Excellent Read: “How Obamacare Became a Preexisting Condition”

Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire:

You knew things had gone sideways when they locked up the House. The corridors that lead through the heart of the Capitol, from Senate chamber to House chamber, were still an unnavigable mass of tourists and staffers and journalists, all clustered by the walls and in unruly knots below the various graven images in Statuary Hall. The echoes were an impossible gabble of crying children, overmatched tour guides, angry parents, and television stand-ups from many lands. At about 3:30, when the voting was supposed to start, a small, tough-looking woman from the Capitol Police turned out the lights in one of the small foyers leading to the chamber. She swung the big doors shut and slammed the locks down into the floor. And that was pretty much it. Until, of course, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, took to a podium in the bowels of the Capitol and said the following.

“Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

That statement should have come with a sword for Ryan to hand over to Nancy Pelosi who, let it be said, is one legislative badass. She somehow kept her caucus united. There wasn’t even a hint of blue-doggery from her caucus as it sat back and let the Republicans rip each other to shreds, let the president* get exposed as a rookie who should be sent back to A-ball, and let the conservative movement expose itself as graphically as it ever has as the soulless creature of the money power that it’s been for 40 years. Usually, there are some Democrats who either want to make a deal so that Fred Hiatt will send them a Christmas card, or simply because Democrats occasionally can’t help themselves from trying to make the government, you know, actually work…

“We were a 10-year opposition party where being against things was easy to do,” Ryan said. “And now, in three months’ time, we’ve tried to go to a governing party, where we have to actually get … people to agree with each other in how we do things.” Of course, since 2010, the House has had a Republican majority and a Republican speaker. There have been two of them—John Boehner and Ryan. The crazy caucus ran Boehner out of office and now, they’ve handed Ryan his head. Pro Tip: it’s not you, boys. It’s your party…

To be fair, the president* took the defeat rather better than I thought he would, which is to say he blamed the Democrats, repeated claim that the Affordable Care Act is gasping its last breath, and was so fulsome in his sympathy for Paul Ryan that, were I Ryan, I’d hire a food taster. Somebody’s going to pay for this. You can be sure of that. Meanwhile, as Paul Ryan said, Obamacare remains the law of the land. The Rotunda was still packed with tourists when the news came down and you wondered how many people there had somehow been helped by the Affordable Care Act. Maybe it’s that elderly gent looking up at the statue of Huey Long, or that kid in the wheelchair paused beneath Norman Borlaug. Obamacare is now a pre-existing condition, and a damned stubborn one at that.

Also too, Scott Lemieux at LGM on a “B.F.D.”:

It is ever more remarkable, in retrospect, that much of the discussion on the left following the passage of the ACA consisted of complaints about how Obama/Pelosi/Reid could “only” pass the ACA. This is, on one level, understandable, given that the ACA is unmistakably inferior to the baseline established by other liberal democracies… The coalition that passed the ACA included three senators from the Dakotas, one each from Indiana and Arkansas, and two each from Montana and West Virginia. Glib “BE MORE LIBERAL!” exhortations don’t really help you to get liberal governing majorities in an institution that heavily favors conservative rural interests.

Comprehensive health care reform is brutally hard, as Truman and Johnson and Clinton can tell you. In addition getting the list of legislators above, the Democrats also needed to keep in the fold every liberal who was well aware that the ACA was substantially suboptimal. Senators like Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown deserve enormous credit for working to make the bill as it could be and then supporting it. The Republicans just completely failed with a more homogeneous coalition in the more top-down chamber. What the Democratic leadership pulled off in 2009 is remarkable, and we now know that it is an enduring accomplishment.



Monday Morning Open Thread: People Power

Probably a more viable alternative, at the present moment:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — It had all the trappings of a campaign rally: the signs, the Bruce Springsteen songs on repeat, the clipboard-hugging volunteers in matching T-shirts.

But the 2,000-odd people in the University of Miami’s basketball arena were there to hear Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, try to recruit them into a legal army.

“It didn’t take a lot of work to fill this auditorium,” Romero said, as the screens surrounding him showed mass protests against President Trump. “People want to be deployed. They don’t just want to write you a check, or sign a petition. They want to be engaged. You want to be protagonists with us.”

The ACLU is spending millions of dollars on a plunge into grass-roots politics — a “People Power” campaign. It’s the newest and largest development from a sprawling “resistance” movement that regularly moves faster than the Democratic Party’s leaders can think and isn’t waiting on politicians for cues…

“We’ve seen this exponential growth in people becoming card-carrying members of the ACLU,” Romero said in an interview after his speech. “They’re younger. They’re in every state around the country. The biggest danger was in not doing something like this, where people get apathetic and they fall asleep.”

There’s little apparent risk of that, and the biggest organizations on the left, broadly defined, are staffing up to give it direction. The Center for American Progress is planning a grass-roots conference for “rising” activist groups in California next month, and an ideas conference in Washington one month later. Super PACs such as American Priorities have become promotion machines for the Indivisible movement, which in just a few months has begun to organize some local chapters as official nonprofit groups.

But no organization is transforming as quickly or as boldly as the ACLU. Since the 2016 election, it has tripled its membership to more than 1.2 million and raised more than $80 million, with plans to add 100 staff members to a team of about 300…

Here’s the ACLU website’s update. You can watch a recording of the whole session here.

More, from the Christian Science Monitor:

The event marked a distinct strategic shift for the civil liberties group, which has traditionally focused on courtroom litigation. The ACLU’s new campaign, PeoplePower, is the organization’s first grassroots mobilization effort in its nearly 100 years of existence, leaders say, driven by a recent surge in membership and widespread activism efforts across the country in the months since President Trump’s election victory. Since November, group membership has tripled to more than one million, with more than 135,000 people signed up to take part in the PeoplePower campaign as of Saturday.

“Before, our membership was largely older and much smaller,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told Reuters. “Our members would provide us with money so we could file the cases and do the advocacy. What’s clear with the Trump election is that our new members are engaged and want to be deployed.”…

Speaking at the event on Saturday, Mr. Romero said priority issues for the campaign are immigration, free speech and religious freedom rights, civil and reproductive rights, and LGBT rights.

“We will bring all the lawsuits necessary to defend these rights,” he said, as reported by the Associated Press. “We’ll do the work in the courts. You do the work in the streets. People are motivated. They want to be engaged.”

The Resistance Training coincided with the ACLU’s launch of a new grassroots online organizing platform, PeoplePower.org, a tool to help people planning a local protest or rally connect and coordinate with others around the country. The site will also provide details of ACLU initiatives…

Apart from staffing The Resistance, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?



Weird Read: What Bodies Does Trump Want to Bury?

Not a euphemism, for once. The Washington Post‘s David A. Fahrenthold on “The mystery of Donald Trump and the New Jersey cemetery“:

In rural New Jersey, the president’s business has proposed an unusual real estate project.

It wants to build a cemetery.

Or maybe not. Or maybe two.

According to plans filed with local and state authorities, the Trump Organization has proposed to build a pair of graveyards at the site of its tony Trump National Golf Club Bedminster course.

One would be small: 10 plots overlooking the first hole. It was intended — or so they said — for Trump and his family. “Mr. Trump . . . specifically chose this property for his final resting place as it is his favorite property,” his company wrote in a filing with the state in 2014…

The other proposed cemetery would have 284 lots for sale to the public. There, buyers could pay for a kind of eternal membership in Trump’s club — even if it isn’t clear Trump himself would ever join them…

But Trump has been talking about cemeteries here for 10 years — and he has shown the same unpredictable decision-making style about his death that he has about so many things in his life. His plans have gone through at least five major overhauls. Trump has reconsidered his own burial spot at least twice.

Local officials were left puzzling, wondering what angle Trump was playing.

Did the world’s most famous Manhattanite really want to be buried in nowheresville New Jersey?…

******
President Trump already has a family burial plot: His parents and his brother Fred are buried together at All Faiths Cemetery in Queens.

So it was a surprise, back in 2007, when Trump announced he wanted a mausoleum for himself in New Jersey…

The plan was big: 19 feet high. Stone. Obelisks. Set smack in the middle of the golf course. In Bedminster — a wealthy horse-country town 43 miles west of New York City — officials had some concerns about hosting a reality TV star’s tomb. The huge structure would seem garish, out of place. And there were ongoing worries that the spot might become an “attractive nuisance,” tempting curiosity-seekers to trespass on club grounds.

Trump offered a concession.

The tomb would be versatile.

It could also be a festive wedding . . . tomb.

“We’re planning a mausoleum/chapel,” Trump said, according to a news report from the time…

Trump withdrew the plan to be buried in New Jersey. But five years later, he was back with another one. Now, the mausoleum was out — but, instead, he had a plan to build a large cemetery with more than 1,000 graves, including one for him.

The idea, apparently, was that Trump’s golf-club members would buy the other plots, seizing the chance at eternal membership…

The town was, again, skeptical. So Trump whittled it down to just 10 graves, enough for himself and his family members.

Which family members, exactly?

“Only the good Trumps,” Russo said, according to a video of the town land-use board. He did not elaborate…

******
… Could this whole thing have been a scheme to reduce the Trump Organization’s real estate taxes? After all, nonprofit cemeteries pay no taxes on their land.

That’s possible, experts said.

But, in this case, the savings would hardly be worth the trouble. That’s because Trump had already found a way to lower his taxes on that wooded, largely unused parcel. He had persuaded the township to declare it a farm, because some trees on the site are turned into mulch. Because of pro-farmer tax policies, Trump’s company pays just $16.31 per year in taxes on the parcel, which he bought for $461,000.

“It’s always been my suspicion that there’s something we don’t know” about the explanation behind the seemingly inexplicable cemetery plan, said Bedminster land-use board member Nick Strakhov. So why were they doing it?

“I did not ask,” Strakhov said. “It’s an obvious question.”…

For I am Trumpymandias, King of Kings!… Probably it’s just some errant impulse on Lord Smallgloves’ part, another futile attempt to prove that he’s a world-historical figure and not just a jumped-up Queens slumlord’s Fortunate Son.

Best response from the Washington Post comments:

Bill Payer
Q. Who is buried in Trumps tomb?
A. Nobody but rumor has it that is where his tax returns went to spend eternity.



Long Read: The KKK ‘Imperial Wizard’ Murdered by His Cat-Hoarding Wife

Gotta say, this seems like another sad case where the ‘Flower of White Christian Manhood’ cosplay comes off as a particularly toxic attempt at self-deception. Disheartening for those of us who support animal rescue, too — reminder that the twist leading to animal hoarding too often coexists with other mental-health problems. Doyle Murphy, in the St. Louis Riverfront Times, with one of the great ledes of all time:

Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, smelled like cat piss.

The stench clung to the 51-year-old’s graying hair and mustache. It seeped into the fabric of his clothes and hung on him like a blanket. He was unhappy about it, but he did not seem to know what to do. He lived in a small, beat-looking house in the rural southeast Missouri town of Leadwood. The windows of the front porch had been pulled out and the wood frames wrapped in chicken wire — a project his wife had undertaken one evening after he headed off to his job as an overnight courier for a St. Louis-based shipping company.

Malissa Ancona, 44, seemed intent on turning their home into a giant kennel. It was well-known that the bleach blonde ran an off-the-books — some would say infamous — animal rescue. Dozens of cats and two dogs shared 1,000 square feet with the Klansman and his wife. They nested in piles of dirty clothes, pawed through open garbage and kicked litter across the floors. A neighbor estimates as many as 70 cats lived there during peak times…

There’s not much money in Leadwood. Set in the hills about 70 miles south of St. Louis, the median household income is about $31,000, nearly $20,000 less than the statewide figure. The population of 1,282 is 99 percent white. For diversity, residents identifying as American Indian outnumbered African-Americans two to one. That’s not a ratio: Census workers counted a total of two Native Americans and one black person in the 2010 tally.

Leadwood is the kind of place where people might not agree with the KKK, but they also don’t get too worked up about a Klan leader living next door. The Anconas moved in five or six years ago. Frank’s dad lived one house over to the south, and the local fire station was across the street. The younger Ancona seemed intent on settling in after years spent bouncing around Missouri and Illinois. The Leadwood house was a lease, but Frank had worked out a rent-to-own arrangement with the homeowners, relatives say. Shortly after moving in, he hung a red flag with the KKK’s “blood drop” cross to the left of the front door and a replica of the Klan’s historical flying dragon pennant to the right.

His only real problem was Malissa…

When word spread that Frank had gone missing February 9, no one seemed too surprised. His son, Frank Jr., knew something was wrong when his father’s employer called to say he had not shown up for work for the first time in nearly a decade. The son called police and headed over to the house.

He and the officers were just about to go inside when Malissa returned home with her son from a previous relationship and barred their way. Frank Jr. remembered a feeling of dread sweep over him.

“I had a gut feeling right then and there she’d done something bad.”…



Open Thread: International Women’s Day

Much the same as the charging bull, the little bronze girl by artist Kristen Visbal was put up in the wee hours of the morning as “guerilla art,” McNally said. But, unlike the bull, the firm discussed it with the city beforehand so that it could remain at least temporarily.

“We’re actively pursuing that it stays for a month,” she said. “If the city decides that it should stay in perpetuity, we’re absolutely on board with that.”

At the Washington Post, “Five women changing their world for the better“:

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, a holiday now more than a century old, is “Be Bold For Change.” It’s a message intended to push people toward concrete action on gender equality. Here are the stories of five women from around the world who are doing just that in their communities.

England: ‘You either just give up, or you think, ‘one life at a time’
Sarah Fane is an optimist, a smile never far from her lips. Ask her about educating girls in Afghanistan, a nation where the literacy rate for women is among the worst in the world, and she beams…

India: ‘Why am I tolerating it?’
Vimla lost her father when she was 14. A year later, she was married to a man 16 years older than her. He began beating her on the first night of their marriage… After years of abuse, Vimla, 64, who goes by just her first name, asked herself, “Why am I tolerating it?”

She started attending a workshop held for women and eventually began working in the slums… She started the Women Progress Council to educate women across 12 slum colonies in Delhi about domestic violence, health and their rights. “Once they get support, it gives them confidence,” Vimla said. “They understand the unfairness and then they stand up for themselves.”…

Russia: ‘Everyone has a story’
Women facing the threat of domestic abuse or sexual assault often don’t have free use of their hands, are under immense strain, and may not be able to access their telephone to call for help. Kathy Romanovskaya, 42, a co-founder at the Russian startup Nimb, says her company’s product has those women in mind. It’s fashionable ring that doubles as a panic button, allowing the wearer to discreetly send a distress signal to a support circle, including friends, parents or the police…

China: ‘Women around the whole world should unite’
It was March 2015, two days before International Women’s Day, and Wei Tingting was preparing to mark the occasion. She and a small group of friends wanted to raise awareness about sexual harassment on public transportation. They planned to hand out stickers on the bus — but they never got the chance.

Instead, Wei and four other women were taken to a detention center on the outskirts of Beijing and held for 37 days. They were interrogated again and again about their plans to organize for LGBT and women’s rights.

The Chinese government’s campaign of intimidation did not work. Word of their arrest spread quickly and spurred global campaigns to #freethefive, turning them into feminist heroes. Two years later, Wei is still working for gender equality as the founder of the nonprofit Guangzhou Gender Education Center. She is also preparing a report on sexual harassment….

Egypt: ‘Now, it’s a critical time for Muslim artists’
Deena Mohamed is not your typical 22-year-old, and neither is her creation: Qahera, a Muslim web-comic superheroine who wears a hijab, or headscarf, wields a sword and can fly. Her mission, in part, is to help women who face sexual harassment…



Excellent Read: “In Conversation: David Letterman”

We need a respite, or at least I do. From NYMag, something to break the political monotony:

Since retiring after 33 years on the late night television, David Letterman has kept a low public profile — aided by the growth of a truly impressive beard. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been as fixated on politics as the rest of us. “If I still had a show,” says the 69-year-old, dressed in a baggy sweater and cargo pants and sitting high above midtown Manhattan in a conference room at his publicist’s offices, “people would have to come and take me off the stage. ‘Dave, that’s enough about Trump. We’ve run out of tape.’ It’s all I’d be talking about. I’d be exhausted.” Late-night TV comedy has offered some of the sharpest — and most-remarked-upon — responses to the Trump presidency. But despite the work of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live, and the rest, it’s hard not to wish Letterman, late-night’s greatest ironist and most ornery host, was still around to take aim. And so we’ve brought him out of retirement to weigh in on life after television and his old frequent guest and punching bag, the man he calls Trumpy…

David Marchese: Have you ever wondered what you might’ve said if you’d been doing The Late Show the night after Trump was elected?
No, I haven’t thought about it. See, I was out running one day when he was still president-elect, and I thought, Let’s call him. I’ve known the guy since the ’80s. I was one of a few people who had routinely interviewed him. I’m not blinded by the white-hot light of “president-elect.” I mean, we elected a guy with that hair? Why don’t we investigate that? He looks like Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. I don’t know. I’m sorry for rambling. I’m afraid something has happened to me hormonally. I can’t stop talking…

There’s this idea that reducing Trump to a punchline could make him seem harmless or helps to normalize him. Is there any validity to that argument?
I guess it’s a possibility. On the other hand, Donald Trump can be Donald Trump, but if he doesn’t help the people that need help, then he’s just a jerk. That press conference that he held berating the news media? I mean, how do you build a dictatorship? First, you undermine the press: “The only truth you’re going to hear is from me.” And he hires the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Steve Bannon, to be his little buddy. Bannon looks like a guy who goes to lunch, gets drunk, and comes back to the office: “Steve, could you have just one drink?” “Fuck you.” How is a white supremacist the chief adviser to our president? Did anybody look that up? I don’t know. How’s this interview going? Do you think you’re talking to a normal person here? Don’t I seem like I’m full of something?…

For probably the first half or so of your TV career, you stayed away from politics —
Because Carson was my model. I’ll tell you the other thing: All of that changed because of Jon Stewart.

Because what he did on The Daily Show influenced you?
I wouldn’t say that, but he made it so that not doing political stuff got to be the elephant in the room. And also it was having Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton. It was hard to ignore that. We’re always looking for the easiest path, the most obvious joke. Bill Clinton having sex with the intern, well, that’s not comedic heavy lifting. After that it became George W. Bush, and I thought he was funny in a harmless way. I mean, Dick Cheney was the guy to keep your eye on at a party, because he’d be going through your wife’s purse. But George W. was nothing but fun.

So the political jokes were about expedience?
We changed our attitude to make it easier on ourselves. And again, what defense do you have for ignoring these topics? None, really…
Read more



Late Night Open Thread: Impotent Outrage All Over the Trump Compound

DougJ linked to this Washington Post article, but it’s too schadenfreudelicious not to share more:

Trump enters week seven of his presidency the same as the six before it: enmeshed in controversy while struggling to make good on his campaign promises. At a time when White House staffers had sought to ride the momentum from Trump’s speech to Congress and begin advancing its agenda on Capitol Hill, the administration finds itself beset yet again by disorder and suspicion.

At the center of the turmoil is an impatient president increasingly frustrated by his administration’s inability to erase the impression that his campaign was engaged with Russia, to stem leaks about both national security matters and internal discord and to implement any signature achievements…

Gnawing at Trump, according to one of his advisers, is the comparison between his early track record and that of Obama in 2009, when amid the Great Recession he enacted an economic stimulus bill and other big-ticket items…

Trump, meanwhile, has been feeling besieged, believing that his presidency is being tormented in ways known and unknown by a group of Obama-aligned critics, federal bureaucrats and intelligence figures — not to mention the media, which he has called “the enemy of the American people.”…

Trump was brighter Sunday morning as he read several newspapers, pleased that his allegations against Obama were the dominant story, the official said.

But he found reason to be mad again: Few Republicans were defending him on the Sunday political talk shows…

Gosh, Lord Smallgloves wonders why the GOP apparatchiks he tore up and climbed over to reach the Oval Office aren’t loyal? ‘Tis a puzzlement!

Much more chewy detail at the link. Betting line among the Media Village courtiers seems to be that Reince Preibus (speaking of party apparatchiks) is next off the sledge, but there’s so many weird characters in Trump’s train, there’s always another plot twist.

Not to mention the Rosencrantz & Guilderstern characters, such as a certain foundational Nixon-alumni ratfvcker, who (per Esquire) “Forgot Other People Can Read His Tweets[warning: possibly NSFW]:
Read more