Another set of amazingly expected indictments

This is about as surprising as finding out that North Carolina is a bit humid in the summer.

Open Thread

The Trump Administration Negotiates

Since before I joined Balloon Juice, since the 2016 campaign, I’ve said that Donald Trump stinks as a negotiator.

Most of us have some experience negotiating. One of my mentors said that every encounter is a negotiation. Some of our valued commenters are lawyers, whose jobs are mostly negotiation. We’ve bought cars or rented apartments. There are some basics that you learn just by living, unless you’ve lived an utterly protected life.

This thread is by an Obama administration official. I know that Twitter threads can be hard to read, but this one has some good links and visuals. And it’s not too long.

Russiagate Open Thread: Russian Oligarchs and Their Money

Mueller’s team is now questioning at least three Russian oligarchs on whether they donated money to Donald Trump’s campaign.

The approach to Russian oligarchs in recent weeks may reflect that Mueller’s team has already obtained records or documents that it has legal jurisdiction over and can get easily, one source said, and now it’s a “wish list” to see what other information they can obtain from Russians entering the US or through their voluntary cooperation.

Mueller really does love to meet people at the airport. His people stopped two of the Russians as they arrived.

In January, FBI agents stopped and questioned George Nader, a Middle East specialist, when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport….

Ted Malloch, a self-described informal Trump campaign adviser, last week issued a statement saying he was stopped in Boston when returning from an international trip by FBI agents who took his cellphone and questioned him about Republican political operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks.

George Papadopoulos, too, if I recall correctly. Read more

Wellness programs and the West Virginia Teacher’s strike

Earlier this week, John explained the wellness program that the West Virginia PEIA pushes called Go365:

Whoever came up with the idea for Go365 is a special kind of asshole…. I will give you a brief explainer. For decades now, as health insurance costs increase, corporations and organizations have been implementing wellness initiatives to try to encourage workers to engage in healthier lifestyles, which will lower health costs for the company, and in return there is usually a small reward- a small reduction in worker contribution, etc….

Go365 was like that, in the sense that it tried encourage employees to engage in healthier behaviors, but while normal wellness initiatives are all carrot, this was a gigantic stick up your ass and if you didn’t do it, they were going to charge you 500 bucks more a year. And it was invasive- biometric screenings, tracking your fitbit, etc. Apparently they tried to soften it a touch by letting you earn points for crap like free movie tickets….

There is very little quality evidence that shows broad employee wellness programs save money or increase health. Austin Frakt at the Incidental Economist had a good summary from late 2014 on this topic:

We’ve said it before, many times and in many ways: workplace wellness programs don’t save money.

Last week, on the Health Affairs blog, Al Lewis, Vik Khanna, and Shana Montrose said so too, adding some nuance we have not included in our posts on TIE. You should read the whole thing. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

It is beyond the scope of this posting to question non-peer-reviewed vendor savings claims that do not use any recognized study design.

I just love this phrasing of “we’re not reviewing crap.”

There is a recent NBER working paper that conducted a large randomized trial of wellness programs in Illinois:

we do not find significant causal effects of treatment on total medical expenditures, health behaviors, employee productivity, or self-reported health status in the first year. Our 95% confidence intervals rule out 78 percent of previous estimates on medical spending and absenteeism. Our selection results suggest these programs may act as a screening mechanism: even in the absence of any direct savings, differential recruitment or retention of lower-cost participants could result in net savings for employers.

It changed no behaviors. Instead it rewarded or punished previous behaviors. Now if you are an HR rep for a small self-insured, setting up a wellness program that is very attractive to low actuarial risk individuals and ugly to people with a high likelihood of needing expensive care, there is a certain amount of logic to run people away. That works until it does not and it begins to fail miserably when the insurer is also a monopsonistic buyer of a particular type of skills and services as they are going to get everyone in the pool anyways.

Broad wellness programs are intrusive, expensive and ineffective at actually achieving what they claim they want to achieve: improved health and lower costs. And yet we keep on doing them.


Give those crafty Europeans credit for knowing their symbols:

“We will put tariffs on Harley-Davidson, on bourbon and on blue jeans – Levis,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German television.”

It is worth noting that not only are these the stereotypical (one might almost say, caricature) emblems of Americana, Harley’s are made in Wisconsin, just north of Paul Ryan’s district and, as we all know, McTurtle is from the great corn-mash state of Kentucky.

Funny how a policy conceived in ignorant petulance has obvious, immediate, and hugely stupid consequences.

You may consider this both a proof-of-life post and an open thread.

(Truly astonishing NSFW the-world-was-sure-different-then image below the fold)

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Late-Night Open Thread: The Lyin’ in Winter

And here Donald thought he’d found himself a “son” who was a competent grifter!

It’s been a truism since at least Jimmy Carter’s presidency that Washington DC is “wired for Republicans”, but it’s a company town and these Trump goniffs are damaging the brand. I suspect the stories Roxanne Roberts shares in the Washington Post hurt Jared, Ivanka, and their socially-insecure old man’s feelings much more than any Democratic accusations of treason / incompetence / general venality — “Washington society and Team Trump: A year in, the fear and loathing is mutual”:

The president and many of his closest advisers are contemptuous and suspicious of the Washington establishment, which they dismiss as the “swamp.” And the city’s social elite, normally quick to embrace a new chief executive and his inner circle, are judgmental, wary and afraid of being, as one Republican put it, “tainted for life.”

“This establishment is trying to reject Trump and his family like white blood cells chasing off an infection,” says conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, who has lived in Washington for 33 years. And Trump loyalists, he says, see little value in rubbing shoulders with people who didn’t want anything to do with them before the election…

The Trumps, for their part, seem to want not just respect and courtesy but personal allegiance. One Republican hostess, eager to introduce Trump family members to some of her friends, was told that they were interested only in people who are “loyal” — a term rarely used to describe social acquaintances…

There was a moment when Ivanka and Jared seemed like the perfect bridge between the White House and social Washington. They were young, glamorous and chic, the ultimate power couple in a city full of them. They had impeccable manners and were eager to engage. They hosted small dinners at their Kalorama home for members of Congress, administration officials and other prominent Washingtonians…

That mutual admiration was short-lived. The couple apparently became increasingly disenchanted with Washington after the Russia scandal broke, surprised by what they considered vicious, unfair attacks. Whatever goodwill they felt toward the establishment has reportedly evaporated, and the two are rarely seen at social events outside the president’s orbit.

Meanwhile, the A-list was surprised by what some describe as the self-importance and humorlessness of Team Trump. “This is the first administration,” one fundraiser says, “where you can’t tease.” …

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

Of course he likes it — he’s on the teevee, and other people have to do all the hard work!

Daniel Dale, of the Toronto Star, live-tweeted the whole performance. Click on any tweet for the whole spool:

(Note the recurrent Wingnut trope: I have a godgiven First Amendment right to be stupid! And if you attempt to point out how stupid my idea is, that’s censorship!)
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