This is something that bears repeating:

In the end, it was two conservatives – Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas – who became the third and fourth senators to come out against the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act. Yet conservatives are still placing the blame on moderate senators, who were uncomfortable with how the bill would have phased out Medicaid expansion and enacted deeper underlying cuts to the program.

I’m not really going to be all that sad if Republicans cut Dean Heller loose over this, but the real problem here was that the Republican Party promised people a unicorn for seven years. Blaming a small number of “moderates” for not creating the unicorn is silly. Everybody in the GOP promised the same unicorn, but guess what, there was never going to be a unicorn, so…

While Citizens United has had some horrible effects, it’s hardly been some unalloyed good for Republicans. It gave them more money to spend on elections up and down the ballot (though how decisive those funds were during the Obama era, as opposed to the usual out-party turnout dynamics, will soon be seen), but it also empowered a bunch of dumb old rich guys who don’t know anything about politics and just want what they want right now. The need to keep the Kochs and the Mercers and all the rest happy by pushing wildly unpopular ideas is a major part of Why The Republican Party Cannot Govern. Who knew that finding something that pleases both hyperprivileged rich sociopaths and gets over 50% in the polls could be so complicated!

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It is interesting that Hillary Clinton’s numbers haven’t bounced back at all since the end of the campaign. You would figure the lack of ads being run against her and buyer’s remorse would have helped her rebound a bit, but apparently not. It says something about Clinton’s complete inability–outside of her hardcore base–to engender sympathy, but that’s I think more an effect than a cause. There really wasn’t any ideological difference between Clinton and Obama, but the latter was so damn good at making a majority of the public feel like he was “one of them.” How many times were liberals mad because Obama gave away too much to Republicans in negotiations (again!), but then he’d give a State Of The Union and the web would be full of sentiments to the effect of, damn, this guy is so well-meaning and smart! Clinton just couldn’t do that. Instead she had a way of doing the opposite even when she was giving people most of what they wanted–for example, her rejecting a $15 minimum wage because her economists said $12 would be better. Who cares?! It’s just a way of telling everyone working toward that goal that she’s not with them, and signals to working people that she’s not willing to go out on a ledge for them. It’s not like they were going to be pivotal in the election or anything! (In retrospect, that may have been the moment where she actually lost the election.) Obama would let people think he was with them even if he wasn’t, Clinton seemed to be obsessed with not letting people do that, for whatever reason. After a point I’m not sure what she was really fighting against with this stuff. But if the goal was to try to draw a sharp line with left-liberals to set herself apart from them, well, it worked, and they still don’t much like her.

Yeah, she wasn’t a blank slate, and the election was stolen, and sexism played a significant part as well. But it was such a passionless campaign, so focused on numbers and policy papers and generally the realm of the factual, so out of touch with the emotional. But politics is about people, and their emotions–rational or not–are an important part of it. Clinton just couldn’t ever get that.

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Looks like this cynical corporate synergy strategy backfired:

After Ed Sheeran was pilloried in some quarters of social media for his cameo appearance in Game of Thrones, the show’s director Jeremy Podeswa has come to his defence, saying he is a “lovely performer” who “deserved to be there”.

Sheeran, who has previously complained of abuse on Twitter, left the social network altogether in the wake of the episode screening. But in an interview with the Daily Beast, Podeswa has said he is “a bit surprised that people have made that much fuss about it… he looks right in the show; he fits into the fabric of the show.”

I don’t watch Game Of Thrones anymore–after a point I felt like I understood moves and watching it became tedious–but the notion that a calling-attention-to-itself cameo by the MOR popstar of the moment was going to delight everybody was a little out of touch.

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See, as much as I like to read Tom Nichols–one of the few remaining sane, non-monstrous Republicans around, seemingly–talk about how Trump is wrecking the GOP, I just can’t entirely believe it. I simply don’t see Trump, almost no matter what he does, doing much lasting harm to the GOP. Within fifteen minutes of when he’s gone, they’ll all reunite around whatever technocratic, center-left Democrat succeeds him as the Great Satan, and the media will again dutifully forget what Republicans actually stand for when a Democrat is in office and pretend that whatever nonsense Koch-funded astroturf outfit takes over means that now, they really do just oppose excessive government spending. Within a few months, virtually no Republicans will say anything negative about Trump, and he’ll simply be down the same memory hole as Nixon and Dubya (who is, shockingly, nearly as favorably viewed now as Obama is).

But it’s not just simple amnesia. The simple fact of the matter is that the bulk of Republicans are simply not looking for the same things out of government that we are. Democrats want effective delivery of government services, safeguarding of the safety net and national security, promoting equality and freedom, things like that. Republicans just want tax cuts. What once was a joke is now pretty much an unanswerable argument. They used to pretend they really cared about national security but their behavior around Trump/Russia belies this. Just tax cuts. They liked Bush because he gave them those (just about the only thing he didn’t make a mess of). They like Trump because he’s going to get them those. One fifth of the country literally cares about no other political issue besides shoveling money into the pockets of the wealthy, and that’s not going to change soon. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton lost a lot by assuming that educated, well-off, suburban Republicans cared about literally anything other than this. But, in conclusion, we all want the same things, we just disagree on how to achieve them. I’m sure that strong evidence of collusion will eventually turn them against Trump! Should happen any day now…

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One of the more curious assumptions Republicans seem to make about TrumpCare is that this will “get healthcare out of the way.” I think this is a bizarre assumption to say the least. Given that they’re advancing a policy that doesn’t seem very likely to work, that they don’t seem to care very much about whether it does work or not, and that will make a lot of people worse off, it seems more likely that health care will keep popping up as they have to pass “fixes” to the crises their bill creates, which will only have the effect of hardening public opinion against them on this issue (maybe in general). That their strategy seems to be outright lying about the contents of the bill leaves them vulnerable to taking the blame as things head south. There are undoubtedly some loyal Republicans who believe the many outright lies of Trump or Pence or Ryan, one assumes they’ll be pretty damn mad when their insurance goes away. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it from passing! But still.

I can’t find a clip of it on YouTube, but it reminds me of the bit from Show Me A Hero where Peter Riegert asks, “Do we actually want this housing to work, or don’t we?” Republicans are doing nothing to indicate they give a shit if it works, so it probably won’t. But I don’t think passing a trainwreck of a bill and then just ignoring the subject is going to be a viable alternative. Don’t know if it’ll actually lose them any WWC votes, but I see a constant series of fixes and electoral losses if the thing actually passes.

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This turned out to be pretty accurate. I have no real confidence in Heller making a difference in opposing the bill–I haven’t seen anything to suggest him as anything other than a party hack–but we’ll see. Though I will apologize a bit for the swipe at Dianne Feinstein, who has given even me no real chance to criticize her this year. I’m really surprised!

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I don’t think it’s even possible for a person’s image to flip quite so completely as Rock Hudson’s did over the course of his lifetime. Hudson now is viewed as a hugely important gay icon, whose coming out of the closet and disclosure of AIDS had a huge impact on the public’s perception of these things and shifted the conversation. But it only had this impact because before this, Hudson was such a huge heterosexual icon, the foremost example of male physical perfection of his era, like Clark Gable in the 1930s or Brad Pitt in the 1990s. He looked like he could defend himself if he needed to, tall and rugged, but he also had an easy charm and tenderness that made his many comedic films big hits. He had all the right stuff to make a generation of women obsess over him as a protector and a fantasy boyfriend. Still, despite this he did try to push himself as an actor and take roles outside of his usual wheelhouse: his most famous such was in Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, where he plays an introverted, working-class gardener. But the best of these films is Seconds.

It’s not so much that Seconds wouldn’t work without Hudson: someone like Robert Mitchum could have fit in the role, and that would be an interesting movie to see as well. But Hudson gives it a special quality just by being Rock Hudson: to look like Rock Hudson, living beachfront on Malibu without concerns about money, would be something close to the ultimate American fantasy. So, really, only Rock Hudson could possibly make it convincing that such a thing would be a nightmare, the stuff of horror films, which Seconds essentially is. That Hudson was perceived as such a happy, uncomplicated presence makes his depressed, internal character all the more riveting and interesting. And while all that is true, Hudson’s casting would be a gimmick if he didn’t have the goods to pull off what he needs to in the movie. And he sure does.

Seconds is simple enough in plot. An elderly banker who is deeply unhappy with his life decides to throw in his lot with a shady company that offers a service to people like him: a fresh start, thanks to experimental surgical techniques and the company’s own substantial resources. Hudson plays the banker post-surgery, nicely channeling the weary energy that John Randolph provides as the “old” version of the character. At first it seems so promising: a new house, replete with a company-provided butler, a new vocation in painting, before long a younger love interest (played by Salome Jens, who I mostly know as the female shapeshifter from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). But this is where the movie gets interesting. Hudson isn’t at all happy with the new life. He’s frustrated by his inability to paint. He’s angered by the pressures to fit into the local social scene. There wind up being a few more strings attached than he thought to his new life, and even the woman winds up having a few secrets of her own. The new life winds up not being quite what it was billed to be, and I’ll reveal no more.

Seconds is, like Chinatown or Point Blank or, somewhat more recently, Inside Man, a political critique that backloads the message and initially sucks you in by pretending like it’s just a normal thriller. It’s very easy to imagine a conventional version of the film, which would probably involve Hudson triumphing over the company and getting away with the girl. Thankfully it doesn’t have such an uninteresting ending. Despite coming out in the 1960s the movie, in tone and substance, feels more like the cinema of the 1970s. Corporate America is presented as essentially amoral: the corporation in the film is unregulated and, due to the nature of the business, essentially all-powerful so far as its customers are concerned. It openly uses them up for everything they can get from them. American values–the real ones, like fame, appearance and wealth, not so much the stated ones–are shown to be a shallow mirage. Hudson’s banker realizes–too late–that the reason he was unhappy in the first place was that he bought into what he was told he wanted instead of trying to figure out what he actually wanted, and with his rebirth, he committed the same mistake again. The deathless American conceit that perfect exteriors can somehow lead to an inner perfection is skewered here, as improved exteriors really have no effect upon the protagonist’s unhappiness. The only truly happy people we encounter seem to be the Santa Barbara hippies that Hudson and Jens visit about 2/3 of the way through the movie at a major turning point, though they aren’t referred to as hippies since that wasn’t a thing yet in 1965. A positive view of the counterculture, of all things. It’s frankly kind of amazing this movie got released at all!

Seconds is just a great film. There are so many little details that you pick up on a rewatch, such as that painting is actually Hudson’s second choice for what he wished he were, or the significance of Hudson returning to the “quiet room” full of men that he encounters early in the movie. Are these scenarios designed to fail? It doesn’t seem like it would be profitable if this company were bankrolling all these guys’ lavish lives for decades. (Also very interesting that it’s only men who seem to avail themselves of this option.) It’s definitely a thinky movie, which is probably why it wasn’t popular when it was released. (Also, it was a bit “off brand” for Hudson, so his fans didn’t show up for it.) Some attention must also be paid to the cinematography by James Wong Howe, which is excellent, as well as John Frankenheimer’s direction, which is truly unnerving and savage in a way that studio movies rarely ever are. (Again, it’s amazing the movie ever got released!) But in the end, this really is Hudson’s movie. More than anything, it’s a parable about the dangers of mindlessness whose observations don’t seem at all dated. Hudson’s performance gets this across perfectly.

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No Republican politician will ever support the impeachment of Donald Trump. No matter what.

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