Days 31, 32, 33 & 34 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

Advice for my beloved readers: Don’t get food poisoning. 😦

  • To be honest, the reason that I never trusted Uber was the name. Too Randian for my taste. Thankfully (though not for society), the universe has vindicated this arbitrary aversion.
  • Our government put hundreds of Aleuts in decrepit camps during World War II in addition to the thousands of Japanese Americans. Code Switch has a good story about this forgotten crime.
  • Monticello is not going to hide the story of Sally Hemings anymore. Good for them. (h/t Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice)
  • Kenneth Arrow, social scientist and economist extraordinaire, is dead. Quiz bowl players everywhere mourn.
  • What’s left behind when ISIS is defeated? “This Is What’s Left Behind When ISIS Is Defeated.”
  • Remember what I wrote about cognitive dissonance? Exhibit Z: Republicans and Putin.
  • Things that are still cool in these troubled times: Astronomical discoveries!
  • Last October, the Chinese national soccer team, representing the most populous country in the history of Earth, lost at home to Syria, representing a country that’s been engulfed in a civil war for half a decade and is partially overrun by ISIS. That is a humiliation by which all humiliations should be measured.
  • Tom Cotton, who was committing treason before it became the cool thing to do, really, really sucks. He’s a septic tank that can walk like a man.
  • Trump is rolling back Obama’s protections for trans students. Kids are going to suffer. Kids are going to die.

Days 29 and 30 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

Remember the sheer terror that permeated every month of Obama’s presidency? Both sides do it.

On Obamacare

“Every ground commander seeks the battle of annihilation; so far as conditions permit, he tries to duplicate in modern war the classic example of Cannae.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 1948

“This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

—Howard Dean, December 16, 2009

The Republicans are having a gay old time trying to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As long as Paul Ryan draws breath they still have a chance to kill it off, but it’s taken them almost a month to even begin to get rid of something they’ve denounced for most of the last decade. This is the easiest time to get things through Congress, yet they can’t do it. But let’s talk some history.

Many of you may not remember this, but back in 2009 and 2010 there was a very, very spirited “kill the bill” effort against the ACA. No, not the Republican effort, but one from the left. It really took off after Joe Lieberman, scum of the earth, refused to support any health care reform legislation that included either a public option on the Marketplace or a lowering of the Medicare-eligible age to 55 (a.k.a. single-payer). This meant that the law wasn’t going to include government-provided health insurance (the Medicaid expansion, also single-payer, was and continues to be ignored).

The argument in favor of killing the ACA and starting over essentially had two parts:

  1. It was a Republican plan written by the Heritage Foundation.
  2. It would give billions of dollars to the insurance companies and entrench our wicked healthcare system for all time. Passing the ACA would not just be bad reform, but it would make future reform impossible.

Therefore, it was better to regroup and come back with a better plan, and better Democrats. Whenever that would be was not made clear.

Scott Lemieux at LGM has made it a personal crusade of his to disprove the first point. Please read those posts, but if you won’t, I’ll summarize: The Heritage Foundation plan required people to buy health insurance… while deregulating the health insurance market, gutting Medicaid, eliminating employer-provided insurance and turning Medicare into a voucher system. The ACA requires people to buy health insurance… while regulating the health insurance market to expand care and consumer protections, massively expanding Medicaid, preserving employer-provided insurance and strengthening Medicare. Exactly the same, right?

Of course, there’s also the obvious point that if the ACA were everything the Republicans wanted, they were wasting a lot of time trying to destroy it. Yes, Obama supported it, but you haven’t seen the Republicans returning stimulus cash or opposing charter schools, things he also supported. The reality is that the ACA is everything the Republicans hate. There is no Republican plan for universal health coverage because they have never wanted universal health coverage. The Heritage plan was created solely so the Republicans could say they had an alternative for Hillarycare. When you think about it for a second, its insincerity is self-evident. The Underpants Gnomes put more thought into their scheming. It’s as if we were trying to stop malaria, and my recommendation was nuking Africa. The Republican “plan” was to strip away all protections in the health care system while maintaining a veneer of coverage. The ACA is not that. Sadly, with many on the left it was perceived that way.

On the second point, the events of recent weeks have given us the answer. The ACA definitely sent a lot of money toward the insurance companies. It forced people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. It did not do enough to bend the cost curve. It definitely did not go far enough in providing comprehensive healthcare for all Americans (for instance, undocumented immigrants were explicitly excluded). Many people still have to make the impossible choice between healthcare and financial security.

But the ACA did not entrench private health insurance for all time. It entrenched the idea that health insurance is a great thing to have and it would be a bad thing to take it away, regardless of who’s providing it. It turns out that people who got insurance didn’t develop a deep love for free markets, but instead a love for having health care. Gaining health insurance and then being threatened with its loss galvanized them far more than never having it in the first place. In the wake of the ACA’s implementation, the Democrats did not discuss reducing subsidies or privatizing Medicare, as some warned, but instead discussed ways to get the public option back into the law. We even began to talk about single-payer, which was a total afterthought back when Obama was elected. And the Republicans are in a bind. They know just how unpopular total repeal is. The only way to reform the ACA (and it does need reform) without taking away health insurance from millions of people is to make it more liberal, not less. It did not surrender our country to insurance companies for all time; rather, it’s brought the question of whether we need them at all to the forefront.

The ACA was not everything we wanted. It’s not everything we need. Like all idealists, I dream of the clouds parting and the light of the progressive paradise inundating all. The ACA is not that. But it is a light in the darkness. The sheer trouble the Republicans are having trying to scrap it prove that it was a step toward a better world, and that it made a difference. More than 20 million people have health insurance now because of it. It gave progressives the foundation necessary to move the goalposts in the right direction. California was able to introduce a single-payer healthcare bill today because Obamacare established in law the fundamental truth that people have a right to healthcare. Success begets success. And despite everything that’s happened recently, the ACA remains a success. Incomplete, but successful nonetheless. America is a better place because the Democrats didn’t kill the bill. Remember that the next time we get a chance to bend the arc of the moral universe.


Day 28 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

Their foot shall slide in due time.

Provided by Al Giordano and the School of Authentic Journalism
  • GamerGate and the Trump administration are certainly appropriate bedfellows. This article goes into detail on how the hell that happened.
  • I’ve never trusted Bill Maher, because he’s an asshole and a bully. Plus he really, really hates Muslims. So him booking Milo isn’t much of a surprise, sadly.
  • By the time I dropped my daughter off at preschool, I was feeling slightly prepared to face the day and years ahead. As I walked into the school, I caught the eye of my daughter’s teacher and shook my head. She looked away, looking choked up, and asked Zoe—the girl so sure she will be president—for a hug. Tears stung my eyes.”
  • Arizona’s executioners are implementing a BYOLI policy.
  • The Democratic party has gone to the left and is going to the left, no matter who wins the DNC race. That’s a good thing.
  • The damage will take generations to repair. Who could possibly trust us anymore?
  • The party of life can’t abide people having health insurance.
  • An awful, awful precedent is being set regardless of who wins the battle between Trump and the intelligence community, and yet one side has at least shown some restraint. We have to pick one.
  • The Endangered Species Act is another target of the Republicans, though if they’re having so much trouble dumping the ACA, perhaps there’s a chance for the animals as well.
  • Super-earths are not habitable by humans, because they are either gas giants or so close to their stars that all the gas has boiled off. Now you know!
  • Another Onion classic: “Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended.”

Day 27 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

The disgust I feel will never go away.

  • What did the President know, and when did he know it?
  • What did the Vice President know, and when did he know it?
  • It still feels really weird that many neo-Nazis came from fucking GamerGate. And now the circle closes, in a way.
  • Dennis Kucinich has gotten weird lately. Is this the fate of all heroes of the left?
  • What did Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III know, and when did he know it?
  • Tom Price is HHS Secretary. That’s bad. Jon Ossoff is running to replace him! That’s good.
  • It’s not going to be easy to find someone as awful as Andrew Puzder to run Labor instead. But I am supremely confident in Trump’s ability there.
  • RIP, two-state solution. RIP, thousands more Palestinians. RIP, the state of Israel?
  • In happier news, The Book of Dust is coming out in October! I’m prepared to be emotionally devastated again.

Resistance, Russia & Why the Atlanta Falcons Lost the Super Bowl

As one friend recalled, we used to go days, sometimes weeks, without even thinking about Obama. Perhaps that was never the case for feverish Tea Party types and conspiracy-minded birthers—which might help explain why we are where we are today—but that is how a democracy is supposed to work. Even under the worst years of George W. Bush, he wasn’t chronically foremost in my thoughts. As another friend put it, there is something deeply totalitarian about continuously being forced to ponder the executive branch of your government: such preoccupations are neither normal nor healthy.

—Thomas Chatterton Williams, “All Trump All the Time,” February 8, 2017

Now lovely Venus doth her son persuade
To seek the walls, and townward turn his train,
And deal swift havoc on the foe dismayed.
While here and there Æneas scans the plain,
Still tracking Turnus through the ranks in vain,
Far off the peaceful city he espies,
Unscathed, unstirred, and in his restless brain
The vision of a greater war doth rise;
Larger the War-God looms, and to his chiefs he cries.

—Virgil, The Aeneid, Book XII, a long time ago

Last Sunday, the idiot Atlanta Falcons, who had held the evil New England Patriots to three points for the first 43 minutes of the Super Bowl, gave up 31 points in the remaining 17 minutes of regulation and four minutes of overtime to complete the greatest choke in NFL history. Despite this collapse, most people have correctly blamed the Falcons offense rather than the defensive unit for the loss. The Falcons defense was on the field for 99 snaps! The average number of snaps a unit saw in the regular season was 64. So the Falcons defense was forced to play a game-and-a-half of football on the sport’s biggest stage. Moreover, they were playing aggressive man coverage, rather than a zone defense which waits for the offense to come to it. They were utterly exhausted by the end. As people who’ve played football will tell you, offense is always less draining than defense. The offense has a gameplan that it must execute; it knows exactly what it has to do every time it lines up. On the other hand, the defense’s goal is to stop the offense. It has to read and react to an unknown situation each time. The wide receiver has to run his assigned route, and that’s it. The cornerback has to anticipate every route the wide receiver might run, then work extra hard to correct any mistakes he makes. Chasing is harder than leading. Unless you play for a team in the habit of spying on other teams’ practices and learning their gameplans, on defense you will become tired faster.

Knowing that defense is harder than offense is important as we consider our response so far to Trump. I’ve been extremely impressed by the scale and intensity of protest. But I’m also mentally exhausted, and it hasn’t even been a month. We have almost 50 to go. Reacting to all the horrible stuff is draining. This is the point where I’m supposed to say that everybody’s doing it wrong and we should be primarying Joe Manchin figuring out what to call ourselves ignoring distractions and focusing on one thing, but that’s stupid. Surely the world is wide enough for multiple simultaneous actions. But just like the Falcons got gassed, resistance is taxing. It feels like we’re running back and forth between multiple fires. And in a sense, we are playing into Trump’s tiny hands, in that the issues we protest are things that he loves to talk lie about. In contrast, think of issues that Trump hates talking about: Tax returns. Sexual assault. Russia (hoo boy, Russia). When we go after these issues, then it’s team Trump that must react to our actions. Then they can be the exhausted ones, terrified, unsure of what will happen next. Other than Sally Yates, nobody in the administration has lost their job because of Trump’s executive orders. The Russian issue has already bagged us Flynn. The Congressmen fleeing their own town halls have been cowed into submission. But we still need to get them out of Congress. This war will be fought on multiple fronts, defending the things that make us strong and attacking the things that make them weak. It feels good when we can go on the offensive.

(Image source: ESPN)

Day 26 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

One day at a time.

  • The House Oversight Dems, including my Congresswoman, sent a letter to Jason Chaffetz asking him to do his job. Will he do it? Stick around and find out.
  • The Saturday Night Massacre analogies didn’t seem completely apt when Sally Yates was fired. Now they seem more apropos.
  • Despite my hatred of Trump, intelligence agencies feeling like they have to do something about him is troubling in its own right.
  • The entire government is being pulled into Trump’s orbit, for better or for worse. Expect to see more and more executive orders and less and less legislation.
  • Jason Chaffetz will not do his job.
  • Wikipedia article of the day: “National Legion of Decency.” A good name wasted on a superfluous organization.