beyond that, however, is that Andrey Krutskikh, a senior advisor to Vladimir Putin, described the conflict this way:

According to notes of Krutskikh’s speech, he told his Russian audience: “You think we are living in 2016. No, we are living in 1948. And do you know why? Because in 1949, the Soviet Union had its first atomic bomb test. And if until that moment, the Soviet Union was trying to reach agreement with [President Harry] Truman to ban nuclear weapons, and the Americans were not taking us seriously, in 1949 everything changed and they started talking to us on an equal footing.”

Krutskikh continued, “I’m warning you: We are at the verge of having ‘something’ in the information arena, which will allow us to talk to the Americans as equals.”

Putin’s cyber adviser stressed to the Moscow audience the importance for Russia of having a strong hand in this new domain. If Russia is weak, he explained, “it must behave hypocritically and search for compromises. But once it becomes strong, it will dictate to the Western partners [the United States and its allies] from the position of power.”

Krutskikh’s comments may have been a precursor of a new doctrine for information operations announced publicly by the Kremlin in December. The senior administration official described the Russian strategy: “They think of information space as a domain of warfare. In the U.S, we tend to have a binary view of conflict — we’re at peace or at war. The Russian doctrine is more of a continuum. You can be at different levels of conflict, along a sliding scale.”

What does all this have to do with the events of today? It is part of the necessary prologue to be able to answer John’s question about Congressman Nunes. It’s not that Bannon has anything on Nunes. It is that Nunes’s <strike>business partner is tied</strike> is connected to Putin:

And that may, perhaps, explain why this morning Congressman Nunes disclosed, without authorization, classified information pertaining to US SIGINT collection. Congressman Nunes does not have declassification authority in regard to that information. He then went and briefed the President on what he had just leaked because he thought the President needed to know it. This is curious for two reasons. 1) This is not the job of a Congressman who is chairing a committee that oversees executive branch agencies and activities. 2) The President, as the President, has the ability to know anything he wants to know that is being done, or has been done, by the US Intelligence Community. That he did not seem to know this, that he does not seem to have been briefed on it, means that he and his subordinates either couldn’t be bothered knowing or, because of the counterintelligence investigation – its scope and who may be its targets – this information had been compartmented from the President to protect sources and methods. If it is the former, it shows how inept the President’s advisors and staff are. If it is the latter then Congressman Nunes has dug his hole even deeper. Interfering with and obstructing a Federal counterintelligence investigation is not something that the FBI looks kindly upon.

Moreover, the real takeaway for today is why the President and so many of his people were in ongoing contact with Russians and other foreign targets of both routine and specifically targeted US SIGINT collection.

Before anyone asks me what happens now? The answer is I do not know. I know what should happen both overtly and covertly. Overtly Congressman Nunes should be removed from his chairmanship and the committee. Covertly he should have his access to classified material cut off and the RNC and the California GOP should be firmly explaining to him why he is not standing for reelection in 2018. But the truthful answer is we have to wait and see.

Congressman Schiff is trying to prevent his committee from being blown up by the committee chair. A man who is not particularly smart and who has a Russian <strike>partner</strike> distributor connected to Putin. Here too, like so many times that I’ve remarked on this stuff, I can once again place a key player in all of this within <strike>no more than two</strike> three links to Putin or those in his orbit. Director Comey will now become very, very circumspect with what he does and does not brief the Congressional Gang of Eight because key members, Congressman Nunes specifically, cannot be trusted with any sensitive information. Congress’s oversight of the Intelligence Community is now compromised.

Additionally, Congressman Schiff has stated that he has seen hard of evidence of collusion between the President’s team and the Russians. It is unclear if he is referring to the Trump Organization, Trump-Pence Campaign, Trump Transition, the current Trump Administration, or some combination of them.

As I wrote last June in my post on cyberwar, Russia has declared that they are in a state of war with the US. They are acting like it. The US has key leaders from one of its two political parties (the GOP), as well as from one of its fringe, gadfly, spoiler parties (the Greens) who are continually demonstrating that they are providing aid and comfort to the enemy. As I’ve written before, we are fully in a Constitutional crisis and have been for months. We are at war and have been for well over a year. The Republic is in peril. It is far past time for our leaders to begin acting like it!



Livin on Phat Pockets on Flat With the Gat

Well, well, well:

Almost two weeks after President Donald Trump’s tweets accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee tried to offer some support by saying that the president’s team was caught up in a U.S. surveillance net.

Representative Devin Nunes said Wednesday that the intelligence community collected multiple conversations involving members of Trump’s transition team during legal surveillance of foreign targets after he won election last year. After Nunes went to the White House to brief Trump, the president told reporters “I somewhat do” feel vindicated by the latest development.

The committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, said Nunes’s decision to go to Trump before informing other members of the panel “casts quite a profound cloud” over whether the committee can conduct a proper investigation.

Nunes said he was “alarmed” to discover that the identities of Trump aides were revealed in intelligence community documents. “Details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in an intelligence community report,” he said, adding that he didn’t know if Trump’s “own communications were intercepted.”

First off, let’s dispense with the nonsense that Trump should feel vindicated. He claimed he was wiretapped, he wasn’t. This was routine surveillance on known bad actors and his team got caught up in it because… they were consorting with known bad actors. It’s the difference between me having my microwave take pictures of me in my underwear screaming “FASTER” while I nuke a hotpocket and me being accidentally picked up on a recording of drug dealers when I went to buy crack. Instead of being validated that he was in fact being wiretapped, a more clever man would wonder if maybe he should spend so much time hanging out with crack dealers. Donald Trump is not a clever man.

Second, Rep. Adam Schiff is about to fucking explode:

I’d like to know what kind of shit Bannon has on Devin Nunes, because at this point it has to be in the “live boy” territory.

Meanwhile, addled old warmonger Walnuts almost killed a man rushing to the cameras to throw in his two fucking cents, and while it contains a bit of the pox on both houses bullshit, what he is calling for would be HIGHLY entertaining:

Congress no longer has the credibility to independently tackle a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump and his associates’ ties to Moscow, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday.

“It’s a bizarre situation, and what I think, the reason why I’m calling for this select committee or a special committee, is I think that this back-and-forth and what the American people have found out so far that no longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone,” McCain told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

McCain’s comments come amid an increasingly bitter feud that erupted between members of the House Intelligence Committee earlier Wednesday, after the panel’s chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) claimed that he had seen evidence that the U.S. intelligence community incidentally surveilled members of Trump’s transition team.

The inadvertent surveillance, Nunes said, was not tied to ongoing Russia investigation.

The committee’s top Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) fired back, blasting Nunes for routing the committee before briefing Trump himself on the apparent findings and saying that the move “casts quite a profound cloud” over the panel’s investigation.

And why the fuck not? We spent ten days investigating Bill Clinton’s Christmas Card list, who knows how many hundreds of millions on other sham investigations into Bill and Hillary, why not spend a couple million to lift up Putin’s kilt and see if we find Trump down there on his knees?








Call Congress

There is a chance that we can win tomorrow.

Let’s work to increase that chance. Call Congress. If you are represented by a Democrat or a Republican who is on the 100% No list as maintained by the New York Times , thank them, or their interns.

If you are represented by an Undecided or Concerned Republican, encourage them to vote No.

If you are represented by a highly probable yes Republican, tell them to have fun losing in November of 2018.

There is no guarantee that we can win tomorrow. There might be a seven hour vote as arms get twisted and bribes concessions are offered to flip votes. But I would rather try and fail then resign myself to learned helplessness. So call.

Here is the House Rep finder:

Update 1 For the waverers, they will vote to be on the winning side. If there are twenty three or more quick GOP NO votes, we will see a cascade of No Votes as there is no upside to be a Yes and Fail. If there is only 10-20 GOP NO votes in the first 12 minutes, we’re in for a long afternoon of arm twisting.



Open Thread: An Unprecedented Drain on the National Coffers

Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by “the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.”

The documents, part of the Secret Service’s request for the fiscal 2018 budget, reflect the costly surprise facing Secret Service agents tasked with guarding the president’s large and far-flung family, accommodating their ambitious travel schedules and fortifying the three-floor Manhattan penthouse where first lady Melania Trump and her son, Barron, live…

The budget requests reflect a potentially awkward contrast between Trump’s efforts to cut federal spending in many areas and the escalating costs of his freewheeling travel itinerary. Trump jetted to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for his fifth post-inauguration weekend trip, one day after the White House released a federal budget proposing deep cuts to many government programs.

Former agents said the requests indicate that the agency had to adapt to offer full protection for a president and first family who appear to have placed few limits on their personal travel and living arrangements….

Some of the public funding could potentially become revenue for Trump’s private company, the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump Tower that agents must now protect. The Defense Department and Secret Service have sought to rent space in Trump Tower but have not said how much space they’re interested in, or at what cost. Neither the Secret Service nor the Trump Organization have disclosed how much public money, if any, is being spent toward Trump Tower space or other costs…

The Secret Service’s protection costs are only a fraction of the total public spending devoted to safeguarding Trump properties. New York police spent roughly $24 million toward security costs at Trump Tower between the election and inauguration, according to police figures provided to The Post.

At Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County officials say their sheriff’s office has spent more than $1.5 million toward overtime for deputies guarding the exclusive resort Trump has taken to calling “the southern White House” and “winter White House.”

County officials have proposed levying a special fee on the resort, saying they would have to otherwise raise taxes on local residents to help cover its high security costs. The Coast Guard has also paid to provide round-the-clock patrols of the resort’s two coastlines, including through the use of a gun-mounted response boat that, according to agency budget documents, costs $1,500 an hour…

SO MUCH FOR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, REPUBS!



Boizhe Moi…

I got nothing.

Here’s the clip from C-SPAN.

From Time (autoplay clip at the link):

“Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

Trump then said Republicans need to spread the word that Lincoln was a Republican, appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the “party of Lincoln.”

“Let’s take an ad, let’s use one of those PACs,” he said.

3:25 to 3:29 mark sums it up nicely:



Mid-Morning Open Thread – Mars Video and Parliament Shooting

This is just stunning:

A FICTIVE FLIGHT ABOVE REAL MARS from Jan Fröjdman on Vimeo.

More on the project here.

In other news, I just had fiber optics installed (1 GBps) yesterday – it’s a city owned project 6 years in the making. $50 a month (for life, supposedly). Comcast is running scared and dropping their prices, but still couldn’t get rid of them fast enough.

ETA: While I was typing this, looks like there was a shooting in London at the Parliament.

Follow here (for some reason it won’t allow me to embed twitter live feed anymore – Alain?)

Reuters twitter feed

Found live feed:








Health Policy notes

Just a few points as everyone should be calling their House representatives right now.

First, Kaiser Family Foundation is looking at the implied deductibles of the AHCA compared to the ACA:

Secondly, this is under-reported this week, we need to be aware that attempts to lower the cost of care in Medicare will be made much more difficult under this administration.

The CMS has delayed the expansion of a major bundled payment pilot, Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement, and the implementation of its bundled payment initiatives for cardiac care from July 1 to Oct. 1, 2017, according to an interim final rule posted to the Federal Register. It also delayed, for a second time, the effective date of a final rule laying out the implementation of CJR and other bundled payment programs, from March 21 to May 20, 2017.

The agency also delayed its Cardiac Rehabilitation Incentive Payment Model and is also weighing whether to push back implementation of all bundled payment initiatives even further, until 2018. These programs are mandatory, and different from the voluntary Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative, which is not affected by the interim rule.

So get off of this blog, and start calling Congress.








Watch me whip, now watch me nay nay

It’s hard for me to imagine that Trumpcare will fail in the House. It seems more likely that it will squeak through, that we’ll be told it’s “the big win that Trump needs”, that it solidifies the unlikely friendship between Trump and Ryan, and so on. But, so far, despite all the whipping, there’s too many nays and not enough yeas:

Trump’s dire warning didn’t appear to immediately change many minds. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), whom Trump singled out during the meeting, emerged from a private meeting with Vice President Pence Tuesday afternoon, insisting that he was still opposed and that he had at least 22 votes from conservative hard-liners to defeat the bill. Following the meeting, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) also said they remain opposed.

According to The Hill’s Whip List at press time, 22 House Republicans were firm “no” votes, with six more leaning no or likely no. Many other Republicans have not said how they will vote. Should all members vote and all Democrats — as expected — vote no, 22 defections would kill the legislation. The bill is scheduled to hit the floor at some point on Thursday.



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: “Just Not FUN Anymore, Paulie Boy!”

Okay, I’m a little obsessed right now. Because I’m hoping for the political equivalent of a Trump-Ryan murder-suicide pact, and I don’t even care which partner goes first.

Apart from keeping one eye on the perpetrators at all times, what’s on the agenda for the day?
.



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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