Let’s all remember how we got here.

Before Obamacare, before the Tea Party, before the election of Barack Obama, we had a healthcare crisis. Premiums were skyrocketing. Insurance companies were cutting off access to expensive procedures. The bottom line was: health insurance as we’d enjoyed it for decades was going away with nothing left in it’s wake. Nobody disagreed with this assessment.

Ross Perot once famously quipped of Social Security, “Social Security made sense when the age to collect ws 65 and the average person lived to be 60.” Whatever you think of his or anyone else’s policy prescriptions for SS, the truth of this statement was pretty undeniable. As our lifespans lengthen, it gets more and more expensive to take care of each other.

And as people lost insurance, they didn’t lose their diseases. Which meant people ended up in the most expensive part of the hospital – the Emergency Room – instead of taking care of issues early with a primary care physician. Because hospitals have an ethical responsibility to fix broken people, the cost of those emergency visits was necessarily passed on to the rest of us.

Neither are cost and advanced age the only issues. In the last few decades, we’ve seen a shocking rise in the rate of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease and heart disease. It isn’t just that we’re getting older: we’re getting sicker when we’re young. All of this adds up to a pretty incredible burden on a health insurance system. Especially one that is market- and profit-driven.

Obamacare

Obamacare sought to address the fundamental issues of the health insurance industry by bringing more people into the system. Similar to Social Security, the more participants are paying into the system, the more money there is to pay for the more expensive needs of other members. Better still, by bringing people into the health insurance system and giving them access to preventative care, Obamacare sought to lower the overall cost of taking care of sick people.

In exchange for new business and more profit, Obamacare required insurers to adhere to a list of demands like insuring people regardless of their “pre-existing conditions,” which is just a way of saying you know they have potentially expensive issues, but you’re going to cover them anyway. In fact, Obamacare eliminated “insurance underwriting,” which means insurance companies are not allowed to demand a complete medical history to cover you.

Much of what Obamacare was meant to address did work. We got 24m more Americans covered by health care. Insurance companies honored the commitment to cover all comers. But the largest concern of most Middle Americans, the cost, didn’t stop rising. It rose at a much slower pace, but that’s cold comfort to someone already feeling the pinch of rising costs.

I would argue that, given that a big component of Obamacare was wrestling with pre-existing conditions and lack of preventative care, there probably was never a chance that the cost curve could be reversed overnight. Or even in seven years. Sick people don’t stop being sick. A lifetime lack of care doesn’t get that much better right away. Nevertheless, Obamacare promised lower healthcare costs and didn’t deliver fast enough for America’s patience, it seems.

Because if President Obama ran on the promise of Obamacare, to the extent that President Trump’s campaign was “about” anything, it was once again the promise of way better healthcare.

The AHCA

So Republicans are tasked with reversing Obamacare. And they’re tasked with creating a new system that allows health insurance to be a profitable business at a lower cost, because the one thing Obamacare didn’t deliver on was lowered premiums.

Go back and reread the first few paras of this article. Our healthcare crisis is a logical conclusion of living longer and getting sicker as a species. It wasn’t an institutional crisis – it wasn’t that insurance companies were changing policy without reason. We have a genuine crisis of a demand for coverage that drives costs through the roof. Lowering costs, then, can only mean one thing: lowering demand by cutting off access.

If we’re not going to stick it out with Obamacare, then as harsh and cruel as the AHCA is, it is exactly what is necessary. If we’re not going to do our best to increase participation, our only other alternative is to make what insurance companies previously tried to do quietly a matter of national health care policy. We need to decrease demand.

Cruelty isn’t a bug: it’s a feature.

The cruelty of the AHCA is hard to take in. The expansive ways in which Republicans chose – completely on their own – to take a sledgehammer to the very idea of health insurance is breathtaking. As the ACLU points out, the AHCA basically makes being a woman a pre-existing condition. VoteVets points out that it bumps millions of veterans out of the health insurance markets by denying them the tax credits “granted” to the rest of us and shunts them into an already overwhelmed VA system.

Cruel though these things may be, supply and demand economics requires that either there is way more supply or way less demand. No other thing will reduce costs. Democrats essentially tried to buoy supply by increasing participation and in so doing, raise the capital required to expand the supply side. Republicans have now fully bought into the idea that slashing demand will work.

And the worst part of all this is, again, that sick people don’t stop being sick because they don’t have health care. They’re going right back to the emergency rooms. And they’re going to jack up the price of health care. And – brace yourselves – there will be no cost savings. There will be no lowered premiums. And we know this, because we already lived through this once.

But Republicans have spent eight years decrying Obamacare. They can’t just walk away now. And there is absolutely no way of “improving” this bill. The Senate will not be our saviors. Because to alter this bill is self-defeating. The only thing to do is let it die. Do we believe Republicans have the strength to do that alone? Or should we help them come to the logical conclusion?

The rolling window of “Trump could have done this better” excuses for the Trump White House’s dick-tripping incompetence is getting tiresome. Three weeks in, and I think everybody could use a vacation, but let’s please not entertain these “simple answers” as the logical choice when describing what we’ve seen so far. Most recently, we now have this Politico puff piece on the putative “gold standard” of White House Chiefs of Staff, James Baker, in which Baker firmly chides Trump on how to be more Republican.

It is a fact that Trump’s Muslim Ban could easily have been implemented with more care and consequently less resistance. The president has pretty wide latitude in deciding who comes in or out of this country. This has been the case since the 70’s. Yes, he can cut off immigration from one, a group or all nations for whatever time he chooses, at least in theory.

Doing so would cause quite a bit of panic no matter the timing, leading to inevitable law suits. Liberals like myself would absolutely argue the constitutionality of ban like Trump’s. It wouldn’t be smooth sailing however they did it. But it could have been done.

It’s also true that, as a rule, Republicans aren’t that into Russia. That certainly describes the attitude of the Reagan White House in which Baker served. American foreign policy has, since early in the Cold War, been built largely on the lead Republicans set. And that lead was very anti-Russia. Even after Glasnost, very few Republicans I’ve ever known have thought highly of or trusted Russia.

A different relationship with Russia, even in present context, doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. A more trusting relationship with Russia is not objectively worse than a less trusting one.

But for chrissakes, come on! Let’s please stop listening to people patiently tell us that what we’re seeing isn’t real.

Trump’s Muslim ban was not badly-planned. It was meant to cause chaos and panic. It was meant to trap the foreign-born at airports. It was meant to put the “enemies” of Trump’s agenda “on notice.” And those enemies were the foreign-born. That was the point. That’s why Trump said the ban was “going very well. You can see it at the airports.” The “news junkie” president did not fail to notice the chaos roiling the airports.

Trump’s ties to Russia aren’t accidental and neither are those shared by an incredible number of his lieutenants. Calls between his National Security Advisor Flynn and the Russian Ambassador before, during and after the election were not innocent even if they contained no relevant information. Throwing him under the bus will change nothing fundamental about the situation in the White House. It is a persistent fact of this administration that they have openly and not-so-openly had ties to the very same nation that our intelligence agencies confirm were responsible for the hacking of our nation’s democratic institutions.

Baker presumably expects these ties to be disappeared by a simple, grandfatherly “tut-tut.” He gravely intones about the need for sanctions against Russia in a way that clearly says “that’s the Republican Way.”

“Come along now, son,” he seems to say, “Let’s get you a flag pin and some photo time at West Point.”

Don’t let Republicans weave this narrative. Everybody in the party wants their Conservative Christmas, and they’ll wait till the tanks roll on Bowling Green to get it. They’ll say anything to stall, to cover, to explain away. Some of them might even believe it. But you can see what is happening. There is nothing subtle about Trump, there is nothing accidental about the chaos he’s created and there is absolutely nothing sincere in Republican pleas for patience.

This, after all, might be the very last election Republicans ever win. Jim Baker’s just trying to get the most out of it.

The thing about being a billionaire real estate mogul (real or perceptual) is that there really aren’t any consequences to pissing people off. There are no consequences when you antagonize the media; there are no consequences when you join the WWE and shear someone’s hair off; there are no consequences to a walk-on role in porn. In the end, it’s just one guy signing a deal with another guy. Over and over again. The media and the public play absolutely no role.

Presidents don’t have such luxuries. Presidents make decisions every day, all of which have consequences. Sometimes for the entire world. Presidents need to communicate with their constituents and they need a robust media – even one that thinks of them as an asshole – to do it. Perhaps most critically, presidents have already entered a contract with a population that turns on their perception of you. That perception can turn on a dime, and it’ll never come back.

I’m not foolish enough to believe a 70 year old man who hasn’t figured these things out yet, ever will. In fact, I fully expect this presidency will be an exercise in head-bashing stupidity. More lawsuits, more insults and more sneering on Twitter. More affronts to our civil liberties, our culture and our values. More cogs in the Federal machine on lock-down while they await the coming Tangerine Rapture.

But I hope the rest of us know what we’re heading into, for the next four years. No more excuses about “pivots” or aides who will reign him in. What we have seen for the last week is what we can expect from here on out. You ready?

I had to flag this one for a bit of extra attention. Alex Jones is hopping mad that Julian Assange and his information-freedom-fighter-turned-electoral-troll site Wikileaks didn’t deliver on the October surprise he was hoping for:

Radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones expressed his vocal and extremely specific disappointment with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s failure to deliver his promised “October surprise” on Tuesday.

Source: Alex Jones Slams ‘Hillary Butt-Plug’ Assange For October Surprise Letdown

Now, to be clear: Alex Jones is one wackadoodle fuck nugget. But even so, his voice has been greatly amplified by the current Republican nominee to the presidency. A nominee that, yes, your Republican party – the Party of Lincoln, if you can still stand to use that term – nominated. Whatever individual Republicans voted or did not vote for, the current Republican nominee stands on the shoulders of every other elected and nominated candidate that came before him.

And since this is not the first, but rather one in a series of calls for third-party, international groups to disrupt this election, it’s worth asking what Republicans at large actually want from US elections, anymore?

We’ve spent 7 long years subjected to accusations that President and US Citizen Barack Obama was a secret Muslim and a Manchurian Candidate for Sharia Law. And most Republicans I know have at least entertained some of this kind of bat-shit rhetoric. Now, we see Republicans openly, publically calling for Russia to hack the DNC, playing footsie with Putin and now getting angry over Assange’s apparent failure to decide a nominally-democratic election undemocratically.

Can you guys get your shit straight and get back to me?

Like I’m sure most of my audience, I spent last night watching the Town Hall style debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The so-called “Commander-in-Chief Town Hall” onboard the Intrepid in front of a gaggle of military men and women, along with their commanders. I’ll take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the night.

Frankly, the event was such a complete shit-show, especially where Trump was concerned, that it would be neigh-on impossible to mention all of it. At least, not without help from other news sources. So I guess you might say this is my list of Most Awful Moments, if you have to call it anything.

Seriously, NBC?

I honestly cannot tell what NBC is covering, anymore. They’re so pleased with themselves with the Williamsian theme music and lush lighting effects, it could be a Macy’s Day Parade, a sporting event or a critical portion of the democratic process. They all come out looking more-or-less the same. Speaking of which,…

Matt Lauer..

Matt Lauer has his perfect job: getting up early in the morning to discuss lizards at the San Diego Zoo, “recipes” featuring pre-made cake mix, and laser hair removal. Why NBC insists on putting him in serious situations that he’s grossly unprepared for is beyond me. But please, NBC: you have a bullpen of fine reporters both male and female. You needn’t settle for the fluff.

* Side note: you could be doing much better with the Macy’s Day Parade, too. Keep that morning show shit in it’s place.

A lot has been made of Lauer’s lack of follow-up. But I think looking at the way the night went overall is more instructive. Trump was asked open-ended questions about his fitness to serve, about ISIS, about our military generals. He was pressed to explain his position on “taking the oil” (more on that in a sec). He was pressed to explain why he wants to keep his strategy vis vis ISIS a “secret.” No one subject dominated the night for Trump. In fact, Lauer was happy to move on even when as people have said, he should have pressed for details. Hillary was asked about..

Ferchrissakes, Email

Lauer’s first question to Hillary Clinton was about the email server. In fact, the first third of Hillary’s part was spent on the email including at least one question from the audience. You could perhaps make the argument that information security is national security. And you would be right. But when focused, ostensibly, on foreign affairs in 2016 with only a half hour per candidate.. is that really the first question you ask?

Again, it is instructive to notice the layout of Lauer’s questions: after grilling Clinton on what is truthfully a trivial matter of security for almost half the time he had with her, Lauer breezes from topic to topic with Trump. Clearly, Matt Lauer set his agenda from the very first question.

It is clear now that the email server is an issue for which Clinton needs to answer in real time in front of a national audience. It’s an issue with which she clearly has a problem doing just that. But then…

Hillary Clinton

She did a shit job answering for her email debacle. And even if the “debacle” part was manufactured by her opposition, by now, we can officially call it a debacle. Because she had no real answers that weren’t focused on exonerating herself legally. That’s fine in a court of law – it may even be fine with a reasonable military person, all of whom have a lot of experience with security in their own jobs – but it’s not a persuasive argument for good judgement.

I think she came back pretty strong on veterans affairs and foreign policy. But the best moment was when she shut down that flake Lauer when she was trying to answer a complex question about the Middle East. If you’re going to sacrifice ten minutes on email, don’t expect to just gloss over Middle East foreign policy, dummy. And I think she came off well for the thinking person who wants to be treated like an adult and given the facts. Hillary has them in spades.

To the extent that Mrs. Clinton was allowed to discuss anything other than being Emailer-in-Chief, I think she did the best with what she had to work with. And then there’s..

Donald Trump

Seriously, ignoring the avowed racists like the Klan who support him, how can any thinking person consider this guy qualified to be President of the United States?

Matt Lauer managed to not press Trump on any but the most preposterous of his claims – including when Trump offered to list things that make President Obama equivalent to Vladimir Putin. He just sorta let that slide by.

No, accusing the sitting Commander-in-Chief of being a dictator doesn’t require any follow up. A person on the Today Show, demonstrating the wonders of her new skin cream? That needs follow up. Not this. Not a line of argument that would get a military man shoved in the brig.

But the most amazing, telling part of that exchange is when Matt Lauer asks if Putin would “change his mind.” You tell me, but I get the sense Trump thinks Lauer is asking about Putin’s mind where Donald Trump is concerned, not the litany of aforementioned crimes in Crimea and elsewhere. Check about 1:19 in this video:

“Possibly! It’s possible. I don’t know, Matt. And it’s not going to have any impact. If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”

Stand by your man, Donald. But the question was not about you.

Perhaps the problem for Lauer is the same one that has vexed so many other reporters: Trump is so completely full of shit that it’s hard to know where to begin. Because literally not a single answer of Trump’s was substantive. They were the same angry tone poems he’s been reciting all election season long. Word painting in blood. But not a single policy declaration.

There was one decent Lauer moment when even he couldn’t buy into the Trump Horseshit Roadshow. Trump has insisted for months that describing his broad-strokes strategy will be versus ISIS is somehow equivalent to giving an enemy general his battle plans. That’s just farce and even Lauer had enough backbone to question it. I think we all remember the little asshole in elementary school who would insist, “I know, but I’m not going to tell you!” Right up there with “my dad’s a lawyer” and “my girlfriend is from Canada.”

Wow. Did Trump just shit in the mouth of every general in the US Military?

I know that Trump’s brand of “negotiating” is to employ bully tactics. I know that he stakes outrageous claims specifically so he can walk back to a place where he wins. But just as often these days, I get the distinct impression that what’s really going on is that Trump fucks up, and then begins his strongman routine to cover for it.

Standing in the middle of a room full of servicemen and talking shit about their commanders is a mistake. Forget whatever they might say among themselves, it’s just something you don’t do. But returning to Trump’s tone poems if revanchism, it’s simply not a part of his campaign or his brand that he can live without. And insisting that we’re losing in the world necessarily means saying nasty things about the leadership of the military. You can’t get around it.

He says he’ll listen to “his” generals, but insists that “Obama’s generals” are decimated and in ruins. What does that mean? Is he aware that military brass are not political positions that he can just fill at a whim?

Take the Oil. Please!

Out of all the weird shit that Trump has said for lo, this many months, one of the weirdest was the idea that we could “take the oil” from Iraq. I really want to believe that even Trump supporters can see this nonsensical claptrap for what it is. But alas! I have no such hopes.

Take the oil. How, exactly? Even Matt Lauer wanted to know, and it was pretty obvious from the beginning: Matt Lauer didn’t really want to know shit. If you could just pull all the oil out of the ground at once, don’t you think someone would have thought about that before now? We’d have barrels of crude stacked up behind every Hess station in town. But you can’t because…

Jesus. I might as well be talking to my four year old. You just can’t, OK?

Now that Corey Lewandowski has formally been charged with what was pretty obviously a crime from the start, it’s time once again to discuss the Trump Campaign’s constant stream of violence. Unlike previous bouts of violence at Trump Rallies, which took place in the crowds, this one confirms that there is something inherently violent about the Trump Machine as he runs it. Still, I’m sure there’s plenty of people who will cling firmly to their plausible deniability, encapsulated in the following meme:

trump-violence

Now, I don’t want to move too fast for the mouth-breathers that support Trump. But consider this: if you intentionally go to a place where you have a better-than-average chance of getting the shit beat out of you, you’re probably something of an asshole. If you go to a place where you have a better-than-average chance of getting a crack in against someone with whom you have a disagreement, you’re almost certainly an asshole. And much though I certainly do love watching people wreck themselves on “World’s Dumbest,” and so on, if you go to a place where you have a better-than-average chance of watching someone you don’t like getting the shit beat out of them, you’re… well, something less than noble, anyway.

The bottom line is this: people who are looking for trouble know where to go. It’s not a Bernie rally, it’s not a Clinton rally, it’s not a Ted Cruz rally, it’s not a John Kasich rally. People who are looking for trouble are going to Trump rallies. Their political affiliations – if such they really have – are meaningless. And now that Trump’s own “campaign manager” has been placed under arrest for the crime of assault, we have positive affirmation that this is exactly what Trump wants.

As liberals and independents, it can be a little unsettling to see the unphased certainty with which Donald J. Drumpf and his followers view the election. Like many such moments, this is one in which it takes all your effort and concentration to remember that the election hasn’t even happened yet. You can begin to question whether your view of the world is really fundamentally flawed in some way.

In such moments, it’s important to remember that these are people for whom “uncertainty” is an unfamiliar concept. They’ve heard of it. But uncertainty has never really happened to them. Instead, they quietly walk among us, certain that the vast overwhelming majority (once, the Moral Majority) is on their side. If only they could speak.

But of course, those putative “normal Americans” cannot speak their minds: they are under the dreaded pall of “Political Correctness,” a phrase that brings two terms Trump fans are uncomfortable with together with the insane concept that you’re not allowed to call black people the N-Word. Like all “normal Americans,” they know that they would lose their jobs if they spoke the truth. And so would everyone around them.

No matter how many times reality refuses to show “normal Americans” a face that confirms their world view – even after every seated member of the Thanksgiving table says, “shut the fuck up, Uncle Frank!” – they cannot be disabused of their certainty. Because the rest of us need to stop buying into the Liberal Media.

Now that Donald Trump is leading the Republican Primary, these people are free to speak their minds as much as they please. Freedom! Sweet freedom! They revel in the freedom to say how they really feel, because President Trump is going to Make America Great Again. Just like he did with real estate education!

So whatever you do, don’t bother trying to get your asshole friends on Facebook to see the light. They’ve seen it. And they prefer their own little world where President Trump Saves America. And don’t bother fretting about his chances in November. No one knows the future. Not even a Trump supporter.

I did a little digging into Donald Trump’s gobsmacking statement on Meet the Press this morning. For those that have not already seen, given the opportunity to disavow the endorsements of White Supremacists as notorious as David Duke, Trump said simply, “I don’t know David Duke.”

As has been commented frequently on social media, anyone under 30 could be forgiven for not seeing any particular relevance to the name David Duke. But a man as politically and socially active as Trump at Trump’s age cannot with any shred of credibility state that they do not know the name David Duke. Not at least enough to know that his is an endorsement no serious candidate to the Presidency could accept. Yet, giving the opportunity, Trump dodged the question.

But there is at least this little nugget of Donald Trump’s colorful political past, wherein he seems to directly refute the candidacy of Pat Buchanan (another name the under-30 set is not obligated to know). Refute, that is, because he believed Patrick Buchanan was a “Hitler-lover.”

Slate (USA)October 26, 1999
Copyright (c) 1999, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
Record Number: 10-26/services/public/syndication/syndication.asmx/Get_PageId_1003886/index.html
Section: ballot box
Buchanan Cuts Hitler Another Break
Author: Jacob Weisberg

Pat Buchanan’s Holocaust revisionism has never taken the form of his denying that Nazis murdered some Jews. Rather, he has consistently hinted, indicated, and implied that that he thinks the Nazis were somewhat less guilty of the Holocaust than people make them out to be. Today on ABC’s Good Morning America, Buchanan tried shifting the blame for the Holocaust away from the Nazis once again. Asked by Diane Sawyer about Donald Trump‘s comment that he was a “Hitler-lover,” the newest candidate for the Reform Party nomination had this to say:

Well let me explain. In the book I wrote, I referred to Hitler as a monster. I say that he–he behaved like Al Capone in his first days in office and he and Stalin let loose their SS and NKVD killers and set up Auschwitz and perpetuated the massacre.

The Russian NKVD was the 1930s ancestor of the KGB. It helped Stalin to kill many millions in its day. The Jews of Auschwitz, however, were not among them. To be more specific: Russian NKVD killers did not help to “set up Auschwitz.” Nor did they “perpetuate the massacre” there. Auschwitz didn’t even begin operating as a death camp until 1942, long after Hitler ended his non-aggression pact with Stalin by invading the Soviet Union.

Claiming that Hitler and the Nazis weren’t solely responsible for Auschwitz may be the single most extraordinary and outrageous thing Buchanan has ever said about the Holocaust. It isn’t anyone’s eccentric or revisionist view of history. It’s the fantasy of a disturbed person who thinks he can get elected president with the support of the Teamsters, David Duke, and Lenora Fulani.

Yesterday the Republican Party … today his faculties.

So if you’re keeping score at home, shifting blame away from Hitler is beyond the pale for Donald Trump. But getting the endorsement of one of Buchanan’s own favourites is not worth disavowing.

I hope that if you read my blog tonight, you enjoyed the Marshallesque debate blog. I’ve avoided these things all season because frankly, there’s just so much a healthy person can take of politics for whom politics are not a second nature. No offense to those who enjoy it. It’s just not my bag. Anymore.

But Antonin Scalia’s passing just made the debate too important not to take a first-person temperature test of the fever swamp. Just how bad is bad, these days?

I think that South Carolina’s decisiveness as a primary state meant that everybody was at their wonkiest best tonight. No matter how fired up the debate got, it was based on facts. Whether those facts were relevant – as in the case of Rubio’s attack on Cruz’s amendments, where it was not – probably doesn’t much matter. They’re arguing over issues of substance.

Trump is definitely tracking to the center, as well as towards the sane. His criticisms of the Bush Administration were considered and accurate. Much of the reporting tonight will be about his attack on the Bush Administration. But in reality, he gave cover for everyone to make harsh criticisms of the Bush Admin. Even Jeb.

What made the whole debate worth watching was how hard the second tier of the race bent towards the sane donor class. It’s part of what makes Trump’s simultaneous scornful joking about the donor class and obvious bowing towards the donor class so interesting. Whether he’s trying to assuage their fears or elicit their money remains to be seen, but any business man would be a fool not to accept willful support and financial donation.

Trump’s political career, such as it is, relies on being independent from the establishment and by extension, the donors. But if he’s going to appeal to the great swath of Middle America, he may need more money than is reasonable for one man to lay out.