Unhinged (Open Thread)

Trump did a phone interview with a Fox News friendly this morning. It did not go well.

In the first clip below, Trump accuses Robert Mueller of a “crime,” claiming the special counsel “terminated” texts and/or emails between “stupid lovers” Strzok and Page.* Then he bellows about the content of the “illegally terminated” texts/emails, thus indicating that he somehow read them despite their being allegedly lost to posterity. It’s just incoherent.

The second clip is even worse since it pertains to a real issue rather than a demented fantasy: the Trump concentration camps at the border. Trump indicates he may not sign the funding bill from the House, underscoring yet again his intent to use abused children and their desperate families as pawns to get wall funding.

He also repeats the lie about the family separation policy (100% Trump’s) in short-hand fashion since, on Fox News, it’s an article of faith that President Obama created family separation and Trump is the hero who’s trying to end it. Trump then rants that his administration is doing a “great job” at the border and whines about people focusing on “one little site” (where children have been hideously abused!) instead of the big picture, which is also a heinous fail-parade of cruelty and misery by any objective measure.

The clips are almost worth watching just for Bartiromo’s facial expressions. She’s one of the many amoral sleaze-bags at Fox News who helped propel this raving lunatic to power, so watching her failed struggle to shape the interview so that her subject sounds more like a human being in control of his faculties than a semi-sentient YouTube comments thread is almost comical.

I’m past believing that any unhinged public performance by Trump will move the needle with the media or the public and affect coverage or approval ratings. At this point, such a hope is probably as vain as the pundit yearning for a “pivot” in which the lunatic in the Oval Office suddenly starts acting like a president — even a regular old bad, corrupt and incompetent president. But damn!

Open thread!

*BTW, do Strzok and Page have any avenue of redress for their constant vilification and defamation by a sitting president? Trump is so bizarrely obsessed with those two, never failing to use the word “lover” multiple times (and with maximum creepiness!) when discussing them. He apparently derives some sick, hypocritical satisfaction from emphasizing their alleged infidelity.

Trump routinely and baselessly accuses the two of participating in a conspiracy theory to take him down, and I don’t doubt that each renewal of that accusation prompts Trump’s unhinged fans to threaten the two. Trump’s fans have a history of threatening violence, sending mail bombs and amassing weapons and creating “kill lists,” so “irresponsible” doesn’t begin to cover Trump’s treatment of Page and Strzok. It’s criminal, or at least it should be.








Employer Sponsored Insurance is already a Defined Contribution analogue

Earlier this week in the post on the wide amount of state discretion in the ACA an interesting and valuable comment was made by Ohio Mom that I want to engage on a bit more:

IANADavidAnderson but my suspicion is that this is the first step to doing to employer-provided health coverage what was done to defined-benefit pension plans. You’re going to end up with a health coverage version of a 401k.

In my opinion, employer sponsored insurance (ESI) is already a kissing cousin to a defined contribution plan than a defined benefit plan when we look at ESI offerings over a several year period.

My parents are retired. My parents have two very different retirement funding streams beyond the baseline of Social Security.

My dad has a union backed defined benefit plan. He gets a direct deposit of $XXX per qualified work year per month for the rest of his life and if he dies before my mom, she gets .67(XXX) per qualified work year per month for the rest of her life. The benefit dies with them. The union pension fund is currently over-funded (the construction actuarial tables understate mortality for the cohort of folks who had significant pre-OSHA/pre-EPA careers, so it will be interesting/scary when more cohorts like my Dad start to retire when most/all of their work years are post-OSHA) as the union fund is on the hook for longevity surprises and market shocks. If the retiree cohort dies quicker than projected OR the markets do better, my parents get no new upside but they also don’t face any downside. My dad effectively signed a 50 to 70 year contract for his pension benefit.

My mom has a 401-K. She explicitly contributed to it during the 20 years she spent at a particular employer. Her employer kicked in their contractually obligated match. The employer had a legal obligation to make sure the promised payments cleared and that the advisors were not complete, total and blatantly obvious frauds that a 3 year old could check. Once the matching and lump sum payments landing in my mom’s account, her employer had no further obligations. The matching rate and lump sum payments could and did vary by year and by who owned the corporate entity. My mom bears all the longevity risk and all the market risk. If both my parents die before her 401-K is empty, the remaining benefits can be passed along. If the 401-K is empty before mom and dad are dead, they are SOL unless my siblings and I can step in.

Employers sign short term contracts for health insurance. Most employer health insurance contracts are between one to three years with a few four and five year contracts. Unless there is a specific contract, there is no obligation for an employer to offer the same plan at a predefined price schedule to employees for one, three, or fifty years in a row. Instead, the benefit is re-adjusted every year. If the employer believes that they are spending too much on insurance and insurance is not a marked labor market differentiation, they have numerous ways to change the benefit while still offering some form of insurance in the next year.

An employer can reduce costs by shifting from a PPO to an HMO, or going from a broad network to a narrow network or a network with multiple tiers. An employer can move from an inefficient insurer to an efficient insurer. An employer can lower their total costs by shifting from a low deductible, high actuarial value plan design to high deductible, low actuarial value plans. All of these changes happen on a frequent basis. Employers offering insurance have very few obligations over time.

An HRA arrangement like that in the proposed rules just moves the behind the scenes decision making that is barely noticed on Box 12-DD of an employee’s W-4 and makes it explicit. I don’t think it moves employer sponsored insurance from defined benefit to defined contribution as it is, in my opinion, far closer to defined contribution in reality than it is to a defined benefit plan once we get past a single contract year.








Come on, come on down, you got it in ya

I got a lot of requests from people to start raising money for the Virginia state elections. Both the Senate and House are barely Republican (one seat majorities in both). Let’s raise some money for Democrats in Virginia (the fund here is split equally between the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, both of which have announced aggressive campaigns to flip their respective chambers).

Goal Thermometer

I’ll be on the radio today at 1 pm on this program discussing the 2020 presidential election.

I thought of a topic, sort of related to the post title here (Exile on Main Street is my all-time favorite record but had only one radio hit on it): what are some examples of great bands whose biggest radio hits were awful? I thought of this because someone mentioned that Elvis Costello’s biggest hits were Alison and Veronica, and Veronica is in my opinion one of Elvis’s very worst songs. Another example is Neil Young with Heart of Gold (I’m not a huge Neil Young fan but he wrote some great songs and that’s not one of them). And another is Tom Waits, who didn’t have any real radio hits, but has a few songs they will play on smaller radio stations and one of them is “Jersey Girl”, which I hate.

Update. And here’s a Benny pic.








A little good news








Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Tonight’s Debate(s)

I’m probably gonna ‘watch’ the debate second-hand, via liveblogs and twitter. NBCNews.com and MSNBC.com are supposed to be streaming the whole thing, but my laptop tends to be unreliable about such high-volume platforms.

NB: ‘PFT Commenter’ is a parody account by a sportwriter/comedian, and the dude is still better qualified to discuss the debate than Chuck Toadie Todd, not to mention Chris ‘Mad Bitcher’ Cillizza…

Not to mention the Squatter-in-Chief. Per NYMag‘s Daily Intelligencer political blog:

Will Trump Actually Live Tweet the Thing?
The president has gone back and forth over whether or not he will provide live commentary on both nights, although a commitment to watching two nights of fairly policy-intensive programming doesn’t really sound like his bag. Also, the 9 p.m. air time for the debates overlaps with Hannity…








On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

As we move closer to the new site launch, I wanted to remind you to submit things now via the form or to hold off until the new site is live.  The old email address is dead and until the new site is live, there’s no replacement.

I will push all submissions I get into drafts so that, when the new site launches, there’s a bunch of posts ready to go while the dust settles. I don’t expect the new site to launch immediately, but that time is fast approaching, and when it’s ready, it will birth. Now is the time to “stack up” some submissions to ease any content woes when the time comes.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more








Schadenfreude Open Thread: But It’s His TURN!!!…

No doubt I will pay for this later. WORTH IT!


Read more








Late Night Open Thread: All the BEST People…

Example 1:

Example #2:








Respite Open Thread: Therapy Hens

Chickens as therapy pets are one of my favorite things:

ETA: The embed code wasn’t working – click here for more cute therapy hens.

Also: In case you missed it, we have a new member of the Balloon-Juice family (click here) Congrats to Suzanne and family!

Respite open thread








Mueller to Testify

17 July.

Like I said- just subpoena him, he’ll how up.








Open Thread: Duncan Hunter, GOP Poster Boy of the Week

And here I thought Rep. Duncan was just a California-gated-community version of Jared Kushner — the entitled scion of a successful grifter who misused campaign funds because he felt he was entitled to a nicer lifestyle than he could afford honestly. Give Jared this much credit: either he has the sense keep his pants zipped, or he picks partners who have as much to lose from exposure as he does. Duncan was using campaign funds to ‘party’ with lobbyists — and using the campaign credit card he knew his ‘campaign manager’ wife would be auditing!

… “I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two,” Hunter said at the time. “She was also the campaign manager.”

“So whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure,” he continued. “But I didn’t do it.”…

Bonus ‘Party of Family Value’ points:


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Attention St. Louis Meet Uppers: Opiejeanne Is Coming To Town!

I have no idea if it is one if by land and two if by sea for a Balloon Juice meet up, but whatever it is: The Opiejeannes are coming! The Opiejeannes are coming!

Commenter Lapassionara has emailed asking if I would provide the details to the forthcoming Opiejeanne invasion:

Opiejeanne is coming to town, and we have decided to have a Jackal meet up this Thursday, June 27th, starting at 5 pm, at McGurks, in the Soulard area.

And since the only song I can think of with McGurk in it is the Irish Rover, here’s the Irish Rovers singing it.

Open thread!








Lily Update- Home Again

Got back from the vet with Lily and Rosie (Rosie just had her nails trimmed again). Lily had two perianal anedomas removed (one large and one small), as well as nine extractions of loose or broken teeth, which sounds worse than it is, but small dogs often get bad teeth. None of them were abcessed, which is good, and the rest of her teeth were cleaned. When I asked how many teeth she has left, Harry just told me “plenty.” So that’s good enough for me:

There was no puking on the car ride home, which is always a bonus whether I am driving my dogs or my friends, and Lily took a nice little walk around the neighborhood and seems to be doing well.

*** Update ***

Here’s a better picture of her resting behind me in her doggy bed:

Best dog ever. I love those big eyes and that wet nose.








This Is How You Do It

I applaud this woman. But I also remember that last year someone was stabbed while doing something similar, so each situation is different.

I am ashamed to say this happened in Colorado, but happily, another Coloradoan stood up and the sheriff arrested the offender.

BTW, if you’re on twitter, follow @_SJPeace_ StanceGrounded, he’s a good guy: “Also, if you don’t know a Muslim or have one as a friend, more than welcome to follow me. Trying to dispel Muslim stereotypes and End the hate. One Love”

Open thread








Open Thread: Possible NYC Meet-Up?

Query from faithful commentor NotMax:

Checking on interest in a NYC area meet-up.

Shall be arriving in the area July 23, leaving August 7. Only date I
know of at this point which might be iffy is the 28th.

Would be satisfied with the same spot as last year as it is convenient to all mass transit, but certainly not married to the idea.

Possible dates, time and location all subject to jackal recommendations, consensus and convenience; please, please chime in.

Lurkers, friends & companions welcome, as always. Leave a comment, or email me and I’ll forward your message to NotMax.