Politics

CB-OH NO: The Latest on the AHCA

The Congressional Budget Office releases its estimates on the new AHCA bill.


On May 24, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new scoring for the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act. In their findings, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that over the next decade, the federal deficits would be reduced by $119 billion and that by 2026 23 million more people would be uninsured compared to the current law. Most of that 23 million would occur within the first year, with the CBO estimating that in 2018, 14 million people would be uninsured under the new bill (H.R. 1628).

The bill was passed in the House on May 4, 217 to 213 with 20 Republicans voting against and no Democrats voting for. The first attempt to pass the AHCA ended with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulling the bill hours before it was about to be voted on because it lacked the numbers to pass.

The new version passed without an official CBO score, having had mostly cosmetic tweaks to garner more support. According to The Atlantic, the AHCA stops states from “enrolling new people under Medicaid expansion” and it “incentivized states to drop the expansion altogether.” The new bill would also introduce per-capita caps on federal spending, reducing the number of people covered and their benefits. The AHCA also removes the employer mandate, which forces employers to provide affordable health insurance to 95% of their full-time employees and children up to the age of 26.

The bill also removes the individual mandate, which penalizes people who don’t sign up for health insurance. What this does, essentially, is take the burden off of healthy people who might not necessarily need insurance. But without those people paying into the system, the onus is on the sicker, older people to pick up the deficit.

The new bill also introduces a set of waivers: one that would allow states to “modify the requirements governing essential health benefits” (Remember that from last time?) and one that would allow insurers to “set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status.” Roughly 1/6 of the population resides in areas where states would utilize those waivers and the result would be increasing difficulty for less healthy people to purchase insurance on account of rising premiums.

The waivers were the result of an amendment from Representative Tom MacArthur. Business Insider reported that it was the MacArthur amendment that gathered the support of 20 members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservation caucus that largely withheld support for the first AHCA on account of it being too lenient.

A CNBC article quoted Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, as saying, “Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show that last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements.”

The bill will now go to the Senate, where it requires at least 50 votes for it, thus leading to Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tiebreaker. Even with majorities in both chambers of Congress, and a 52-percent majority in the Senate, there is still the likelihood that the AHCA will not pass. Or that if it does, it will have to be severely rewritten to get any support.

Bottom line, even after months of rewriting, the AHCA bill has barely improved and, if anything, has gotten crueler by allowing states waivers on essential health benefits. Older, sicker Americans will see increased premiums and restricted care, and younger, healthier Americans won’t see any incentive to buy insurance. The GOP was more concerned with cosmetic Band-Aids to get conservative support than they were with crafting a bill that would benefit their constituents.

There is one bright side to the AHCA passing: this is probably the first time in months that Paul Ryan hasn’t had violent diarrhea from Congressional stress. Unfortunately, Congress-related diarrhea is no longer covered under the new plan.

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Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 13, “The Sweet Hereafter”

Better the sweet hereafter than this awful limbo. 


Grade: A-

Giving this episode a high grade because yes it was good but it wasn’t as good as last week. In a similar way to Game of Thrones, the penultimate episode is the most dramatic and the finale serves more to tie up loose ends and set up new storylines.

So what are the storylines being set up for Riverdale Season Two? Well mama, read to find out!

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Source: The CW // I didn’t even know t-shirts could fit that well.

In the aftermath of Clifford Blossom’s suicide, Chief Keller (who is…hot. Have we talked about what a DILF he is?) discovered parcels of heroin packed inside the maple syrup barrels. It seems that the Blossom family business smuggled heroin from Canada into the U.S. Are we not even making our own heroin anymore? What has happened to American manufacturing?!

FP Jones is still in jail for being an accomplice in Jason’s murder and is being pressured into giving any information on Blossom’s heroin distribution. Because, obviously, in the town of Riverdale, only one group can be responsible for drugs—and that’s the Serpents. FP maintains that the Serpents don’t deal in harder drugs, and he refuses to be a snitch even when Keller offers him a plea deal. Damn, son.

To recover and save face from the fact that a pillar of the community murdered his own son and smuggled heroin into the town, Mayor McCoy is throwing all her efforts into the 75th anniversary of Riverdale, the Jubilee, and using it to highlight some of Riverdale’s best and (pardon the irony) brightest—Archie and Betty. Betty, who has psychotic breaks, and Archie, who fucked a teacher. Apparently that ranks higher on the list of Do’s than wearing a beanie, or being Latina. Betty is frustrated. How can Riverdale move forward, she wants to know, if they refuse to acknowledge the past?

Some people in town can’t imagine moving forward. Penelope Blossom is distraught and broken over the loss of her son and husband, and utters, “Maybe your father had the right idea. Better the sweet hereafter than this awful limbo.” The notion of the future, and coming to terms with it, plays heavily into this finale. It makes sense—when all energy is focused on solving something from the past, you are forced to live in the past. And when that’s over, all that energy might cause you to tumble over from the sheer momentum.

Archie and Veronica move forward into their future. Jughead has to switch schools and leans into his Serpent legacy. But Betty refuses to move forward without acknowledge the past—the mayor and the town won’t even talk about how Clifford Blossom did anything; it’s all about the Serpents. So she takes to the true hero of this season—journalism—to write about Riverdale’s need to forgo convenient amnesia. It ends with someone scrawling “Serpent Slut” and hanging a Betty voodoo doll from her locker—but the truth is rarely without cost.

This episode serves to end the awful limbo that this season has been trapped in, by going back to the beginning. Archie and Veronica solidify the passion they felt at first sight. Betty leans into the mantle of journalism her parents had laid out. Alice reveals that she, like Polly, had gone through the cycle of teenage pregnancy—one that ended with a baby boy given up for adoption. Veronica says what we’re all thinking, that that kid must be a 20-something “blonde Adonis” by now. And Cheryl—Cheryl ends this season where she first began.

On Sweetwater River.

After a farewell text to the girls, Cheryl made the journey to the frozen surface of the river. As the gang raced through snow to her, she flung her fists against the ice over and over and over. Her red hair was the only color on the bleached-white landscape. And as she heard the voices of the Sleuthsters, she rose and turned to them just as the ice gave way beneath her feet.

Underwater, she saw a vision of Jason—the bullet-piereced corpse of her brother—and it all became clear. She could go into his embrace and die, or she could finally let him go. And above her, another Hot Redhead shatters bones and sprayed blood as he slammed against the ice. Archie broke it open and dragged the languid body of Cheryl Blossom out. And when she coughed up water, she was halfway towards rebirth.

The other half came later, as she dredged her house in gasoline and set it ablaze. The last chill left her body as she watches Thorn Hill engulf itself in flames.

That entire sequence was probably the best of the entire season, and I still get chills thinking about it.

To move forward, you have to do two things. One, you have to decide to move forward, like Cheryl did. You have to choose life. And two, you have to accept the past.

Betty—after another one of Archie’s “songs”—said as much. “Veronica Lodge is Riverdale. Archie Andrews is Riverdale. But FP Jones is also Riverdale. We banish the truth when it’s too ugly. The truth that Clifford Blossom was also Riverdale. If we don’t face the reality of who and what we are…then what happened to Jason could happen again, or, God forbid, something even worse.”

And as the flames consume Thorn Hill, and Veronica and Archie, and Betty and Jughead “consummate” their relationships, everything seems, for once in Riverdale, seared clean. But when an armed robbery in Pop’s ends in Archie cradling his bleeding father, that cleansing has not scoured every evil from Riverdale.

Riverdale’s Gilded Age of Innocence has been shattered, marked by an “act of violence that was anything but random.”


So that’s it for my recaps. I can’t say I’m not glad that it’s over. Mama’s tired. But hopefully we’ll meet again—when we meet Betty’s hot brother, and Veronica probably DILFy father, and the probably sexy possible-murderer of Fred Andrews, and every other slutty villain in the greater Riverdale-Southside area!

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Body Health

“CAN YOU SPOT ME?”

I twist around on the bench, pulling the earbuds—playing Lana Del Rey’s “LOVE”—from my ears. “What?”

“Could you spot me?” he asks again. Grey t-shirt, short, brawny, dark wiry hair and bristly stubble.

I blank for a second, and then nod hastily. “Yeah, yeah!” I hop up and follow him to his own bench press. “I’m doing sets of four,” he tells me before he dips underneath the bar. I hover in the negative space between the prongs the bar rests on. His hands reach up, pinkies first, and find their places on the grooved metal.

He hulks the bar out of its resting position and does one rep. His face purples with the effort of raising the bar off his straining chest. On the second one, the bar stays static an inch above his chest. Panicking, I hook my hands underneath the bar and lift it up from his chest. “Let me struggle,” he tells me—an admonishment to my ears but probably nothing to him.

“Oh, okay,” I nervously laugh.

The idea of “spotting” entails a weirdly personal moment. As I spot this guy, my feet are squared below his shoulders, my groin hovering somewhere above and behind his forehead. Essentially, I’m the only one responsible for making sure the barbell doesn’t pin him to the bench. Without me, he would have 150 pounds on top of his chest, making ribs creak and internal organs bruise.

Once, I tried to bench press without a spotter. I made it through twelve reps of a first set, and on the first rep of the second set, my arms gave out and the bar jolted back onto me. Gravity, weight and my own weakness led to me being pinned like a bug under glass. Groaning, I slowly rolled the barbell down the length of my body, flattening my own ribs and vital organs, resting heavily against my legs until it was far enough down for me to sit up and lift it off me. With the memory of my own primal fear—fox in a bear-trap—in the back of my mind, I stood as his spotter.

But by being his spotter, I was engaging in the bizarre intimacy of the gym. With my headphones in, and eyes narrowly locked on my own reflection as I lift weights, the gym is an insular experience. But outside the Panasonic earbuds, everyone complies to the gym code. If you’re taking too long on a machine, someone will come up and ask to “work in” with you. And so you’ll take turns, watching over them as muscles pull and strain and sweat glosses reddening skin.

You might ask someone wordlessly—both of you speaking through various decibels of music—if they’re done working on a certain machine, or done using that weight you’ve been waiting for. They nod and smile, and you slip in and slide an antiseptic wipe across the imitation-leather to remove any residue they might’ve left behind.

When you pull off a mat and plop it down onto the floor, you’re often working it in—Tetris-style—amongst other mats, going horizontal and vertical across the gym floor. You set yourself down amidst a rippling mass of elbows and knees as other people hold minutes-long planks, bob up and down in a series of unending crunches. Everything is constantly encroaching onto each other’s space, bony extremities popping into each other’s bubbles, sweat flying off in a thousand directions.

And beyond all that, there’s the fact that you’re a group of strangers choosing to be in pain in front of each other. You would never willingly choose to embarrass yourself—over and over—in front of people, but you do for these people. They witness you fling weights to the ground and curl over yourself as the last set pulls all remaining energy from your body. They see you sweat like a maniac, darkening the joints of your t-shirt as you cycle endlessly to an episode of The Office.

Once you get past the initial embarrassment of being vulnerable in a public space, the gym becomes an incredibly therapeutic experience. Because everyone there—the muscle jocks jotting down their gains in small notepads, the people who brings laptops and set them up like projection screens on the ellipticals, or the people edging in for the first time—is focused on getting healthy. They’re focused on making themselves better.

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Politics

SALLY YATES REVEALED THAT SHE WARNED THE WHITE HOUSE ABOUT MICHAEL FLYNN

Header Image: Chicago Tribune


Oh snap.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Monday May 8. In her testimony, she says that she warned White House counsel that former National Security Adviser had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and that he, Flynn, was susceptible to blackmail. This comes the same day that President Obama revealed that he warned then-President-Elect Donald Trump against putting Flynn in the position. In 2014, Flynn was removed from his senior position at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Flynn resigned weeks after his appointment after it came to light that he had lied to the vice president about his contact with Kislyak, where he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. Those sanctions were from the former administration of President Obama as a result of the tampering Russia had undergone in the 2016 election.

Yates, who was fired by President Trump for refusing to enforce his (later to be ruled unconstitutional) travel ban, visited WH counsel Donald McGahn on Jan. 26 to inform him that the Justice Department had discovered that Flynn had lied about the sanctions. Flynn had lied to VP Pence, who vouched for Flynn publicly. Allegedly, it was Pence, after finding out that he had inadvertently lied to the American public, that gunned for Flynn’s replacement.

The knowledge that Flynn had lied, and that Russians had proof of that lying, put him at risk for blackmail, according to Yates. She did not advise any actions, instead just provided the information. The Trump administration waited 18 days after Yates visited to have Flynn resign.

It was not until four days after a Washington Post article came out exposing the visit that the administration took action and fired Flynn.

The testimony today illustrated that the Russia-Trump narrative has not, despite laying low, blown over. Trump has refused to condemn Vladimir Putin for his actions, instead offering him several different instances of praise.

The former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., who was testifying at the same time, said that Russia had been “emboldened” by the success of their influence campaign, the facts of which have still stand even four months later that the Russians interfered to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This testimony comes just days after Emmanuel Macron, newly-elected President of France, accused Russia of leaking documents before the election to aid his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.

The testimony depicts a chaotic and turbulent White House, one where distrust is dissolving traditional processes and vetting. During the hearing, Clapper said the vetting process is typically “far, far more invasive and far, far more thorough.”

It’s been a recurring theme in the new administration. To appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the GOP had to filibuster and block President Obama’s choice for an entire year and then enact the “nuclear” option to ram Gorsuch’s nomination through. Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, did not have a proper ethics hearing, which would have outlined how she would avoid conflicts of interest. The first version of the ACA repeal and replace had to be pulled hours before voting because it did not have enough support, and the second version, voted on by the House this past week, did not go through the traditional testing and forecasting (particularly by the Congressional Budget Office) that is usually required.

The list goes on and on, but the point is the same. The Trump administration, and the GOP in government, is not making ethics a priority. They are skirting around traditions and rules to jam their agenda through—which makes that agenda both sloppily and potentially dangerous. It’s a scary and dangerous time in the world, and the fact that the leaders in our government are doing nothing to abet that is alarming, to say the least.

And at the worst, it’s life-threatening.

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