The One Flaw With Bernie’s “Medicare for All” Bill: The Finger Thing Means The Taxes!

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I support universal healthcare, though I don’t know anything about it. This makes me like most people! And while I think Bernie’s plan is a good one, like him, I also know it has no chance at success. For now. But I love that he keeps moving the conversation to the left, making it more and more normal. Why are we the only developed country where not dying in the streets because you’re poor is considered a privilege, and something to be earned?

Well, there are a lot of answers to that. But part of it, I think, can be found in this poll from The Guardian.

Since Sanders launched his presidential campaign in May 2015, public support for universal healthcare has climbed. Where 46% of the public supported such a system in 2008 and 2009, a recent Kaiser poll found 53% now support the idea.

But that same survey found that when respondents were told that a universal healthcare plan might give the government “too much control,” or that it might increases taxes, opposition spiked from 43% to 62% and 60% respectively – perhaps a sign of the major political and policy fights that lie ahead.

As always, The Simpsons summed it up beautifully in this one-minute clip.

“The finger thing means the taxes” might be my most-quoted line ever.

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Weekend News Roundup: Gorka, Tillerson, and Harvey

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There’s a Soviet-era sci-fi book by the Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov called The Day Lasts More Than A Hundred Years. I really liked it as a book (though it has been like 18 years since I’ve read it), but love it as a title. It’s a truism every day, of course, the long pace of a day, with each individual tumbling thought taking up its own space, elongating the day beyond memory. But it is especially true in our moment of nitwit authoritarianism, when we’re so consumed with the daily thrum of horror and inanity that time itself is distorted.

All of this is a long way of saying that a whole lot happened since Friday. Let’s do a quick breakdown of the hits (we’ll have a standalone post on the Arpaio pardon).

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North Korea, White Nationalism, and Reality TV: The Key To the Fake King

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Look, I’m sorry, I love this image.

In Deadspin today, Burneko talks about why he doesn’t think Trump is a real ideological Nazi or Confederate or even an actual white supremacist. I sort of disagree, but this is a solid point.

Honestly, even his white supremacism is a second-order thing, an artifact of the coincidence that he, himself, is white, and cannot tolerate less than personal supremacy. He likes the things in the world that gratify him, and those things happen to be good for preserving the power of white people, men in particular, literally any of whom he’d run over with a combine harvester in a moment if it got the New York Times to treat him like a True New York Big Shot.

There’s a lot to that, I think, especially about how he’d uncaringly destroy the people who for whatever reason adore him. He has no problem crushing the people closest to him, his advisors and staff and defenders. Indeed, he likes cruelty, probably because it reminds him that, despite being a mush-headed coward, he still has unearned power.

He clearly doesn’t care about any of his voters. As Burneko puts it, ““Nazi” and “Republican” and “fork” and “war” and “hello”: For Donald Trump these are just noises you make with your mouth. You make the ones that get people to look at you; if they also smile, fine, but if their eyes widen in shock or horror or disgust, that’s fine too, so long as they don’t look away.” I do think he’s a pretty old-school Queens/Staten Island racist, but he played it up more to get the people cheering. He’s a wrestling heel and a reality show savant (that’s not a compliment). He knows how to gin up conflict for the cheap seats.

Indeed, that’s confirmed by a post late yesterday in the Times.

The president’s top advisers described themselves as stunned, despondent and numb. Several said they were unable to see how Mr. Trump’s presidency would recover, and others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job.

In contrast, the president told close aides that he felt liberated by his news conference. Aides said he seemed to bask afterward in his remarks, and viewed them as the latest retort to the political establishment that he sees as trying to tame his impulses.

First off, people who are stunned: you’re idiots. This is who he has always been. It isn’t like he somehow became a different man over the 200 days of his Presidency. Everyone knew this was exactly how it would go, so don’t act surprised. When Gary Cohn resigns because his conscience was rocked, don’t treat him as a hero. He’s a goddamn dope if he ever thought differently.

But it’s the last line that’s key. The political establishment is trying to “tame his impulses”, and that’s why he feels great. It doesn’t matter what he said, it doesn’t matter how divisive it was, it doesn’t matter that he broke up his precious CEO conclaves or emboldened Nazis or hurt his chances of passing policies. He was able to be Trump.

That’s what it is all about. That’s what it has always been about. He wants to be the swaggering anti-PC cowboy he envisioned back in his old draft-dodging days, and wants to be seen as the big man who tells it like it is because he’s the only one smart enough to know that George Washington owned slaves, and because all he really wants is attention.

The key to this is his reality show days, which are the main reason he is now President, as terrible an indictment of the United States as that is. On his show, he pretended to be the titan of business and the guy in charge, deciding on the fates of supplicants depending on if they pleased him or not. In reality, producers decided who came and went. At least, according to Clay Aiken, but come on: does Trump seem like the guy who makes real decisions?

He doesn’t. He just likes the trappings of power and fame. A perfect example of this was the North Korea showdown. Trump blustered and blathered, but the DoD played it straight, and Nikki Haley did her job, and we didn’t move to DefCon 1 or anything. Indeed, Trump’s statements seemed outside the process. He was the fake President.

The problem is that he is still the real President, and he made the situation more tense, and could have made it catastrophic. On TV, he could pretend to be the boss and say stupid shit, and it didn’t matter. But here, all you have is people trying to do their jobs under a guy who has no concern for protocol or the right way to do things, because they constrain Trump from being “Trump”.  He doesn’t know anything, doesn’t make actual decisions, doesn’t care to handle things, but wants to be seen as the boss. Wants to be seen as the swaggering tough. And that’s enormously dangerous.

When he adopts the language of white nationalism because he likes to be seen as anti-PC, it is dangerous. When he threatens North Korea because he likes to be seen as bold, it is dangerous. When he is willing to say anything because he can’t stand being anything other than his own stupid caricature, it is dangerous.

The entire Donald Trump candidacy and presidency has been about serving this empty ego. It’s about propping up his fraud. Maybe that’s the only way to get through to his most stubborn supporters. Just keep pointing out that at no way, in no form, has this ever been about them. It never will be.

In Asking About Washington and Jefferson, Trump Stumbles Onto One Interesting Point

 

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“Great guy. Owned slaves. Doesn’t bother me. I’m more Presidential than him”

 

I don’t think there is much more to say about Trump’s raving belligerence, his hideous instincts, and his incoherent tirade against decency yesterday. As Pierce pointed out, he was a guy who was clearly angry about having to release a second statement on whether or not Nazis and racists are bad, and stewed about it for 24 hours, then let the world know how he really felt. To say it was un-Presidential is to pretend that this guy is a real President.

But he did inadvertently stumble onto a good point, albeit from the wrong direction and with the wrong intent. He brought up a normal right-wing Confederate talking point, bringing up the fact that many of the Founding Fathers were indeed slave owners.

“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Mr. Trump said. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.”…

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? …Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue, because he was a major slave owner. Now we’re going to take down his statue. So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

Obviously, the “there were a lot of good people carrying torches alongside the Nazis and white supremacists!” line that has people talking. But the Washington/Jefferson part is really interesting. This is a common sneer among the right, an unlettered attempt at logic, and, to them, an attempt to get us to consider how much we’re “changing” history.

There are a few obvious rebuttals here. The first is the easiest, which is: we’re not changing history, you dolt, we’re just not honoring terrible people anymore. The second is related, which is: sure, we have a complicated history, but maybe we’ll draw the line at honoring people who committed treason against the United States in order to defend slavery.

That one is worth unpacking. We can point out the obvious hypocrisy in the idea that the right wing is telling us that some Founding Fathers were bad, as an excuse for maybe worse behavior by CSA leaders. When the left points that out we hate America, remember. But I think we should actually happily accept those terms.

One of the worst parts of this country, and one of the wells from which a lot of contemporary poison is drawn, is Founding Father worship. We do tend to deify these man, and the end result is really pernicious.

For one thing, it has partly led to the contemporary cult of the Presidency. After all, of all the Founding Fathers who are worshipped, most were Presidents. Franklin is really the only non-President who is deified, until Hamilton the last couple of years. Men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine are more known than understood, and tend to get lumped together, even though they were remarkably different men with remarkably different ideas.

And that’s sort of the point. The Fathers were a fractious bunch with a hell of a lot of competing ideas, and barely worked out a compromise to set up the government. That’s a good thing. The problem is that their ideas, and indeed their lives, have been dipped in a sort of amber. The differences are smoothed out. And they are lumped together into a sort of cult.

Really, the fact that not capitalizing “founding fathers” looks sort of weird is a tell. They are almost gods, and that is really pernicious. It is literally undemocratic, and it has infected our politics. We parse the text of the 2nd Amendment to see if it is ok for you to carry a bazooka to a Nazi rally. We ask what the Fathers would have thought of internet pornography (Franklin: Thumbs up). We try to imagine what 18th-century farmers would have done today.

That’s really antithetical to their whole project. The people who created this country believed in common law and progress. They didn’t intend for their word to be Gospel. This isn’t just an argument against “originalism”, which is an obvious intellectual fraud, but against the whole idea that we should be beholden to a bunch of flawed dudes from 240 years ago.

And so maybe we should look at our history. Maybe we should say “Oh yeah- George Washington would have been super weirded out at civil rights, and just seeing an airplane would have fucking blown his heart up. Let’s not look at them as gods. In fact, let’s examine the whole history of this country, and not pretend it was uniquely moral. Let’s not pretend that the slavery was an aberration. Let’s not pretend that we didn’t literally wiped out hundreds of nations in order to colonize the continent. Let’s not pretend that the monuments to men like Lee weren’t to honor soldiers, and not put up by Jim Crow politicians to remind blacks of their place. Let’s not pretend about anything, and maybe we can fulfill the promise inherent in our creeds.”

This obviously isn’t what Trump meant. In his mind, and the mind of his Confederate-loving Nazi-humping Lowes-shopping patio-torch-wielding white supremacist jackass buddies, Washington isn’t bad because Lee is, but rather Lee should be fine because Washington is great, and they are both great because they are both white. So why question their greatness?

But just because that isn’t what our idiot President meant doesn’t mean we shouldn’t run with this in another direction. I argued yesterday morning that maybe Trump will inadvertently help tear down the cult of the Presidency. I didn’t know he’d do it that afternoon.

President Tough Guy

 

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At the Republican National Convention

 

(h/t LGM)

Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up, around 4:30 p.m. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20-to-25-page packet to President Trump personally, White House sources say.

These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.

 

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Ibid

That alt-right RED PILL idiots bought into the most talentless con-man in American history is the only thing maybe more funny than the “fuck your feelings” crowd thinking the tenderest and most ludicrously sensitive manchild in American history a new Ceaser.

This will be less funny when we go to nuclear war with North Korea. Or maybe more funny. Who knows?

 

With New WaPo Revelations, Team of Rats Clearly Acting Like Rats

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Last night, the Washington Post broke the story that the initial wildly misleading and dishonest statement regarding the fabled Don Jr. Russia meeting was dictated by the President himself. The statement, if you recall, basically said “we met one woman and it was all about adoption, and come on, so what?”

This turned out to be not exactly the case.

That’s interesting, because it again shows the President to be an inveterate, indeed instinctual liar, whose relationship with the truth is analogous to the one he has with women, which is: I can do whatever I want to it. It is breathtakingly arrogant, in its assumption that if he says something, we’ll all believe it (or rather, that it will become truth, because he’s Trump, so what he says goes). It’s also incredible in how much it complicates the life of his son.

I don’t know if there are any legal ramifications here; I sort of doubt it. But the real upshot of the story is that while the sources are anonymous, and this will surely be disputed, they all came from within the White House. This isn’t just leaking about how Reince is a jerk or anything like that. These are senior officials saying that the President is deliberately complicit in misleading the American people about his administration’s, and his family’s, ties to Russia.

That’s partly because I would imagine the ship is clearly sinking. Mueller is zooming in on the money, which is what this has always been about. But as much as anything, it is because it is clear that the President has zero loyalty, and is willing to discard anyone to benefit himself. Now, this has been clear literally forever, and anyone who ever believed otherwise is an idiot, but even idiots have to understand the game now.

Here’s the proof. This is my favorite part of the whole thing.

Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications and one of the president’s most trusted and loyal aides, and Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works closely with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, huddled with Kushner’s lawyers, and they advocated for a more transparent approach, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.

In one scenario, these people said, Kushner’s team talked about sharing everything, including the contents of the emails, with a mainstream news organization.

Yup. It was Jared Kushner, who loathes the press, never speaks to it, and who consistently lied on his disclosure forms, who was pushing for transparency and openness. Amazing how he and Ivanka are the ones who come out good in this story. I wonder who the sources would be.

Let’s call him “Jared K.”

Like I said, I don’t think anything will come of this qua this. It might demonstrate that Trump knew more about the meeting than he let on, though it doesn’t have to. He might have heard of it that day, and decided that, in his wisdom, he’d be able to handle it. That’s very plausible!

But the story itself shows the extraordinary dysfunction of this White House, and more than that, the willingness of top inside sources to attack the President himself, and throw him under the bus before they get run down. It’s sort of exciting, but also another reminder of how much a disaster we’ve inflicted upon ourselves. It’s what happens when you have a government of the worst, by the worst, and for the worst.

Quick Hits and Weekend Reads on our post-Priebus Friday

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Reince just lost a turf battle to this guy. Good for him- he deserves it.

1) Man, I don’t even know what to talk about this week. Let’s talk about Reince, who was just pushed out after losing a turf battle with the human incarnation of an $8 tip on a $400 bill.

I remember when Reince was first elected the chairman of the GOP in 2011, because it seemed impossible that he was real. He won by bragging that he owned eight guns, or at least that’s all I remembered beside the name. He was a weakling and a sniveling toady, the perfect embodiment of modern Wisconsin, a Kenosha kid who took it upon himself to make the lives of those he grew up around harder. With Scott Walker and Paul Ryan, he helped ruin a good state.

His legacy is presiding over the GOP as it tipped from gibbering into full madness, as he helped stoke powerful forces of anger and atavism, failed to stand up to Trump, and then enabled his every idiocy. No sympathy for the petty manner of his dismissal or his loss to a guy who thinks that calling the New Yorker means the assumption of off-the-record. He’s a terrible person who deserves fully every humiliation.

This is nice, though. Wikipedia is cold, man. This was up like 45 seconds after the news broke.

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2) That reminds me: we started this week mostly talking about Jeff Sessions. Remember that? How Trump was pushing him out? (Can you believe the Mooch interview came out like 25 hours ago?)  There’s been some sympathy for Sessions because Trump has treated him so poorly, but remember that Jeff Session deserves much, much worse.

That’s the one nice thing about Trump ritually humiliating and abusing everyone around him. Choosing to be around Trump is proof that you are an asshole, and deserve to be ritually abused and humiliated. I can’t wait for it to happen to Mooch.

3) This week, we talked about the tragedy of Cairo, Illinois. I was honored to be linked by Avram Grynszpan at Ruminations in an Emergency (great name), who has been doing great work on Cairo. For more background on what is happening there, and why, please head on over to his joint. He is also more action-oriented on what we can to to help Cairo. The whole blog is really interesting, so make it a destination.

GOOD READS FOR THE WEEKEND

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Nah, go nuts

Looking for a few reads? Well, here you go.

  • If you like baseball, here’s a cool and fun Deadspin article on players who have had two separate Hall of Fame careers, by WAR. That is to say, if you took like their first ten years and second ten years, both would be HoF worthy, or at least in consideration. I think most people would be surprised to see Alex Rodriguez on here, though you shouldn’t be. He was so good and none of you cared. It’s also fun to remember how great Rickey Henderson was, and gape in awe again at Babe Ruth.
  • Less fun, but super important: Katherine Zimmerman at Critical Threats (An AEI joint, showing my political ecumenicism) has an excellent report, originally published in a statement to the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on how al-Qaeda is strengthening by consistently adapting its approach and methods while still focusing on the primary goals. They are still thinking long-term, whereas ISIS thinks short (a position with which this blog is sympathetic). She wants US policy-makers to understand this persistent and pervasive threat, as well as the threat of Salafi-jihadism, which as she says “predates” either group and “will generate another transnational organization if they are defeated.”  It’s a good global look at the movement, and while I would be interested to see how she thinks ISIS impacted AQ (even just by altering the landscape of the ideas of its recruits), it is a sober and thoughtful and comprehensive report.
  • Timothy Garton-Ash, that great observer of political change in Europe, is strangely optimistic about the Anglo-American world’s ability to rebound from the intertwined Trump/Brexit madness. Well, at least, he sees it as a possible future, which is better than me on most days. He also produces a great line: “The transcript of Trump’s recent interview with the “failing” New York Times reveals the egocentric, superficial stream-of-consciousness disorder of his mind: Leopold Bloom meets the National Enquirer.”
  • A video! This isn’t reading at all! Looks like old man O’Neill is pivoting to the future! Don’t get too excited, because this is about parking, or rather, the madness of how we’ve designed cities around parking and minimum requirements. It doesn’t get into how the auto industry influenced these decisions, which meant that our towns are unwalkable, but that short-sightedness is demonstrated. This is a minor obsession around here, and this short video is a great introduction to the issue. It seems obscure, but it gets to the heart of how we live and interact with our lived environment. And the expert in it is awesome.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Let’s see if we can get through a weekend without a disaster.