Quick News Check In and a Brief Plea

Reporters asked [Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)] why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”
Talking Points Memo

The thing about the ACA news that’s pissing me off more than anything right now, are the handful of stories or mentions I’m seeing that the GOP are going to “move on” from health care now. Really. After nearly a decade of single minded antagonism. You voted on this issue over 60 times under President Obama (and grand total of 0 under President Trump). Now you’re ready to move on.

Almost as if…for the majority of the party at least…the actual bill itself was never the point…?

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On the other hand, one good thing I’m seeing seems to be some level of introspection of some members of the Republican party.

As the prospect of a loss became more real on Friday, the frustrations of GOP lawmakers loyal to the leadership began to boil over. “I’ve been in this job eight years, and I’m wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening,” Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said in an interview. “We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.” – from The Atlantic

For nearly a decade, the GOP has defined itself by its perceived enemies and what they were against. They’ve been a protest party, but they are now in charge and a litany of complaints is not a plan, as yesterday and its attendant organizational mess proved. I am desperately hoping that liberals don’t fall into the all too easy trap of doing the same thing in response! Because if ever there was a moment for both sides to lay down rhetorical arms, retreat to their own camps to actually think on and firm up what it is the stand for and not just whom against, and return to the table armed for an intelligent debate about which ideologies our country should espouse and why, instead of scorched earth politics…this is it.

Let’s set aside the ridiculous man in the White House and his sensational, possibly scandal ridden cronies for a moment. Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Trump doesn’t owe Republicans much when it comes to policy making, especially given that most didn’t support him (at least enthusiastically) in the election. I’d suggest that the reverse is also more true than is given credit for. Mr. Trump ran as a Republican but far from sharing a majority of conservative principles, his statement record is all over the map. He doesn’t seem to operate from ideology so much as self-interest. He might have overrun the GOP but he doesn’t lead it. And, more importantly, within the US system it is congress not the executive branch is supposed to take the lead in practical governing anyway. A number of leading conservative and libertarian thinkers have been complaining for years that the executive branch has grown too powerful in the post WWII era. In fact, that was one of their primary complaints about the previous administration!

So, conservative leadership, get to it. Lead. Get your act together. Take the reins. Govern. Remember that you govern all of us, not just the guys who voted for you, and act accordingly. Govern well, else be voted out of office, that’s how this game works. Someone, anyone, step up to claim some sense of ownership and offer, in good faith, to work with liberals on constructive legislation moving forward that actually addresses the current needs of citizens, regardless of what the orange overlord tweets or the blowhards of talk radio spew. Say you want to draw a line under recent vitriol and start anew, and mean it.

I, Jane Taxpayer, solemnly swear to hold my own party accountable if they fail to take you up on your offer.

But at the moment, GOP, this president and the current state of political are largely your mess and, as you like to keep point out, you’re now in charge. Fix it. I’m genuinely rooting for you.

Weekend Links

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
[Remarks on the 20th Anniversary of the Voice of America; Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, February 26, 1962]”
― John F. Kennedy

So. The news. By Wednesday of this week, this whole mess had gone down. Things haven’t gotten much clearer since. Then there was an attack on my beloved adopted hometown of London the same day, seemingly the actions of a lone wolf assailant.

As I put this list together, the American political system is arguing with itself (on a fundamental level) as to whether healthcare (or rather its watered down version of “access to healthcare”) is a right or not. There’s an actual and interesting ideological basis to this debate, but we long ago spun into vitriol and obstruction and I’m not sure that we’re any closer to finding our way out of either. Apparently the leadership is going to force a vote on it today, we will see what happens.

Thus far 2017 seems to be doing its darndest to up our collective rates of cardiac stress and fatigue. Here are your links this weekend, and they are designed to be a politics-lite batch for to give us all a bit of a break.

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The importance of understanding shifting language and context in our culturally ongoing discussions about sexuality and identity.

Relatedly! An interview at Man Repeller about the changing language and communication expectations of our current age.

Female writers on books that influenced them.

The great and good Margaret H. Willison (oft of Pop Culture Happy Hour fame) defends libraries!

Escaping the guardianship laws placed on Saudi women.

Speaking of Pop Culture Happy Hour, this post from NPR’s Monkey See about the podcast Missing Richard Simmons is an interesting exercise in pondering fame.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. And then the murders began.”

This article on how ISIS is changing and evolving is worth a read.

The latest trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale is chilling and gripping. I can’t wait for it and am simultaneously a bit chilled.

Why Jane Austen is Wrong for the Alt-Right. I may never have click on an article link this fast in my life.

Album of the week: Paradise by ANOHNI

From Russia, With Love

Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
– Winston Churchill

So, to confirm, it was necessary for the FBI to break protocol in October of last year and publicly divulge information about an ongoing investigation into former rep. Anthony Weiner as it hypothetically might have related to Secretary Clinton (turns out, it didn’t). But it was not necessary for the FBI to publicly divulge that then-candidate Trump’s team or campaign was being investigated since July of last year for potential collusion with or ties to a government with an avowed strategy of disrupting US elections in his favor.

Got it. Clear as mud.

God, I’m angry at the state of US politics.

Weekend Links

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
― Pablo Neruda

We made it to another weekend, kittens, and here in London at least it feels like spring really has arrived. It’s warming up, the daffodils are out in full force, and I think we are officially out of excuses for not being able to make it to the gym during daylight hours. Crud.

Here are your links, mostly politics free this week, to keep this springtime good mood going. Share your favorite stories from the week in the comments!

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In case you missed the thread or story in question, this piece is worth a read.

This year’s NPR Music Tiny Desk Contest winners are a revelation and a delight!

Lipstick, oppression, empowerment, and the inner female life. Sign me up for whatever it takes to get this film released.

I have…questions

The CBO score on the healthcare reform, put forward by some Republicans and supported (at least initially) by the administration, came out this week. The estimates are 14 million losing insurance by 2018, 24 million by 2026. Read up and inform yourselves. In other political news, the courts temporarily blocked Travel Ban 2.0, a new budget proposal was put forward that amps military spending and cuts things like poverty support, big chunks of funding to whole agencies, and arts endowments (always a sign of great things to come ), and the president’s own party are refusing to back his thus-far-baseless claims of wiretapping. #winning?

I loved this supportive letter from Albert Einstein to Marie Curie.

Dear Saudi Arabia, you messed up

And speaking of messing up, our own military (near and dear to my brat heart) isn’t exactly covering itself in glory on women’s issues lately.

A holy holiday, indeed!

So, minions, if we all pool our money

A fascinating profile on Kellyanne Conway. Love her or loathe her, but this article makes a compelling case that she is, for all functional purposes, almost the acting First Lady in terms of profile, administrative involvement, and propinquity.

Miss Ru got married?! Mazel Tov!

A victory in our time.

Album of the week: Sarah Vaughn, At Mister Kelly‘s

Bistrotheque, East London

“And now leave me in peace for a bit! I don’t want to answer a string of questions while I am eating. I want to think!”
“Good Heavens!” said Pippin. “At breakfast?”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

As so many of our old food haunts have left us lately, Jeff and I are on the prowl for new places to fall in love with. When a recent local joint stopped serving regular brunch (they tantalize us with promises that the chef may choose to surprise us with it from time to time, those teases), we decided to go on a wander in unfamiliar territory this weekend to explore somewhere new. East London beckoned and my research indicated that Bistrotheque would fit the bill nicely.

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It’s very much the kind of place I like. Tucked away on an unexpected street in a Bethnal Green residential area, if you don’t know what to look for, you could easily pass the entrance. And even walking through the sign-less door and up the stairs, you might have a few qualms that you’re still not in the right place until you burst out into a bright and open industrial space.

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We had to make a reservation to get in and it was fully almost the entire time we were there. Couples, families, and groups of friends all clustered together comfortably with the open kitchen in view, in keeping with the industrial aesthetic. It’s clearly a very family friendly place, in spite of the prodigiously stocked bar, and there were several children in attendance.

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The menu is a great mix of typical brunch and lunch offerings, most of which with a welcome kind of twist. My avocado and eggs were severed on savory cornbread with crunchy spiced corn kernels and hot sauce. Jeff snagged something with chorizo (which will always call to him). I glimpsed some of the sweeter offerings like french toast at nearby tables and it looked decadent enough to warrant the second visit I’m already plotting.

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We pushed the boat entirely out and grabbed some pudding after our main meals because they looked too good to not try. Jeff plumped for the creme brulee (usually my drug of choice) so that I could go for the blood orange panna cotta, smothered in pistachios.

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The atmosphere is nicely urban, the food is flavorful, and though the prices aren’t exactly dirt cheap, the portion sizes are very filling. What more could you want?

Oh, a piano guy who plays medleys of Guns’N’Roses, Michael Jackson, and the Spice Girls while you munch? Yeah, they have that too!

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Incendiary Monday: Nationalistic Purity is a (bad) Myth

“Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”
― Albert Einstein

This tweet and whole story enraged me. When we are speaking of the human race, there is no such thing as “someone else’s babies.” This is shameful, racist nonsense.

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I fundamentally don’t understand the notion that some people seem to hold that there was once a time where every nation on earth (a concept in and of itself only a couple centuries old) had its own pure ethnic, nationalistic, and presumably racial identity. Nope. Lies in almost every case. We humans have been trading, travelling, mixing languages, creating and abolishing religions, warring, peacemaking, marrying, and swapping science globally for all of recorded history. The only things that have changed in the last thousand years is the rapidity with which we do it, the distances we are able to cross to do so, and the scale of our exchange.

But if I can point out evidence of Africans in Britain in the Roman period, the vast reach of the medieval Chinese navy and their explorations across the Pacific, Vikings in the Americas in the 10th century, a millennia of trade along the Silk Road, ancient African trade routes spanning the continent, and Pan-European Celtic road systems dating to before written language…you don’t get to be surprised that people of a different skin color or religion now live next door to you.

The last time we were a “pure” species was in coming out of Africa–and apparently we still  eventually managed to hook up with Neanderthals at some point. Notions of national purity, always an Us And Them narrative, have only ever served to divide and–in modern history–usually to attempt to conquer.