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Hyperationalist Posts

Actually, Healthcare Isn’t That Complicated

There’s been much ado about Donald Trump’s statement that “nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.” Before I get to the real point I want to make about this, let me just say something about these phrases: “A lot of people are saying,” “more than anyone has ever seen,” “no one can believe,” “bigger than anyone even knew.”

He uses these constantly. CONSTANTLY. These are the kinds of things you say when you need to impress but haven’t even bothered to fabricate any supporting data. They are utterly meaningless, content-free claptrap. They are almost always demonstrably false, but not the sort of thing that smart people waste anytime “fact-checking,” because the language is understood to be low-brow idiomatic and because it would be pretty absurd to report that “In the five or so minutes we spent working on this, we found no fewer than a dozen people who actually do believe [insert thing Trump said no one can believe].”

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about here. What I want to do is push back a little against the notion that healthcare is really as complicated as Trump and the GOP would like us to believe.

Healthcare, as in the services provided by medical professionals is certainly complex and requires extensive learning and experience, but that’s not what Trump is talking about. He’s talking about the problem of ensuring access to healthcare for all Americans—and basically he’d just like us to know that it’s just too complicated for the plebs to understand so we should all please kindly just trust him and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to provide a tremendous plan that we’ll all really love.

This is a fun little trick for pulling the wool over peoples’ eyes and Republicans have been doing it in the healthcare debate for decades now. They’ve completely obfuscated the very simple yes-or-no question that lies at the heart of the debate. It’s a question that they don’t want to answer because both responses make them look bad; “yes” reveals them to be heartless bastards, while “no” invalidates everything they’ve ever claimed to believe on the subject.

I’ll get to the question by way of a short hypothetical:

Imagine a person we’ll call Willis. Willis has been a fall-down drunk asshole for as long as anyone has ever known him. He’s belligerent, violent, vulgar and mean. It’s easy to see how he ended up living all of his adult life on the streets. He’s ungrateful and rude to those who try to help him. Willis just plain sucks.

One night, in his usual state of stumbling blind inebriation, Willis walks in front of a bus and is grievously injured. He needs two things—transport to a hospital and immediate medical treatment—neither of which are “free,” (which is to say that while there is obviously a cost associated with police and fire department response, no one will be presented with an invoice for this specific incident).

The entirety of the real healthcare debate lies in the question of what you think should happen to Willis at this moment.

Free-market orthodoxy would dictate that if Willis is unable to pay (or unlikely to be able to pay, i.e. with credit) for the services he needs, no one is obligated to provide them. Willis made a lifetime’s worth of bad choices that led to his current predicament. Why should anyone provide tens of thousands of dollars in products and services to an indigent jerk who will never pay a nickel for any of it? This is an extremely compelling argument. I happen to disagree with it vehemently, but it is nevertheless rational, idealistic and worthy of being given voice and consideration in the debate.

Having said that, anyone wishing to take that position must be willing to extrapolate out consistently from the relatively easy case of Willis to less tidy hypothetical cases involving human beings who are more inherently sympathetic than Willis—people whose life choices have been more relatable, people who have fallen on hard times under circumstance beyond their control, people who have young children, etc. The vast majority of cases involve individuals and families who are more likable than Willis, but the fundamental facts of those cases are, when you get right down to it, identical to his: someone needs products and services they cannot afford; the free market demands that they be denied those products and services.

If you are unwilling to make that argument, you have wholly abdicated the free market position. The moment you admit that you are unwilling to let Willis or any other hypothetical or real person go untreated for inability to pay, you have become a socialist where healthcare is concerned. In terms of policy, a person simply cannot hold that a single mother working three jobs to stay afloat should receive treatment for ovarian cancer while Willis should be denied care—unless of course you want the government to get into the business of making value judgments about who is deserving of care. Talk about death panels.

Look, I’ll say it again—I see the appeal of the free-market argument. It is beautifully and phlegmatically simple. Conservatives should make this argument because it is the only intellectually consistent argument against universal healthcare for all. Nay, conservatives must make this argument if they wish to oppose establishing healthcare as a basic human right. It’s easy to see why they’d rather not; they don’t want to be seen as the kind of raging assholes who would argue that Willis should be left to die in the road or that a single mom with cancer should be denied treatment, but they face a brutal conundrum: they want the system to function in precisely that way without ever having to argue that it should.

This is why people think the healthcare debate is so complicated. We’re pretending to have a debate about healthcare, but what we’re really doing is muddling through a smokescreen the GOP has deployed in the form of a faux debate about things that are fundamentally unrelated to health and care, namely, unpleasant features of the private health insurance market: deductibles, co-pays, premiums, pre-existing condition exclusions, continuous coverage requirements, denial of services, etc.—all of which are just a bunch of knobs and levers designed to ensure that insurance companies can make and grow profits off of our need for healthcare services.  This is complicated, but it’s complicated by design.

Look, I am decidedly not arguing that insurance is bad. Insurance is an inherently socialistic scheme that I wholeheartedly approve of. It is nothing more or less than a way to pool risk so that when someone gets sick or injured, they don’t have to bear the full brunt of the costs. It’s kind of a perverse lottery; your premiums are the price of entry and those who hit the “jackpot” of illness or injury get a payout straight from the pockets of other people who weren’t lucky enough to “win.” That payout comes in the form of paid medical bills.

Let me elucidate this point by reframing a couple common complaints in lottery terms:

Complaint: “My premiums are too high!”

Translation: “These lottery tickets are too expensive.”

Response: Fine, drop out and pay cash for services.


Complaint: “My deductible is too high!”

Translation: “The taxes on my winnings are too high!”

Response: Too bad. It was all spelled out on paper before you bought your ticket. You had the choice to drop out and pay cash for services.

Yes, I know that Obamacare forced people to buy health insurance. I have two things to say about that. First, the penalty functions essentially as a tax to cover whatever we’re all going to have to pay for when you get sick or injured and can’t afford to pay your bills. It’s a nominal amount, especially if you make over $100,000 (roughly where the 2.5% of household income is capped).

Second, and more important, look at this:

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs were rising precipitously before Obamacare. Complaints about health insurance didn’t start in 2010 and they won’t stop if Obamacare is repealed. They also won’t stop if Obamacare is not repealed, because Obamacare is still a free-market system.

Back to my point: once you’ve signed onto the idea of health insurance as a good thing people should do, and if you’re not willing to let Willis die on the street, there is literally not a single good reason on the face of the earth not to a) put everyone in the same pool and b) stop letting a bunch of fat cats profit from our suffering. It’s not that that’s they’re doing so malevolently, necessarily. It’s just that for-profit health insurance is a casino—and in a casino, the house always wins. The house must win; shareholders must profit, executives must be paid exorbitant sums, the beast must be fed.

In a single-payer system, there are no such requirements. We all just pay the cost to run the lottery. Obviously, there are philosophical debates to be had about how such a system should operate—Should smokers pay more into the pool? Is birth control covered at the same level as Viagra? Does it make sense to spend hundreds of thousands on last-ditch, low efficacy treatment for terminal patients?—and so on. But those are honest debates about how to administer the pool equitably, about how to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the greatest number of people at the lowest cost.

I’ll take those debates every time over the casuistic garbage debate we’re having now between one side that views healthcare as a basic human right and one that won’t explicitly argue against healthcare as a basic human right but which also insists on the letting the market prevail, which is functionally the same as saying healthcare is not a basic human right.

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Jim’s Briefs: 2/21/17

1. The Establishment Is Just Who Shows Up

Blah blah establishment argle bargle establishment wah wah establishment blurp.

Enough already, BernieBros, BernieorBusters and DemExiters. There’s nothing easier than waking up one day, deciding you care about issue x, y or z and proceeding to scream at all the people someone has told you are responsible for things having not progressed as far to the right, left, top or bottom of that issue as you’d like.

Turns out, all those people did was show up, every day, over many years, to work on those issues plus a whole mess of other issues that aren’t even on your radar. They are the dreaded Establishment you speak of for no other reason than that they went to their local precinct meetings, congressional district caucuses, county and state conventions, served on standing committees, volunteered for candidates and ballot initiatives, gathered signatures, made phone calls, ran for office, etc.

Now you want that ship to turn on a dime because you got woke about, like, two or three things?

Well guess what, assholes? That’s not how it works. Here’s how it works: you start to show up, every day, over many years, to bring about the change you wish to see in the world. You stop bitching and moaning about what the Establishment is or is not doing and you go become the establishment. You’re likely to learn that it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than you thought and that ideological purity is not sustainable, but that persistent effort in the trenches can and will yield incremental change that, over time, adds up to important stuff.

There must be an establishment. Civilized society is built on the backs of public servants who care enough to get involved at every level. An establishment is, ultimately, what created the conditions that led to you having a tiny computer in your pocket that helped you find Bernie rallies where you could show hot chicks how progressive you were and maybe hookup after.

Fortunately, the establishment can be whatever you want it to be. Not today and not tomorrow, but you could be starting to shape it as soon as 2018 if you work your asses off and get a lot of your likeminded compatriots to join you. No one will stop you. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz will not be at the door of your next county meeting checking establishment cards and requiring the secret handshake. You’ll be shocked by how easy it is to waltz in and become part of the process.

NOTE: Rallies are not part of this process. Do them, by all means, but don’t kid yourself that they constitute meaningful civic engagement. If we’ve learned anything from recent events, it’s that any old jackass can scrounge up twenty or thirty thousand enthusiastic idiots for to cheer for crap they know nothing about.

The Democratic National Committee will vote this weekend to elect a new chairperson. 447 members will vote.  You can see who they are HERE. They are “the chairs and vice-chairs of each state Democratic Party committee and over 200 members elected by Democrats in all 50 states and the territories.” If you don’t like the person they select, you can make it your goal to become a voting member someday, or you can work at the local and state level to support the election of members who represent your views.

Or you can throw more tantrums and continue to try to tear apart one of the only entities that can serve as a check on Donald Trump.

2. Only One Way To Oppose Gorsuch

Pretend for a moment that we live in normal times where the normal rules apply and people behave like normal people. In such a world, the following statements would be uncontroversial: the duly elected President of the United States has every right to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court with a qualified nominee of his or her choosing; the Senate’s role is essentially to vet that nominee’s qualifications and temperament, to ensure that a lifetime appointment is not being handed to a lunatic.

In other words, there’s every expectation that liberal presidents will appoint left-leaning judges and that conservative presidents will appoint right-leaning judges, imprinting the will of the people on the judiciary. It is a huge perk of winning the White House and should be foremost in our minds when we vote in presidential elections.

Under normal circumstances, my position on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch would be as follows: I disagree with him on almost every issue where I know anything about his position and I would not like him to be on the Supreme Court. Having said all of that, he is a serious, smart, well-qualified judge and, barring any unexpected revelations in his confirmation hearings, he should be expeditiously confirmed. Democratic Senators should not vote against him on ideological grounds, just as Republican Senators should not vote against the judicial nominations of Democratic presidents on ideological grounds.

There is only one basis upon which to oppose Gorsuch, namely, that this seat was stolen from President Barack Obama by Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate. This is an argument worth making, but it should not be conflated or confused with the argument that Gorsuch is too conservative for our taste. Of course he’s too conservative—that’s why we shouldn’t have allowed Donald Trump to become President. And that’s where even this compelling argument is on shaky ground. Yes, Scalia’s seat was stolen, but we had a chance to take it back. All we had to do was elect Hillary Clinton. We failed to do that knowing full well what the result would be.

Then again, if we’re to take Mitch McConnell at his word that “the people should have a voice” in filling Scalia’s seat, we should probably look to the popular vote for their opinion on the matter.

The bottom line is that Gorsuch’s positions on the issues we care about are just not relevant to the confirmation process. Opposing him on these grounds opens the door to having left-leaning nominees blocked if/when the situation is reversed. It would be a mistake to think that Democratic Senators somehow owe it to us to further destabilize and degrade the system because we fucked up and left them in the minority with Donald Trump as President.

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Jim’s Briefs: 2/20/17

Let this serve as my roughly bi-annual notice that I intend to write with greater frequency and in shorter form. The Trump administration has got me all mentally constipated except for a handful of ponderous, overlong tracts I’ve been working on for months that I’ll probably never finish. The goal now is to tackle one or two thoughts or news items per day (ish) with limited attention to detail or coherence in a desperate attempt to clear the fire hazard of a backlog in my head.

Until I get cleverer, they’ll be called Jim’s Briefs. I hope you’ll get into Jim’s Briefs.

1. Trump’s Travel Toll

I know it’s an easy target and something that conservatives should be up-in-arms about, given their fetish for criticizing everything Obama did that was even remotely related to leisure, but I happen to think we should lay off the issue of the costs associated with Trump’s travel to and from wherever the hell he wants to go on the weekends. We can and should criticize his lack of seriousness in the position, his predilection for peddling access to high-paying members of his private clubs, his lax attitude about national security when mixing work with pleasure, and so on—but these are ultimately unrelated to the costs of his travel and security.

In other words, it is not impossible to imagine a serious and competent POTUS who travels frequently and I, for one, would wholeheartedly approve of whatever taxpayer monies were spent conveying and protecting such a person and/or his/her family. The presidency rightly comes with perks, but it also comes with costs that we must bear in connection with the presidency and I just don’t think it’s wise to spend any time or energy nitpicking over how much it costs to allow the President of the United States to travel freely.

2. A One-Dimensional Man

A much stronger line of attack against Trump is the one concerning his efforts to profit from the office, particularly in light of this new bit of leaked audio from POLITICO, in which Trump casually offers to let wealthy, dues-paying members of his Bedminster National Golf Club (“the special people,” as Trump calls them here) sit in on interviews for high-level administration positions:

But this is a front on which I think we need to be clearer about the nature of the allegation, lest it sound too much like a desperate conspiracy theory. Specifically, it strikes me as relatively reasonable for a low- to -medium information citizen to blithely dismiss the notion that Trump set out with a conscious, deliberate strategy to enrich himself by becoming President of the United States and that he is now taking clear actions to capitalize on that plan.

It’s easy, in fact, to dismiss the notion that he has ever done anything consciously or deliberately in his life; the man appears to be pure id. So in reality, what we’re really talking about is a profoundly one-dimensional person—a machine that was programmed to perform only one task.

We all know these people; they filter everything they hear or say through a very narrow lens that renders them almost completely unrelatable unless you happen to also be into the thing they’re into. The type I run across most often is the new-agey evangelical Christian who just can’t get through an interaction with another human being without referencing his or her church and/or dropping in some explicitly religious language in extremely loose reference to whatever the subject at hand is. (I think it’s worth briefly going off on this tangent for a second, so bear with me.)

A typical conversation with one of these folks goes something like this:

ME: Hey, do you know where I can get some good falafel?

THEM: Absolutely, man. There’s a great falafel place my pastor recommended right down the street from my church that I like to go to after bible study every Thursday evening at 6pm.

ME: Um, okay…thanks.

THEM: Totally, man. Have a blessed day—and give me a call or text if you want to hang out on Thursday evening.

Now maybe some of you are thinking “well, that doesn’t seem all that egregious to me,” and you’d be more-or-less right if we were talking about one exchange, but I’m talking about people for whom these are the contours of most encounters. (And I’ll just add that as a non-religious person, the multiple allusions to church and religion in just this single, barely-exaggerated back-and-forth come across as gratuitous and presumptuously overshare-y—the rough equivalent of me responding to the same question with “Oh yeah, there’s a place my girlfriend and I always go to get the tzatziki we like to bathe in before lovemaking. You should join us sometime.”)

Trump is the business version of this archetype. He relates to other people on a purely transactional level, where every  single interaction has the potential to lead—directly or indirectly—to the inception and/or success and/or failure of “the deal.” He’s not thinking any more or less about making money than he has at any previous point in his life, which is to say that it’s the only thing he has ever been capable of thinking about. (Prestige and approval ratings are one measure of his of his brand’s value.) In his mind, if he “does a good job,” (his phrase, not mine) he will make money incidentally. More dangerously, he may well think that if he makes money, it will be an indication that he’s doing a good job.

The neatest trick is that he didn’t even have to harbor real hate in order to become an agent of hate in the world. He just did what one-dimensional businesspeople do every day: indulge whatever racist, sexist, ignorant bullshit falls out of the mouths of people they’re doing business with; to object would be to kill the deal. If anti-racists had been as exploitable as the GOP’s base, he would just as easily played that part in an effort to close the deal.

It’s really very simple: Donald Trump is incapable of seeing or understanding the moral hazard inherent in failing to construct a fortress between his personal/business interests and the Oval Office because constructing such a fortress would entail changing the way he operates and he is incapable of changing the way he operates because he only exists on a single, razor-thin plane—and there can be no higher calling on a flat surface.

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The President Is Insane

Here’s what you need to understand about Donald Trump’s voter fraud allegations:

Donald Trump is not asserting that some individual or entity hacked into the election system and shifted three to five million votes into Hillary Clinton’s vote total in a failed effort to hand the election to her. That would be a wild-eyed conspiracy theory for which there is no proof, but one that would at least have the benefit of being conceivable as something that someone(s) might actually aspire or conspire to do.

That is not what Donald Trump is asserting.

Donald Trump is asserting that three to five million individuals took it upon themselves to do one or more of the following things:

  • register purposefully in two ore more states or find themselves accidentally registered in two or more states (most likely because they moved) and decide to vote in two or more of those states, even though doing so is a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in jail and $10,000
  • purposefully maintain the registration of one or more dead persons and proceed to impersonate that person or persons for the purpose of casting one or more additional votes on their behalf even though doing so is a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in jail and $10,000
  • somehow register and vote despite being a non-citizen

Donald Trump is also asserting that those three to five million individuals cast all of those extra votes for Hillary Clinton. Every last one of them—and he’s not even bothering to allege that there was a conspiracy between them, organized by some malevolent person or people. No, this just happened organically, apparently.

Now here’s the important thing: if a person or persons could pull of hacking the whole system and flooding it with votes for a particular candidate, that might well be a risk worth taking for someone of sufficiently low moral character and sufficiently high resources and know-how. The risk-benefit analysis for Joe the Voter, however, is vastly different. It would require an especially stupid person to even waste the effort required, let alone risk prosecution, to cast just one extra ballot in a sea of over one hundred twenty million votes.

This is a very insane thing for the duly elected President of the United States to be talking about. It did not happen. It could not have happened. There is no evidence that it happened. His investigation will not find that anything like it happened.

It’s not even a lie, per se. It’s just an incredibly stupid thing he chooses to believe as a defense mechanism to protect his singularly fragile ego. He can’t fathom that Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than he did so his childlike brain just lurched toward the first idiotic thing it could come up with. Fortunately for him, his supporters are exactly the sort of people to whom it sounds like something that probably definitely happened. Their brains are tuned to this frequency. Of course millions of liberals and/or brown people conspired to steal the election from Donald Trump, risking ten years in jail when every indication was that he’d lose anyway.

For the record, my wife and I moved to a different state last September. We registered in our new state the moment we arrived and, sure enough, we received our ballots in the mail from the old one (which does all elections by mail). Can you guess what we, a couple of foaming-at-the-mouth Hillary fanatics did? We tore those mail ballots up and threw them away.

Look, it’s very simple: the President is insane. No one will ever convince me that he’s making machiavellian use of some sort of authoritarian playbook and that this or any other bit of insanity he spews is a distraction or a tactic that is part of some larger conscious strategy. There is no authoritarian playbook—there are only the totally predictable actions and reactions of verifiably insane people. Insecure, sociopathic narcissists will always reject any assertion that they are not superior human beings in every conceivable way. Insecure, sociopathic narcissists will do anything and everything possible to destroy anyone who says otherwise. Insecure, sociopathic narcissists will never do a single thing that they do not perceive to be in their own interest.

Donald Trump is an insecure, sociopathic narcissist and we are now along for the ride. He will never stop, he will never surrender. He will drive himself and the rest of us right off the cliff if that’s what it takes to maintain his delusional image of himself.

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Dear Kellyanne

Dear Kellyanne,

Hey girl. What’s up? Just checking on you. Seems like maybe you could use a little unwind, disconnect, touch base…whatever…just a second to sort of step away and look at things from the outside.

Hey, do you remember that one time when you took this gig because you thought you could bring some professionalism and stability to the situation? Hahaha, those were good times. I admired you for that. I didn’t think it would work because there are just some beasts that can’t be tamed, but I figured it was worth a shot. Someone had to try, anyway.

And what was the worst that could happen, right? If things got untenable, you’d just walk away and never look back, knowing that you gave it your best, as a professional and as a patriot. Right?

Sure, there were times when I was all like “Oh my god, is she actually saying this right now?” but then you’d turn around and let loose with a little flash of brazen dissent from within, undoubtedly knowing it could mean your ass, and I’d be super proud. I’m sure it was a thrill for you too. I’m sure it made you feel like you were boldly doing what you set out to do.

And ultimately it all seemed pretty harmless because he wasn’t going to win. There was no way he was going to win. He couldn’t win.

When he did win (sort of), honestly, I was horrified for you. I knew you didn’t really, in your heart of hearts, want that to happen. You just wanted him to do less damage to the party on his way to defeat. Right? And so I was sure you’d find the exit as quickly and gracefully as possible.

But you didn’t. And not only that, you seemed to be relishing the victory with a mean spirit—more like that vile parasite Omarosa than like my old friend Kellyanne.

I think you’re still in there, old friend, but I’m not sure. It’s getting harder and harder to tell. It’s most difficult in those moments when it is no longer clear to me that you understand that you’re part of something uniquely malevolent. There used to be a knowingness in your eyes and in your tone that said “I know, I get it, let me do my job here the best I can.”

That shrewdness is completely gone now. For example, you seem to be in earnest when you complain about the way the press treats your boss, as if you can’t see—as the old Kellyanne would have been able to see—that they’re asking legitimate questions and you’re giving seriously insufficient, false, and/or misleading ones. You actually appear to feel persecuted.

Do you get it, old friend? Do you get that they’re not the wrong ones here? Do you get that you are working for a man who represents an existential threat to the republic and that probably the biggest piece of that threat is the way he manipulates information through people like you?

I’m not sure you do anymore. It’s not exactly Stockholm Syndrome, but something very similar appears to be at play here, because you are not the person you were. You are not doing the work you set out to do. You are not thinking of your family, your nation, your principles.

You are not the Kellyanne I knew.

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On Golden Showers: Perception Is Everything

Donald Trump may or may not have hired Russian prostitutes to pee on him in a bed the Obamas once slept in. Vladimir Putin may or may not have video evidence of Russian prostitutes peeing on Donald Trump in a bed the Obamas once slept in. Trump and/or members of his team may or may not be compromised by knowledge that Putin has video evidence of Donald Trump being peed on by Russian prostitutes in a bed the Obamas once slept in.

Also, the Russians may or may not have other “compromising personal and financial information” about Trump.

Here’s the thing: it does not matter whether any of this is true or not. All that matters is that it seems entirely plausible that it might be.

There is not a single aspect of today’s bombshell revelation that is not COMPLETELY consistent with all of the available evidence we have about Trump, his character, his campaign, and/or his motives. I’m not even passing moral judgment on the alleged act, necessarily; I’m merely saying that Donald Trump could conceivably be compromised in any and/or every way, by anyone and/or everyone imaginable because he has never displayed a shred of evidence a) that he conforms to or even marginally respects any social norms, b) that he is motivated by anything other than pure self interest, or c) that he is not a puppet of Vladimir Putin.

The financial aspect is, of course, far more disturbing and potentially damaging to American interests—and if we could see Trump’s taxes perhaps we could at least set those concerns aside. But we can’t, apparently—and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a Trump presidency will always be tainted by a completely fair concern that he is acting not in America’s best interests, but out of base self-interest and/or desperate self-preservation.

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The Infantilism Of Saying ‘Bernie Would Have Won’

Can we please talk for a moment about the idiocy of the people responsible for creating and propagating the sort of nonsense you see below…

Allow me to attempt an analogy:

You’re camping way out in the middle of nowhere with nine friends. While doing some hardcore nature shit one late afternoon, one of your friends suffers a grievous injury. A bear attack maybe. Or whatever stupid crap happens when you leave the safety and comfort of civilization. Anyway, it’s bad and you need to get this friend to a hospital before he bleeds to death.

All ten of you pile into the big-ass van you rented for this trip and head for help. It’s a long trip, but there is a shortcut. No one in your group has ever taken the shortcut before. It is understood to be a somewhat treacherous, off-road type of excursion, complete with narrow, cliffside, crumbling rock type shit—but it might could trim an hour off the ride and it would sure as hell be an awesome adventure.

There is much debate as the van approaches the fork in the road. Four members of the group are, like, super enthusiastic about taking the shortcut, regarding it as the only morally responsible choice. Everyone else can sort of see their point but think there’s something to be said for the whole “slow and steady wins the race” thing,” not to mention the advantages of familiarity. They know the regular route well, warts and all—and as night falls, they simply feel better about navigating its paved roads than taking a chance on this alleged miracle route.

A final vote is taken and the Historically Reliable Course (HRC) prevails. The van reaches the fork, stays to the [slight] right, and passes the point of no return. Four hours to go.

The course is set, but the brouhaha continues. Moral recriminations abound. The “shortcut-or-bust” (SOB) people are fucking pissed and they insist on continuing an argument that becomes less and less relevant with every passing mile marker.

The tide starts to turn, but ever so slowly.

One hour in, one SOB peels off. S/he’s not enthusiastic about the HRC but sees that the important thing is getting to the hospital. S/he also sees that the equation might ultimately boil down to six of one, half dozen of another. S/he continues, however, to defend the virtue of the remaining SOB stalwarts.

Two hours in, another SOB lapses into resigned silence. “The HRC is the road we’re on,” s/he reasons. “I hate the HRC, but there’s no use fighting over it now.” S/he makes no effort to broker peace.

Three hours in, a third SOB resigns in protest, asking to be let out of the van to plot an alternative route that no one else has yet considered. The driver obliges him.

With the lights of the city in view, the final SOB holdout is still causing a general ruckus. He can’t let it go. Everyone is exhausted and angry. The driver is exhausted, angry, demoralized and distracted by the ongoing screaming match. S/he drifts across the center line, into the path of a speeding Mack 18-wheeler hauling 10,000 metric shit-tons of flammable toxic waste mixed with the waste of a million county fair porta-potties.

The semi slices through the van like butter and the remnants of the van explode. Everyone is killed. The semi remains intact except for a gash in the side that begins to leak its noxious contents wherever it goes. Several miles down the road it crushes to death the former occupant of the van who was wandering like a lost idiot across the road in search of a third path.

All ten occupants of the van arrive in the afterlife together. To no one’s surprise, the lone remaining SOB extremist—dumb, sanctimonious piece of shit that he is—launches into the most despicable, self-serving, intellectually vapid, historically revisionist tirade imaginable: I TOOOOLLLLLD YOU WE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE SHORTCUT! I FUCKING TOLD YOU!!! IF WE’D TAKEN THE SHORTCUT, WE’D BE AT THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW INSTEAD OF DEAD!

It is, of course, impossible to know where they’d be right now if they’d taken the shortcut. Maybe they would, in fact, be at the hospital. Or maybe they would have plunged off a cliff and suffered the same fate. All we can know for sure is that a) they are all currently dead, b) useless, petulant infighting clearly played a major role in that outcome, and c) attempting to blame the initial choice is unfathomably reckless, obtuse, deluded and infantile.

When Bernie-or-Busters say “Bernie would have won,” they’re saying that the Democratic primary electorate should have collectively acquiesced to their grotesque hostage-taking antics; they’re admitting that they actively or passively got Donald Trump elected because we didn’t give them what they wanted; they’re conceding that Trump’s election is a cataclysmic outcome that could have been avoided, but only if we’d done it the way they prescribed because they are more important than everyone else.

But here’s the most disgusting thing: while minorities and women and children and scientists and military personnel and LGBTQ people and creatures that think and breath oxygen are cowering in fear of what a Trump administration will bring, these self-righteous fucksticks are taking a joyous victory lap because the catastrophic thing they insisted (threatened) would happen, a thing they were in a position to keep from happening if they’d just pulled their heads out of their asses, happened. (“Don’t bet on that horse, it will lose.” [Beats horse’s legs mercilessly with a tire iron. Gives steroids to another horse. ] “See, I told you it would lose.”)

So let me just say this to the SOB’s: You are infants. You are assholes. You are incomprehensibly stupid people. I hope you are the first to suffer and/or die in Trump’s America.




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It’s Time To Change The Way We Talk About Trump’s Tweets

It’s easy for those of us who live in the Twitter bubble to forget that Twitter is just not that terribly popular in the United States. It’s hard to pin down what percentage of the population uses it with any regularity, but as far as I can tell it’s not much more than 10% of the population. Facebook, by way of comparison, is closer to 60%, which amounts to the vast majority of the adult population.

Ask someone who is not at all familiar with Twitter about Twitter and they’re likely to scoff and tell you they can’t be bothered with learning what it is exactly or how to use it. It might as well be the Snapchats. You’ll immediately realize that they regard Twitter with a distant non-fascination, as some sort of newfangled gimmick—as though it is anything more or less than another means of conveying messages with words and images. 

I’ve begun to get the sense that when non-tweeters hear about “Trump’s tweets,” they regard them as something distinct from Trump’s words, Trump’s statements, Trump’s press releases, Trump’s recorded voice admitting to serially sexually assaulting women, etc. In other words, they seem to rank the contents of tweets beneath other forms of communication in terms of how seriously they should be taken.

When someone like John McCain says to reporters “I’m not talking about Trump. I’m not talking about Trump. I’m not talking about Trump,” as he did yesterday, it’s abundantly clear that the frustration he’s giving voice to comes from the constant barrage of questions related to the constant barrage of tweets emanating from Trump’s tiny tweeting fingertips.

It’s impossible to keep up, obviously…but also, I would argue, McCain feels entitled to be dismissive of questions about tweets because he barely knows what tweets are. I find it hard to believe he’d be as cavalier if Trump were communicating by other, more official means.

This phenomenon is also evident in the scolding of liberals who chastise people for reacting to “Trump’s tweets,” as if they’re any less worthy of reaction than his words and actions in other venues.

The bottom line is that I don’t think we help matters when we talk about “Trump’s tweets” instead of just saying “Trump said ‘[insert dangerous, idiotic, and/or offensive words here].'” If they come from Trump’s Twitter account, they are nothing more or less than the words of the President-elect of the United States of America. Trump did not put a nickel into a mechanical bird which then uttered something insane. Trump was not possessed by the spirit of an ancient bird spirit that forced him to say something insane.

Trump simply said something insane…on Twitter.

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On Slut Shaming Melania Trump

There is a curious response to the sharing of nude photos of Melania Trump via social media wherein a certain type of liberal commenter immediately jumps to the conclusion that she is being slut shamed. I understand and appreciate the underlying impulse, but it is wrong.

Take this meme, for example…


Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with this photo in terms of provenance or content. It was not hacked nor was it shared by an angry ex-lover; it was the product of a photo shoot for a French men’s magazine, clearly intended for public consumption. There was no expectation of privacy surrounding her participation in this photo shoot, which she was paid for. Indeed, as far as I am aware, none of the racy photos of the soon-to-be First Lady currently in circulation come from sources that could be characterized as illegitimate.

As far as content…well, again, I just have no problem with anything I’m seeing here. I see two beautiful women locked in a sensual embrace. I have no problem with people displaying their nude bodies. I have no problem with people engaging in sexual acts between consenting adults. I have no problem with homosexuality. In other words, there is nothing to be ashamed of here. If I share it, as a person who has no moral objection to its content, I am not shaming anyone involved in the photo.

So what about the sort of person who thinks a photo like this is something to be ashamed of? What of the people who buy into and perpetuate the idea of sluttiness as a construct? It is only from their perspective that sharing this photo might be called slut shaming. The goal of sharing it is to make them confront it from their sexually repressed little corner of the universe…the corner from which they so often like to judge some people but not others.

I celebrate this photo, just as I would celebrate a similar photo involving Michelle Obama if such a photo existed, which it does not. My position is 100% consistent in all real and imagined versions of reality. The same cannot be said for those on the other side of the political spectrum.

It is important to note here that the reverse situation would very much be slut shaming. A hypothetical conservative citizen who views such things as morally repugnant who shared, as the above meme imagines, a similar photo of Michelle Obama would clearly be motivated by a desire to debase her in the eyes of likeminded fellow citizens.

Both beauty and shame are in the eye of the beholder. As liberals, we are not responsible for the shame that conservatives attach to the naked human form, to homosexuality, to guilt-free participation in sexual activity of various kinds with various partners of various genders. If they are ashamed of what they see here, perhaps they should have objected to it with the same vociferousness with which they happily attack the LGBTQ community with words, actions and pieces of legislation.

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If It’s Not About Race, It’s About Greed

I have long argued that there are just two plausible explanations for low- to middle-income whites supporting the kinds of conservative economic policies they’ve been supporting for the last few decades. The first is that they’ve bought into the myth of the welfare queen and are so opposed to letting imagined hordes of lazy brown people hold a penny of their tax dollars that they’re actually willing to turn down programs that would help their own families prosper.

The second is that they fervently want and firmly expect to be wealthy themselves one day and therefore want to ensure that when that day comes the government won’t coming creeping around with it’s grubby little hands, redistributing their hard-earned dollars downward [to hordes of imagined brown people who lacked the skill or stamina to make it up the ladder].

The second explanation (sans the parenthetical) would be rational if not for the fact that the conservative economic policies they’ve been supporting are the steel-toed boot that has long been on the neck of all working people. They are the very thing that has prevented these economic angst-laden Trump voters from getting ahead, staying ahead, or even staying afloat—let alone getting rich. (Hey, but at least they also kept brown people poor too, right?)

In other words, non-wealthy white people enabled the mega-wealthy to keep an historic amount of their money without understanding, apparently, that doing so necessarily makes it harder for non-wealthy people of all colors to get more money; their desire to eventually, hopefully, someday, maybe hoard cash has made it impossible for them to get cash to hoard.

So even if we pretend for a moment that Trump’s popularity was not driven in very large part by active and latent racism alike, we are still left with a group of voters whose real or perceived economic disenfranchisement is something they vociferously consented to until they didn’t anymore, at which point they got extremely pissed at all the wrong people and turned to a deranged demagogue and admitted serial sexual assaulter who promised to double down on the same policies.

Oh, but he also promised to kick out some brown people, make life harder for some other brown people, prevent some brown people from coming in altogether, and just generally acted as a bright orange manifestation of their collective outrage over the fact that they’re not filthy rich yet and thus can’t take advantage of the policies they were duped into supporting for all these years.

You want it to be easier to keep up or get ahead in America? Stop breaking up unions, start demanding minimum wage increases, rebuild and fortify the social safety net that protects your family when the factory closes, support stronger regulations on banks, fight to make college affordable for your kids, stop letting big Pharma and the insurance industry profit from your suffering. In other words, stop voting for Republicans. Oh, but here’s the thing: you can’t just make it easier for white people to get ahead. That’s called apartheid.

There’s just very little room for empathy here. It’s either about race or it’s about maniacally aspirational greed. Or it’s about both. None of these explanations even remotely excuses voting a manifestly insane and ignorant clown into the White House.

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