No One Could Have Predicted- Keystone Pipeline Edition

It never ends:

The Keystone pipeline running from Canada across the Great Plains leaked Thursday morning, spilling about 5,000 barrels of oil — or 210,000 gallons — southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota.

The spill comes just days before a crucial decision next Monday by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska over whether to grant a permit for a new, long-delayed sister pipeline called Keystone XL, which has been mired in controversy for several years. Both are owned by Calgary-based TransCanada.

Over and over and over again, experts warn us that something is a bad idea, we ignore them, then shit blow up. And we never learn and nothing ever changes.








Open Thread: Did Papadopolous Read Too Many Spy Novels? Or Not Enough?

The Daily Beast makes his entrapment sound like something out of a Spy-vs-Spy parody:

Days after becoming a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign in 2016, George Papadopoulos started meeting with a woman he believed to be Vladimir “Putin’s niece,” according to a newly unsealed indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The woman, along with a Kremlin-connected, London-based professor, wanted to help Papadopoulos arrange meetings between representatives of then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Maybe, the woman said, she could even get the two men to meet face-to- face.

“I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation,” she later emailed. “As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”

But the woman was not, in fact, Putin’s relative. Papadopoulos had, in a sense, been catfished—and then lied about catfishing to federal investigators…

Papadopoulos was living in London when he was named a foreign policy advisor to Team Trump in March 2016. Approximately eight days after accepting the job, Papadopoulos met another Londoner: a Russian professor who “claimed to have substantial connections with Russian government officials,” the indictment reads.

One of those connections was of particular interest to Papadopoulos. On March 24, the professor invited Papadopoulos to a meeting with a Russian woman, whom he introduced as a relative of Russian president Vladimir Putin. After the meeting, Papadopoulos wrote an email to the Trump campaign, stating that he had just met with the professor, whom he described as a “good friend,” and the alleged “niece.”

Papadopoulos said “Putin’s niece” and the professor had offered “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.”

The woman also allegedly promised to introduce Papadopoulos to the Russian Ambassador in London, but never made good on the offer.

But Trump campaign staffers praised Papadopoulous’s new connections. “Great work,” an unnamed campaign supervisor replied to the email. The supervisor shied away from making any early commitments to a meeting, but promised to “work it through the campaign.”…

***********
He was arrested July 27 in Dulles International Airport, according to his indictment. Since his arrest, which remained secret until now, Papadopoulos has met with investigators to answer more questions—and cooperate with Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe of ties between Trump Tower and the Kremlin…

So — if I’m reading this correctly — the first arrest was made three months ago. Points to Bobby Three Stick’s team for not sharing this news until the time was right!

And speaking of people who don’t share what they know…

Why, yes, that is Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III at the foot of the table…



Further Russiagate Open Thread: A Caution from Kindly Uncle Ben…

a/k/a Benjamin Wittes, at LawFare:


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That being said…



Sunday Night Horrowshow Open Thread: As American As A Burning Cross

MSNBC finds a way to phrase the GOP problem… delicately:

There are five counties in the state of Alabama where more than 30 percent of the 25-and-over population has a college degree, according to the U.S. Census. Strange won three of those counties and did so fairly convincingly, by about 8 points, 54.1 percent – 45.9 percent.

But the rest of state went against the sitting senator and the margins for him got worse as the percentage of those with a college education dropped.

There are two counties where the college education rates were between 25 percent and 30 percent. Moore won those counties by about 6 points, 53.2 percent – 46.8 percent. The rest of the counties have fewer than 25 percent of the population with a degree. Moore won them by more than 18 points, 59.2 percent – 40.8 percent.

Those education numbers have a special significance when you look at the Republican Senate seats that are up in 2018. In eight of them, all but Utah, the college-educated population numbers are below 30 percent, which is roughly the national average.

The Alabama results suggest the Republican voters in those states may be ready for a more populist, anti-establishment candidate — one that would challenge the incumbent and pull him or her toward the more populist end of the GOP.

To be clear, these college education figures aren’t solely about education, they are about people living in different economic and cultural worlds…

In other words: “We’re not gonna spell it out, but there’s a genuine fear among the people who make a living off the GOP that it’s turning into the house brand for ignorant rubes who’ve never had to meet anyone they weren’t related to.”

(And, of course, they’re heavily armed.)
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Open Thread: Mr. Pence Cannot Be Trusted

Not even by his “boss”…

Mr. Pence has been the pacesetter. Though it is customary for vice presidents to keep a full political calendar, he has gone a step further, creating an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent and promoting himself as the main conduit between the Republican donor class and the administration.

The vice president created his own political fund-raising committee, Great America Committee, shrugging off warnings from some high-profile Republicans that it would create speculation about his intentions. The group, set up with help from Jack Oliver, a former fund-raiser for George W. Bush, has overshadowed Mr. Trump’s own primary outside political group, America First Action, even raising more in disclosed donations.

Mr. Pence also installed Nick Ayers, a sharp-elbowed political operative, as his new chief of staff last month — a striking departure from vice presidents’ long history of elevating a government veteran to be their top staff member. Mr. Ayers had worked on many campaigns but never in the federal government…

Mr. Pence has made no overt efforts to separate himself from the beleaguered president. He has kept up his relentless public praise and even in private is careful to bow to the president.

Mr. Pence’s aides, however, have been less restrained in private, according to two people briefed on the conversations. In a June meeting with Al Hubbard, an Indiana Republican who was a top economic official in Mr. Bush’s White House, an aide to the vice president, Marty Obst, said that they wanted to be prepared to run in case there was an opening in 2020 and that Mr. Pence would need Mr. Hubbard’s help, according to a Republican briefed on the meeting. Reached on the phone, Mr. Hubbard declined to comment.

Mr. Ayers has signaled to multiple major Republican donors that Mr. Pence wants to be ready…

Since Mr. Pence is such a self-advertised Godly man, I’m praying for injuries.

But he’s already consolidating his real constituency:

In a sign of an expanding alliance between the Trump administration and one of the most well-financed forces in conservative politics, Vice President Mike Pence has agreed to speak to a gathering of the billionaire Koch brothers’ advocacy network this month.

Mr. Pence will deliver the keynote address on Aug. 19 in Richmond, Va., to the annual meeting of activists and donors organized by Americans for Prosperity, the group announced on Friday. The nonprofit advocacy group is financed by the industrialist brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, and their allies.

The Koch brothers steer a network of groups that spent between $720 million and $750 million to bolster conservative policy positions and politicians in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the spending. Yet the groups withheld support from President Trump’s campaign out of distaste for his populist and protectionist rhetoric, which clashed sharply with the Kochs’ support for free-market policies.

But in recent weeks, the Kochs’ groups — as well as other deep-pocketed conservative outfits — have expressed increasing support for Mr. Trump’s plans to overhaul the tax code…

Bookmark this, libs!

(And of course, lest we forget…)



World’s Greatest Negotiator in Action

WaPo just posted a scoop using leaked transcripts of calls Trump had with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto shortly after taking office. The conversations reveal Trump to be a peevish, vain weakling who’s more concerned with his image than how policy affects Americans. Hoocoodanode, right?

Trump’s negotiating strategy appears to consist of whining and begging foreign leaders not to publicly pants him for telling cynical lies during the campaign. An excerpt:

Both calls centered on immigration-related issues with high political stakes for Trump, who built his campaign around vows to erect new barriers — physical and legal — to entry to the United States.

But there was little discussion of the substance of those plans or their implications for U.S. relations with Australia and Mexico. Instead, Trump’s overriding concern seemed to center on how any approach would reflect on him.

“This is going to kill me,” he said to Turnbull. “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people.”

The agreement reached by the Obama administration actually called for the United States to admit 1,250 refugees, subject to security screening. A White House readout of the Trump call, issued at the time, said only that the two leaders had “emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship.”

Trump spent much of his call with Peña Nieto seeking to enlist the Mexican president in a deal to stop talking about how the wall would be paid for. Two days earlier, Trump had signed an executive order mandating construction of the wall, but funding for it remains unclear.

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

To solve that problem, Trump pressured Peña Nieto to suppress the issue. When pressed on who would pay for the wall, “We should both say, ‘We will work it out.’ It will work out in the formula somehow,” Trump said. “As opposed to you saying, ‘We will not pay,’ and me saying, ‘We will not pay.’ ”

Peña Nieto resisted, saying that Trump’s repeated threats had placed “a very big mark on our back, Mr. President.” He warned that “my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall.”

Trump objected: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

What a fucking disgrace. There’s really nothing else to say except this: I’m ashamed to be an American every day this buffoon is in office.

In other news, there’s no further point in commentary on the Stephen Miller “Statue of Liberty poem sux” kerfluffle as a gentleman on Twitter posted the perfect rejoinder last night:

The end.



New information is all that matters

The Senate revised draft of their tax bill paid for by Medicaid cuts is due to drop sometime this afternoon. So I want to talk about a possible future path where the bill fails. Doing nothing is a plausible option that will not make things significantly worse or more expensive. Sabotage and neglect have been priced into premiums for the individual market and Medicaid will be at risk due to regulatory rule making and active localized monkey wrenching but that is a plausible baseline in a future where the BCRA is defeated.

I think Matt Fuller is reading this wrong.

CSR ceases to be a leverage point on 12/31/17. After that almost every insurer that is on the Exchange will have priced their products as if CSR was not to be paid. If CSR is paid, they’ll pocket large profits. If it is not paid, it is business as usual. The threat of yanking CSR funding has an even more limited life span than the end of the year:

More subtly, let’s imagine that CSR has been paid through November 30th. If they were not paid in December, the carriers would have to use their reserves to cover the expenses but insurers would not flee the market before the end of the policy year. They might be able to reprice their 2018 policies based on the lack of the regular, early notification of accounts payable that they get before the CSR money is actually transferred in mid-December. They would take a hit, but it would not be a show stopper.

Moving to payment through Halloween but no payment for November and December, most insurers would have sufficient reserves to eat the loss and re-adjust their prices for 2018 while their lawyers get warmed up. Moving back another month, thinly capitalized insurers will start being in trouble as they may be hitting a Premium Deficiency Reserve (PDR) event that threatens their Risk Based Capital (RBC). At that point, some state regulators would be forced to either shut down insurers or allow insurers to terminate the CSR policies immediately. Well capitalized insurers could survive longer and jack up their rates for 2018 with state support.

CSR threats are valid through the end of August and then weaken quickly by Thanksgiving.

More importantly, chaos and sabotage is old information. Many insurers have pulled out of the ACA individual markets because of the cost of uncertainty due to sabotage that has been ongoing since 1/20/17. But that is old news.

Only new and unexpected monkeywrenching would increase the level of chaos in the individual market.