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 tools.balloon-juice.com

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Yet more on a wonderful treasure of humankind. This community is just amazing.

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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Stuff That Doesn’t Sukk



Per the Washington Post:

The likenesses of music legend Johnny Cash and civil rights icon Daisy Lee Gatson Bates will appear in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol in marble form, replacing two figures from the Civil War.

Last week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a measure to swap out the statues of individuals from the 19th century for more modern representations of the state.

The current statues of Uriah Milton Rose, an attorney who sided with the Confederacy, and James P. Clarke, a governor of the state who held racist beliefs, are not being removed because of their controversial past, but rather because of a decision by the state “to update the statues with representatives of our more recent history,” Hutchinson said in a weekly address. The statues of Rose and Clarke have been in the Capitol for nearly 100 years, he said…

Cash, the esteemed country music artist with crossover appeal, hailed from Arkansas. Some state lawmakers were opposed to using Cash to represent the state in Washington because of his troubled past, according to the Arkansas Times.

“Mr. Cash is a great musician . . . but the drugs, the alcohol, the women, that kind of thing . . . no, I can’t hold him up to my children as a model,” state Rep. Doug House (R) said.

But eventually the measure passed.

Bates played an integral role in the desegregation of schools in Arkansas, including guiding the African American children known as the Little Rock Nine as they attempted to enroll in an all-white school.

“The history of the civil rights struggle in Arkansas is an essential part of our story that says much about courage and who we are as a state. Daisy Bates was a key person in that story. She continues to inspire us,” Hutchinson said…

Late Night Open Thread: Depth of the GOP Field

Repubs don’t tell jokes, Ted; Repubs are jokes…

And finally… Click on the tweets below for the entire extremely NSFW thread:

A Quick Message Before Tomorrow’s Partial Release of the Mueller Report


That is all.

Open Thread: Another ‘Honor’ for Professor Krugman!

“Tongue so firmly in cheek as to protrude from the vulgar bodily orifice” (R.A. Lafferty)

Set Your Alarm – AG Barr To Hold Press Conference 9:30 Eastern Thursday Morning

Trump has also said he may do a press conference after. Obviously, if the report is released in the press conference, nobody will have had time to read it.

I am wondering if what is released will be the marked-up redacted 400 pages or a rewrite by Barr. Also if the text will be searchable or if it will be one of those inert pdfs.

REPOST – Readership Capture Open Thread: Seattle Meet-Up, First Weekend in May?

For those who don’t read Balloon Juice on the weekend…

From commentor PirateDan:

Since I will be in Seattle on business for two weeks, I thought it might be nice to see if anyone was interested in using that as an excuse to stage a Seattle Area meetup that Friday or Saturday (or even Sunday) (May 3rd, 4th or 5th).

I know bupkis about Seattle, so I would defer to the locals as to when and where, if there is a when and where. I will have a rental set of wheels so I can be lured where the whimsy takes the group, as long as there is parking…

What say you, Seattle jackals?

Meanwhile, In Russia

I subscribe to Paul Goble’s blog, “Window on Eurasia – New Series.” Goble worked in the United States State Department while the Soviet Union was breaking up. He worked particularly with Estonia and the other Baltic States, which had been made Republics of the Soviet Union after World War II, although that status had never been recognized by the United States and most other countries.

After he retired from the State Department, he taught in Estonian universities and wrote a summary of media, translated from Russian and Estonian, for a mailing list. That summary became the blog. He watches a variety of publications for separatist leanings, of which there are many in Russia. Russia contains many nationalities and many languages, peoples not always happy to be part of that larger state, but not able to break away.

It’s a different view of Russia than we get from Big Media, which focuses mainly on Vladimir Putin, not even on the politics among his government and the oligarchs. The focus on Putin tends to make him look all-powerful, but he is subject to a great many political currents and challenges from rivals. For now, he is in a relatively stable position. Here are a couple of stories that Goble has been following.

Continuing Anonymous Bomb Threats

For the past couple of years, anonymous bomb threats have been made by phone, letter, or email to many cities in Russia. The Russians have not been able to find the source of the bomb threats, which disrupt civil and governmental functions.

On a single day [in March] the Regnum news agency reports, anonymous and unconfirmed bomb threats were made against 661 facilities, forcing the evacuation of “almost 24,000 people,”  one of the largest one day totals ever there or in any other Russian city over the last three years (regnum.ru/news/polit/2597506.html).

“Among them,” the Russian news agency says, “were not only the customary trade centers or universities but also schools and hospitals and also administrative centers of districts, payment offices and business centers.” A day after these calls, an addition 17,000 people were evacuated. And this weekend, “this ‘process’ continued,” Regnum reports.

Targets included the Hermitage and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Threats have also been received in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.

Conflict Between Chechnya and Ingushetia

These two republics in the Caucasus have been in conflict for a decade or more. Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, has offered a number of challenges to Vladimir Putin. Chechen separatists fought Russian troops twice since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Putin supports Kadyrov, who negotiated a peace with Russia and has granted him a fair bit of independent action.

Recently, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the head of Ingushetia, negotiated land swaps with Kadyrov. The deal strongly favored Chechnya, and there have been Ingush protests about the swaps. Moscow has sent FSB and other police support to control the Ingush protests. They have arrested opposition leaders. However, the Ingush opposition seems to be solidifying and spreading. Ingushetia’s interior ministry is confiscating guns from the population.

Kadyrov is now unilaterally marking the Chechen border with Dagestan, causing concern there.

It’s not clear what will happen. Speculation is that Moscow will replace Yevkurov. Some Ingush have picketed in Red Square in Moscow, and the issue has been brought up in the Duma. Moscow has ordered an end to border talks between Chechnya and Dagestan to prevent protests like those in Ingushetia.

Other Bits

Russia has a single aircraft carrier, and it’s not in good condition. It may never return to sea.

Over the last 25 years, “no language in the world has disappeared as quickly as Russian.” Eighty million fewer people speak Russian now than did in 1991.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

Splitters! (Open Thread)

A new Atlantic piece lays out Bernie Sanders’ 2020 strategy, and guess what, you guys? We were right — it is about splitting the party in hopes of hanging onto the largest chunk:

The 2020 Race Is Going Just Like Bernie Sanders Wanted
The Vermont senator is starting to think he will not only win the Democratic nomination, but beat Trump and become president.

“There’s a three out of four chance we are not the nominee,” Faiz Shakir, the current campaign manager, said he tells the senator, “but that one in four chance is better than anyone else in the field.”

The Vermont senator’s pitch is a mix of idealism and a shouting anger about the system, but at its heart is a hard-nosed math: he’s the only candidate with a sizable chunk of the electorate that won’t waver, no matter what, so a field that keeps growing and splitting support keeps making it easier.

He’s counting on winning Iowa and New Hampshire, where he was already surprisingly strong in 2016, and hoping that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris will split the black electorate in South Carolina give him a path to slip through there, too. And then, they believe, they’ll easily win enough delegates to get him into contention at the convention. They say they don’t need him to get more than 30 percent to make that happen.

So he’s eagerly gotten into fights, like one over the weekend with the Center for American Progress over a video produced by an affiliated website speciously accusing him of profiting off his 2016 run, and then he’s fundraised by citing the fights as evidence of the resistance to the revolution he’s promising.

So, how does Sanders propose to reunite the Democratic electorate after fracturing it? Easy peasy!

Doubters suspect a Sanders nomination could be the one sure way to give Trump a second term, but Sanders’s thinking is that he could get the same Democratic and anti-Trump votes as other nominee, plus all the people who would only vote for him.

Now, I’m Team Broken Glass, but I’m unclear on how waging a scorched earth primary results in Democratic voters resetting their default to “generic Dem” after the race is wrapped up. (See 2016, presidential election of.) There’s a breathtaking arrogance in that assumption, but hey, it explains the lack of outreach to non-Sanders supporters in the party, otherwise known as “the majority of registered Democrats.”

2020 Exchange expectations

Insurers are currently preparing their initial rate filings for 2020 right now. Submissions will be due in a few weeks. So what should we expect?

I think we should expect stability as the rule set if fairly constant going from 2019 to 2020. Insurers know that the only major potential policy shock is an adverse ruling from the 5th Circuit and the Supreme Court in Texas v Azar. That is a low probability event. Silver loading is allowed and common. CSR payments are slowly working their way through the court system but there will be no final judgement to trigger regulatory intervention. Essential Health Benefits have not been touched except at the edges. This is a policy stable year. It is the first policy stable year since 2016 policy year pricing season.

For the 2017 policy year, actuaries were trying to adjust to the loss of federal reinsurance and the Presidential election.

For the 2018 policy year, actuaries were trying to price in the possibility of repeal and replace as well as CSR termination.

For the 2019 policy year, actuaries were trying to estimate if they had overpriced 2018 and estimate the impact of Silverloading as well as mandate repeal.

For 2020, there is clarity about the bigger questions from 2019 but no new policy curve balls.

I expect more individual market insurers to enter new markets and expand their footprints.

Here are the major pricing pressures for the actuaries to worry about.

  • General medical trend (5% to 10%)
  • Health Insurance tax (3%)
  • Changes in risk pool due to individual mandate repeal (0% to ???)
  • Changes in risk pool due to low cost plans being available (0% to -???%)
  • Short term limited duration and Association Health Plans (0% to ???)

This will vary by state.  States that publicize individual mandates will see healthier and bigger risk pools than states that either don’t have a state based individual mandate or have a state based individual mandate and absolutely no advertising about it.

States that have filed for 1332 waivers for reinsurance will see less premium pressure than states without reinsurance.

States that fully expand Medicaid to 138% Federal Poverty Level will see lower premium increases than states that have not expanded Medicaid.  This will be most evident in Utah, Idaho, Virginia and Maine as the roll-out ramps up.

The short version of this post is that 2020 is the first “normal” operational year for the ACA exchanges over the past several years.  We should see “normal” changes to premiums.

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Notre Dame Is Still There

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Late Night Open Thread: Bill Weld Steps Into the Arena

I’ll admit to a having a soft spot for ol’ Bill — and not just because, when he was Governor, he sent us a nice letter granting the required permission for an old friend to perform our wedding ceremony. He’s not gonna be the Republican nominee, but I might send his NH campaign a few bucks, because if Fox News is ever required to acknowledge Weld’s candidacy the Oval Office Squatter will burst a blood vessel flexing his little thumbs on twitter.

(Also, the Airport Diner featured in the clip does an excellent fried chicken livers & mashed potatoes plate — I try to eat there the once or twice a year when we go to Manchester for a Currier exhibit or a quilt show.)

Check out his comments on the Mueller report, at approximately 2:20 below:

[I]f Weld’s campaign did somehow get traction, it could present a headache to the Trump operation, and history has demonstrated the effect of such challenges.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush faced a troublesome run from the right from commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, who embarrassed the incumbent by winning 37 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary and fighting Bush until the national convention. The weakened president lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Similarly, President Gerald R. Ford had to fend off a Republican challenge from Ronald Reagan in 1976 before losing in the general election to Democrat Jimmy Carter…

Election 2020 Open Thread: Kamala Harris Will Be Hard to Beat

And if we can afford to lose any Senator, surely one from California should be relatively easy to replace with another Democrat!

Thanks to commentor LAMH for the following clips:

And, of course, Harris knows how retail politics works…

Sellers, who is from Denmark, S.C., will campaign with Harris and formally announce his support for the California Democrat during a Saturday town hall at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. Harris is returning to the state on Friday for a town hall at Winthrop University in Rock Hill.

Harris has made early investments in the state given its central role in her fight for the nomination. Ahead of her presidential announcement — and before she and top surrogates began holding events across the state — Harris attended a gala for the nation’s oldest black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Nearly 4 in 10 voters in the 2016 South Carolina Democratic presidential primary in the state were black women — and Harris has been working to lock down local endorsements, including from state Rep. Pat Henegan of Marlboro; Berkeley County Democratic Party Chair Melissa Watson; and Marguerite Willis of Florence, an attorney and a former gubernatorial candidate…

Harris’ weekend swing also includes headlining an event with the Orangeburg County Democratic Party and a meeting with faith and community leaders in Holly Hill. She then will attend Easter Sunday service at Bible Way Church in Columbia.

Gun Fondlers Open Thread: The Return of Ollie North

Politics in the ’80s sucked the first time — which idiots decided we needed a rerun? Oh, right: Republicans, fondly recalling their ‘Glory Days’!

Per the NYTimes:

The National Rifle Association sued one of its largest and most enduring contractors late last week and raised concerns about the contractor’s relationship to the association’s own president, Oliver North, in a stunning breach within the normally buttoned-up organization.

The suit was filed late Friday by the N.R.A. in Virginia, where it is based, against Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma ad firm that operates NRATV, the group’s incendiary online media arm. The suit asserts that Ackerman has concealed details from the N.R.A. about how the company is spending the roughly $40 million that it and its affiliates receive annually from the association.

The suit creates uncertainty about Mr. North’s future at the organization. And it leaves the future of NRATV in doubt, given the new acrimony in the Ackerman relationship.

Since Ackerman created NRATV in 2016, it has often been “perceived by the public as the voice of the N.R.A.,” according to the rifle association’s complaint. It has also taken on an apocalyptic tone, warning of race wars, calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and portraying the talking trains in the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” in Ku Klux Klan hoods.

The New York Times reported this year that two prominent N.R.A. board members were among those voicing alarm inside the association that NRATV was often straying beyond gun rights. The Times article also revealed that Ackerman had a previously undisclosed financial relationship with Mr. North…

The complaint details a peculiar standoff with Ackerman over Mr. North, who took over as president last year. The N.R.A. claims it was aware that Mr. North had a contract to act as the host of a web series for Ackerman, but that Ackerman has refused to provide a copy of the contract for nearly six months. Additionally, Mr. North’s counsel told the N.R.A. that “he could only disclose a copy of the contract” if Ackerman said he could, the suit says…

Is there a nepotism issue? Hey, as the Repub Majority Leader once said, “Remember, we’re all family here!”

… The lawsuit is further complicated by family ties. The N.R.A.’s outside lawyer, William A. Brewer III, is the son-in-law of Angus McQueen, a co-chief executive of Ackerman, and the brother-in-law of Revan McQueen, its chief executive. Ackerman called the relationships an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” and said some kind of family dispute “pervades the Brewer firm’s dealings with Ackerman McQueen.”…

As ever, when dealing with Republicans, the wise choice: Root for Injuries.