Americans truly are clueless

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering whether Neil Gorsuch should become the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a new C-SPAN/PSB Poll found that just 43% of Americans could name even one Supreme Court justice. Sadly for Justice Stephen Breyer, not a single person surveyed offered his name when prompted to name one of the eight current justices.

America suffers not from maliciousness, but from ignorance. Our politicians, our institutions, our media — all greatly benefit from a clueless citizenry. It’s so sad.

George Carlin

An opening for liberals

Over seven years of promising to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Republicans finally produced an actual plan last night. Congressional Republicans didn’t bother to wait until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the plan, so they don’t actually know how much it will cost. And if they do know how many people will lose coverage under this plan — they aren’t saying.

In his effort to “Make America Great Again,” President Trump promised that he would replace the ACA with something “better” — meaning it would have broader benefits, costs less, and cover more people. The plan that Republicans have introduced does none of those things. And this development presents a political opening for progressives. (Vox has a great breakdown of the ACA and the new bill here.)

The Republicans never actually thought they would be in a position to really repeal and replace the ACA, thus, it really didn’t matter that their math didn’t add up or that the complexities of health reform would make any number of their ideas a non-starter. As long as they were in strict opposition to Barack Obama, they only needed to sound good — not actually promote coherent policy.

But now, things have changed. The Republicans control the White House and all of Congress. They now have the burden of governing. Now, much to their dismay, they must pass something. And there is broad disagreement even among them on what to do.

The reason the GOP didn’t wait for the CBO to score the bill is because they know it’s a budget-buster. Why wait and hand the Democrats a tool to beat you over the head with? And they aren’t even pretending that the new American Health Care Act will cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act currently does. Beyond those two realities are even bigger problems — this new bill contains no individual mandate, and replaces the ACA’s subsidies with tax credits. In other words, it will be easier for rich people to get covered, and far more difficult for poor or sick people to get covered. This new bill also contains almost no incentive for young people to sign up — since there will be no penalty for not purchasing health insurance.

This entire enterprise is a disaster. As The Washington Post notes, the GOP is slow-walking through minefields. The Democrats still have the burn scars from the last time they tried to fix health care in America. Now, they’ll have front-row seats as the Republicans flambe themselves. This represents the first policy opening for a liberal return to governing. The progressives should just sit back and watch the show, and be prepared to pick up the pieces in 2018 and 2020. And should anyone doubt that obstructing a president’s efforts to reform health care is bad politics, well, just look at the Republicans now in power.

 

Dreading Super Bowl LI

It’s happening. We’re just a few short weeks away from the Super Bowl match-up that most NFL fans are dreading: Dallas v. New England. If the Cowboys and Patriots meet in Super Bowl LI on February 5, it would be their first meeting in the championship game. However, they have 9 Super Bowl titles between them, and two of the most loyal (and obnoxious) fan bases in all of the NFL.

Entering the final week of the regular season, both teams are projected to be the #1 seed in their respective conferences — that means first-round playoff byes and home-field advantage. Dallas is already a lock for the top seed in the NFC, while New England needs a win, a tie or an Oakland loss to lock up the top seed in the AFC.

Looking forward to the playoffs, Dallas will have the toughest road to the Super Bowl. The New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers look like serious threats. In fact, the Giants swept their season series with the Cowboys. It’s a very open question as to whether Dallas’s young team could beat both the Giants and the Packers in the same postseason — even if they have the home-field advantage. As for the New England Patriots, they are truly without peer in the AFC. The Raiders looked like a threat right up until starting quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16. Now the Patriots will be favored to beat any of the remaining AFC playoff teams. And in many cases, their opponents might struggle to keep the games from becoming routs.

Though the NFL has struggled with TV ratings at points throughout this season, recent games have drawn record audiences. In fact, last week’s Monday Night Football telecast saw its highest rating in two years. If Dallas and New England were to meet in a Super Bowl, it could draw an audience of epic proportions. Very few NFL teams have the world-wide following and championship success that the Cowboys and Patriots enjoy. In terms of Super Bowl glory, only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers would even be in the conversation. (The Cowboys, Patriots, Steelers and Niners have won 20 of the 50 previous Super Bowls. The other 30 are divided among the NFL’s remaining 28 teams.)

As far as the NFL is concerned, a Dallas-New England match-up would be a gold mine.

As far as football fans who root for a team other than Dallas or New England, it would be Hell. Generally when your team is not competing in the Super Bowl, you simply root for a team based on other aspects of the game. Such as Peyton Manning’s last ride or Luke Kuechly’s improbable, yet magical season. For the most part, the game’s participants don’t make you want to claw your own eyes out with hot forks.

And yet, it looks increasingly likely that the football gods won’t spare us from a Dallas-New England Super Bowl. The list of aggravation is long: Stars on helmets; Jerry Jones; Tom Brady; Bob Kraft’s smug face; Michael Irvin on TV; Zeke Elliott’s belly; Cowboys fans; Pats fans; clueless wannabe fans jumping on the winner’s bandwagon. These teams aren’t just annoying because they have a history of dominance, they are additionally annoying in that almost everything about them pisses off other teams’ fans. The Patriots have been caught cheating multiple times; the Cowboys project an arrogance so grand that words can’t fully capture it. AT&T Stadium has been called “Jerry Jones’s palace” — and they say this with a straight face!

This year, we won’t even have Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski as a funny, sexy aside to it all. He’s on Injured Reserve, and won’t play again until next season. It’s just all a shallow shit-show that we can see coming, yet are powerless to prevent.

If the Universe wants to atone for a horrible 2016, beginning 2017 with a Chiefs-Falcons Super Bowl would be a great start. Why the hell not?

The case of Timothy Kaine as vice president

KAINE

Earlier today I authored a diary at Daily Kos, arguing the case for Tim Kaine’s selection as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Here’s an excerpt:

Giving great speeches, commanding great crowds, and landing zingers on Donald Trump is all great fun — but it isn’t the requisite set of skills needed to serve as Hillary Clinton’s governing partner. We know that Clinton is a serious policy wonk. We know that she values preparation, due diligence and networking — even building partnerships across the political aisle. Her campaign has all but acknowledged that, if elected, the administration will forego big wins in favor of smaller victories that could have a cumulative effect. This is the absolute right way to approach a presidency in succession to Barack Obama — and it will require a vice president of varied experience, temperament and political leanings. That vice president is Tim Kaine.

Read the full diary here.