None of us need this shit, actually…

There are several reports alleging that Trump is about to shit-can chief baby-cager Kirstjen Nielsen and possibly her mentor John Kelly too. Nielsen’s ass is in the hot seat because it turns out that even monstrous treatment of desperate people won’t stop them from trying to escape the intolerable conditions in their home countries.

Someone has to take the fall for the failure of Hair Furor’s genius scheme to torture poor and brown people away from our borders, and Nielsen it is. Here’s hoping she spends the next 40 years regretting the decision to hitch her star to the orange shit-wagon.

ABC News says the latest dispute with Kelly arose over a dust-up with the Third Lady:

“There have been instances where the East Wing staff were not treated as equals to the male-dominated decision makers in Chief Kelly’s office,” one White House official said. “Promotions were denied then finally granted after months of requests,” the official said.

Melania Trump raised concerns with her husband earlier this year, amid the height of the controversy over his alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, that Kelly had repeatedly denied her requests to promote some of her aides, two White House officials told NBC News.

The requests languished for months as Kelly insisted there weren’t enough available positions for the first lady’s aides to have senior titles, these people said. During this same period however, West Wing officials working for Kelly received promotions, the White House officials said.

Having learned of the dispute, the president was furious and told Kelly to give the first lady, who has a smaller East Wing staff than her recent predecessors, what she wanted, these people said. “I don’t need this shit,” Trump told Kelly, according to one person familiar with the conversation.

Sounds like the Third Lady has a well-honed instinct for when to shake the orange fart cloud down. She can’t possibly be surprised that inhabitants of the Ladies Wing aren’t treated as equals by Trump’s henchmen; she struck a bargain with, if not THE devil, one of the lesser imps and demons, so excuse me if I don’t feel compelled to join her in sisterly outrage at the rank sexism she and her employees endure on the daily.

It’s galling that anyone willing to work for these thoroughly awful people would get a dime in taxpayer money, let alone sit around a luxurious public office and squabble incessantly about “senior titles” while doing nothing, but that’s show biz.

Anyhoo, that’s all I have to say about that. Open thread!



Calendar Update

The interest in calendars has been lukewarm, so I need you to email balloonjuicecalendar@gmail.com if you desire a calendar. If you have already emailed, don’t send another. Mentioning you want one in the comments DOES NOT WORK, as I am only using the tally from emails.

Additionally, I am going to hold a site fundraiser. I have received bids for a complete rebuild that will be several thousand dollars, but we just need a complete rebuild. Alain has done an amazing job patching things together, but the best course of action is starting from the ground up. When should we hold the fundraiser?



Cost Control Constituency and California’s Props 8 and 61

Healthcare cost control is tough politics. Every dollar saved is a dollar out of someone’s wallet. The benefits are far more diffused in either incrementally lower premiums or slightly lower taxes than the counterfactual projection. Our political system is optimized to emphasized the loud screams of concentrated minorities who are losing something while the vast majority of the potentially and incrementally better off won’t base their vote on a single issue. And when faced with a simple yes or no vote, our socio-political system on healthcare costs are split between insurers, academics and politicians versus hospitals, doctors and nurses or at least the public face will be hospitals, doctors, and nurses talking about the cute kids they heal or how they help Grandma.

California has had two major cost control ballot propositions in the past two cycles. In 2016, Proposition 61 attempted to tie the effective purchase price of drugs bought by the state of California to a price ceiling set by the Veterans Administration. It lost in 2016 by seven points.

In 2018, Proposition 8 would have limited what dialysis clinics could charge their non-governmental payers. It failed miserably.

In both cases, the industry segment that was targeted for cost controls (Pharma and dialysis) dumped an incredible amount of money into the campaigns. In both years, well over $100 million was spent by the industry segment at risk. It worked. It also shows how valuable the current payment system can be. And it previews the scope of fights that could occur if/when proposals to cap provider payments to 120% or 150% of Medicare are advanced.

Loss aversion among well organized, well funded, strategically competent actors is a powerful political force in American politics. It will quite frequently defeat proposals that promise diffuse, incremental and hard to detect broadly distributed benefits. California’s cost ceiling propositions are object lessons to this nostrum.



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Good News for Democrats!

And while Ms. Abrams continues her battle against the voices of disenfranchisement…

One factor of the investigation announcements by prominent Democrats, right now, is to encourage what are politely called ‘wavering’ Repubs — those whose future chances don’t rest on applauding Trump’s every verbal bowel movement, not to mention those with a skeleton or seventeen in their personal closets — to consider whether it might be wiser to join forces and call for ‘bipartisanship’ rather than pin their hopes on the not-looking-so-Teflon Donald.

From the company paper, in the town where national politics is the monopoly industry:

…[M]ultiple Democrats who will be chairing committees in the new Congress made clear that they already have a clear idea of the matters they’ll be investigating and they’re ready to use their subpoena powers if the administration refuses to cooperate. You can be sure that when all this begins, Republicans will portray it as madness, a chaotic eruption of politically motivated probes with no legitimate purpose. The truth, however, is that Democrats seem to know exactly what they’re doing…

When Republicans inevitably begin whining that Democrats are being too aggressive in all this oversight, remember how they be-clowned themselves through the Obama years, trying to gin up one phony scandal after another, including mounting seven, yes, seven separate investigations of Benghazi. We can and should have vigorous debates about what is being uncovered, how to understand it and what should be done about it. But the last thing we should do is waste our time arguing about whether there are too many investigations.

If the Trump administration is a bastion of integrity and public-spiritedness, that’s what the investigations will reveal. And if the president himself has displayed nothing but the highest ethical standards and respect for law throughout his career, that’s what we’ll learn. The sense of dread spreading over the White House and the Republican Party right now isn’t because they think House Democrats will waste everyone’s time with these investigations; it’s because they know there’s so much misbehavior to be uncovered. The public deserves to see and understand all of it, and if that winds up hurting Republicans, they have only themselves to blame.



On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

Prepare for joy – we have a wonderful follow-up to a memorable post a few months back.  Thanks for re-submitting this!

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Late Night Open Thread: It Would Be Funnier If the Punchline Didn’t Involve Nuclear Weapons

A fine pigbladdering of a most deserving pig, by David Roth, for Deadspin“This Is All Donald Trump Has Left”:

This is more or less what Trump has always thought the news should be like: people with microphones clamoring for his opinion and asking him about himself. For decades the man has dreamed of reporters calling out “please, sir, what’s the latest on your personal feuds” or “sir, how did you achieve this amazing success?” while he delivers flirty winking answers. That this is not the way it goes now that he’s president clearly causes him great frustration. Watch these pissy helicopter-adjacent scrums and you may see a lumpy pink dope bellowing “we’re looking into that very strongly” in response to questions he transparently can’t answer and dispensing whatever thudding speculative idiocy he thinks will get him to the next question. Other people will see what Trump sees. The important thing for him is that the microphones are still pointed in the right direction.

The culture has been inching further and further into Trump’s gilded funhouse for years now, and you surely do not need me to tell you that it fucking sucks in there. But we are, by now, all the way in. Trump is nearly as ubiquitous in the culture as he has always believed he should be; the one deeply held belief that has been evident throughout his whole faithless disgrace of a life is people should be talking about Donald Trump more, on television, and he has just about seen that part through. All Trump wants, all he has ever wanted, is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this reason and this reason only.

His politics, to the extent that they’ve ever been legible, have always been off-the-rack big city tabloid bullshit—crudely racist exterminate the brutes/back the blue authoritarianism in the background and ruthless petty rich person squabbling in the front. His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being powerful—giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up the people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying as needed or just for yuks. He hasn’t changed a thing since graduating from punchline to president. It’s been clear for decades that Trump was both an asshole and a dummy; this is now a problem not just for the odd unlucky cocktail waitress and his staff of cheesy apparatchiks but literally every person on earth…

Trump won’t stop. He won’t stop because he’s never told the truth in his life and because this is all he has and all he has ever had. He wakes up every day to the mess he’s made and says and does whatever he must, at whatever cost, to get through the day. Like many in his generation, Trump has mistaken the end of his life for the end of the world. He can’t imagine, let alone care about, what will be left after he is gone, if only because no one who matters to him will be around for it. His politics, such as they exist, boil down to this: he is trying to hold on, and will spend the rest of his life trying not to be found out. Every day is like this now. He could do this forever—he talks often about serving for longer than one more term—but that’s mostly because he has so much invested in never stopping. He is over-leveraged as always; he can only ever do more…



A Feline Performance Of The Mueller V. Trump Finale

A boy can dream, right?



Repub Venality Open Thread: Trump’s Newest Enforcer

(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)
.

IMO, the fact that Trump hasn’t ditched his new mook (or, to be precise, had someone ditch Whitaker for him) would seem to indicate that the Oval Office Occupant is running out of half-decent alternatives.


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Arizona just called

First the big news from Arizona:

And now the important news from Arizona:

And…

Both of those tweets are notable because they should not be notable in a healthy political system. The McSally concession came pretty much as soon as it was apparent that there just weren’t the votes for her to win. It took a few days but the Arizona process worked well and to spec. This is a graceful bog standard concession with a disappointed candidate and a good dog.

The tweet by the outgoing Senator is push back on conspiracy theories that if unanswered delegitimate electoral politics. This should be a nothing burger as well in a healthy political environment. Yet it too is noteworthy.



Cloud Compass Canoeing

If not for the bow, it would be impossible to say which was the sky and which the reflection.

Also, Badger naps dangerously:

I don’t voluntarily sleep with my nose in such close proximity to Daisy’s ass. She’s a gassy critter.

This thread doesn’t have to be about dog farts. Use your imagination — open thread!



Whatever Blows Your Trumpet

One of the things I hate about the anti-vaxxers is they make me feel like an authoritarian scumbag because I am infringing on their right to be idiots or whatever. I am totally fine with people being idiots, so long as their idiocy does not impact other people’s behavior. So if skipping vaccines hurt only you, that would be fine. You can drop dead if you want. But that’s not how it works, and when you refuse to be vaccinated because your healing crystals have you covered and blah blah blah Jenny McCarthy, you put other people at risk.

And it’s like that with so many things. Guns and drunk driving and meth come to mind. At heart, I’m really about letting people do what they want, just so long as it isn’t hurting anyone. It’s one of the reasons I have never understood why straight people give two hoots in hell what LGBTQ people do or who they sleep with or whether they get married, etc.

I’m also not SCIENCE UBER ALLES. I mean, I think from a policy perspective and 99% of the time in my personal choices, following the scientific evidence is the way to go. But hey, science also discusses the placebo effect, and science also doesn’t have answers for everything- yet. Which is why if people want to go to chiropractors, even though I think they are quacks, whatever. Same with cupping, and acupuncture, and other shit. Maybe it’s just the attention or touch from others that helps people. Maybe it makes them calmer in the head. I don’t know, but if it makes people happy and ISN’T HURTING ANYONE, again, whatever floats your boat.

Hell, I use CBD oil daily. There is, to my knowledge, no real scientific evidence that it works. But since I started a couple months ago, my knees and fingers feel better, and I have not woken up ONCE with a frozen shoulder, something that used to be an every night occurrence. I also think I am a little less anxious. It’s almost imperceptible, but when I lie down at night to fall asleep I just feel a little less, I dunno, worked up. Maybe something in the oil has made a change. Maybe I just think there is a difference because I am doing something about it. Maybe I started sleeping differently. Maybe I’m just nuts? Who knows? If it stops working or if I think it stops working, I’ll stop doing it. But I’m not hurting anyone or hurting myself, so, who cares.

That’s what we should be getting back to in this country, along with a renewed concern for our fellow man. We should start helping people more, and we should stop worrying about what kind of harmless other shit people are doing just because it irritates us. That’s another thing- these white women freaking out about a couple black kids in a pool somewhere. Maybe they aren’t supposed to be there. Maybe they are. WHY THE FUCK DO YOU CARE? It’s just some kids trying to not be fucking hot in the middle of summer. Leave them the fuck alone.

ehh whatever.








Stan Lee Has Died at the Age of 95

Here’s Marvel Entertainment’s statement:

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 12, 2018

Today, Marvel Comics and The Walt Disney Company pause and reflect with great sadness on the passing of Marvel Chairman Emeritus, Stan Lee. With a heavy heart, we share our deepest condolences with his daughter and brother, and we honor and remember the creator, voice and champion of Marvel.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created. A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company.

Stanley Martin Lieber, a.k.a. Stan Lee, loved the written word from an early age, and wanted to craft stories like those in his favorite books and films, which he consumed voraciously. From a simple upbringing in the teeming landscape of Manhattan, young Stanley worked his way through a succession of jobs until the day he found himself an assistant at a comic book publishing company — Timely Comics.

In between refilling artists’ inkwells, erasing pencil lines from comic pages and fetching an untold number of lunches, Stanley expressed his desire to write and create tales of his own; in the May 1941 issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #3, he got his wish. Readers would find a prose story in that issue, “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge,” sporting the byline of “Stan Lee.” A star was born.

As Stan’s roles and tenure with Timely Comics grew and evolved, so did the company itself. With Stan at its helm, Timely Comics morphed first into Atlas Comics and then into the name that would catapult it into legend and forever be synonymous with Stan Lee: Marvel Comics.

As Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, Stan “The Man” Lee made his voice the voice of the stories themselves. Writing virtually every Marvel title and working with such luminaries as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Gene Colan and John Romita, Stan began building a universe of interlocking continuity, one where fans felt as if they could turn a street corner and run into a Super Hero. A rich collection of characters grew out of his nonstop plotting sessions with his artists, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and more. Today, it would be almost impossible to find a corner of the Marvel Universe that Stan didn’t have a hand in.

Marvel fans found a friend in Stan Lee. He introduced the famous “Stan’s Soapbox” to speak directly to his readers, reaching a personal level rarely seen in comics of the day. Always pushing for new ways of creating comics, Stan also inaugurated the “Marvel method” of plotting and art, creating some of the most iconic stories in the industry to this day.

When something mattered to Stan, you felt it in his words, whether in an editorial or in the stories themselves. With passion for the medium, he helped refine and reform the Comics Code Authority and addressed hot-button issues like discrimination, drugs, and intolerance.

Stan stepped up from his position as Editor-in-Chief in 1972 to tackle the role of Publisher at Marvel Comics, and while a strong succession of writers followed in his wake, his spirit and voice remained throughout the adventures that followed. His outspoken love for comics even extended to a series of college campus talks; given any chance to educate and illuminate on the industry, he took it. An entire generation of young readers expanded and strengthened their vocabulary and knowledge through Stan’s stories.

Marvel and the entire The Walt Disney Company salute the life and career of Stan Lee and offer their undying gratitude for his unmatchable accomplishments within their halls. Every time you open a Marvel comic, Stan will be there.

Please join us today in remembering Stan “The Man” Lee.

From one of my two favorite comic book artists:

Lee, like many of the men, especially the Jewish men of his generation, served in the US military during World War II. Specifically, he started in the Signal Corps and was ultimately transferred into the Training Films Division.

Excelsior!

Open thread!








Open Thread

I’m so tired why do the assholes have all the energy?








Florida Recount: Ballots Are the New Caravan

I’ve been too busy scraping, sanding, painting, unpacking, rearranging, etc., to pay much attention to what’s happening with the Florida recounts. To be honest, I don’t expect anything to change after the mandatory recounts; my guess is Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis will be certified as the winners of the senate seat and governor’s office and that Democrat Nikki Fried will maintain her lead for ag commissioner — maddeningly the only statewide win by a Democrat in Florida this cycle.

My wingnut county went for the Republicans overwhelmingly, as expected. Local reports say the recounts here are proceeding without controversy. Even the Democratic official overseeing the county recount says he trusts the Republican supervisor of elections to complete the job with integrity.

Contrast that with the screeching from Rick Scott and the orange fart cloud in the White House. Scott has always been a crook and jumped on the Trump bandwagon early. But one thing he’s done that struck me as smart politically was to cast himself as a hardworking, capable businessman rather than a Fox News ideologue, even if that’s what he was all along.

He dropped that ruse this go-round, absurdly (and ironically, given his own shady business history) crying “rampant fraud” before the damned votes were even counted the first time and going on the Hannity show to gin up hysteria and anger about the recounts. It looks orchestrated from the top since Lil’ Marco has irresponsibly joined in.

The orange fart cloud foolishly declared this morning that the ballots in Florida are “massively infected” (ballots are the new caravan) and that officials must stop state law-triggered recounts and declare election night calls the official tally. Real Banana Republican stuff.

Similarly, Scott ordered the state’s department of law enforcement to investigate fraud and was promptly told there’s no fraud to investigate. Their source of that information is the Republican secretary of state. Now Crooked Pam Bondi has joined in, sending a letter of concern to the department of law enforcement (headed by a Scott appointee!) since they declined to join the hysteria. Possibly this is her US AG audition tape, who knows.

It’s Trumpification at the state level. It echoes the dangerous split between career law enforcement employees at the federal level and their duties to citizens that is caused by Trump trying to press them into service as political props and enforcers. No good will come of any of it. It’s not surprising, but it’s dangerous and disturbing.

There’s a “massive infection” alright, but the disease vector isn’t the ballots in South Florida. The opportunistic infection is Trump in a host weakened by Republican parasites. Only their utter defeat will ensure the survival of the patient.



Display order and dominated plans

Dominated plans are bad choices.  A dominated plan is tied or beaten on all relevant criteria. This means a buyer is either limited in choice or is paying more than they should for a given level of accepted risk.

Decision support tools are supposed to help make good choices easier. Good tools should encourage good choices and either completely eliminate dominated choices or at least make it clear that these are inferior choices.

Healthcare.gov is not helping on this matter.

A Durham, NC resident earning $15,000 buys at Healthcare.gov. Here is a screenshot from Healthcare.gov of the BCBS-NC plan choices. Blue Cross and Blue Shield is offering a single network and a fairly significant Silver Gap so that their cheapest Silver plan is a $0 net premium plan and they also offer three $0 premium Bronze plans.

The CSR Silver plan is the clearly superior plan. It is the plan that (assuming the network is adequate) that this person should buy because it provides a low deductible and a very low out of pocket maximum. The Silver CSR plan is useful protection while the Bronze plans don’t provide protection until someone has spent three to four months of income on medical expenses.

Yet, Healthcare.gov displays the three Bronze plans first. We know that people cue on the top option when they have to make a choice under uncertainty. We hope that the monetary differences is enough to move someone from anchoring on the first displayed plan, a Bronze plan, and moving to the much better for them Silver plan at #4 but we can’t guarantee this.

Emphasizing dominated plans is a problem that Healthcare.gov has always had as the exchange management function is to validate that a file load fits parameters and little else. There is not a lot of direct, embedded decision support in the platform. Decision support should change decision patterns so that would produce significant winners and losers and therefore significant opposition.

Buying insurance without good support is hard. Healthcare.gov does not make it easier.