Things with Wings (Open Thread)

Here are three four wing-ed creatures for your consideration:


The female cardinal on the left is a frequent visitor to the feeders and birdbath just outside my window. I’m always especially happy to see this particular cardinal because I owe her a debt: She was trapped in my chicken coop overnight a couple of weeks ago, and it went very badly for her.

I’d let the hens out to free range as usual one late afternoon. At sunset, they went into their hen house to roost as hens do, but I didn’t get around to closing the coop door until well after dark. I didn’t see the poor cardinal until the next morning.

During the night, she must have tried to escape — she was all bedraggled and freaked out when I found her. Maybe the chickens harassed her at sunup; I don’t know. What made me notice her in the morning was her mate, who kept frantically flying to the coop and cheeping like mad.

When I saw her flying around, I opened the coop door — which is a full-sized screen door reinforced with chicken wire — to free her. The chickens all ran out, but the cardinal was too crazed with terror to realize deliverance was at hand.

She kept flying from one end of the coop to the other, well above my head and away from the door. She was clearly in a pitiable state, with feathers missing, probably from trying to squeeze out of the coop, but possibly from run-ins with the hens. She only had one sad little feather left in her crest.

Anyhoo, I finally shooed her out the coop door, and she went straight to the birdbath, perhaps to freshen up from the ordeal? She’s almost fully recovered now, though her crest is still a little pathetic, like a badly misused showgirl headpiece bought cheap from a Rockette rummage sale.

The butterfly was resting just outside my tiki bar the other day. It was as big as my hand — a normal-sized woman’s hand, I mean — much larger than Trump’s! I’m not sure what kind it is. Does anyone know?

The other critters pictured are “love-bugs,” which fly around while doing the nasty and can be hell on a paint job if you drive through a cloud of them. This pair landed on my car yesterday while I was fueling up, and I rejoiced to see them because love-bugs this time of year mean summer is almost over, and not a minute too soon.

Open thread!

Call for Volunteers

Anyone out there with any cafepress/graphic skills? We really need to update the Balloon Juice store, which has been languishing for a while now. I thought about working on it in the past, but I would just get upset about Tunch and I am not creative in that way. I would like to update it though, and we need to start on the BJ Calendar for 2017. I will set up an email for pics later today.

I was thinking about adding a Team Walter line, with that picture of him smiling. Might be good for raising some money for MARC, our official charity.

Any thoughts/volunteers?

And Monday Starts with a Bang

Whatever happened to being discreet? Can’t this man find one woman who will sext him up and not run to the damned press?

I should also add that I rented the Weiner documentary, and it was amazing. I loved it. Having said that, and adding the caveat that you never want to do a remote diagnosis of someone’s marriage because it’s A.) none of your fucking business and B.) who knows what is really going on, but if you watch the documentary, his behavior is clearly putting her through hell. It’s a particular kind of cruelty to do that to someone. It would be bad enough if it was any average guy, but the fact that this will be splashed all over the media is just horrifying for her.

I feel terrible for her.

From Silver Spam to Silver Gap — APTC Hacks

A Tweep sent me word that Blue Cross and Blue Shield is engaging in a Silver Gap strategy in rural Georgia.

I went to Health Sherpa to look at what is currently being offered in zip code 30503 for a 40 year old non-smoker without subsidy on Exchange.

This zip code has a carrier engaged in a Silver Spam strategy. The #1 Silver plan is from Kaiser Permanante of Georgia and it is priced at $321. The second Silver which sets the subsidy benchmark is also from Kaiser. It is priced at $321 as well. The two plans are both HMO’s attached to the same network. The difference between them is $250 in deductible and a shift between co-insurance and co-pays. In my mind, those are minor benefit configuration tweaks that are merely designed to produce cloned plans that beat the minimal federal rule on “meaningful difference”.

After that, the #3 Silver is at $330 and it was offered by Coventry/Aetna. The plans seemed to be reasonably tightly clustered in price and design which is what we would expect from a reasonably competetive market. This is good for people who are buying with low to no subsidy. It is bad for people who are getting heavily subsidized.

This individual who earns $18,000 per year will pay $62 per month for the #1 Silver and $63 per month for the #2 Silver. These Silvers come with Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies so the value proposition for anyone who is vaguely inclined to think they are sick will keep them in Silver instead of moving to the zero dollar post-subsidy Bronze.

Most of the carriers in this market are pulling out for 2017. Blue Cross and Blue Shield which had a $336 Silver plan which would have cost this individual $80 per month is now offering the #1 and #2 Silvers in the market.

The new 2017 #1 Silver for this individual will be $385 per month. The new benchmark Silver will be $417. That is a $32 gap. The same individual who makes $18,000 per year as a 40 year old will now have a Silver with Cost Sharing Assistance that could cost him $31 per month. This will do two things to the subsidized buyers market. It will bring in a significant number of low income but healthy individuals into the market as $31 a month is a lot easier to find than $62 per month. And almost as importantly, it will increase the subsidy level for Bronze plans for higher income individuals. Someone making $36,000 a year would now have a subsidy of roughly $90 per month. That will make some of the Bronze plans significantly cheaper. These actions will improve the risk pool from this zip code.

The risk pool problem is on the non-subsidized and off-Exchange universes. These price increases will drive some of the healthy individuals away from the marketplace. If there are off-Exchange carriers offering super-narrow and low cost plans which are priced significantly below the 2017 Silver rates and close to 2016 rates, the damage will not be significant. If the pricing is no better than on-Exchange rates, then the off-Exchange market will get significantly sicker and the actuarial value of the coverage bought will decline.

Monday Morning Open Thread: Hair-Splittingly Narrow

trump narrow path toles

(Tom Toles via

Politico, no doubt prepping for their big post-Labor-Day Amazing Trump Comeback!!! switcheroo:

Donald Trump and his new team think they have 71 days to turn this campaign around. They’re wrong…

Trump may not have that kind of time. Early voting begins in 26 days in Minnesota and in 32 other states soon after that. And already, as summer inches to its end, 90 percent of Americans say they’ve decided. For all the televised daily drama this race has provided, the final outcome itself is shaping up to be less dramatic than any presidential election since 1984.

“Kellyanne is good at this, but she’s got a very damaged candidate and it’s very late in the game,” said Tony Fratto, a GOP operative in Washington and former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush. “I think it’s too late, in fact. I don’t believe he can change. All of this is trying to trick voters into thinking there is a better Donald Trump out there. There is no better Donald Trump.”

Although Trump has been seemingly slow to realize it, the more than $2 billion in free media he rode to the GOP nomination was simultaneously hardening the broader country’s negative view of Trump just as it was endearing him to the conservative base. The cascade of Trump-created controversies following the conventions that precipitated Conway’s hiring appear to have irrevocably damaged his credibility as a plausible commander in chief and could prove to be the turning point in the general election itself…

With the electoral map tipping so sharply in Clinton’s favor in the weeks following the two party conventions (her lead has widened beyond the margin of error in seven of 11 swing states), Trump’s new team is scrambling to stay afloat even with his robust campaign regimen that has him doing four times as many events as Clinton. Recent efforts to muddle the GOP nominee’s hard-line positions on immigration — catnip for conservative primary voters but repellent to many general election swing voters — and to couch them in softer language are part of an eleventh-hour effort to broaden his narrow appeal beyond older, mostly white men. Trump’s direct overtures to Hispanic and African-American voters last week were made with the same purpose…

Figuring out how to triage a presidential campaign when you’re bleeding in every swing state, all of which seem vital, is a difficult enough equation — and that’s without Trump spending time and resources last week in places that aren’t swing states at all. Trump sandwiched one rally in Tampa, Florida, between appearances in Texas and Mississippi, both solidly red states he’s unlikely to lose. And on Friday, his campaign announced a rally to be held Tuesday outside Seattle in Everett, Washington, home to a Boeing plant that ships planes overseas — a location that’s well suited for Trump to rail against global trade deals but makes no sense electorally…

The bigger Trump loses, the better for every other American. And if we can tie more down-ticket Repubs’ fates to his electoral anchor, better still.

Apart from renewing our GOTV efforts, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?

Late Evening Open Thread: Cats and Dogs Living Together

We’re overdue for a clean thread, so here’s some cute animal videos.

Also, a Tropical Storm Watch for the coast of North Carolina from Cape Lookout to Oregon Inlet. So if you live in those areas, please take appropriate precautions!

Now back to our regularly scheduled cuteness!!!

Someone Needs to Write a Vox Explainer, Kaepernick Edition


The ability of people to get offended by shit that doesn’t impact their lives in any way is amazing:

Furious San Francisco 49ers fans are burning Colin Kaepernick jerseys after he refused to stand for the national anthem as part of a racial protest.

One fan even played The Star-Spangled Banner as he set light to the Number 7 shirt, watching with his hand on his chest as it was reduced to ash.

Another, who uploaded a video to Instagram under the handle Nate3914, called the $19million-per-year athlete an ‘ignorant son of a b****.’

He added: ‘People die every single day defending that flag you refuse to stand for and I won’t stand for that.’

‘This jersey was the worst $50 investment I have ever had … you should never play in the NFL again, move to Canada.’

Thousands of football fans also took to Twitter in order to shout down Kaepernick’s protests, accusing him of being unpatriotic, spoiled, and childish.

First things first- “WHO THE FUCK CARES?”

Second, there was already reason enough to burn Kaepernick jerseys before the other day:


I’m not even going to get into whether or not his statement was right or appropriate, because whop fucking cares?

People don’t die every day defending our freedoms. The vast majority of our military exploits since World War II have been basically military adventurism and over-reactions, and/or attacking the wrong damned country. Our actual constitutional freedoms, with the exception of the 2nd amendment, have been under assault by lawmakers in the defense of the failed war on drugs and protecting Hollywood and software developers, but no foreign agent has been attacking them.

Soldiers and police do die every day defending the law and fighting the war on terror, but that hasn’t defended your freedoms. That’s kept you safe, maybe. The War on Terror itself has been used repeatedly to attack your actual Constitutional freedoms.

So if you want to thank someone for defending your freedoms, along with soldiers and police, thank the ALCU, the SPLC, the Innocence Project, and other folks who are waging a day to day unheralded battle to defend your freedoms.

And if soldiers were dying every day to defend your freedoms, they would be defending Kaepernick’s right to be a dickhead and not stand during the national anthem, for BLM to protest police, and for people and police union’s to say all live matters, and basically everything that someone says or does that pisses you off.

Because freedom means letting people do their own thing, and not sheltering you from things and get hurt feelings from things that offend you. And you know what? If the NFL and the 49ers want to do whatever they can to get rid of Kaepernick, so long as they honor their contractual obligations, fine.

That’s how things work when you are an adult.

Sunday Evening Open Thread: A Man Ahead of His Time

Apart from decrying Millennial Shaming, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the weekend?

Walter’s New Home


An update on our boy:

Good morning! Here’s an update if you want to post it, and a bonus picture. Walter may be in Minnesota, but his support for the Steelers will never waver.

Walter is doing great. He really likes Ellie; laid down next to her at one point and went to town cleaning her ears. He’s been a perfect gentleman to the cats, and they are already acting as if he’s always been here.

He can’t make it up the stairs to my bedroom so I put him in the kitchen for the night with a pet bed. I realized when I woke up that I’d forgotten to remove the garbage can and resigned myself to a mess. Not so! He was a perfect gentleman in that regard too and left it unmolested. No accidents at all. My daughter let him out around 6:00 and he peed, then after I fed him some breakfast he went outside and pooped three times. I was going to put his meds in some cheese, but when one half skittered off the counter as I was splitting it he snarfed it up right off the floor.

He’s such a people person. He cried when Tim left last night, and it broke my heart to leave him alone when I finally crashed. He follows us from room to room; right now he’s sacked out under my feet in the family room. I was concerned at his panting and hoped it was just anxiety based, and am pretty sure that’s the case as he’s finally stretched out on his side and breathing normally.

He is such a good, sweet boy. I can’t imagine how his former owner could have abandoned him to such a horrible ordeal. All he wants is some love, some food, and comfy place to sleep.

John, I know you and your vet have already taken care of everything that needed to be done, but I’m going to try to get him to my vet tomorrow for a once over. That way my vet knows what we’re dealing with.

I want to thank everyone again. Thank you all so much for the donations that allowed Walter to get her, for the emails of support and offers for help, for the comments and encouragement. John, thank you so much for trusting me with Walter’s care going forward. I don’t know when his journey will be over, but I do know it will end here. He is home.

I just got off the phone with Debit, and she is sitting on the couch with two cats and with two pooches on the floor, so it sounds like things are going well. I was surprised to learn that Walter was a Steelers fan- he neglected to tell me that, but Debit says he is!

Sunday Morning Garden Thread: Hot Hot Hot

marvel aug 16 BistroGarden

From ever-faithful Garden Commentor Marvel:

We’re doing well and getting busier by the day, harvest-wise.

Our run of cool days changed with a vengeance last week (highs over the weekend of 103, 106[!] and 101 followed by a couple of century-marked days this week) so, breaking out an assortment of umbrellas purchased over the years at End-of-Summer Sales, we opened Bistro Gardens. We spent much of our time hosing down the guests.

marvel aug 16 OnionsBolted

We harvested the onions last month and they’ve been drying/curing in the breezeway, getting ready for their off-season stay in the garage. This year a fair number of them bolted (you can thee the hollow flower/seed stalks here) and won’t be suitable for long-term storage. We’ll dice & freeze about half of these and (here comes the yummy part) the rest I’ll cook into quarts of French onion soup (which I’ll freeze). Sometimes garden failures work out OK.

marvel aug 16 Kohlrabi

Yesterday I brought in some of those odd-but-lovely veggies, kohlrabi….. (Kohlrabi????? What the heck do you DO with it?????)

I’m peeling and slicing them mighty fine, saute-ing a few chopped-up leaves, then cooking it all in a pie with bacon, cream and nutty cheese. We may or may not pick the kohlrabi slices out before eating. The orbs’ll last a long time in the crisper, so I’ll probably just chop up some and toss ’em in soups later on.

marvel aug 16 Pears

The first batch of pears are out of cold storage & done with their photogenic ripening work on the counter (I caught them sitting here with the dramatic late-day sun blazing through the kitchen window)– it’ll be cool enough tomorrow to make some pear bread and maybe I’ll steam a big slug of pear juice (for jelly later on).

No pictures of tomatoes — so far this year, with our very cool Spring & early Summer, the plants are full of green, will-they-never-ripen-? fruit and I don’t know if any will ever get red. I have a swell recipe for a savory green tomato & apple chutney….


What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

Mai Tai Early Morning Open Thread


Have your man place, into a large cocktail shaker, a jigger each of fresh lime juice, Diplomatico aged Venezuelan rum (for the flavour), and British Navy Pusser’s rum (for the kick), along with half a jigger of Cointreau, a heaping half of orgeat and a small spoonful of brown molasses sugar. Have him add tons of ice and shake like buggery. Pour into glasses and serve in the afternoon sun with a selection of snacks and the new Ball Park Music album.

Cheers to Walter, and his new mum Debit, and especially to our blogmaster, Cole – a fine and decent man who makes the world a better place.

Guess Who Made It Home!

Here’s a rare treat for you late night/early morning juicers! The driver and Debit decided to just get everything done tonight so Tim could head out early tomorrow when he woke up, so Deb put on a pot of coffee and I stayed up to get some pictures. So here you go, hot off the presses:


She said he kept moving a lot, exploring everything, so it was hard to get a good picture. That made me rejoice, because it will be nice reading you all complain about someone else’s photography for a change. Then she sent me this adorable picture, which kind of screwed that all up:


I dunno if I did a good enough job with my descriptions and pictures of Walter, but this really captures his essence. He’s just a happy boy and sweet old fellow. Like I said, he’s got a little hitch in his giddyup because of the mistreatment and the three bad knees, but he’s chock full of spirit, got a million dollar smile, adorable summer teeth (some are here, some are there), and a real twinkle in his eye. He’s got a life in him for an older dog, and he’s going to make Debit a good companion. The cats are going to be sleeping with the old gentle fellow in no time.

Now y’all control yourselves and give Debit until noon tomorrow to fill you in and don’t raise a fuss in every comment thread. She needs to get some sleep. You know how we olds are when we stay up past our bedtime.

Late Night WTF Open Thread: Dank

That’s the candidate’s official Twitter feed, so there’s at least two humans who found this entertaining — assuming it was a human who assembled it in the first place.

I do not pretend to be aware of all internet traditions, but I am willing to opine that this is the sort of “humor” that a very white, upper-middle-class candidate for president should know better than to embrace, for reasons.

Maybe it’s that innate caution that keeps me a Democrat instead of a True Progressive.

Overnight Open Thread: Fishing for Raven

Not actually trying to catch members of genus corvus, but a couple of fishing videos for Raven who seems to be up late these days as he’s convalescing. With my luck of picking videos tonight he’s probably seen these, but its the thought that counts, right…

First up a 3 year old catches a big (relative to her) catfish:

And here’s someone landing a very large (and very dangerous) alligator gar:

Late Evening Open Thread: Duct Tape Roll Cage Testing Kangaroos!

Remember to wear your seat belts!

I didn’t realize the previously posted video was an advertisement (hadn’t watched it all the way through). Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! So instead, here’s some kangaroos!!!!