Charles M. Blow at The New York Times writes—Trump’s Obama Obsession:

Donald Trump has a thing about Barack Obama. Trump is obsessed with Obama. Obama haunts Trump’s dreams. One of Trump’s primary motivators is the absolute erasure of Obama — were it possible — not only from the political landscape but also from the history books.

Trump is president because of Obama, or more precisely, because of his hostility to Obama. Trump came onto the political scene by attacking Obama. […]

The whole world seemed to love Obama — and by extension, held America in high regard — but the world loathes Trump. […]

Trump was sent to Washington to strip it of all traces of Obama, to treat the Obama legacy as a historical oddity. Trump’s entire campaign was about undoing what Obama had done. […]

For Trump, the mark of being a successful president is the degree to which he can expunge Obama’s presidency.

E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes—Hating government doesn’t solve problems

It’s not true that every problem has a government solution. But it is true that certain problems can be addressed only by government. One of these is helping all Americans afford a decent health-insurance policy. It’s this simple: To cover everyone, government has to spend a lot of money.

Why? Because unless you get your coverage from an employer or have an income in excess of (conservatively) $75,000 a year, the expense of insurance is crushing to your household budget. 

“In 2017,” the Milliman Medical Index reported last month, “the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is $26,944.”

This figure includes out-of-pocket costs, but insurance itself is expensive enough. This month, the National Conference of State Legislatures pointed out that “annual premiums reached $18,142 in 2016 for an average family.”


Heather Digby Parton at Salon writes—At last the world is united — in hating and fearing one man (who only cares about CNN):

A Pew Research Center survey released this week shows that President Trump and his policies are overwhelmingly unpopular around the world. Pew polled people in 37 different countries on six continents, and on average only 22 percent of those surveyed said theyhave confidence that he will do the right thing in international affairs. (Trump got higher marks than former President Barack Obama in just two countries, Russia and Israel.)

America’s allies in Europe and North America are particularly repelled by him, which is deeply disturbing. And they don’t just disapprove of his policies, such as the supposed border wall or his travel ban or his withdrawal from the Paris accords. They disapprove of his personal character even more stridently. Most people around the world describe him as arrogant, intolerant and dangerous. Many do see him as “strong,” but they are probably assuming that his arrogant, intolerant, dangerous rhetoric signifies strength and confidence, when it is actually just the bleating of a deeply insecure and shallow man.

It appears the planet is about to find out whether the world’s only superpower can continue to function with a president who can do nothing but watch TV and battle with the news media over his coverage. Considering Donald Trump’s monumental limitations, of course, that might turn out to be a blessing.

Medea Benjamin and Kate Harveston at The Indypendent write—Sorry, Meals on Wheels, Our War Machine is Hungry:

If you think we spend too much on our military as it is (more the next eight countries combined), you might be shocked to hear President Trump has asked for an increase in military spending by 10%, or $54 billion. Where is all this money going to come from? What will it be used for? Since Republicans are not known for wanting to raise taxes, the money has to come from cuts to other allocations in the budget.

On the chopping block are funds that would go to the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal programs — agencies that serve the needs of the American public.

If Donald Trump really wants to take an “America First” approach, why is he slashing our domestic budget and putting money into a war machine that only continues to inflame tensions around the world? We engage in wars that never seem to end, our tax dollars are squandered, innocent lives are lost in the process and these military interventions are certainly not making us safer at home. […]

The National Priorities Project (NPP), using information obtained from the United States budget, has drawn some conclusions about how much we pay for these wars. We pay $615,482 per hour for ongoing operations against ISIS. Afghanistan costs us $4 million per hour (without counting the new troops being sent there). The remaining operations in Iraq cost us $117,000.00 per hour. NPP has concluded we pay $8.36 million per hour for all the wars since 2001.

Corey Robin at The Guardian writes—If Republicans lose the healthcare fight, it’s the beginning of the end:

Once again the Republicans have found themselves in the peculiar position of possessing total control of the elected branches of the federal government, yet unable to act on one of their longstanding dreams: not just slowly destroying Medicaid, a federal program that guarantees healthcare to millions of poorer people, but also forcing people to rely upon the free market for their healthcare.

But that only begs the question: why haven’t the Republican free-market fanatics mobilized their base in support of the bill? Why aren’t they flooding the Senate with phone calls in favor of making people fend for themselves in the healthcare insurance market? Where’s the passion for the market, the hostility to the welfare state, that has so defined the conservative cause since the New Deal? […]

If the Republicans can’t turn their trifecta of control into a conservative policy victory – and with the exception of the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the supreme court, the Republicans under Trump, Ryan and McConnell have yet to achieve any major victory – it will mean that the movement is no longer able to translate its faith in the market into the full-spectrum dominance it once had.

The problem, in other words, may not be the personnel. It may be the principles.

Julian Brave NoiseCat at The Guardian writes—Surveillance at Standing Rock exposes heavy-handed policing of Native lands:

The general public became aware of the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline last fall when, week after week, videos surfaced showing protesters being attacked by dogs, sprayed with water hoses and pelted with an arsenal of rubber bullets, bean bag pellets, and long-range sound devices that blast “powerful deterrent tones”.

Rumored among activists but unknown to the public and much of the press, law enforcement had another tool up its sleeve that has only recently been revealed: an international private security company that infiltrated protest camps, monitored activists and waged an anti-protest messaging campaign via social media.

An ongoing multi-part investigation by the Intercept has brought to light the work of TigerSwan, the security firm held on retainer by Energy Transfer Partners, the owners of the pipeline. Documents obtained by the Intercept reveal that TigerSwan operatives monitored the movements of activists – online and physically with drones and a small detail assigned to follow movement leaders. 

Additionally, they provided local and federal law enforcement agencies with daily “intelligence updates” on the protests – all while likening protesters to “jihadist” fighters and describing protest camps as a “battlefield”.

Such coordination between big business and law enforcement should raise alarms regarding the state of our democracy. But it should also highlight the ongoing fight for sovereignty over Native lands and the continued use of law enforcement as a colonial tool in Indian country.

Ian Millhiser at The Nation writes—Springtime for Union Busting? The Supreme Court’s war on the labor movement may soon claim some high-profile casualties:

Last year, many of America’s unions had a near-death experience.

In January of 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that sought to starve public sector unions of the money they need to operate. The arguments before the justices seemed to herald an impending disaster for the unions, with Anthony Kennedy—the closest thing to a swing vote—appearing visibly angered by some of the pro-union arguments presented to the Court. After the arguments phase, there was little doubt that organized labor would lose in a 5-4 decision that threatened many unions’ ability to operate.

Then Antonin Scalia died.

Now, however, Gorsuch occupies Scalia’s old seat. And Gorsuch is, if anything, well to Scalia’s right. The Supreme Court’s war on unions, in other words, will now resume. And there’s already a case in the works that will allow the Court’s Republican majority to pick up where it left off in early 2016.

Earlier this month, lawyers led by the anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME, a case that is nearly identical to Friedrichs. Both challenge what are sometimes called “agency fees” or “fair share fees.” And Janus, like Friedrichs, is an existential threat to many public sector unions.

John Michael Colón at In These Times writes—Beta Testing Fascism: How Online Culture Wars Created the Alt-Right:

Leftists who write thinkpieces or satires about the alt-right tend to produce more sensationalism than substance. Too often, satisfying but unhelpful insults like “anime Nazi dorks” and “neckbeard fedoras” stand in for analysis.

Rarely do we try to understand why someone who thinks of themself as a good person would want to join what amounts to the online youth wing of a global neofascist movement. Yet many have—especially, yes, young white men—and the reactionary wave continues to spread.

By contrast, in Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, the Irish journalist Angela Nagle has made efforts not just to mock and condemn but to understand what’s driving the alt-right’s rise—and how the Left’s worse tendencies help it grow. […]

As Nagle sees it, this radical element has faded away, undermined not only by state spying and repression but also by the inherent limits of its leaderless structure and ideological vagueness.

What’s arisen in its place is something more toxic: a shallow online identity politics of both the Left and Right that Nagle calls “politics as culture war.”

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones writes—Let’s Cut the Crap: Trumpcare Cuts Medicaid Spending a Ton:

Every tedious old argument in the world is being regurgitated lately in service of the final, desperate defense of the Republican health care bill. The latest hotness is the old “we’re not cutting, we’re just slowing the rate of growth” argument for Medicaid. So let’s make this easy. Here’s the basic chart of federal Medicaid spending since 2000:

Sure enough, spending continues to rise under BCRA. But even a high school freshman knows that you have to adjust for inflation in any time series like this. Here’s the chart for real spending:

There’s a reason this is called real spending. As you can see, Medicaid spending isn’t “slowing down,” it’s being cut. Spending in 2026 is 18 percent lower than spending in 2017.

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