lawmakers reach bipartisan agreement to reform health care

Lawmakers announced in a remarkable joint statement from the steps of the Capitol that an agreement was reached to reform the nation’s health care system. A prepared statement read by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) presented the initial details of a bill which would significantly alter the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) joined their Senate counterparts but did not address reporters until after the initial briefing. “It was a tough negotiation, neither of us really got what we wanted,” said Ryan, “but I’m confident we’ve arrived at the best possible solution for the country.” Exact details and the bill’s specifics will be released later this week.

Narrating several critical all night discussions deep within the Congressional offices, Pelosi outlined a bitter but ultimately productive process. “It got pretty heated in there, sometimes we weren’t sure if we’d pull it off. But I’m pleased we stuck with it. This bill will help Americans.” Pelosi was also pleased that the new so called ‘American Health Care Bill’ meant the Republican leadership would pull back their bill to repeal Obamacare.

From the White House, President Donald Trump released several Twitter statements expressing his praise for the joint effort:

“So glad those folks got it done! #fullofwin”

“Democrats wrote Obamacare alone, shoved it through. Republicans wrote their repeal alone, tried to shove it through. No more!”

“This is a big fucking deal. #America”

The gravity of the issue at hand is said to have compelled Senate and House leadership to carefully craft a series of key working groups that ultimately lead to the compromise. “We felt that with a topic that impacts 20 percent of the American economy, and literally effects the beating hearts of 300 million Americans that we needed to do it right, and do it right now,” said McConnell, clapping Schumer on the shoulder, “this guy and I are getting wrecked off the same whiskey bottle tonight.”

Visiting Washington DC with his family, Milwaukee native Paul Martinez expressed surprised delight, “This is why we brought the kids to DC, to see how special democracy is. We had no idea this would happen today though,” chuckled Martinez. “Totally,” stated his wife Nicole, “we were just hanging out by the Reflecting Pool and my sister texted me that we had to see this speech. We loved it! This is why we elect them to serve us out here.”

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chasing cash off a cliff

One of the best metaphors ever created since sliced bread was invented is the idea of dangling a shiny object in front a cat. As in, showing a plate of sliced meat to Ralph the Butcher is like dangling a shiny object in front of cat.

If you’ve ever actually seen this behavior in our feline friends, it’s hilarious. I don’t have cats, but both my brothers do. Some people use laser pointers, but I prefer the shiny object because it doesn’t require a computer chip.

You take said shiny object and journey it around the room and the cat literally becomes unhinged from reality. If I offer a dental chew to my doggies they’ll go insane and depart from reality while they eat it. But if I scream or drop a hand grenade next to them, they’ll put down the chew for a moment if for no other reason than to determine what’s going on and assess potential dangers. The cat isn’t like that, they’ll just uncheck from the universe. My unfamiliar with cats brain attributes this to the singular possessive mindset they must have had when hunting live animals.

Anyways, it would seem lately that NFL owners have had Los Angeles dangled in front of them like a shiny object. Dean Spanos has decided that after fifty years of San Diego football he’s going to chase the cat toy up the road to LA. The NFL is a business first and a sport second. And so it’s of course all about the level of Spanos’ international gold reserves. But you have to get past the initial figures to determine what’s actually going on.

The whole reason San Diego apparently wasn’t in the Chargers’ future was that taxpayers wouldn’t subsidize a man worth north of $2B in building a stadium. But, in order to relocate the Chargers to LA, Spanos has to fork over a relocation fee of $650M to the league. When you combine that with the essentially free $300M that the NFL offered him to stay in San Diego, one comes up just a few bucks short of a pretty sweet billion dollar stadium in San Diego. And yet he moved anyways. Why?

Because he thinks LA is a shiny cat toy.  Spanos, alongside former Mr Universe contestant, breaker of thumbs, and jai-li extraordinaire Stan Kroenke are betting that LA will give them substantially more long term gold than San Diego or Saint Louis ever could. Well, I’m going to speak to the future here and say that both of them have made terrible mistakes. It’s not going to work.

1) This has been tried before

Once upon a time the Rams and the Raiders occupied LA. They both left within a few years of each other. Why? See (2) and (3).

2) These teams suck

If you were to journey into the ancient Chinese wilderness, you’ll eventually encounter (after 13,437 years of mystical travel) the ghosts of Confucius and Sun Tzu who will be getting messed up on baijiu in a tent. Among their many limitless levels of knowledge will be a stone table with the Chinese character for mediocre on it. Beneath this character will be chiseled in stone the team logos for the Rams and Chargers. This is a team that gave Jeff Fisher a contract extension. Fisher is the man who can throw a six sided die and land on the number 8, 50% of the time. Then there’s the Chargers who have wasted one of the more talented quarterbacks in history with Philip Rivers. When they acquired Rivers, Spanos might as well have hired an assassin to break his legs, it’s the same thing.

3) You might care about LA, but LA doesn’t care about you

Do folks care about Jennifer Lawrence or Lord Leo? Good for them, but guess what, they don’t care. Does Spanos care about LA? Good for him, but guess what, LA doesn’t care. LA cares about LA. LA cares about LA things. I don’t know what people in LA do all day? Maybe they shop or get their hair done or go hang out at the beach or whatever. But I’m pretty sure it’s not getting passionate about football. They probably think it’s a game for people less cool than they are. Like folks who would eat McDonalds over In-N-Out. There’s probably a bunch of people in LA who love football. But enough to fulfill the financial obligations of two separate teams? I think not. A delicious stat from this 2016 regular season was that NFL ratings within LA actually went down. Even with the Rams in town, less LA citizens watched football this year.

4) History matters

The Cleveland Browns are less talented than a few college football teams. But their fan base cares and is dedicated to the team in a way that makes it a perpetual ongoing Greek tragedy. It’s not called the Factory of Sadness for nothing. Yeah, there’s less to do in Cleveland, but also the team’s been there forever. It has a history associated with Cleveland. The Chargers have no history in LA. The Rams do, but it’s not that much after all those years in Saint Louis. It’s for this reason that at this very second, there are likely more Raiders fans in LA than Chargers and Rams fans combined. When the Raiders move to Las Vegas, it’s going to stay that way. Football crazy LA citizens will be happy to commute to Vegas to drink, gamble, and actually watch a competent team. They’ll not be interested in an equivalent journey time sitting in traffic to watch a terrible LA team.

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You’re in trouble Dean.

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PS, this is the worst sports team logo since the 1337 Manchester Alley Rats, which was nothing more than a charcoal picture of dead plague rat.

Putin is not Putin

I get the idea that 73% of the planet now believes Vlad is about seven feet tall, wears a pristine three piece suit, while dual wielding a pair of machine pistols, followed by a troupe of supermodels, and leaves all his enemies dead in his wake.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure none of this is true.  In any aspect, this guy just gets too much credit.  There’s Putin the idea, and Putin the man.  Putin the idea does not actually exist.  The man himself is basically just a gangster dictator.  Putin is not Putin.

Russia is powerful, it influences events worldwide and especially in it’s own backyard.  It has nuclear weapons, and a whole bunch of oil and gas.  But Russia is ultimately a troubled mess.  The economy is in the tank, demographic decline means by 2075 there will be like four Russians left, and generally speaking there’s nobody to carry on the party after Putin goes.

So when folks make Putin or Russia out to be this goliath, it’s not healthy.  It gives credence to a situation that’s not there.  Oh, Russia influenced the United States election?  I’m sure they did.  Did this single act cause Trump to win?  No.  And in any case, is everybody so blind to history?  Soviet Russia has influenced every U.S. election since 1917.  Please kindly go read history.

But when it’s made out that Putin alone has influenced the election, or even changed the outcome?  I’m sorry, but all that does is feed an image that doesn’t reflect reality.  Russia or Putin just simply isn’t that powerful.

You know once upon a time, the idea was that the United States shrugged off the rounding error threats from lesser nations led by gangsters.  But I guess, in today’s social media driven world, that we have to respond with hashtag anger to every petty little slight.  In 1984 or 1996, we’d have just shrugged at this.

never talk to strangers

I’m kind of an introvert, and go on my merry way.  But nobody can know this if they’ve never met me.  So when somebody gets in my face out of the blue I kind of wonder what planet they’re living on.  They could be talking to anybody.  Why would anybody want to talk to me anyways?

What if I had a medical condition?  What if I turned out to be a salesman and wasted a half-hour of their day hocking ties to them?  What if I was a closet serial killer?  What if I could care less what these people had to say?  What if I let them in on the gig that Santa isn’t real?

I guess they don’t care.  It’s like they’ve got this ‘on’ switch inside their brains.  They can’t help themselves.  They instinctively interact with their fellow human without any coherent thought.  This can be a neat thing sometimes, I guess, but it can also get very weird very quick.

Today as I’m getting in my walk during lunch (I take my lunch break for exercise and eat at my desk) a guy steps in front of me and stops me.  He then proceeds to ask me a bizarre obscure question about why a downtown building is located in one place instead of the other.  Like why the builders chose that one spot.  Eh?

I’ve got no idea what he’s talking about.  He doesn’t look like he’s criminally insane, he appears a perfectly normal person.  But him stopping me like that, and the weird question were rather off the charts.  So I told him I didn’t know and was on my way swiftly.

And what was it, some day earlier this week, I can’t remember which.  I’m walking through the grocery store parking lot.  I’ve got my one big reusable bag.  I’ve also got a fist full of plastic bags which had reached end of service life.

Once upon a time you could put those old plastic bags in the local curbside recycling.  They banned that in my town, so you have to put them in the plastic bag recycling bin at the grocery stores.  I mostly use the reusable bags at the grocery store.  But will occasionally get plastic bags because they have oh so many uses other than carrying groceries (eat it bag tax politicians).

So I’ll use the plastic bags until they are unserviceable and then recycle those at the grocery.  I suppose the grocery store could just put them in the trash later, for all I know, but it’s all I can do.  Recycling is such a crap shoot.  If you doubt this, just do some reading online to find out how much of that glass you recycle is actually not currently recycled today.  This is why you should get canned beer and box wine.  They’ve fixed the can / box quality issues folks, it’s cheaper, and cans and boxes are 100% recyclable.

Anyways, so I’m strolling through the grocery parking lot with both types of bags.  A car viciously pulls right up next to me on the passenger side.  This guy is shouting at me from behind the steering wheel.  In the 1.5 seconds of mental processing time, I’m wondering where I can run, hide, or fight.

But eventually I determine that he’s shouting at me about how awesome it is that I’m recycling.  I guess he saw me carrying the old plastic bags, I guess?  I keep walking, all I offer in response is my most deadpan, “Okay.”

Then he peels out like he was escaping a robbed bank.  There was no mocking or irony in this dude’s voice.  He was dead serious.  Guy actually did an aggressive drive by on his fellow man just to voice his approval of supposed recycling.

If a brick had been at my feet, I’d have picked it up and chucked it at his car.  You can’t recycle broken rear windshields, the planet is worse off now, and it’s all your fault.  That would’ve been my robotic / lame 1986 action movie line to this idiot.

There’s a reason you tell kids not to talk to strangers.  Even us adults end up dealing with folks who in one way or another, just don’t seem wound right.  I mean, I’m a lunatic, but I’m pretty sure if I stop somebody on the street cold, my reasons and demeanor are legit.

who gets to decide what’s fake?

We got through most of this entire lunatic campaign season without nary a word about fake news sites. I find this amusing as for the most part I consider Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc, etc, to all essentially be fake news sites. They don’t actually report news so much as they seek to shape public opinion to serve whatever interests they champion. There’s also the ever delicious The Onion which is usually a good place for a decent laugh, though even they have an obvious slant they push, but they’re obviously an admitted satire site.

But what folks are actually talking about are the sites that are totally off the deep end. They have no purpose except to play people for morons to move the election needle. Some of the examples I’ve heard over the last week were popular articles that said something along the lines (my paraphrase) of, but all of these were lies:

– The Pope had endorsed Trump

– Trump had commuted to Valhalla before the campaign ended

– Machines will not be our Masters

– Trump won the popular vote

– Going vegan makes you happy

– Trump was seen at Putin’s dacha alongside six former Olympic gymnasts (I too thought this one 99% accurate)

– The Walking Dead is a good television show

So now that the election is over a whole bunch of folks are stating that these fake news posts were in some way responsible for altering the course of the election. This point of view is mostly for those in the Hilary camp who ascribe some of the last minute push towards Trump as caused by said nakedly vicious pro-Trump fake news. Facebook, Google, and your local school newspaper are now thus under pressure to filter and delete said fake news stories from their feeds. The idea is that you the voter will no longer see this fake news so you can know the news you read online is legit.

First off, I feel sorry for Facebook and Google on this because no matter what they do everybody is going to hate them for it. One side will claim they’re not doing enough to police fake news or hate speech, the other side will claim censorship. Both sides will be simultaneously right and wrong. Facebook and Google will be caught in the middle of the broader cultural wars. Zuckerberg will become progressively more frustrated and insane, thus laying the groundwork for his impending slide into the oblivion of Bond villain darkness.

Because honestly who gets to decide what’s fake? As I understand what Facebook and Google are being asked to do, they have to hire somebody to edit their feeds. Then that person upon viewing some news they deem fake is supposed to delete it so folks can’t see it. Well, what’s fake?

– The Pope had endorsed Trump, fake, delete.

– Okay, what about The Onion? Well, that’s fake too, but that’s satire, so, do not delete? I guess. Well, what’s satire and what’s fake news? Who determines the difference?

– Okay, what about Salon or National Review? Well, they’re flamethrower sites for the acolytes, so it’s analysis and not technically news, so, do not delete? I guess. Who gets to determine the best way for remembering where you put your keys?

– What about that random Facebook post by normal average human that becomes popular but is chock full of lunacy, lies, and opinion? Well, but that’s not from a news site, so, we do not delete? But it’s still fake, so shouldn’t that person be made to shut up? Even if that person is just an average person they’re still shaping public opinion, aren’t they? Who decides who is made to shut up?

– But what if somebody reposted that person’s post as if it was news? Do we delete them too? What about somebody’s random blog post, is that news? Who decides what’s a blog post and what’s fake news? Who decides if Lady Gaga is hot or not?

– What about a 1930’s Looney Tunes cartoon clip with Speedy Gonzalez, is that hate speech worthy of deletion? Who determines what is hate speech, what is stupidity, what is fake news, and what’s just normal average painful human discourse to resolve our problems? Have you contemplated your future bleached skeleton status lately?

– What about a scene from Frozen which falsely gives the impression via fake news that Elsa would not have been put to death by the Catholic Church for witchcraft in real life? Shouldn’t we delete that too?

And on and on and on.

Where does this end? Where do you draw the line on what should be seen and deleted? What is fake and what’s not? The answer always will end up being the opinion of some screener, likely guided by policy that a bunch of folks from Facebook and Google got together and wrote. And thus, a bunch of random people you’ve never met get to determine what you’re allowed to say and read. This is not healthy in any aspect.

Facebook and Google are private companies and can essentially do whatever they want within the law. For example, if Google decided it hated cats and deleted all cat content from its site I’m pretty sure there’s nothing anybody could do to stop them. But Facebook and Google are also so ubiquitous to society you could make an argument they’re becoming an intrinsic part of our culture, infrastructure, lives. Do we really want two of the global Internets backbone sites to be in the censorship business? For any reason at all?

I come down to two points on this:

1) I am an open season kind of person on free speech and thus to all the Internets. Facebook, Google, Twitter should not be in the business of removing content whether it’s fake, hateful, whatever. This means you can post fake Trump news, evil ISIS propaganda, incorrect tips for how to properly cook an egg, Tweet how much you despise [insert anything here], and so on. Dealing with all this nonsense is a price worth paying rather than living in an online society where strangers get to police thought.

2) Humans as free individuals are responsible for what they do and do not read and how they process information they acquire online, in newspapers, from ads, from their neighbors, from their imaginary friend, from their own fears, from their own dreams. If somebody read fake news and believed it, that’s their own problem and responsibility. Living in a free society is hard work. It requires you to think for yourself, do your own research, and make your own decisions. It’s not the responsibility of society to do that job for the citizen. Indeed, if society did, then said citizen would never be truly free.

And I want us all to live free.

we belligerently break down what the hell just happened

1) The outcome: people are pissed

This is a global phenomenon. There is an entire subset of humanity (half the population) in the democratic world who rightly or wrongly feel they’ve been left behind. They’ve got no skin in the game of a modern globalized, multicultural, interconnected world that the politicians, businessmen, and the media have built. Said politicians, etc, have tended to dismiss the concerns of these people as resistant to change on the kind end, and things like racist on the unkind end. Abject dismissal was always going to be a poor way to address the concerns of a substantial portion of society’s citizens. People who genuinely believe their children will have it worse off than they’ve had it don’t appreciate being called backward. The establishment (the other half of the population) have taken it for granted that the newfangled world they’ve built was always the right answer. And so it’s been a only natural that everybody should get aboard and reap the benefits. The problem is that the benefits haven’t trickled down to everybody. Not enough effort was expended to aid workers who lost their future to globalization. Too many elites spend more time worrying about corporate tax policy or transgender bathrooms than a opioid addiction that’s literally bleeding whole areas daily. These things matter. In any democracy, when half the electorate feels that both political parties are essentially ignoring their core interests, don’t be surprised when they get pissed and back fringe lunatics. This happened with Brexit, it happened with Trump, it might happen soon with Marine Le Pen. It will continue to happen until those that govern make it a point to work for all citizens, not just the narrowly defined slice of the country that happens to be inside the system.

2) Hillary was Donald’s Hillary

The prevailing wisdom of this campaign was that Trump was the perfect candidate for Clinton. She’d sail to victory because he was such a lunatic. I tend to think it was rather the other way around. Clinton was the perfect candidate for Trump to battle against. Where Trump was the anti-establishment guy, you could not have conjured a more inside the system player than Clinton. Where Donald could connect with voters in his own crazy way, Clinton probably couldn’t even properly connect with her own campaign staff. Everybody got aboard the fact that Clinton was going to make history as the first woman president. She even planned her coronation beneath a glass ceiling building. The problem with this line of thinking is that nobody bought it outside the bubble of politics. To the average voter, Clinton was always going to be there just because she was the other Clinton’s wife. The real glass ceiling of this election was that a lot of folks wanted somebody to break the glass on establishment dynasties, be it Bush or Clinton. In an election where well over half the country thinks things are going in the wrong direction, what people were definitely not looking for is more dynasty. They were not looking for a person who’s been in politics for forty years. Imagine if you will, how different this would have all played out had Sanders, Warren, or even poor Jim Webb been on the ticket. Any one of these people would have likely beat Trump. Anybody could have beat Trump. But not Clinton, she was the keen match he needed.

3) The division

After all of this, after all this mess, the answer is 60 million Americans pulled one lever, 60 million Americans pulled another lever, and 6 million Americans (like yours truly) threw their vote away. Statistically speaking, you could not imagine a more divided electorate. This is a rather troubling existence for the nation. The American system is built to produce divided government. But I wonder if it’s built to handle a consistently divided nation. Each side is talking past the other. Nobody wants to listen anymore. If 60 million folks think the other 60 million folks are not just wrong, but nefarious, we’re in for a death spiral. History tells us that tribal alliances can progressively break down and destroy a culture. And what we have here are truly tribal feelings. As an example, for the very, very limited amount of time I watched live election coverage I was troubled to observe:

a) An analyst on PBS who stated that the election was only playing out the way it was because of the “South” and it’s continuing capture of the broader political forces of America. In other words, if you lived in Ohio and voted for Trump, you didn’t do so because you’re protesting that the elites forgot about you. Instead, you were doing so because you were inherently racist. This is the idea that Trump won because a full 60 million Americans were too stupid to vote for anybody else or are just racist, or sexist, or whatever. Everybody surely remembers Hillary’s “deplorables” comment, right?

b) An analyst on Fox who stated that the election was only playing out the way it was because of “Conservatism” and it’s return to recapture America from the dark forces of liberalism. In other words, if you lived in New York and voted for Clinton, you didn’t do so because you were appalled by Trump or believed in the progressive ideas Clinton stated. Instead, you were do so because you wanted to destroy the old America to remake a new one. This is the idea that a full 60 million Americans wanted Clinton to win so they could detonate the country and remake it at the expense of the other 60 million. Or that 60 million Americans only want to milk the nation of the other 60 million. Everybody surely remembers Mitt’s “47 percent” comment, right?

I don’t know how you resolve the feelings of (a) and (b) without a lot of turmoil. I do worry, friends.

4) The reality

As stated, the American system is built to produce divided government. Whoever you voted for, either Clinton or Trump was going to run against the brick wall of this reality. The American President might be the least powerful Executive in the modern democratic world. It was designed to be this way from the beginning. People who think Trump’s going to rule as some unhinged dictator should not forget that the system is constructed specifically to prevent such a thing from happening. However badly you thought about Clinton or Trump, I assure you, American has previously survived far, far worse than these two idiots. I suspect, either way, that we’ll be sitting here four years from now with much the same situation on our hands. I could be wrong, but if you remember back in 2008, the Democrats were equally in control of all the arms of government power. What came of all that? You could say Obamacare, a few key Supreme Court decisions, etc. But largely, I don’t think most folks would say in the last eight years America has undergone earth shaking radical change. I loosely predict it’ll be the same result by 2020 or 2024.

Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I just don’t see much changing for the average man or woman on the street. Trump voters are going to be rather disappointed to realize that their local mayor has far more power over their lives than Trump. They’ll be disappointed to see they can’t have problems that have taken decades to create wished away by a maniac who shouts loudly. Clinton voters are going to be rather relieved to see that even this guy can’t do the level of damage they feared. The needle will move, but for the most part people’s lives aren’t going to change. The system, the broader waves of our culture, are bigger than this election or Trump or Clinton. Where is our reality headed? As I’ve stated above, I’m worried, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this, in the broader path of where we are bound, this election is little more than a rounding error. I wish, I wish we’d take a step back and think about the bigger picture. Instead, I fear, we’ll soon be wrapped up talking about small fry nonsense like the intricate details of Executive Order Whatever or Senate Filibuster Verbiage. This is disappointing, but also, rather comforting. One way or the other. Life goes on.