LOL! Nothing Matters (Open Thread)

In the thread below, on the topic of Miller and Nielsen getting jeered at MEXICAN restaurants, one of y’all speculated that their choice of cuisine was deliberate trolling. I’ll admit I didn’t find that very convincing until I saw this:

Yeah, it’s a multi-level trolling operation. Not only is this humanitarian mission from Third Lady Bountiful 100% bullshit, she’s rubbing our noses in that fact. Fuck her. Fuck the whole rotten bunch.

Breaking News (Woop Woop)

Some breaking news on the immigration front:

The Post:

Trump administration will stop prosecuting migrant parents who cross the border illegally with children, official says

The dramatic about-face comes just one day after President Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s widely denounced practice of separating families apprehended at the Mexico border.

Trump’s order said the government would maintain a “zero tolerance” policy toward those who break the law, but a senior U.S. official, when asked to explain how the federal government would change enforcement practices, told The Washington Post that Border Patrol agents have been instructed to stop sending parents with children to federal courthouses for prosecution.

“We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody,” the official said.

Sounds like they got out over their skis and simply don’t have the capacity to intern entire families yet, so they’ll go back to the Obama-era status quo until they do. Imagine the headlines at Fox News, WSJ, etc., if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had suffered an embarrassing reversal on a signature policy, crapped out a face-saving EO to fix it, then had to scrap that 12 hours later, even temporarily. The mind reels.

Also, the Third Lady is making a “surprise visit” to one of her odious husband’s shameful stolen child incarceration centers to see “what’s real,” according to CNN:

McAllen, Texas (CNN)First lady Melania Trump touched down in McAllen, Texas, Thursday making a publicly unannounced and hastily planned trip to get a first-hand look at the crisis affecting immigrant families at the US border.

In doing so, she becomes the first Trump family member to personally witness the situation that has captured the country’s attention over the past several weeks.

“She wants to see what’s real,” said the first lady’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN during a 10-minute press briefing en route to Texas. “She wanted to see as close to what she had been seeing on TV. She wants to see a realistic view of what’s happening.”

The article implies this was the Third Lady’s proactive decision rather than something orchestrated by Trump’s White House minions:

Acting or commenting from the sidelines apparently was not enough for Trump, who fewer 48 hours ago informed her staff — and her husband, the President of the United States — that she had decided she needed to see for herself the family intake and unaccompanied children facilities.

Yeah, right. I suppose she could surprise us, but this is the woman who backed up her pig-husband’s racist birther lies, attacked fellow immigrants for behavior she herself engaged in and excused Trump’s many sexual assaults by calling his accusers liars, so my expectations are subterranean.

Looks like the GOP immigration bills – both shitty and even shittier – are going down. No surprise there.

And finally, The New York Post reports that evil Trump aide Stephen Miller was heckled in a DC-area Mexican restaurant a few days ago – before DHS ghoul Nielsen suffered a similar fate:

White House adviser Stephen Miller was accosted at a Mexican restaurant by a patron calling him a “fascist” — two nights before Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was hounded out of another south-of-the-border eatery, sources told The Post…

“Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?” another customer at the Mezcal joint snarled at Miller, according to a source who saw the encounter.

Miller didn’t respond and scurried away, the witness said.

“Scurried away” — that’s perfect. It’s small potatoes in the scheme of things, but I relish seeing any evidence that these bastards are paying for their atrocious behavior. Power centers being what they are, social costs are likely all we’ll ever extract from the Trumps and their evil cabal, so I want those costs to be maximized, including, at the very least, a life of ordering take-out food under fake names.

Open thread.

From Russia with Schadenfreude

I’m old enough to remember the ghastly Ronald Reagan presidency, though I was too young to give a shit about politics in those days. One thing I do remember was how Reagan praised the heroic “freedom fighters” of Afghanistan with gooey lumps of quavering jingoism and piety that were likely fresh from the pen of a then-youthful Peggy Noonan.

This was when the US helped bleed out the USSR by supplying arms and support to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden, who eventually drove the Soviets out after massive casualties. Then came the blow-back.

And now, as the US marks more than a decade and a half of post-9/11 futility in Afghanistan, it appears the boot is on the other foot. From The Post:

A senior U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence on the issue, said the Russians have increased their supply of equipment and small arms to the Taliban over the past 18 months. The official said the Russians have been sending weapons, including medium and heavy machine guns, to the Taliban under the guise that the materiel would be used to fight the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. Instead, the official said, the weapons were showing up in some of Afghanistan’s southern provinces, including Helmand and Kandahar — both areas with little Islamic State presence.

Interesting that the Russians felt emboldened to increase their support to the Taliban over the past 18 months.

The US currently maintains nothing like the force the Soviets once had in Afghanistan; there are fewer than 10K troops there now. The Post article notes that US officials describe the current situation as a “stalemate,” but it’s mostly Afghans in the meat grinder instead of Americans.

If we’re a hollowed out, debt-ridden, exhausted empire, that’s mostly thanks to George W. Bush’s dumbfuckery, not Putin or Trump’s. But the article also notes DefSec Mattis is still deciding whether to ask Trump for more troops.

Maybe the Russian arms are a not-so-subtle signal to Trump to get the US out of Afghanistan so Russia can bring that country more fully under its influence, not as a communist state this time but as a territory to be exploited by the transglobal gangster state Putin rules.

Such a move would have to be a personal triumph for Putin in his revanche project, and he can make his wishes known to his lackey Trump in person next month when they meet, possibly in Vienna.

Personally, I wish the US had declared victory and left Afghanistan the day after the SEALs offed bin Laden, if not sooner. I’d rather they reallocated military spending to resettle refugees and provide assistance to Afghanistan as part of a global economic development effort instead of pouring it down the warlord rat hole. But no one asked me.

Anyhoo, it’ll be interesting to see which strings Putin pulls in Central Asia. He must be the most self-satisfied autocrat on earth right about now.

What’s going on in Iowa’s rates?

Rate filing season is in full swing. Medica was Iowa’s only ACA insurer for 2018. They asked for a mega rate increase to cover the state and received it. Now they are asking for a much smaller rate increase for 2019.

What’s going on?

Medica probably overpriced in 2018 is the short story.

Let’s assume that 2018 was appropriately priced. If that is the case, then the following things should be taken into consideration for 2019 rate building.

+5 to +10 points for general medical trend inflation

-2 to -3 points for repeal of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) for 2019

+10 for repeal of the individual mandate

+ ??? for the proliferation of Farm Bureau and other underwritten plans that should be able to pull good risk out of the ACA pool.

Under that accounting, we’re looking a plausible baseline rate increase of at least twelve points to
twenty or more points. And Medica came in at basically medical trend rates. They overpriced in 2018 because they were a one year monopoly. They overshot their rates and should be very profitable for 2018.

Iowa is seeing the proliferation of Farm Bureau underwritten plans and Wellmark is re-entering the market. Wellmark will have a serious data advantage over Medica. I am still surprised that Medica is planning to stay in Iowa as Wellmark’s ability to legally underwrite via the Farm Bureau makes projecting the remaining guaranteed issue risk pool a high variance exercise:

Wellmark will be effectively granted a de facto monopoly on non-group insurance sales in Iowa. There is currently a single insurer, Medica, offering ACA plans. Wellmark has signalled that it wants to re-enter the ACA market in the state for 2019. Wellmark will be able to strategically offer ACA compliant products that can stick Medica with very high cost individuals without sufficiently high risk adjustment payments to make them whole. At the same time, Wellmark can pick up all of the limited remaining good risk into the underwritten not quite insurance plans while choosing how much and at what price point they want to take on of the remaining highly morbid guaranteed issued pool. Medica has no ability to defend itself or project its exposure. I will be shocked if Medica is still selling policies in Iowa next January.

Dreaded Calls (Open Thread)

The more we learn about Trump’s immigration walk-back, the worse it looks. Though it has provisions to intern entire families indefinitely, etc., it doesn’t even address reuniting the 2,342 kids US officials already stole from parents at the border under Trump’s zero tolerance policy. We need to keep the pressure on to make sure those children are returned to their families.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is using the occasion to try to pass one of two terrible immigration bills today. The two Republican bills can best be described as “a shitty bill” and “an even more shitty bill.” Both would cut legal immigration and fund Trump’s racist vanity wall without providing a clean path to citizenship for American kids in DACA status.

It looks like the Freedom Caucus nutbags may tank the “moderate” shitty bill since it’s not mean enough to suit them. But it’s probably a good idea to call your rep and make your voice heard on the issue anyway.

That means I have to call the office of Trump butt-plug Vern Buchanan, the grifty meathead who represents me in Congress. Not looking forward to it, but I want the corrupt cockwaffle to hear the footsteps coming for him in November, if nothing else.

Lots going on today, but I’m super busy, so open thread!

World Cup: The First Day of Summer

It’s summer and the World Cup continues.

Games at 8, 11, 2 Eastern.

Today at 8, Denmark v Australia

Today at 11, France v Peru

Today at 2, Argentina v Croatia.

Much as I love France, I’m most psyched about the Argentina game. Messi is just amazing and at times is playing at a level I just can’t even understand.

Enjoy everyone!

Note: Anne Laurie is off for a few days, so I’m hosting the World Cup posts for the next few days. As I’m not as cool as she, my posts will be simple and focused on providing a place for interested folks to chat about the cup.

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more

Greetings from the Rain Forest

I’m no Carl Spackler, but I think I might need to reseed tomorrow:

When I was a kid, we had normal rain. Sure, we would have epic thunderstorms and with lots of lightning and big booms, but it didn’t dump 65 god damned inches of rain in twelve minutes. Now, we get ridiculous amounts of rain like this at least once a week.

I really don’t know what I am going to do with the backyard (AND YES THIS IS ALL MY FUCKING FAULT FOR SAYING I AM DONE SPENDING MONEY ON THE BACK YARD), but it clearly is not level and I obviously need to figure out some sort of drainage scenario.

“Buy a house,” they said, “you’ll be earning equity,” they said. God damnit.

Russiagate Open Thread: Michael Cohen Makes A Move

In his resignation letter to Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chair, Cohen cited the ongoing special counsel investigation as one reason for his departure. ABC News has reviewed the email…

Cohen also criticized the administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the southern border, the first time he’s distanced himself from the president.

“As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching,” Cohen wrote. “While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips.”

Cohen on Tuesday hired New York lawyer Guy Petrillo to represent him in a federal investigation headed up by the Southern District of New York.

I drafted the post below just last night. Nothing is ever certain in Trumpworld, but it sounds like the Hoarse Whisperer’s tweets at the end might be relevant; if Cohen’s decided that Donald is not really his friend, then the next logical step would be discovering a moral compass…

It’d be some kind of poetic justice if Trump’s notorious parsimony (to phrase it nicely) with the people who work for him turns out to be what brings him down. From CNN:

Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has signaled to friends that he is “willing to give” investigators information on the President if that’s what they are looking for, and is planning on hiring a new lawyer to handle a possible indictment from federal prosecutors.

“He knows a lot of things about the President and he’s not averse to talking in the right situation,” one of Cohen’s New York friends who is in touch with him told CNN. “If they want information on Trump, he’s willing to give it.”…

The shift in legal strategy and signals of potential cooperation with investigators come as Cohen feels increasingly isolated from the President, whom he has been famously loyal to for more than a decade. Last week, CNN reported Cohen has indicated a willingness to cooperate to alleviate pressure on himself and his family…

Several defense lawyers say that if Cohen is ultimately indicted, they don’t expect him to be charged with any wrongdoing until the government completes its review of the evidence seized in the raid. The court-appointed special master overseeing the review of material for attorney-client privileged information said it could be completed as soon as June 25…

From The Hill:

The Wall Street Journal reports that Cohen has “frequently” complained that the mounting costs of his legal fees are “bankrupting” him, according to one source, and that he is frustrated that the president, whom he feels owes Cohen for years service, hasn’t offered to cover the fees.

Trump told reporters last week that he hasn’t spoken to his former attorney in months, adding that Cohen no longer does any business with him.

“I always liked Michael Cohen,” he said Friday. “I haven’t spoken to Michael in a long time.”…

Today in Your Failed Corporate Media

CNN, circa 1943: “Germans Divided on Use of Gas Chambers: Opponents claim it is monstrous, proponents say ‘Hitler just following laws created by Hindenberg'”

Ignore the Sideshow, Focus on the Main Event: Where are the Toddlers? Where are the Girls?

As BettyC posted, it is being reported that the President blinked and is going to use an Executive Order to back down and end the family separation policy that he and Attorney General Sessions implemented on the advice of Stephen Miller. The New York Times has the details (emphasis mine):

President Trump is preparing to issue an executive order as soon as Wednesday that ends the separation of families at the border by indefinitely detaining parents and children together, according to a person familiar with the White House plans.

Mr. Trump’s executive order would seek to get around an existing 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if they are with their parents — for more than 20 days.

“We’re going to be signing an executive order in a little while,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday. “We’ve got to be keeping families together.”

The order would keep families together, though it is unclear how Mr. Trump intends to claim the legal authority to violate what have been legal constraints on the proper treatment of children in government custody, which prevented former President Barack Obama from detaining families together during a similar flood of illegal immigration two years ago.

And the president could quickly find himself the subject of another legal challenge to his executive authority, much the way he attacked Mr. Obama for abusing the power of his office with an immigration executive order in 2014.

While Mr. Trump’s actions appear to stop short of calls for an end to the “zero tolerance” policy, it would be a remarkable retreat for a president who has steadfastly refused to apologize in almost any other context. And it would be a testament to the political power of the images of the immigrant children to move public opinion.

People close to the president said he remains convinced that his immigration policies are appropriate and necessary. But Mr. Trump is said to be increasingly frustrated by the criticism he is getting, and aware that he is boxed in by the legal argument his administration has made.

Aides said that Mr. Trump is aware that his actions could once again be tied up in lengthy court battles. But the president and his allies believe that taking action would put pressure on Democrats by eliminating the criticism that Mr. Trump is separating children from their parents.

The lawyer who tweets as NYCSouthpaw is all over the shenanigans here:

Josh Marshall’s analysis is spot on:

The actual aim seems to be to pick a fight with the courts and allow separations to continue while blaming judges. According to The New York Times, the President will sign an executive order allowing children to be detained indefinitely with their parents. The problem is that that violates a 1997 consent decree saying that you can’t detain/imprison children for more than 20 days (technically what’s currently happening isn’t detention). It straight up violates that order. So what will almost inevitably happen is that a court will step in, say you can’t do that and then Trump will announce that the judge is forcing him to keep separating families.

The President telegraphed this during his remarks to the National Federation of Independent Business when he went on a rant about judges, especially immigration judges, how they were chosen, and that it was all a scam.

As far as appearances are concerned it looks like the President blinked. It looks like he’s deescalating and backing down in the face of all the negative imagery and the negative public response and push back. Keep the Trump Doctrine – “I will be treated fairly or else…” in mind. The President, as The New York Times reported, believes that his policies are “appropriate and necessary”. That all he’s doing is trying put America First and Make it Great Again! He will interpret the negative responses that he’s received as not being treated fairly. He is incapable of accepting defeat, especially a very public one that makes him look weak. An “or else” is coming. And it will likely be ugly and brutal!

But beyond the need to even the scales, DHS and HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) still cannot account for all the toddlers and haven’t even tried to account for the girls. They don’t even have that information!!!

DHS, HHS, and ORR has no idea who a lot of these kids are, especially the younger and youngest (pre-verbal) ones. The younger ones may not know how to spell their names yet, if one parent has a different last name from the other, they may not know that either. And the pre-verbal ones can’t even answer these questions. And all of them have been traumatized unlike anything most of us can imagine, even with ProPublica’s publishing of the audio on Monday, which is going to make it even harder for them to identify themselves. I’m pretty sure DHS, HHS, and ORR actually don’t have much of an idea where they all are. And a significant amount of parents have been given no guidance on how to get their children back.

A skirmish has been won. A specific objective – rescinding the policies that separate families – has been partially achieved. This is positive. But these children are still at risk and in danger. The current administration, understaffed on purpose and by design in order to fail under a crisis, has no capability to actually resolve the crisis they’ve created. It is appropriate to take a bit of time today, catch your breath, relax and rest up, so that the pressure can be maintained and increased starting tomorrow. We need to keep asking where are the toddlers and where are the girls. And demanding answers to those two questions. We need to keep asking how the reunifications are going to happen because there is no plan in place to do this and it is clear they have don’t have even a partial clue as to how to make these reunifications happen.

We need to keep pushing for an end to not just the zero tolerance policy, but also a change to the policy within CBP to prevent anyone from entering at an official point of entry so they can claim asylum.

Get some rest, you all did good. But this battle is far from over. The President, the Republican Party, movement conservatism all need to be made to own this. If the GOP majority on the House Oversight Committee can, with straight faces, hold hearings on June 19, 2018 about Secretary Clinton’s emails to continue to run interference for the President and their own failures as a governing majority; the President, the GOP, and the movement conservatism and the white conservative Christians that enable and support them can all be made to own this and have it shoved in their faces every day until the end of time!

Updated at 4:15 PM EDT

Here’s the meat of the EO the President just signed:

#Where are the toddlers? #Where are the girls? #Republican concentration camps for kids!!!!!

Stay angry! Stay ready!

Open thread!

MJ Hegar – Doors is one of my favorite follows. As a military BRAT, sister, daughter and niece of wartime vets, I am thrilled at all the military vets, many of them women, running for office this year.  I think you’ll enjoy the video.

Open thread

A climb-down, maybe?

Turns out that despite all the screeching about Trump’s child gulag directive being the regrettably unavoidable result of a “Democrat law,” Trump now figures he can obliterate it with an executive action — which is exactly how it started:

Who knows. It’s state TV, but they could be wrong. The baby jail issue is a disaster for Republicans, but Trump doesn’t give a shit about them. There must be a face-saving proviso — something that the lumpy bag of tinted epidermis-encased fat and trapped farts can claim as a “win.” Just trying to imagine what that might look like (the “win,” not the “lumpy bag,” etc., which is all too in evidence).

Good News Open Thread: Light A Candle

From the Washington Post:

Charlotte and Dave Willner had seen the pictures of migrant children crying at the border. One in particular reminded them of their own 2-year-old daughter.

The San Francisco area couple had heard — as much of the United States had by now — that President Trump’s administration has begun jailing migrant parents caught crossing the border and sending their children to shelters. The president’s chief of staff has called the new “zero-tolerance” policy a deterrent against illegal immigration.

But the Willners had also learned that a lump of cash might thwart the government’s plans.

Just like arrested Americans, detained migrant parents can often post bond and simply walk out of jail.

They can then, presumably, collect their children from government custody and live in the United States until their court hearings, which are often months away.

Or they could, if they had the money. Bonds for detained migrants typically range from hundreds to many thousands of dollars — amounts that might as well be in the billions for families that arrive here with next to nothing, and have whatever they brought with them confiscated by Border Patrol.

So the Willners created a Facebook fundraiser over the weekend to raise $1,500 — enough to free a single migrant parent with a relatively low bond.

“It was the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid,” Dave Willner told the Mercury News.

Five days later, the Willners have raised more than $8 million and climbing — overflowing all previous optimism.

“We can confirm this is one of the largest fundraisers we’ve ever seen on Facebook,” Roya Winner, a spokeswoman for the social media giant, told The Washington Post, back when the amount was less than $4 million…

In more ways than one, the surge has overwhelmed the Texas nonprofit that will receive the money, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

If donations keep up at pace — $4,000 a minute at one point — the nonprofit is likely to take in more cash than it raised in all of 2016, according to its public financial records.

It plans to use the money not only to bond parents out of immigration jails but also to provide lawyers to the parents and children as they fight in court to stay together and stay in the United States…

Much more — including one additional reason the money is so important nowat the link.

Even “skeptical killjoy” Felix Salmon is on board:

The RAICES donations are not only going to an excellent and effective cause, they’re going to an excellent and effective cause that scales. Effectiveness of donations is hard to measure at the best of times, but it’s much easier than normal in the case of RAICES, because of the way in which the funds are going to be used. To put it another way: The RAICES money will be well-spent, not because we can be sure that RAICES itself is well-managed, but rather because of what it’s going to be spent on…

World Cup Open Thread, Day 7

Portugal v Morocco at 8am EDT; Uruguay v Saudi Arabia at 11am; Iran v Spain at 2pm.

FIFA liveblog et al at the Google link.

Travel tales of the host nation, from the Washington Post:

Moscow is the vibrant heart of this soccer celebration, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors — every last one, it seems, stroll the Red Square area as if it were an ocean boardwalk — and inviting outsiders to a world they’ve probably never seen.

Languages mix like ingredients in a hearty bowl of borscht: Russian and English, German and French, Japanese and Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. The common bond: a love of football/soccer and a love of life.

Aside from who is going to win the World Cup, the question I receive most from people back home is: What’s it really like in Russia?

I can’t speak about the other 10 host cities (though I will hit St. Petersburg this week) or the country at large. I’m sure remote cities and rural areas are strikingly different and less prosperous. I’m not going to pretend to be a Russian expert after nine days in country.

At times, I have had trouble reconciling the wonders of the city and the actions of the Putin government. Perhaps visitors to America also confront dueling feelings; I don’t know. What I do know is you can appreciate history and engage in a new culture while remaining cognizant of world affairs and concerned about injustice and cruelty.

And so a new adventure has commenced. Moscow looks and feels like any major European city, except with Soviet-era relics: white- and blue-collar workers packing subway trains on a Monday morning, teenagers in western brands live-streaming an acoustic band performing on a pedestrian road, open-air cafes serving coffee and pastries…