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Updated: 3 hours 51 min ago

A Quick Note on AG Barr’s Letter to Congress Regarding the Special Counsel’s Report to the Department of Justice

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 16:25

As everyone starts their spin, the President prepares to tweet or do a press gaggle with the traveling press pool as he flies back to DC, rending of garments, gnashing of teeth, victory laps, and celebrations depending on one’s political views and perspectives, I wanted to just make one quick point. The letter that Attorney General Barr sent to Congress today is his summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s top line findings, they are not actually Special Counsel Mueller’s report, nor are they the executive summary to that report. That does not mean that Attorney General Barr is misrepresenting the Special Counsel’s findings in his letter. It does mean that the Special Counsel, his personnel, the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and their personnel advising on this since Friday afternoon are the only people that have actually seen Special Counsel Mueller’s report.

Katie Brenner, who is The New York Times reporter assigned to the Department of Justice, makes this very clear. Attorney General Barr’s letter to Congress today was prepared without any consultation or input from Special Counsel Mueller. This is his interpretation of the Special Counsel’s report, which, again, has only been seen at this point by the Special Counsel, his personnel, the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and the personnel from the Office of Legal Counsel that advised them on preparing his letter to Congress.

Until the Special Counsel’s report is actually provided to Congress and made public, we have no way of actually knowing if the Attorney General’s interpretation of the report, or his and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s determination that obstruction of justice charges could not be brought based on what the Special Counsel’s Office had reported to them, are accurate. Especially as both the Attorney General, because of the unsolicited assessment he submitted to the White House Counsel regarding the accusations of obstruction of justice and the Deputy Attorney General’s involvement in providing justification for terminating FBI Director Comey, create serious conflicts of interest for them in making that final determination regarding whether the President obstructed justice. We also won’t know, until the report is made public, if the Special Counsel concluded, per footnote 1 on p. 2 of Barr’s letter, that there was no tacit or explicit conspiracy between the President, members of his campaign, and/or his other surrogates and/or employees with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election because he just couldn’t find any or enough substantiating evidence or because he was lied to and that evidence was destroyed and actions covered up to prevent him from finding it.

Attorney General Barr’s Letter is below.

Until or unless Special Counsel Mueller’s report is made public, we do not actually know much more than we knew two hours ago.

Open thread.

Categories: Politics

Breaking: Barr To Update On Mueller Report

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 15:32

Try to tamp down expectations. This is a long game. Stay focused on the important jobs of taking back the Senate, keeping the House and cleansing the White House from floor to ceiling.

I just don’t want anyone to dive off an emotional cliff because Barr trying to downplay any of this.

Open thread.


Categories: Politics

Road Trip

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 13:16

Cleaners were coming today to clean the house we are staying in, so mom and dad went to brunch with some friends, and Tammy and I loaded up the dogs and went to see the Angel Oak on Johns Island:

Johns Island looks like a real life Darnassus (a zone in warcraft)

Got to the Angel Oak, and it was closed and fenced in, so we did not get to get up close, but it is pretty impressive:

Having fun.

Categories: Politics

Authors In Our Midst/Writers Chatting Chapter 16

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 12:30

Welcome to another writers chat.  Today WereBear was gracious enough to write up her adventures in creating a print version of her book, Way of Cats:

Photo is of cover boy Reverend Jim posing with a proof copy. The book tells his story, too!

I got my paperback out on Amazon. And lived. Yes, it was often that tricky. But the result is excellent, so let me chop off some of that learning curve for you.

As a voracious reader who enjoys ebooks, I was surprised to discover that fully 80% of the market is still paper. Especially for non-fiction, like my cat advice book. The Amazon system does a good-looking trade paperback when it is supplied with the proper inputs.

Fortunately, Mr WereBear is an Art Director (like Marines, they never really leave) and made me an excellent cover. His advice is to download their template and pay close attention to all the margins of the different areas. The online preview software will give an error message if it finds anything amiss, and this let us iron out some bugs.

Amazon offers cover creator software for free, but my Art Director found them aesthetically offensive. They also all tend to look alike. I find myself avoiding such covers as signs of an amateur approach I’ve found reflected in the writing. In such cases, readers do judge a book by its cover! If you have no such art skills, fellow Jackal jacy is an excellent choice, with reasonable rates. I hired her for a quick, tricky, thing when the Art Director’s chronic illness flared up. She’s so responsive and easy to work with. I also love her covers.

Another hill to climb is the decision to get an ISBN or let Amazon handle it. Be aware that the free one from Amazon is only good within Amazon. We went to Bowker for the official US ISBN for my book, and then paid again to turn it into a bar code. Then paid for another bar code when I screwed up the math and we had to change the price of the book. Amazon does supply the printing costs, and I suggest using a spreadsheet to get the math right. :)

Another issue with printed copies is that someone will need to go through it, in Word or Pages, to create a table of contents. Both of these programs will let you highlight a chapter title, choose the format type “Chapter Title”, and then it will show up in an automatically updating Table of Contents.

Amazon lets you download a template for the inside, too, and I highly recommend it. There’s so many details that pasting chapters into the template will save time, because the margins, page numbers, and various formatting types have been set up for you. My Art Director said people shouldn’t mess with the basics too much.

In other words, don’t get jiggy with those fonts, people. You want the reader to enjoy your words, and not let the formatting get in the way.

Once everything is loaded into the Bookshelf, there’s the option to download a PDF version of the entire book. TAKE IT. It is set up in double page style, looking exactly as it is supposed to print, and I borrowed a different computer to read it like it was the first time, and I found stuff to fix.

You will find stuff to fix. Use PDF markup to track errors to fix in the word processing document. I found that seeing it this way “reset my head” and I was able to fix all kinds of things which had gotten by myself and two other people in previous run-throughs.

At the very end, before releasing it into the wild, there’s the option of ordering a proof copy or two. TAKE IT. We discovered that our photos (black and white and optimized) lost some definition on the cream paper we had chosen. We changed our settings to white paper, with a glossy cover, and it looks great. We’ve gotten compliments!

It’s a mental gear change that doesn’t come up with ebooks, where what we can do is limited by ebooks’ ability to change font, size, and flow on the device, and there’s software that does a lot of things, like Table of Contents, for you. But with readers wanting “something to hold in my hand”, all that extra effort adds up to extra readers.

That’s what we all want.

Some important links: Bowker    and    Alchemy Book Covers

Thanks, WereBear!

Time to chat.

I’m about ready to add my Havana trip adventures to the second book in my trilogy.  I’ve been having a rough time focusing on writing these days. Not exactly writer’s block, more like ennui. I love writing, but right now, I’d rather be outside walking the dogs, or doing almost anything else. I have a desire to slap myself and say “Snap out of it!” à  la Cher in Moonlighting and just get back to it. I suspect that might not be the best approach.

How do you handle dissatisfaction and/or a block in your writing? Where is everyone at on their projects? Any questions for WereBear?

Have at it! Be kind.


Categories: Politics

Open Thread: I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 11:46

For obvious reasons, this just about did me in:

Here’s a quick pic of mine. THEY DO NOT LIVE IN THE HOUSE, LOL.  But they have started laying eggs again, so you know spring is really here.

It is so difficult to get photos of them. They HATE when I aim a camera or phone at them. But here are few more.

I will tell you that a single duck is a recipe for trouble. They need to be in at least pairs. And for those wondering, a spoiled duck could very well live 8-10 years. I hope Kylie and Snowflake have as many as possible.

Open thread.

Categories: Politics

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Could Be Worse

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 05:49

The first of our daffodils have opened, near the south-facing front window that leaks heat. They’re not looking very prosperous — I suspect because it was a cold winter without the usual snow cover to protect them. But they’re showing defiantly yellow against the brown-grey winter detritus, and here north of Boston that means we can generally assume that Spring is due, give or take one last ‘surprise’ snowstorm.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have the courage to share (nor, I suspect, the Washington Post to publish) this entertaining but also terrifying photo-essay on the proud winter sportspersons of Michigan’s Upper Pennisula:

Yoopers, a name for residents of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, don’t just endure winter, they embrace it, creating plenty of outdoor fun during their months of never-ending cold and snow.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one of the coldest and snowiest regions in the United States. Snow can fall from October until May, producing 150- to 300-plus inches of snow a year. Much of the snow falls as lake-effect snow, which occurs quite frequently, particularly in areas near the southern shore of Lake Superior. It’s not uncommon for snow to fall during five or six months of the year.

So what’s their secret to surviving and embracing their long, cold winters? Yoopers have learned to dress for the weather and accept their frigid, frozen fate with a good attitude. Cold and snow is just a part of life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, much like heat and humidity is part of life in Florida.

And it’s possible a few of them may go just a little crazy during those long winter months, if the photos above and some that follow don’t make that obvious.

Devon Hains, a photographer who shoots surfers in the frigid water of Lake Superior during winter, took some amazing shots during the peak of the polar vortex last January when temperatures plummeted below zero in Michigan.

I asked Hains how the surfers keep warm in such cold temperatures? “They use a 9 mm thick wetsuit and keep a five gallon jug of hot water in their car nearby so if they ever experience an influx of cold water into their suit, most often in a boot, they can pour hot water into their suit and head back out,” he responded…

Devin Hains, Washington Post

I managed to live in Michigan for fifteen years without ever visiting the UP. In my defense, my first freshman roommate was a proud Yooper, and it took her as long to drive home to Iron Mountain (on the far western side) as it did for me to drive back to the Bronx, partially because the NYC-bound roads were in rather better condition.

Categories: Politics

Late-Night Movies Open Thread: Scammers All the Way Down (The Theranos Grift)

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 01:57

I haven’t paid much attention to the Theranos scandal, because marketing a literal version of the classic Magical Money Box con to Silicon valley ‘edgelords’ hardly seemed innovative. Of course they knew it was almost certainly fraudulent, but like the medieval barons buying papal indulgences, just getting the offer was a mark of social status (to these marks.). And they figured they could always leverage it regardless, by selling the deed to a more gullible investor, or one looking to them for a favor.

(Besides, most ‘educated’ Americans know as much about medicine / medical technology as a feudal lord knew about actual Catholic theology. Throw your money in the offertory basket at Easter and Christmas, and be proud you can afford to pay for a private pew!)

Getting Henry Fekkin’ Kissinger hooked into her grift, though — that’s genuine craftsmanship. Like having the Papal nucio put his personal seal on those prettily-illuminated parchments…

A review, from Matt Zoller Seitz at

Theranos sounds like a creature of myth, and in the end, that’s what the company was. Appealing to the common fear of having blood drawn invasively in large amounts, Holmes spun an enticing pitch about building a compact, portable analysis machine named after Thomas Edison and able to perform 200 different kinds of tests quickly, using a pinprick’s worth of blood. Holmes styled herself as a Mozart-caliber wunderkind. She started her company when she was barely old enough to drink. Within a matter of years, it employed 800 people and was valued at $10 billion.

Unfortunately, Holmes’ machine couldn’t do what she promised. She wasn’t a scientist, and her own experts had warned her that it was physically impossible to build the device she’d envisioned. …

Despite the copious use of drone shots, a hypnotic, science fiction-sounding score, and some of the best explanatory computer graphics you’ll ever see, “The Inventor” is ultimately more of an information delivery system than a fully satisfying work of cinema. The presence of one of documentary film’s great innovators, Errol Morris, in the fabric of the movie itself—as a corporate gun-for-hire, Morris did a promotional video for the company—can’t help but invite fantasies of what might’ve been. (The mind reels imagining an autobiographical movie about Morris, one of the great interrogators of war criminals and corrupt officials, coming to terms with his own paycheck-driven obliviousness to the incredible story sitting in front of his lens.) The movie never quite manages to crack the porcelain surface of Holmes’ facade, despite the fleeting glimpses of insecurity and fear that sometimes flash through her eerily unblinking blue eyes. And at roughly two hours, it starts to grow repetitious. There are only so many ways to say, “In the end, there was no substance, and she fooled us all.”

“The Inventor” also shies away from exploring the explosive gender politics at play. Whether this is due to lack of interest, a belief that a male filmmaker shouldn’t be fixating on them, or a feeling that Holmes deserves the same treatment as a male scam artist is impossible to guess. But the viewer still may come away wondering if a great storytelling opportunity was missed. Holmes was an object of fascination and inspiration for many women in tech. As such, her downfall is deeply depressing, not just because she was a dishonest person—maybe even a compulsive fabulist—but also because of the implication that some of the older, extremely powerful men who championed her might’ve been smitten as much by her youth and conventional good looks as by her sales pitch. Their ranks included Henry Kissinger, former president Bill Clinton, former vice president Joe Biden, former defense secretaries James Mattis and William Perry, senator Sam Nunn, Fox News Channel founder Rupert Murdoch, and former Secretary of State George Shultz, whose grandson Tyler Shultz worked for Theranos and eventually turned whistleblower. When things started imploding, Holmes hired attorney David Boies to intimidate people who threatened to expose her…

Categories: Politics

Having a Great Time at the Beach

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 21:14

Categories: Politics

Election 2020 Open Thread: Elizabeth Warren Is Not Lisa Simpson

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 19:01

Unless, of course, you’re the type of ‘edgy’ media village idiot who thinks Bart Simpson is the president America really needs:

Warren is bursting with what we might call “charisma” in male candidates: She has the folksy demeanor of Joe Biden, the ferocious conviction of Bernie Sanders, the deep intelligence of fellow law professor Barack Obama. But Warren is not a man, and so those traits are framed as liabilities, rather than strengths. According to the media, Warren is an uptight schoolmarm, a “wonky professor,” a scold, a wimpy Dukakis, a wooden John Kerry, or (worse) a nerdier Al Gore.

The criticism has hit her from the left and right. The far-right Daily Caller accused her of looking weird when she drank beer; on social media, conservatives spread vicious (and viciously ableist) rumors that Warren took antipsychotic drugs that treated “irritability caused by autism.” On the other end of the spectrum, Amber A’Lee Frost, the lone female co-host of the socialist podcast Chapo Trap House, wrote for The Baffler (and, when The Baffler retracted her article, for Jacobin) that Warren was “weak” and “not charismatic.” Frost deplored the “Type-A Tracy Flicks” who dared support “this Lisa Simpson of a dark-horse candidate.”…

There’s an element of gaslighting here: It only takes a reporter a few sources — and an op-ed columnist a single, fleeting judgment — to declare a candidate “unlikable.” After that label has been applied, any effort the candidate makes to win people over can be cast as “inauthentic.” Likability is in this way a self-reinforcing accusation, one which is amplified every time the candidate tries to tackle it. (Recall Hillary Clinton, who was asked about her “likability” at seemingly every debate or town hall for eight straight years — then furiously accused of pandering every time she made an effort to seem more “approachable.”)…

Warren is cast as a bloodless intellectual when she focuses on policy, a scolding lecturer when she leans into her skills as a rabble-rouser; either way, her intelligence is always too much and out of place. Her eloquence is framed, not as inspiring, but as “angry” and “hectoring.” Being an effective orator makes her “strident.” It’s not solely confined to the media, but reporters seem anxious to signal-boost anyone who complains: Anonymous male colleagues call her “irritating,” telling Vanity Fair that “she projects a ‘holier than thou’ attitude” and that “she has a moralizing to her.” That same quality in male candidates is hailed as moral clarity.

Warren is accused, in plain language, of being uppity — a woman who has the bad grace to be smarter than the men around her, without downplaying it to assuage their egos. But running in a presidential race is all about proving that you are smarter than the other guy. By demanding that Warren disguise her exceptional talents, we are asking her to lose. Thankfully, she’s not listening. She is a smart woman, after all.

Categories: Politics


Sat, 03/23/2019 - 12:01

Today the Affordable Care Act (ACA) turns nine.

It is still a BFD.

Open thread

Categories: Politics

Greetings from Isle of Palms

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 10:01

Some pictures from the ride down:

And of course a bonus shot of Sam:

The house we are staying in is my cousin Jody’s, and she has spectacular taste in furniture- lots of antiques everywhere. It’s weird- even though we are a block from the beach, we are surrounded by live oaks and foliage, but get a surprising amount of sun.

And the master bedroom is up internal stairs and you look down into the kitchen, dining room, and living room:

Also, Gerald is watching Thurston and Rosie and Steve, and I received this report:

Welcome to my world, Gerald.

Categories: Politics

Your Early-Morning Saturday Mueller Report Speculation Open Thread

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 04:47

I’ll put a no-politics Early Morning Open Thread up right after this — let’s see which one gets more comments!

Categories: Politics

Made it to South Carolina

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 20:11

All humans and animals accounted for.

Good thing there was no major news. I mean of fucking course the Mueller report dropped while I was on the road.

Categories: Politics

Breaking News: We May Have Breaking News

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 17:15

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, according to the Justice Department, bringing to an apparent close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years.

Mr. Barr will decide how much of the report to share with Congress and, by extension, the American public. The House voted unanimously in March on a nonbinding resolution to make public the report’s findings, an indication of the deep support within both parties to air whatever evidence prosecutors uncovered.

Since Mr. Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, his team has focused on how Russian operatives sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign, wittingly or unwittingly, cooperated with them. While the inquiry, started months earlier by the F.B.I., unearthed a far-ranging Russian influence operation, no public evidence has emerged that the president or his aides illegally assisted it.

Nonetheless, the damage to Mr. Trump and those in his circle has been extensive. A half-dozen former Trump aides have been indicted or convicted of crimes, mostly for lying to federal investigators or Congress. Others remain under investigation in cases that Mr. Mueller’s office handed off to federal prosecutors in New York and elsewhere. Dozens of Russian intelligence officers or citizens, along with three Russian companies, were charged in cases that are likely to languish in court because the defendants cannot be extradited to the United States.

Even though Mr. Mueller’s report is complete, some aspects of his inquiry remain active and may be overseen by the same prosecutors once they are reassigned to their old jobs within the Justice Department. For instance, recently filed court documents suggest that investigators are still examining why the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort turned over campaign polling data in 2016 to a Russian associate whom prosecutors said was tied to Russian intelligence.

Mr. Mueller looked extensively at whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice to protect himself or his associates. But despite months of negotiations, prosecutors were unable to personally interview the president.

Those who know Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, predicted a concise, legalistic report devoid of opinions — nothing like the 445-page treatise that Kenneth W. Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton, produced in 1998. Operating under a now-defunct statute that governed independent counsels, Mr. Starr had far more leeway than Mr. Mueller to set his own investigative boundaries and to render judgments.

The regulations that govern Mr. Mueller, who is under the supervision of the Justice Department, only require him to explain his decisions to either seek or decline to seek criminal charges in a confidential report to the attorney general. The attorney general is then required to notify the leadership of the House and Senate judiciary committees.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Barr promised to release as much information as possible, saying “the country needs a credible resolution of these issues.” But he may be reluctant to release the part of Mr. Mueller’s report that may be of most interest: who the special counsel declined to prosecute and why, especially if Mr. Trump is on that list.

As of now no one knows anything more than they did 10 minutes ago before Special Counsel Mueller delivered his report to the Attorney General. So we will have a long weekend of fevered and feverish speculation about what is or is not in the report. About what information will and will not be released from the report to Congress or the American people.


Updated at 5:30 PM EDT

Here is Attorney General Barr’s letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees:

Update at 5:56 PM EDT

Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer have responded to Attorney General Barr’s notification to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that Special Counsel Mueller has turned in his report:

Pelosi, Schumer Joint Statement On Special Counsel Mueller’s Report

MARCH 22, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer released the following statement regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Attorney General William Barr:

“Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress.  Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any ‘sneak preview’ of Special Counsel Mueller’s findings or evidence, and the White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public.

“The Special Counsel’s investigation focused on questions that go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections, and whether unlawful means were used to hinder that investigation.  The American people have a right to the truth.  The watchword is transparency.”

Open thread!

Categories: Politics

Kim dogwalks Trump

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 15:00

So, Trump just reversed his own Treasury Department’s sanctions on North Korea:

More at The Times.

To recap, you can be a top contender for the planet’s most horrifying despot, starve millions of people, feed relatives who’ve annoyed you to packs of dogs / execute them with anti-aircraft fire, develop nukes and bomb delivery systems that threaten millions of Americans and citizens of allied nations, etc. But if you compliment Trump’s absurd bouffant and write flowery letters addressing him as “Your Excellency,” it’s all good.

This sort of thing tends to flush out neocons, who will descend on news show panels to denounce the move with quavering jowls. That’ll be Trump’s cue to repeat the lie that he brought the U.S. back from the brink of all-out war with North Korea.

He’s going to get that Nobel Peace Prize, damn it, and if he has to give away U.S. leverage and force the world to accept that a lunatic can have the ability to incinerate millions of people anywhere in the world on a whim to obtain that prize, that’s okay with Trump. The fact that a guy follows Trump around with nuclear codes is a convincing argument that that particular bag is bereft of cats these days anyway.

Categories: Politics

Bracing for Impact (Open Thread)

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 12:15

Supposedly, there’s a lot of chatter in DC about Mueller wrapping up his report, possibly TODAY? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, here’s a nice fresh open thread for you to indulge in speculation about the report, mock those who indulge in speculation about the report, trash-talk each other over basketball, brag about your cooking skills, complain about the weather, discuss weekend plans, etc.

Categories: Politics

Idaho, Partial Medicaid Expansion and the 400% FPLers

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:15

Medicaid is primarily health insurance for poor people or very sick people.

Idaho’s legislature is monkeying around with the voter approved straight-up Medicaid expansion to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).


This will harm middle class Idaho families who need community rated, guaranteed issue insurance from the individual market.

How does that work if Medicaid is health insurance for poor people?

Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) work-arounds of Silverloading and differential morbidity matter.

Adrianna MacIntyre and I argued in a Health Affairs blog that full expansion has two paths to decreasing premiums for people earning over 400% FPL that are not available if a state elects and receives a waiver for a partial expansion to only 100% FPL.

 evidence found that Medicaid expansion improved the risk pool of state individual markets, suggesting that the population between 100 and 138 percent FPL is sicker and more expensive, on average, than other exchange enrollees. Insuring this cohort through Medicaid is associated with a seven to eleven percentage point decrease in individual market premiums. …

household incomes between 100 percent and 150 percent FPL, those that would be eligible for 94 percent AV silver plans.  This income bracket overlaps the Medicaid expansion income group significantly.  States that fully expand Medicaid end up with far fewer people in the most generous CSR bucket, as they have moved the 100-138 percent population to Medicaid

CSR 94 Enrollment by all APTC receiving enrollees 2018

Keeping a cohort that is more expensive than the rest of the ACA individual market risk pool in the risk pool raises premiums. Pulling the 100-138% population out of the ACA risk pool lowers market premiums as long as this group is more expensive than average. Furthermore while Idaho has engaged in the Silver Switcheroo, Silverloading increases premiums for folks who want a Silver plan and buy it on Exchange either because they don’t know if they will be just over or just under the subsidy cut-off point of 400% FPL or they can’t access an off-Exchange plan that meets their requirements.

Full Medicaid expansion reduces the premium pain of the middle class. Partial expansion continues the pricing pain for the middle class.

Categories: Politics

Cheap-O Design: Mirrored Door Conundrum

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:14

Y’all were so helpful last time I mentioned I was looking for budget design tips as I redecorate this ramshackle money pit. So, I thought I’d go to the well again, only this time for your advice on a specific design challenge.

Our master bedroom closet has these horrible mirrored sliding doors — two doors that are collectively 6 feet wide and 6 and 1/2 feet tall and trimmed in a hideous gold-like color. It’s not a particularly large room, and these awful mirrors dominate the space.

I can’t afford to replace the doors, but I’ve got to do something to cover the damned mirrors. I would have hated such a feature in the 80s, back when the doors were first installed by the previous occupants, because it’s fundamentally tacky, IMO. But 30-some years later, not only is it still tacky, such reflective capacity is positively bracing for the middle-aged. The mirrored doors must go!

And yet I can’t afford to replace them, so covering the mirrored surfaces is the only option. I’ve looked at opaque window film online, and there are patterns that mimic the look of glass tile and so forth. But since they’re made for windows, they’re designed to make the most of the light that will stream through. Barring a ceiling collapse, no light will be emanating from our closet.

Also, I’m not sure I want a patterned element to cover that much space in a small room. But a solid color seems a bit drab. I like the look of sliding screen doors, sorta like this:

That photo is from an HGTV episode about this very problem, but they have more of a budget to solve their design conundrums than I do. Honestly, I’m not sure I could pull off that look with, say, textured wall paper and fake wood strips. Thoughts, ideas or advice?

Otherwise, open thread!

Categories: Politics

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 05:00

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

If it’s Friday, it is (thankfully, again!) otmar!



Today, pictures from valued commenter otmar.

A few weeks back my job brought me to a meeting with the government of the city of Salzburg. The original City Hall in the old town is far too small for the current requirements, thus the Major and a good part of the local administration and even the elected representatives moved into Schloss Mirabell shortly after WW2.

After the meeting our hosts gave us a quick tour of the building.

(see also or

Regrettably, the fire from 1818 destroyed the majority of the baroque decoration. As Salzburg just had lost its independence, there was no motivation to rebuild the palace in its old splendor. Thus only a few elements are really remarkable.

One of those is the marble staircase, the “Angel Staircase”.

There are marble cherubs decorating the staircase.

This hall is mainly used for weddings. For whatever reason it has become really popular for foreigners as well: at high season the weddings are done organized close to the assembly line prinicple.

See also .

At the end of the tour we were shown the room where the city council (der Stadtsenat) meets. This body comprises the top 12 elected politicians and acts as the core governance body of the city.


The stove in the corner shows the Salzburg coat of arms, the castle with towers and the gate.

Looking out of the windows of the senate room, you can see the baroque gardens, the cathedral and the castle “Hohensalzburg”.

On the left side, the Kapuzinerberg is visible with its monastery in yellow.

This is very close to the most common postcard view of Salzburg.


Thank you so much otmar, 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

Friday Morning Open Thread: Sometimes Small Things Are Big Enough

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 04:49

Teresa Vargas, in the Washington Post:

When I wrote about Alice’s Kids earlier this month, I did so with the hope of showing what child poverty in this nation looks like on a day-to-day level.

Many of the requests for short-term financial help that come into the Virginia nonprofit are for seemingly small items that make significant differences for children whose families can’t afford them. Among the things asked for are shoes that fit, instruments that soothe and new glasses for children who have relied on broken ones.

The organization has paid for band trips that wouldn’t have been attended otherwise, birthday parties that wouldn’t have been held and, in one case this month, funeral clothes for a teenager who unexpectedly lost her mother.

Most of that financial help, I noted in that column, benefited children in the D.C. region and some as far as California and Texas. But now, because of you, even more children, in states that previously had no connection to the organization, will find help.

After the column was published, so many of you contacted Alice’s Kids, offering donations, and in some cases your time, that the small nonprofit run out of an Alexandria home office is expanding its reach to other cities across the country and anticipates helping more children this year than it has ever had the capacity to do in its eight-year history…

Fitzsimmons and his sister, Laura Fitzsimmons Peters, came up with the idea for the organization based on their own childhood. Their mother was forced to go on welfare after their father left the family, and they remembered “humiliating” moments of wearing donated clothes and shoes with holes. They also remembered how their mother, Alice, at times would clean houses for extra money and, on those occasions, treat them to something new.

The way the organization works is that requests are made by teachers, counselors and social workers, people who know best which school-age children are most in need. Once that request is approved, Alice’s Kids then sends an electronic gift certificate for the needed item that can be printed and handed to a parent or other adult to take that child shopping. That way the children never know they received help from strangers

Because that work doesn’t require much more than a computer, Fitzsimmons runs the organization from his home office.

His desk overlooks his backyard, and on a windowsill, directly in front of his laptop, sits a well-worn stuffed dog, with the name “Scrappy” sewn onto its side.

“It’s my reminder,” Fitzsimmons said when I asked him about it. His mother made it for him when he was 5 years old, and he once had to rescue it when all of the family’s belongings were tossed outside their home during an eviction. He lost a box of baseball cards that day because it started to rain, he recalled. “Scrappy keeps me grounded,” he said…

In a better world, such tiny bits of decency wouldn’t require handouts from strangers. But in this one, there are so many kids (and adults) who need help right now

Categories: Politics