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Updated: 1 hour 12 min ago

On the Road and In Your Backyard

1 hour 14 min ago

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!

Today, the grand finale from Le Comte!

Today, pictures from valued commenter Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes.

This was my favorite set of photos. We got to go to a sanctuary for elephants rescued from illegal logging operations – it is called Elephant Village, and they do amazing work on behalf of mistreated elephants.

I felt like it was a movie set

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

Each direction, the views were stunning

Elephants in Water

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

I was nervous, knowing I’d be riding one bareback!

Nothing More be Said

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

Who wouldn’t love that?

That’s me on the left

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

They don’t use saddles due to discomfort for the elephant. You ride astraddle the neck, have a few basic Laotian commands and keep your hands on her head.

It’s a long way down!

Our Group

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

Everybody did great, even in the river!

There was no escaping the views

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

Country Splendor

Babies!

Taken on 2018-01-21

Luang Prabang

These little guys were super friendly

 

Thank you so much Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes, do send us more when you can.

 

Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.

 

One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

Categories: Politics

Two-Bit Grifter Open Thread: Apparently Donny Jr Is Jealous of the Attention Jared’s Been Getting…

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 00:47

Lest we overlook, in the crush of events, the Trump family’s ongoing attempt to sell out the country for their own two-bit schemes…

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what has been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family’s real estate projects. But he’s also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi…

During the visit, the 40-year-old Trump Jr., executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will take a break from his private promotional tour to give an address on “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” at a global business summit on Friday evening, co-sponsored by the Economic Times newspaper. Modi will also speak at the summit…

“Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” said Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is frequently critical of the first family. “For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes.”

Critics have often complained of the high cost of Secret Service agents accompanying the Trump children on private business trips, straining the agency’s budget. The Trump Organization’s spokesman did not return requests for comment…

Later this week, Trump Jr. will travel to Mumbai to open the demo unit at the golden-facade Trump Tower being built by the family development firm of Mangal Prabhat Lodha, a state legislator in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. That relationship has also sparked concern about potential conflicts of interest. As with most of its foreign deals, the Trump family licenses its name to the projects, collecting hefty royalty fees but avoiding risky investments.

“Part of the deal was that Trump would come and do promotions every couple of years,” said an employee of the Lodha Group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media…

“Ideally we’d have preferred Ivanka,” he said, referring to the president’s elder daughter, who is now an adviser to her father. “She has a better public image. But it makes sense for Donald Trump Junior to do it.”

The Atlantic, “The Ethics of Donald Trump Jr’s Indian Adventure”:

“When these sons go around all over the world talking about, one, Trump business deals and, two, … apparently giving speeches on some United States government foreign policy, they are strongly suggesting a linkage between the two,” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer who is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, told me. “Somebody, somewhere is going to cross the line into suggesting a quid pro quo.”…

There are numerous Trump projects in India. There are buildings with the Trump name in Pune, a city of about 3 million people near Mumbai. Other projects are underway in Kolkota; Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi; and Mumbai. Prices for the luxury apartments range from $780,000 to $1.6 million. Properties are routinely sold for those amounts in India’s largest cities.

What all these projects have in common is that they are licensing agreements—not Trump construction projects. The Trump Organization’s Indian business partners use the Trump name in exchange for licensing fees. The Trump units reportedly sell at a 30 percent premium over the market rate.

“It’s all about status symbols,” Pankaj Bansal, the director of the real-estate firm M3M India, told CNN last month. “People want to be able to say: ‘Come, let’s go have a drink at the Trump Tower.’ That’s what we’re trying to tap into.”…

“If at dinner, he’s going to talk about United States government policy, that suggests a linkage between United States government official action and people buying condominiums [who] have an opportunity to influence United States government,” Painter said.

Trump Jr. was asked about this during his trip. He told CNBC-TV18 that the criticism the Trump Organization was profiting from the presidency was “nonsense.” “It’s sort of a shame,” he said. “Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that. … for doing the right thing.” Trump resigned leadership of the Trump Organization upon becoming president, and among other steps, the company announced that it won’t enter any new deals overseas while he is in office. Additionally, it said, domestic projects will be undertaken only after internal ethics approval. But Painter pointed out that the president himself “has a serious financial conflict of interest with his official duties.”….

Come to think about it, last time I can remember this level of blatant nepotistic influence-peddling was during the first Bush presidency, when runt of the litter son Neil was cruising around Asia, collecting ‘consulting fees’ with bonus ‘room service’ visits (“… The women, he said, simply knocked on the door of his hotel room, entered and had sex with him. He said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them…”) But that was a simpler age, and those naughty details didn’t come out until years later, when Neil’s longsuffering wife took him to divorce court. News moves more swiftly these days — and the Trump boys are even dumber than the young Bushes. So, silver lining, by this weekend there could be diverting infotainment stories about Donny Jr’s favorite kinks…

Vox is straightforward — “Donald Trump Jr.’s tour through India is staggeringly corrupt”:

Trump Jr.’s visit to India not only suggests that the Trump Organization wants to lean into its investments in India — it almost seems designed to invite corrupt behavior.

Experts say Junior is selling access to himself — and by proxy, to the president of the US — in exchange for buying his products. He knows that if a member of the Indian elite wants a chance to advocate for a policy that they’d like to see enacted, buying Trump property is a simple way to do it…

Unlike his sister Ivanka, Trump Jr. is not a formal member of the White House. He’s technically just a businessman running the Trump Organization on behalf of his father.

But by delivering a foreign policy speech, Trump Jr. is signaling to Indians that he’s in their country as a businessman and as a surrogate for the US government. If any wealthy Indians were on the fence about whether it was worth buying a condo just to talk to Trump Jr. about, say, trade policy, the fact that he’s delivering that speech should make it seem worthwhile. Trump Jr. is sending a clear signal that he wants to talk policy.

And since he is deliberately blurring the lines between his role as a businessman and as the son of the president, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that President Trump’s foreign policy could be for sale to the highest bidder…

Experts say the Trump brand is thriving in India in part because Trump himself appeals to large swaths of the population, both for his politics and for his perceived business acumen.

“[Trump is] popular on the right, especially among supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the current ruling party in India, who admire his Islamophobic rhetoric and blunt nationalism,” Aditya Dasgupta, a scholar of Indian politics and economics at the University of California Merced, told me…

Niranjan Sahoo, a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank in New Delhi, told me the Trump Organization is also reaping the benefits of taking a gamble on India’s market. He said that many other foreign companies have stayed away from India’s real estate market due to concerns about corruption and bureaucracy…

Categories: Politics

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 23:48

CNN is having a town hall about gun violence and the students are throwing rocks at Rubio and Dana Loesch. It’s pretty awesome.

Here are the dinner pics:

I miss my pets.

*** Update ***

This bed and breakfast comes with a complimentary dog.

Categories: Politics

Open Thread: Notes from the “President”‘s “Listening Session”

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 23:17
Categories: Politics

The Right To Teach And Bear Arms

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 21:28

Earlier today the President, while meeting with the survivors and surviving family members of school shootings, suggested that the solution was to arm the teachers.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that having more people armed at schools could prevent future mass shootings.

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he said.

After hearing the devastating stories from parents and young people affected by gun massacres at schools, Trump pointed to the example of Stoneman Douglas football coach Aaron Feis, who was reportedly killed by the alleged gunman last week after Feis threw himself in front of students to protect them from the gunfire.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives I suspect — but if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run, he would have shot and that would have been the end of it,” Trump said.

“Gun-free zone, to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us,” Trump said, wondering aloud about arming “20 percent of your teaching force.”

“You can’t have 100 security guards in Stoneman Douglas, that’s a big school,” he said. “It’s a massive school with a lot of acreage to cover, a lot of floor area, so that would be certainly a situation that is being discussed a lot by a lot of people.”

“You’d have a lot of people that’d be armed, that’d be ready, they are professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, left the Army, left the Air Force, and they are very adept at doing that. You’d have a lot of them and they would be spread evenly through the school.”

The President said he believed “that if these cowards knew that the school was well-guarded from the standpoint of having pretty much professionals with great training, I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with.”

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he said.

“So we’ll be doing the background checks, we’ll be doing a lot of different things, but we’ll certainly be looking at ideas like that.”

Given how the President positioned himself during his campaign regarding guns and the 2nd Amendment, that he received the earliest endorsement and largest amount of monetary support from the NRA, and his previous statements about armed self defense, this is not particularly surprising. Especially because it is an article of faith amongst the 2nd Amendment absolutist community that arming teachers in specific, and doing away with gun free zones, such as schools, in general, would significantly decrease violence and crime in the US.

Someone even took this picture from Israel and turned it into a factually inaccurate meme to support this argument.

The “RIP Children of Newtown” on the bottom is a nice touch. You can’t find bespoke smarm like that just anywhere.

There’s one problem with holding Israel out as an example of how to protect American students and schools: school teachers ARE NOT armed in Israeli schools! Except, perhaps, in some of the West Bank* settlements. And the picture in this meme isn’t of an Israeli school or an Israeli school teacher. Rather it is of a group of Israelis students on a field trip in Acre (aka Akko), Israel. And the woman fiddling with her purse strap with the rifle slung over her back is a paid security guard, not a teacher. They are required for all field trips and school outings in Israel.

Here are the details about the picture:

There is a picture going around the Internet that I have seen about a dozen times today that claims that Israeli teachers are packing heat. Well, are they? The answer is “NO.” There may be some exceptions in dangerous areas like the West Bank (where five percent of Israelis live), but in general, Israeli teachers are not walking around like it’s the Wild Wild West, strapped with a six shooter. No, our teachers are not focused on shooting, but educating. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t protect young students.

In the picture, the students are on an outing. While it appears that the teacher is holding a rifle, I have never seen such a thing in ten years of living here. Rest assured however, they are under armed protection. In most cases it is an armed guard or a soldier that will accompany a class, not the teacher. And my guess is that the woman with the gun is a security guard, not a teacher.

Secondly, they are not armed in the classroom. Is that really the image you want to imprint on the minds of six-year-olds? (That would be Hamas) On the other hand. I have never seen a school in Israel that was not fenced in. You must go through a locked gate that is guarded by an armed shomer, a security guard. He or she, on the other hand, is not concerned with educating, but protecting. He or she will ask you why you are there? “What is your child’s name?” “Show me your I.D. card.” And he or she would not let you bring a weapon inside.

These types of massacres don’t seem to happen here for other reasons as well. Despite the stereotype of Israel being a violent nation, it is a million times (slight exaggeration) easier to get a weapon in the US than it is in Israel. Gun Control laws are very strict here.

Israel’s approach to school security is not what the armed intelligentsia thinks it is (emphasis mine).

As we travelled the streets of Tel-Aviv, my mind turned to stories I’d heard of how there are soldiers securing every school and school bus in Israel. I quickly learned after observing a school from the street and making inquiries of our police escort that this was not the case. It is correct that they do indeed have armed security in every school and that an officer is very visible. All the security officers working in the schools are under the guidance of the Israel police, and the standards are high. Unannounced drills are frequent to test operational readiness.

Regarding school buses, there is no such thing in Israel. Any child not walking or being taken to school rides on public transportation. Now, very often there is an armed IDF soldier on the bus, yet this is happenstance and not by design. When there is a heavily attended school field trip, contracted IDF soldiers, police or armed security officers provide the escort for the group.

The Israel schools have assessed the threats and acted accordingly to address them. They have heavy fencing around them to prevent suicide bombers from entering their grounds and buildings, and fences are erected high enough so that anyone trying to lob some explosive device over the top would have a hard time accomplishing the act.

The Israeli “SRO” does not handle law enforcement functions as do many of us within our country. Their function is solely a preventive counter-terror measure to deter, engage if necessary and neutralize a threat.

By all accounts that I received, issues with Israeli school children committing acts that are considered crimes are very rare. Even when this does occur, these events are handled by the school’s headmaster. This is a considerable difference between our style and theirs because as much as we don’t enjoy saying it, American kids can and do commit criminal acts on campus that are sometimes horrendous. This is an unfortunate fact that we face daily as campus police or armed security in our schools. This is life in the United States.

Israel’s example has very little to tell anyone in the US about the 2nd Amendment or how we should understand the enumerated rights within it in a 21st Century context, much less the original late 18th Century one. In order to own a firearm in Israel one must be licensed and there is a strict limit on the amount of ammunition one can own. Quite simply, there is no enumerated right to a firearm, let alone to keep and bear arms in the Israeli Basic Laws (the Israeli constitution). This isn’t a knock on Israel, they just have a different approach so comparisons aren’t going to be particularly helpful.

In fact the Israeli firearm ownership reality is very different from that in the US.

Two types of people have guns in Israel: Soldiers and those with licensesMentally unstable people don’t have guns—and thus, don’t shoot people. And it is not as easy to steal a gun as it is in the US. When you are drafted you go through mental tests to see if there are any red flags. If so, you will be discharged or placed in an area where you would never see a rifle.

Only those with the rank of Captain or Lieutenant Colonel for at least two years can qualify to own a gun after the army. And those who do have guns are taught to guard them carefully. For soldiers who take their weapons home, it must be on their persons at all times or under lock and key.

Losing a weapon will get you a jail sentence, as my wife’s childhood friend, Moti, found out two decades ago. He left his gun in his car because he was just running into a mini-mart. He came back and the gun was gone. He spent six months in jail and God only knows where that gun ended up.

Hunting is not popular in Israel, so it would be rare to see someone with five or six hunting rifles and therefore, neither would their son, who spends ten hours a day playing mortal combat, have access to them.

Assault rifles are banned in Israel, except in areas where there is a security risk such as the West Bank.

Glynn County School District Chief of Police Rod Ellis provides support for this recounting of the facts about Israel and firearms.

There are a lot of ideas in the United States of what Israel is like. For example, I’d always heard that Israel is an armed society, and virtually everyone routinely carries a weapon. I learned quickly from one of our guides that although the private ownership of firearms in Israel is not forbidden, those not employed in public safety, security or in the military must show a legitimate need to possess a firearm and must have a permit. Examples include being a civilian, yet being a target of a specific credible threat, such as a retired member of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) or police officer, or a person serving as a reservist. With 20% of Israel’s budget going to defense and security, and 80% of the nation’s defense force being reservists, one can comfortably calculate that a significant portion of the public owns a firearm but don’t routinely carry one.

As I wrote way back in 2015, there is almost nothing any other society can teach the US about the 2nd Amendment, what it means, or how we should do about it. Not 1930s and 1940s Germany, not Israel in 2018. And not any other state and society in between. While Mexico and Guatemala also include a right to keep and bear arms in their constitutions, both of these states interpret and apply this enumerated right very differently than in the US. As a result the US is really the only state with an enumerated right pertaining to keeping and bearing arms in the national foundational law that also officially interprets that right broadly. In this the US is quite unique, exceptional if you will, in that it is the exception, and as such it is very, very difficult to draw effective comparisons from how any other state and society approaches these issues. There are, however, plenty of contrasts that could be made.

Finally, the President’s instructions to the DOJ to develop a regulation that bans bump stocks is most likely dead on arrival. The reason for this is that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) has repeatedly stated that they do not believe they have the authority under existing laws pertaining to firearms to impose such a restriction.

The head of the federal agency tasked with regulating firearms said Wednesday it does not have direct authority to regulate or ban bump stocks ― devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to function like machine guns ― but is looking into whether can reclassify them as firearms to regulate them under existing law.

The review is likely to take months, however, and it’s unclear whether the agency can impose restrictions on firearm accessories without aid from Congress.

“If that wasn’t a possibility, in the end, we wouldn’t initiate the process,” ATF Acting Director Thomas Brandon told lawmakers at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

But Brandon conceded it was equally possible for the agency to complete its monthslong review, which includes a 30-day public comment period, and come to the conclusion that it cannot regulate the devices without an update in federal law. The admission prompted one Republican senator to suggest a legislative solution instead.

Stay frosty!

Open thread!

* Tour groups that go to the West Bank are required to have an armed security guard with them, as well as a properly trained and certified medic. Often they are the same person.

Upadated at 8:35 PM EST:

There is a President Trump tweet for everything!

Categories: Politics

Fuck you

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 20:54

Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is a worthless piece of shit:

“It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats, but the media doesn’t talk about that either.”

The Parkland shooter was photographed taped doing target practice in a MAGA cap, by the way.

Lets send Claudia Tenney packing in November. Donate here to the eventual Democratic nominee in her district (NY-22):

Goal Thermometer

Categories: Politics

Kids these days

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 20:51


The kids will be alright.

———————————————————————

My first presidential vote was for Al Gore.

My first presidential donation was for Howard Dean.

My first presidential win was for Obama.

I’ve been pretty happy with my choices and my votes.  And the losses have been clusterfucks.

I don’t think that I am too unusual for the people of my generation and the generation that is younger than me.

 

Everyone my age and younger has seen Republican presidents lead us into dumb wars, insult, bully and harass our friends and family members  of color and/or non-hetero-cis gender identity and loot our futures while exacerbating large, long term climate problems.  We’ve seen that.  We’ve also seen the opposite.

Kids who are entering high school will have their political memories formed by the contrast of Trump and Obama.  Just think about that for a while.

The kids are all right; it is our job as old and not so old fogies to give them the time and space to grow.

Categories: Politics

Lonesome, Ornery, and Mean

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 19:34

When I feed Steve, he eats on an elevated platform in the bathroom off the kitchen with the door closed, since if he does not, Thurston will come in, interrupt him, and eat his food. This morning, he started his shit at like 5:30 am, and I completely forgot about him so he was locked in the bathroom until about 11 am this morning. This is how I found him:

I’m down in Morgantown for the night since I have my ultrasound procedure tomorrow morning, and even though I could have it done closer to me, but I would rather do it in network blah blah blah this is not going to become a David Anderson post because I don’t know wtf I am talking about. At any rate, I am not allowed to eat, drink, or so much as chew gum before the procedure, so I decided to stay at Tammy and Brian’s so I don’t have to drive while miserable and uncaffeinated in the morning.

We’re making a bid dinner (chicken cutlets with a jaeger sauce, cauliflower and mushroom risotto, and while it doesn’t really go with it, I was craving it, so a heart of palm salad with avocado, feta, tomaotes, etc.

I hope we remember to take pictures this time.

Categories: Politics

Gun Safety Open Thread: Nudging the Persuadable

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 18:11


.

Reasonable argument, with a side of humor — “F*ck You, I Like My Guns”:

I always find it interesting that when I was in the Army, and part of my job was to be incredibly proficient with this exact weapon, I never carried one at any point in garrison other than at the range. Our rifles lived in the arms room, cleaned and oiled, ready for the next range day or deployment. We didn’t carry them around just because we liked them. We didn’t bluster on about barracks defense and our second amendment rights. We tucked our rifles away in the arms room until the next time we needed them, just as it had been done since the Army’s inception. The military police protected us from threats in garrison. They had 9 mm Berettas to carry. They were the only soldiers who carry weapons in garrison. We trusted them to protect us, and they delivered. With notably rare exceptions, this system has worked well. There are fewer shootings on Army posts than in society in general, probably because soldiers are actively discouraged from walking around with rifles, despite being impeccably well trained with them. Perchance, we could have the largely untrained civilian population take a page from that book?

I understand that people want to be able to own guns. That’s ok. We just need to really think about how we’re managing this. Yes, we have to manage it, just as we manage car ownership. People have to get a license to operate a car, and if you operate a car without a license, you’re going to get in trouble for that. We manage all things in society that can pose a danger to other people by their misuse. In addition to cars, we manage drugs, alcohol, exotic animals (there are certain zip codes where you can’t own Serval cats, for example), and fireworks, among other things. We restrict what types of businesses can operate in which zones of the city or county. We have a whole system of permitting for just about any activity a person wants to conduct since those activities could affect others, and we realize, as a society, that we need to try to minimize the risk to other people that comes from the chosen activities of those around them in which they have no say. Gun ownership is the one thing our country collectively refuses to manage, and the result is a lot of dead people.

Let’s be honest. You just want a cool toy, and for the vast majority of people, that’s all an AR-15 is. It’s something fun to take to the range and put some really wicked holes in a piece of paper. Good for you. I know how enjoyable that is. I’m sure for a certain percentage of people, they might not kill anyone driving a Formula One car down the freeway, or owning a Cheetah as a pet, or setting off professional grade fireworks without a permit. Some people are good with this stuff, and some people are lucky, but those cases don’t negate the overall rule. Military style rifles have been the choice du jour in the incidents that have made our country the mass shootings capitol of the world. Formula One cars aren’t good for commuting. Cheetahs are bitey. Professional grade fireworks will probably take your hand off. All but one of these are common sense to the average American. Let’s fix that. Be honest, you don’t need that AR-15. Nobody does. Society needs them gone, no matter how good you may be with yours. Kids are dying, and it’s time to stop fucking around.

.

Categories: Politics

Well, I’m On My Way I Don’t Know Where I’m Going

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:00

Let me say up front that I like Junius Rodriguez. He is the only viable Democrat running against unrepentant ZEGS fellator Darin LaHood, our current rep. And Junius works hard. Since last summer, he’s been going to every rubber-chicken dinner that can draw five cranky county Democrats between here and the Mississippi. He just posted that he’ll be attending fifty events in the next thirty days. He’s run before, knows how to do it, and has a relationship with all the local Dems. Since he’s a history prof at Reagan’s alma mater, Eureka College, it would be sweet if he could oust our local political princeling. (Darin is the son of beloved bipartisanship bemoaner, former representative, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood).

But when I read stuff like this:

and this…

… my enthusiasm deflates.

IL-18 is very red. It is a weird-looking district that includes about half of my town and some, but not all, of Peoria and Springfield. Republican candidates carried the district by around fifty points in the last three elections. I’m no gerrymanderologist, but it’s always seemed to me that the district was designed to keep it Republican, in spite of the fact that Democrats drew it up in 2010.

I’m not saying that Junius should go all Dennis Kucinich. That would be absurd and, I’m pretty sure, not his style anyway. Still, I feel like he is trying to peel off a few Republican votes with the kind of posturing above. Rather than make Sensible Centrist his brand, I would prefer he run as an out-and-proud Democrat. Tell us why Democrats are great, Junius! Not how you can feel like a conservative, but not vote for the Republican. All that being said, I will give him as much money and time as my resources allow.

In the marketplace of elections, however, there are more inspiring candidates running for local and–should Daniel Biss beat billionaire chickenheart J.B. Pritzker in the upcoming gubernatorial primary–even statewide office. And I think it’s natural for people, even if they are pragmatically inclined, to give just a little bit more to campaigns that dare to articulate something more ambitious.

But hey! At least we’re fielding someone here. We need to field someone everywhere.  So let’s heap more onto the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer

Categories: Politics

Open Thread

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:03

I see Tamara is all positive this morning so here’s an open thread for people who woke up with kitty litter in their bed because someone (FUCKING THURSTON) decided to bring some treats to bed with him.

Categories: Politics

Meet-Up Proposal – St. Louis, Wednesday, Feb. 28?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:59

Front-paging a comment from peripatetic commentor Steve in the ATL:

Apropos of nothing:

Anyone interested in a St. Louis meet up next Wednesday evening?

Leave a comment if you’re interested. Lurkers, friends and significant or insignificant others always welcome!

Categories: Politics

Watershed Moments

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:24

Excellent article over at the Washington Monthly…ignore me and go read it.

But these young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have jolted us out of that script and this is the anthem that keeps playing in my head as I read about the impact they’re having.

So far these young people have done countless interviews, travelled to Tallahassee today to push for more gun laws, will participate in a CNN town hall tomorrow, and are busy planning a nationwide “March For Our Lives” on March 24th.

They are also inspiring others.

If you need a boost, read the whole thing.

Whenever anyone gets down about the political climate around my house, I always come back with a reminder that we’ve been witnessing watershed moments for almost a decade now. And now they are happening at a dizzying rate.

Just a few examples:

Barack Obama for president? Are you kidding me? I thought, no way, this will never happen. Bad Horse kept insisting this WAS happening. Then I heard Obama speak and I was on board. And you know what I did? I changed my registration from independent to Democrat, I volunteered, I knock on doors (I sucked at that btw). I got off my ass for a candidate. I’d never done anything but give $$ before.  As it turns out…so did a whole lot of other people.  And then…then…the most wonderful thing happened, we got tickets for the convention and I stood in a stadium filled with people that I would never expect. And as corny as it sounds, everyone of them was filled with hope and that hope carried Barack Obama to the presidency. Watershed.

Gay Marriage.  When the wave began, I thought, this is not the time, the climate is not going to sustain this. Don’t get me wrong, I was all for it, but now? It didn’t seem possible – maybe because Prop 2 felt so fresh,  a horrible, dark stain on Colorado history (IMO).  Well, I wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was the moment.  State by state, ballot by ballot, court decision by court decision.  Boom! Watershed.

Black Lives Matter:  If it makes you uncomfortable, then it’s working. If Fox and the right wing are turning it into a threat and filled with villains, then you know it’s making a difference. As powerful as BLM has been, I believe we have only seen the beginnings of this wave of change.

There’s been more, but let’s jump ahead to the present, where suddenly we are getting these moments in fast and furious succession.

The Women’s March 2017: So when the rumblings started, this time I was ready. I could feel the righteous anger, the power, the can-do spirit. This time I was not surprised when DC filled with women, children and men in cute pink pussy hats, marching in support of one another and against the groper-in-chief.  What did surprise me? EVERY. WHERE. ELSE. Blue states, purple states, red states all had large marches. A wave was growing and it wasn’t going to stop.

Anti-White Supremacist/Anti-Nazi Counter Marches:  I can’t even believe these have to be – but the moment here is the consequences for these racists who feel safe removing their hoods and coming out in the open. They are learning their beliefs are not normal or acceptable – especially to their employers. bye-bye.

#MeToo Time’s Up: This is so fresh, we are only seeing the tip of what this will accomplish. But the number of powerful men who have had to step down, been fired and publicly shamed…I’m not sure anyone could have seen that coming.  Still in in its infancy, there have been some questionable actions, but I believe as it matures, it will become a place for women to find support as they move into more positions of power, run for office and juggle careers and family.

And let’s not forget Women’s March 2018  – holy cow. It. Happened. Again!

And that brings us to today. And our young people who HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH.

I don’t even know where to begin – I was here for Columbine. I walked around in a fog for several weeks, not knowing what to do to make this stop. I was shouted down by friends and family when I suggested any type of gun regulation. Then it kept happening. Again. And again.

By the time the Sandy Hook massacre took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults and NOTHING happened, that was it, I had lost hope. This was just how we were going to live from now on…sending our children out to be slaughtered in the name of the second amendment.

Well, again (as you can see from many examples from above) I was wrong. And I support these young people, many who will soon have the power of the vote, to facilitate change in anyway they feel is effective. They are going to be vilified and we need to continue to stand with them. March 24, mark it on your calendar. I believe it will be another watershed moment.

We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice. Justice will not fail, though wickedness appears strong, and has on its side the armies and thrones of power, the riches and the glory of the world, and though poor men crouch down in despair. Justice will not fail and perish out from the world of men, nor will what is really wrong and contrary to God’s real law of justice continually endure. – Unitarian Minister Theodore Parker

Giving us Martin Luther King’s succinct quote:

MLK

I know I’ve missed moments above – feel free to castigate me in the comments.

Open thread.

Categories: Politics

The individual market in 2019

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:59

The individual mandate is gone in 2019. The short duration plan regulations dropped yesterday. Those plans will allow for underwriting, medical exclusions and plans that offer don’t offer the full array of required benefits. What will the 2019 individual market look like?

Right now for someone who has to either buy their insurance on the individual market or go uninsured, there are a couple of broad pathways. They can buy a subsidized or unsubsidized ACA plan, they can participate in a Health Sharing Ministry, get on a three month short term plan or go uninsured.

Next year, those options change significantly. The individual mandate repeal and the proliferation of 364 day underwritten plans will pull a lot of good risk out of the current Qualified Health Plan (QHP) universe. This has major distributional consequences.

People who qualify for significant Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTC) and CSR assistance will most likely stay in the ACA market. There will be some leakage of healthier individuals who can pass medical underwriting and who receive some but not large APTC credits move to the non-regulated individual market. Insurers will have strong incentives to aggressively strategize their product offerings to maximize Silver Gaps and potential CSR based Silver-Loads to lower the absolute post-subsidy prices; this will minimize the loss of healthy subsidized buyers to lightly regulated plans.

Healthy people and women who do not intend to get pregnant next year and who make too much for APTC or otherwise don’t qualify for it can buy much cheaper coverage. Some of the coverage is good coverage, some is appropriate for the hit by a meteor/congrats you have cancer situations and some is junk. These individuals have had this choice to some degree already today as there are the Health Sharing Ministries but the options will be much broader and more aggressively sold. Brokers will push these plans as the brokers are highly likely to get good commissions on these products.

So far we’ve talked about either subsidized individuals or healthy individuals. They’ll be okay or better off. The big problem are people who aren’t healthy and who make too much to qualify for the ACA subsidy pool. They are in trouble.

The average ACA premium will increase because the lack of an individual mandate will draw out some of the healthier and cheaper individuals from paying premiums. The average ACA premium will also increase as the underwritten plans can offer cheaper/better deals to the healthiest/youngest people who would still want to be insured even without the mandate. For subsidized buyers, they don’t feel the incremental rate increases. Non-subsidized buyers are not protected.

For non-subsidy eligible people with moderate risk, they might be able to get an underwritten plan at an up-rated premium that may be cheaper than an ACA plan without any subsidies. But for people with low risk but high guaranteed expenses such as individuals with metastatic cancers, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis, no underwritten plan will touch them with a thirty foot pole. Their application would be burned on the spot and the ashes placed on a rocket that will crash into the sun.

These individuals are being left out of what will be effectively a well subsidized and well funded high risk ACA pool and they are underwritten out of the market for healthy, non-subsidized individuals. These are the people who are at the most long run risk as the off-Exchange market segment will get proportionally far sicker and thus the entire ACA risk pool will get sicker, holding everything else constant, and thus more expensive. We will see aggressive financial engineering to get chronically ill individuals into the subsidized income thresholds.

Insurers know how to price sick risk pools as long as they know to expect sick risk pools. Single insurer regions and states are probably more likely to increase as the risk of getting an unexpectedly sick risk pool declines if there is no competitor cherry picking the relatively healthy.

Smart insurers with years of claims data will be able to aggressively self-cherry pick low cost members who are likely to drop coverage and push them into lower premium underwritten plans.

The 2019 individual market will have four parts:

  • The Uninsured
  • The Underwritten
  • The Subsidized
  • The SOL

This is a reprise of a previous post

Categories: Politics

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 06:00

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!

 

Today, pictures from valued commenter Ragbatz.

Thanks for the opportunity to share part of my world. In the summer of 2017, that world centered on a landmark of 19th century industrial architecture — a mill on the River Marne in the town of Noisiel, France.

The Menier Chocolate Factory, also know as Le Moulin Saulnier, was designed by Jules Saulnier and completed in 1872. It has a strong claim to having been the first metal skeleton building; it predates Chicago’s steel-skeleton skyscrapers by more than a dozen years. Most of the metal structure is visible on the surface of the building, including the diagonal cross-bracing. The visible metal is load-bearing; the brick and ceramic “lozenges” that fills in the lattice created by the diagonals are not structural at all, merely decorative. But what decoration they are, with images, ornaments, and motifs derived from various parts of the cocoa plant and the proud “M” of the Menier company.

Ate the lower levels of the building interior, are some remains of turbine driven machinery that channeled the power of the river into the production of chocolate.

Filed by this mill and other innovations, Menier was the world’s largest manufacturer of chocolate at the time of the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago. There, a man who was then in the caramel business, got an idea. His name was Milton Snavely Hershey.

Le Moulin Saunier, main entrance

This is the main entrance to Le Moulin. Around the time of my first visit to the Mill, I read a description of the facade of Notre-Dame cathedral that described it as a model of harmony and clarity. No less true of this building.

Structure and ornament 1

Iron structural lattice holding “lozenges” or brick and ceramic with cocoa themes. Note cocoa bud above the windows.

View from upstream

The technology to make long beams as strong as the Mill’s designs required was fairly new in 1869 when construction began.

Structure and ornament 2

Cocoa flower ringed by buds.

Clock element

Cocoa pod hour markers! The decoration was relentless.

Montage of roof details

Relentless, I tell you. More pods, more flowers, more lozenge shapes, and a cocoa plant lightning rod.

Mmmm, I wish I could go there right now and explore and then carry on exploring nearby areas of interest – thank you so much!

Thank you so much Ragbatz, do send us more when you can.

 

Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.

 

One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

Categories: Politics

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: WINNING!

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 05:54


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Other Democrats are getting ambitious — more power to us!

Categories: Politics

Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: It’d Be More Entertaining If This Goniff Wasn’t Squatting in the Oval Office

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 02:05

Phillip Elliott, for Time, “Inside Donald Trump’s Twitter-Fueled Weekend Meltdown”:

White House aides prayed for rain. Inclement weather would mean President Donald Trump would have to take the motorcade to the waiting plane to Florida. That would mean he couldn’t take the helicopter from the South Lawn to Joint Base Andrews, which meant he wouldn’t walk in front of a few dozen waiting reporters who would of course ask him about Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 elections.

“If anyone knows a rain dance,” a senior White House official said in the hallway around midday Friday. She didn’t finish the sentence…

This is the daily reality of White House staff members at this moment. Their best hope of averting a crisis — of the legal, political, foreign policy, public relations and familial varieties — is hoping the weather report scuttles an airlift from the South Lawn. In conversations with more than a dozen White House officials and outside advisers, they describe the mood as being grim. Many inside are looking for a way out. Roughly half of them compared it to what they felt when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last May. None would speak for attribution lest they be seen as publicly disloyal to the President…

Even by Trumpian standards, the President’s weekend in Florida was a class apart. In angry, sometimes profane and occasionally misspelled outbursts, the President gave the world a glimpse into what was going through his head at a moment certain to draw scrutiny for generations. It also brought to light what it’s like to work for this Leader of the Free World who is increasingly feeling isolated.

Already, the week had been a bad one. There were rumors, then reports, that a top deputy on the Trump campaign was ready to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe. A school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 dead not far from the President’s private Mar a Lago club. The President scheduled a Friday evening visit to the community, although White House officials worried that it was a fraught situation for what most aides recognize is figure who doesn’t exactly exude compassion in public…

The President is increasingly angered with his personal and political situations and blames those around him: White House chief of staff John Kelly for the Porter drama; the FBI, even though law enforcement officials have been sharing with the White House lawyers their concerns about the hires; leaders in Congress for not being yes-men; the Attorney General for letting the special counsel exist in the first place; his lawyers for not being more careful with hush money. Ivanka Trump and Kushner have, according to reports, started shopping for a replacement for Kelly — a suggestion Vice President Mike Pence was sent out to deny last week.

Trump’s always formidable temper has been shorter-fused than usual, his willingness to listen less than normal. Some White House officials have stopped speaking up in meetings, knowing it won’t make any difference because Trump is counting on a shrinking circle of those he trusts. Nothing anyone on the National Security Council staff, in the counsel’s office or from across government can outweigh what the President hears from conservatives on cable television or from his social media maven and communications adviser…

The problems were only getting started. The President changed his Twitter picture to one of him flashing a smile and thumbs-up — taken while the President was visiting a hospital where victims of the school shooting were recovering. Other social media accounts featured a grinning President standing next to a young woman in a hospital bed and her medical equipment…

Categories: Politics

Welcome To My World!

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 22:37

We’ve all had fun over the past several years about the zany acronyms that the US military uses in place of real words as an almost foreign language. And yes, it is entirely possible to have an entire conversation, even a lengthy one, solely in military acronym. One of the more interesting portions of US military subculture is really, really bad powerpoint slides and slide decks. This ranges from just whacky topics for briefings, or rather legitimate topics for briefings that become whacky and surreal because of who built the slides, all the way to just slides that make so little sense I’m not sure anyone can explain them. People’s exhibit A of this last type is this jewel from International Security Assistance Force – Afghanistan:

For the record: I did not make that slide. I have no idea who did, but since it was when GEN McChrystal was running ISAF, it most likely came from LTG Flynn’s shop. And I actually understand all of the stuff on the slide and it still makes my head hurt and is an abomination.

Anyhow, the Internet Archive has gone through and created an online archive for all the worst examples of the genre.

The Internet Archive celebrated its 20th anniversary with a variety of special events and collections, including the cleverly named Military Industrial Powerpoint Complex, an archive of US military bureaucratic slide-decks that are as cringey as they are hideous.

You can celebrate these marvels of the military bureaucratic communications system with a special “battledecks” Powerpoint karaoke event at the Internet Archive in San Francisco on March 6: contestants download a random military powerpoint and present it sight unseen, improvising the accompanying explanation.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can peruse the archive yourself from the comfort of your bunker; or follow Motherboard’s Matthew Gault on his guided tour of offensive, outdated, boring, and weird highlights of the collection.

Here’s the link. Once you’re done reviewing them all you can be awarded your tab:

I haven’t found any of mine yet, or any of my colleagues, but if I do, I’ll do a follow on post so you all can point and laugh.

Open thread!

Categories: Politics

Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Will Their Most Valuable Fan Get A Comp Sub?

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:06

Can Trump insist that every WiFi-enabled device in the White House pay for a sub on the government’s dime?


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On the other hand, there’s one WH occupant who’s apparently about to have lots of free time to stream:

Given Kushner’s debts, maybe he can set up a YouTube channel with his reactions live from the West Wing — I hear that’s a cutting-edge monetization platform these days…

Categories: Politics

Say my name, say my name

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:04

The troll farms run by Putin in St. Petersburg don’t scare me nearly as much as the troll farm run by James Bennet (new op-ed page editor of the Times) in New York. The trouble is there is a big audience for hot takes about bourgeois bullshit masquerading as thoughtful analysis of important issues. It’s not just the Times — I stopped reading the New Yorker when the writers stopped trying to sound like A. J. Liebling and started trying to sound like Adam Gopnik. But we don’t have to be part of that audience. I check in with K-Thug and Charles Blow, and yes to hate read Bobo from time to time, but even I, glutton for punishment that I am, don’t read the opinion pages at the Times much at all anymore.

Why not give our clicks to someone we respect instead? One young writer I’ve come to like a great deal is Catherine Rampell at WaPo. She’s the opinion writer I read the most after Krugman. Today, she nails it, on naming who it is that is behind the dysfunction in Washington:

Dysfunctional Washington refuses to work out its differences to solve problems that matter to Americans.

So say pundits and policy activists, perhaps hoping that diffuse criticism, rather than finger-pointing, will yield a government willing to govern.

But the problem isn’t “Washington.” It isn’t “Congress,” either. The problem is elected officials from a single political party: the GOP.

Read the whole thing. I recommend reading everything Rampell writes and following her on Twitter etc.

Categories: Politics