Oleg Deripaska Comes To Kentucky

Do you remember Oleg Deripaska, Paul Manafort’s business partner to whom he owed $17 million? The Russian aluminum oligarch?

Well, he’s building an aluminum plant in, of all places, Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sanctions have been lifted, of course.

Here’s the announcement from Deripaska’s company, RUSAL.

Just a matter of a canny businessman seeing an opportunity, I’m sure.



Tuesday Afternoon Open Thread

I’m spending most of today in a hospital waiting room (everything is fine — elderly relative, routine procedure). Fox News is on the overhead TV, and no remote is in sight, but the volume’s mercifully low. They really are obsessed with AOC on Fox.

Seriously, she’s like 80% of their content. I think she makes them feel all tingly, then ashamed. It’s a weird thing to witness.

I guess I could go find someone to complain to about the channel, but I’m just reading a book and ignoring it instead. Open thread!



Public option policy analyis

Robert Camner asked a good, broad question yesterday that I want to respond to:

I’d be even more interested in your analysis of whether a public option that is designed to compete with private insurance plans in a standardized manner is (or is not) good public policy, which I would define as “the greatest good for the greatest number + providing an appropriate safety net for the most vulnerable

This is a damn good question.

Here is how I think about this problem. I first divide the universe into the subsidized, non-subsidized earning over 400% FPL and then the general population of the state.

From here, I first look at people who are eligible to buy individual market insurance but not able to be subsidized. They are no worse off on a simple model as a new choice is being offered. If it is a better choice (better network, better cost sharing, better customer service, better premium… better is a broad term here), they’ll buy the better choice and their welfare improves slightly. If the public option choice is not better, they are no worse off. For this group, a public option makes no one worse off and potentially some folks better off as well as potentially covering some people who otherwise would not have been covered.

This is the simple case. After this, it gets complicated.

The main variables for the subsidized population are the relative price spreads of all non-benchmark plans to the benchmark. If the public option is priced at or above the current benchmark, the analysis looks a lot like the non-subsidized analysis. The choice space slightly expands and potentially the quality of plans being offered by private insurers increases. It won’t significantly increase enrollment nor lower costs but it is a minor welfare improvement.

If the public option is priced below the current benchmark, but above the current least expensive silver plan, it becomes the new benchmark plan. Enrollment probably will decrease as the cheapest silver plans will become more expensive and it is more likely that the cheapest non-silver plans are also more expensive (holding all else equal). This is based on the strong assumption that the marginal enrollee (ie the person flipping a coin to sign up) is extremely price sensitive and making an ACA plan net of subsidies more expensive will lead to them deciding to not get covered. Individuals who have high medical needs may be better off if there is a significant qualitative difference between the public option and the old benchmark plan. They could see a qualitatively better plan at a lower net of subsidy premium but this will not substantially change the enrollment universe.

Now if the public option is priced below the least expensive silver plan, the analysis is dependent on the local circumstances. If the public option is priced at a wider spread than the previous cheapest silver to benchmark spread, enrollment will increase as net of subsidy silver plans are now cheaper. Total enrollment may or may not change depending on the spread of cheapest overall plan relative to benchmark. Individuals who want/need to stay in above their current plans may be slightly worse off.

If the spread of the now cheapest public option to the new benchmark is less than the previous spread, then enrollment will probably decline.

The clearest beneficiary of a public option that is below current counterfactual benchmark is the federal treasury. After that, it gets really complicated really fast.

Now from the perspective of a state citizen who is not on the individual market, a public option probably slightly increases the option value of telling my boss to go shove it and walk out. That is a marginal value gain but it is real. Beyond that, it is a wash assuming that the state can administer the program in a way that does not introduce new on-budget costs that compete against other desired public expenditures.








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

Attentive readers may have noticed that my name is no longer “Alain the site fixer”. This is because for the next while, I won’t be; while the rebuild and associated changes are made, I’m not doing squat. Once the dust settles, we’ll see what’s what. So it made sense for me to remove that part of my nym. I’m still here and if things come up, I’ll jump in to help, of course, but for now it makes sense to remove this extra cook from the kitchen.

After the tragedy yesterday which still has so many of us reeling, we’ve got some pictures from Notre Dame. I’m so thankful for this community at times like this. I cannot believe that I’ll not visit this magnificent cathedral again and I feel like something has been ripped from deep inside me. I think my first visit was age 7. These pictures are such a  salve – thank you!

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Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Got Summer Vacation Plans?

I am (perhaps overly) sensitive to the charge that I’m prejudiced towards my personal favorite Senator — and, boilerplate: I will do everything in my power to support the eventual Democratic nominee — but damn, Elizabeth Warren does not get the credit she deserves!

Everything in this proposal is noteworthy, but giving lower-income families more of a chance to enjoy national parks is *not* a small thing, if we want support for those parks to be more than ‘a little perk for white totebaggers’…


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There Are Other Congregations Whose Churches Have Burned in Need

Right now everyone is paying attention to the Cathedral of Notre Dame as it smolders. And to a certain extent that makes perfect sense. It is a historic marvel and a major tourist attraction both because of its historic and its religious significance. President Macron has unequivocally stated that the cathedral will be rebuilt. And the organizations that were set up to raise funds for its renovations will now quickly switch over to fundraise for the rebuilding effort. But even as those funds are raised, there are other churches, specifically some African American churches here in the US that were deliberately burned down in acts of domestic terrorism whose congregations need some help to rebuild their houses of worship.

From the GoFundMe link:

Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.

“There is clearly something happening in this community,” State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday.

The host of this campaign is the Seventh District Baptist Association, a 149 year old non-profit religious organization.  We are working with the Governor of Louisiana, local leaders, elected officials, the impacted churches and their pastors, other faith organizations and the community to ensure 100% of all funds raised will be evenly distributed to the three churches affected.

Please donate here and look for upcoming opportunities to help these churches and communities begin to heal.

The Seventh District Baptist Association lead by President Freddie Jack,  is comprised of approximately 60 Baptist churches from seven parishes in Southwest Louisiana, which includes the three churches affected by the recent fires.  The District meets on a quarterly and annual basis emphasizing Christian Education, Evangelism, Discipleship and fellowship in the Body of Christ.

The District’s annual session is held the first week in June  where we celebrate our legacy and plan continual ministry events to reach the lost and edify the Saints.  The District will be holding its 149th Annual Session in Lake Charles, Louisiana the week of June 2nd.

President Jack requested that a Go Fund Me campaign be initiated to show our support for our church families and the communities affected.  We are unequivocally committed to aiding our Sister Churches.  The donations received are earmarked specifically for the Seventh District’s member churches – St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.  All of your generous donations will be disbursed equally among all three churches for not only rebuilding their sanctuaries, but for the purchase of all necessities lost in the fires, including pews, sound system, musical instruments, etc.

Seventh District and the Pastors and congregations of the St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church thank you and solicit your continual prayers and support as we will overcome this tragedy together because we are ONE BODY IN CHRIST!

Ruth V. Jack, Finance Secretary
Seventh District Baptist Association

I know we hit you all up for money all the time here, especially Doug who has now raised enough money to put his baby through grad school with these ActBlue fundraisers he tells you are going to political candidates…  with the ActBlue drives for political candidates and the pet blegs, but if you’ve got some spare change this month, these good folks could use a little TLC.

Open thread.



Late Night Open Thread: Good Riddance, #Tax Day



Respite Open Thread: Happy Bixby News

Bixby managed to get outside today, because he has goals and he works hard at them.  More info on his day here. You guys really helped me get through the past two weeks of hell and uncertainty. Thank you.

And here’s some cuteness to close out the day:

h/t Jeffreyw for bat and music.

How are all our other critters doing? I know we have a few who are struggling. We are here to send lots of good energy your way.

You know the drill – anything but politics open thread.



{Eye Roll} Open Thread: Sanders’ Team Preps for His Fox News Town Hall

… by threatening (actual) Democrats, of course — with the assistance of the NYTimes:

One of the “digs” on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential campaign was that he was all about himself — insufficiently attuned to concerns about unity, quick to lash out at critics and exceptionally thin-skinned. Those concerns surfaced again in Democratic ranks when he hired a rabid social media hit man, David Sirota (who hadn’t initially disclosed his affiliation with the Sanders camp).

Now he has gone into full attack-and-destroy mode, targeting in a vitriolic letter the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank that has advanced, for example, a health-care plan that expands Medicare but is distinct from the Sanders Medicare-for-all plan, and CAP Action Fund, CAP’s political arm…
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In Other Breaking News (That the Networks Didn’t Carry…): There Was a Fire at the Al Aqsa Mosque Today Too!

While it isn’t surprising that the US news media didn’t cover it with seconds of breaking news, let alone hours of such coverage, there was also a fire today at the al Aqsa Mosque.

From Newsweek:

fire broke out at the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem just as flames ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Footage showing smoke and fire emerging from the roof of a structure known as the Marwani Prayer Room, or Solomon’s Stables, could be seen on social media. The Palestine News Agency, the official outlet of the Palestinian National Authority, cited a guard as saying Monday that “the fire broke out in the guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room, and the fire brigade of the Islamic Waqf handled the matter successfully.”

News of the incident at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and central to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, was largely overshadowed by a much larger blaze engulfing the Notre Dame Cathedral at the same time.

The Marwani Prayer Room is located underneath the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, which contains both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department, told Jordan’s Al-Mamlaka TV that the fire broke out in the courtyard and preliminary information suggested that it may have been caused by children tampering in the area.

The good news here is that no one appears to have been hurt and the damage was far, far less severe than that at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. While Newsweek has reported that the al Aqsa fire might have been caused by mischief, it is unclear what started it and there are reports of this being an electrical fire.

Apparently it is going to be one of those weeks!

Open thread.








Pulitzer Prizes Awarded Today

Easy to miss, given the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Here is the full list. Some highlights (my highlights, ymmv)

Public Service:  South Florida Sun Sentinel for exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Breaking News Reporting: Staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for immersive, compassionate coverage of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief.

Local Reporting: Staff of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., for a damning portrayal of the state’s discriminatory conviction system, including a Jim Crow-era law, that enabled Louisiana courts to send defendants to jail without jury consensus on the accused’s guilt.

Feature Writing: Hannah Dreier of ProPublica for a series of powerful, intimate narratives that followed Salvadoran immigrants on New York’s Long Island whose lives were shattered by a botched federal crackdown on the international criminal gang MS-13.

History: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight (Simon & Schuster) A breathtaking history that demonstrates the scope of Frederick Douglass’ influence through deep research on his writings, his intellectual evolution and his relationships.

Special Awards and Citations: Aretha Franklin for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.



Breaking News: The Stone Structure of the Cathedral of Notre Dame Has Been Saved

The BBC is reporting that:

BREAKING‘Structure saved’

Reuters news agency is quoting an official with the French firefighting team as saying: “We can now say that the structure of Notre-Dame has been saved from total destruction”.

AFP is also reporting that the main structure has been “saved and preserved”, citing an official.

This is much better news than I think many were expecting.

Open thread!








Open Thread: Notre Dame Has Suffered Before…

The Guardian‘s got a live feed here. Per that story, construction of the cathedral officially started in 1163, and wasn’t finished for almost 200 years. As I recall, it was a site of worship long before that — every time repairs have been done in the lower levels, prehistoric artifacts are unearthed. It’s a terrible loss, to France and the world, but the cathedral will be rebuilt again.

Not to go all Sally Sunshine, but even in the quick clips posted by Cheryl below, you can see there was work being done. My first thought was that some unfortunate worker took a shortcut with an acetylene torch… or, worse, ‘improperly disposed of smoking materials’, which seems to be the cause of half the multi-alarm fires in the Boston area.

Which won’t stop the rumors / conspiracy theories, of course…



Notre Dame Cathedral Is On Fire

And it looks bad.



Monday Afternoon Moment of Zen

You know you have always wanted to do this: