Balloon Juice Testers – Just sent the first batch of emails

I just sent the first batch of email messages to the testers.  If you have received your email message with the login and testing forms, have at it!

If you have not yet received an email message, you will be in the next batch.  It’s 9:30 and I haven’t had dinner yet, so I am going to grab a bite to eat before sending out the next batch.

Big thanks to all who agreed to test!


edit: ~ 11pm

Just sent out batch #2.  So that’s 40 testers.

edit: ~ midnight

Just sent the final batch.  That’s 50 testers.

If you signed up for testing and you haven’t received an email from me, please send email to my nym at with your nym in the subject line. thanks.  WG

Friday Evening Open Thread: (Further) Proof Trump Really *Is* A Republican

(Jeff Danziger via

Just not a professional Repub, like Dick Cheney:

On the Trail of a Fourth Soviet Spy at Los Alamos

Three Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project are well known – Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and Ted Hall. Fuchs and Greenglass were known publicly in the 1950s, but Hall’s story came out only in the 1990s.

Now more documents have been declassified, and Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, who have done much to illuminate Soviet spying during that time, have found a fourth Soviet spy. They have found his path from the United States to East Germany and then Russia in 1952, escaping from possible arrest. Their article in the CIA’s “Studies in Intelligence” lays out what is known about him.

The spy’s name is Oscar Seborer. His story intersects with the FBI’s Project SOLO, in which they turned two members of the Communist Party in the USA. Their communications with Moscow seem to indicate that Seborer furnished information on the atomic bomb project, where he was a technician.

Seborer seems to have operated separately from the other spies, and his reporting seems to have been more to the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) than the civilian KGB. The two intelligence agencies have historically competed.

Klehr and Haynes have uncovered a fair bit of information about Seborer’s family, but not much about what he did at Los Alamos or what information he gave to Moscow. Maybe someone reading this knows something about the Seborer family or, as they called themselves in Russia, the Smiths.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Women Spilling the Tea

When asked earlier this week what she was saying to Trump in the photo he posted on Twitter (which she subsequently used as the background photo on her own Twitter page), Pelosi said she was probably asking why “all roads lead to Putin.”

Pelosi isn’t the only woman who’s telling the truth. In a podcast interview, Hillary Clinton spilled more piping hot beverages than a wildly ill-advised first-grade class field trip to the Russian Tea Room:

In a conversation on former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Clinton suggested the Russians are leveraging a number of top U.S. politicians. She suggested Russia had kompromat on Trump. She accused 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein of being a “Russian asset.” And she suggested Russia might back Gabbard as a third-party candidate.

“They’re also going to do third-party again,” Clinton said. “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”

“And that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset,” Clinton said. “Yeah, she’s a Russian asset — I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate. So I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most needed.”

At another point in the interview, Clinton wagered that Russia does in fact have some compromising material on Trump, suggesting that’s why so many of Trump’s decisions have erred in a pro-Russian direction.

“I don’t know what Putin has on him, whether it’s both personal and financial,” Clinton said. “I assume it is.”

The endless scandal shit-storm that is the Trump administration is numbing. This week, two iconic women — one the most powerful elected official in the Democratic Party and the other the popular vote winner in the last election — accused the president of being under the control of a foreign autocrat, and it wasn’t even the lead story in a major daily.

Open thread.

One Two One Two This is Just a Test

I just wanted to tease you all a little bit with the new website because I am so excited about it and it looks so good and is so functional. Obviously with every rollout there will be things we missed, but Watergirl has spent hundreds of hours on this and it looks pretty good, and I don’t think I am overstating by too much that the fucking invasion of Normandy took less planning.

And if you don’t like it, well, bag, dicks, you know the drill.

Friday Morning Open Thread: Thick Mick Mulvaney Knows What His President Likes

… Pre-sorted Starbursts, free money, and the wholehearted defense of even his dumbest moves.

Problem is, the guy with this kind of single-minded dedication to Lord Smallgloves’ whims is not necessarily an intellectual heavyweight.

Everyone’s free to choose the name by which they’re known, but as I have been pointing out for some time, Mick is generally not the cognomen of someone renowned for his wisdom.

Voiceover: Later, that same day…


Read more

Late Night Open Thread: So Where’s Your Tipping Point, Repubs?

Impeachment Inquiry Open Thread: McConnell Has Reached the Bargaining Stage

If you want to make [Murphy the Trickster] God laugh, tell him your plans. Of course ‘LeaderMcConnell’ will do his chelonian best to squash the whole thing with a quickness, licitly or not. But it’s past the point where he can plausibly deny there’s a case for impeachment, or that a public show of anger at the idea will move either the Democrats or the voters to desist.

Per the Washington Post, “McConnell tells Senate Republicans to be ready for impeachment trial of Trump”:

An air of inevitability has taken hold in Congress, with the expectation Trump will become the third president in history to be impeached — and Republicans believe they need to prepare to defend the president. While McConnell briefed senators on what would happen during a Senate trial, House GOP leaders convened what they expect will be regular impeachment strategy sessions.

In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a PowerPoint presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton…

During the meeting, Graham lobbied his colleagues to consider a public declaration in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which would describe Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seeking an investigation into a domestic political rival as “unimpeachable.” Some senators, however, pushed back against that idea, arguing that Trump would assume that those who did not sign the document would be persuadable on a vote to oust him…

The GOP’s internal reality check on Trump’s impeachment comes as House Democrats have had success securing damaging testimony from current and former State Department and National Security Council officials, many of whom are voicing long-held concerns about Trump’s actions on Ukraine…

Timing was a looming question in the Senate GOP meeting. McConnell said that he expected Pelosi to hold an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving and that the Senate should try to dispose of the issue by Christmas. But he also noted that motions of dismissal of the charges in an impeachment trial are handled at the discretion of the chief justice, who presides over the trial.

In this case, John G. Roberts Jr. would have the final word on how quickly the Senate could move, potentially complicating the GOP’s effort to short-circuit what could become a lengthy trial…

Nightly Steve Open Thread

Steve is very impressed with the new website and clearly very excited for you all to see it as readers:

I love this cat.

Getting what you pay: state legislature edition

For the 2018-2019 school year in North Carolina, a 23 year old with a bachelor’s degree in education has a minimum starting salary of $35,000.  I hope that our legislatures have more experience and knowledge than a first year teacher as the scope of their work is more complex.

Cheap legislature pay means the legislature is easy to capture.

Term limits means expertise and knowledge devolves to lobbyists and interest groups as they know where the bathroom is as well as where the high value comma should be placed next to an “and.”

“No budget, no pay” rules means that the party whose members can go without pay for years has a significant leverage advantage over the party whose members need to pay a mortgage on the 27th of each month.

We get what we pay for.  Institutional rules partially determine leverage and power which then influences outcomes.  A legislature where the only people who can afford to serve are either independently wealthy or easily bought out by concentrated interests will have a very different agenda merely due to the life experience of relevant leaders applying a filter of their own experiences to policy problems than a legislature where a wide swath of society can afford to run and serve.

We need to think through the first and second order effects of simple solutions to complex problems as the incentives tend to get messy.

Front-Pager Testing of the New Site Has Begun!

Calling All Front-Pagers!  As of a few minutes ago, you have access for testing the new site.

I can’t say when the wider testing will start, but if you are one of the testing volunteers, that means you might want to start checking your email daily.

Front-Pagers, if you see this:  Please uncheck auto posting of your test posts to John’s twitter and Facebook accounts!

The Vice President Announces a Ceasefire That Is Not a Ceasefire & the President Announces That Everyone is Happy With It

Earlier this afternoon, the Vice President, with the Secretary of State behind him, announced a ceasefire he had gotten Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to agree to. The President then did an impromptu press gaggle on the tarmac of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport where he ran with this news. The President spun the Vice President’s announcement of what Turkey supposedly agreed to as great for the Kurds, the Turks, the US, and civilization itself.

This comment about “having to have it cleaned out” is an excuse and rationalization for ethnic cleansing!

The Turks, however, have their own understanding of what was agreed to and it is not a cease fire.

The ceasefire that the Vice President announced at his press conference in Turkey is not one. Moreover, it doesn’t actually bind the proxy extremist groups that Turkey has turned loose in the area and who have been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in their fight with the Kurds. I’m honestly not even sure this binds the Kurds. And, as a result, we can predict what will happen.

As the Kurds move through this now supposedly temporarily pacified battlespace, to both collect the dead, the wounded, those trapped behind their enemy’s lines and to make it to the new lines 20 miles from the Turkish border, they will come into contact with the Syrian extremist groups that the Turks are using as proxies and a force multiplier. Those Syrian extremists, not bound by the agreement, will initiate hostilities with the Syrian Kurds and Arabs that make up the Syrian Democratic Forces because part of this Turkish operation was to colonize the buffer area they have just been granted by the President via the Vice President and Secretary of State. And the Syrian extremists that Erdogan is using as a proxy force are not going to want to have to let the Syrian Kurds and Arabs trying to get clear of the new buffer area take their property and possessions with them. Those are spoils of war that belong to those extremists who are going to set up shop in the buffer zone with whomever else Erdogan relocates there.

That’s right, you’re not crazy, you’re not hallucinating Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, on orders from the President, just ceded 20 miles of Syria to Turkey. Land that Syria’s Kurds have long claimed as a homeland where they deserve self determination and recognition as a nation-state. This was done unilaterally. Without consulting with the Syrians. Or the UN. Or Congress. Or seemingly anyone else. I’m sure Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs got asked for their opinions though. The President definitely knows how to get a real estate deal done!

Once the Kurds and Arabs of the SDF come into contact with the Syrian extremists that Erdogan is using as a proxy force and force multiplier, those extremists will attack. And the Syrian Democratic Forces will defend themselves. And once they do that, the Turks will claim that the temporary cessation of hostilities was violated by the Kurds and the SDF, and the Turkish military will restart offensive operations. I give it 12 hours, tops, before we’re back to where we were before the Vice President’s press conference today.

But civilization is happy, so good job everyone!

Mr. President, please help yourself to a Nobel Peace Prize. Take it out of petty cash.

Open thread!

Emoluments (Open Thread)

U.S. Constitution Emoluments Clause:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Breaking news from The Post:

President Trump has awarded the G-7 Summit of world leaders to his own private company, scheduling the massive gathering for next year at his Trump Doral resort outside Miami, the White House said Thursday.

That decision will bring hundreds of diplomats, media and security personnel to Trump’s financially struggling resort — where profits fell 70 percent after Trump entered politics. These events typically fill the host resort, bringing large payments for rooms and meals, and providing global publicity.

This appears to be the first time in American history that a president has given such a massive contract to himself. Trump still owns the Doral resort, and can draw profits from it, though his company has said they will not over-charge the government.

Can this be another article of impeachment? Trump on the site selection:

“They [Trump aides] went to places all over the country, and they came back and they said, ‘This is where we’d like to be.’ It’s not about me. It’s about getting the right location.”

Uh-huh. Everyone knows how pleasant inland Miami is during the summer, which is also hurricane season.

Open thread.

RIP Elijah Cummings

Well, this is bloody awful news.

Medicare and Medigap vs Medicare Advantage

P.A. asked a good question yesterday:

I’m 60 and not yet investigating, so here’s my Q: does MedAd ‘require’ MediGap insurance the way trad Medicare does? That would be another layer of complication.

One of the big advantages Medicare Advantage has over traditional Medicare is that it does provide a catastrophic cap on financial exposure.

Traditional fee for service Medicare Part has no out of pocket limit.  Beneficiaries can buy that protection with a MediGap supplemental policy.  There are roughly a dozen standardized supplemental designs at various premium points.  Each plan design has a different coverage matrix for the deductible, co-pays and coinsurance as well as a maximum allowed out pocket limit.

Medicare Advantage plans may also wrap in Medicare Part D drug benefits into the same plan.  There are some nifty incentive and substitution effects at the plan management level for health economists to geek out about but the primary point of interest is that a comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan reduces the number of decisions that need to be made and pieces of paper that need to be tracked.  People who stay within traditional Medicare need to manage hospital and professional insurance with their own unique cost sharing (Part A and B), potentially buy a Medicare Part D drug plan and look into a MediGap supplement to get some catastrophic protection.  People who buy A&B only Medicare Advantage can avoid thinking about supplements.

Medicare is complicated.  It is a weird benefit design that was cutting edge Blue Cross/Blue Shield thinking from 1964 with several kludges added to it since then to solve real problems.  Medicare Advantage plans have the potential and ability to be a bit less kludgy.  And sometimes that non-kludginess is quite valuable to people in the right circumstances.