Obamacare survives! Some mostly jubilant thoughts

Yay! Here’s one of many articles covering it.

– While part of the problem was the House Freedom Caucus thought the bill didn’t do enough, there were also a chunk of moderates that wouldn’t support it. I saw a number of quotes from people saying they were getting thousands of calls against it and single-digit number of calls for it. Calling your representative can work! See:

– The bill itself was very unpopular (this poll had it at 17% approve 56% disapprove, and that was before they got rid of the essential health services!), which I guess isn’t surprising for something that would have made 24 million people lose health insurance in the next 10 years. This is a good example of how passing Obamacare moved the Overton window – just repealing it wasn’t acceptable to even most Republicans since so many people would have lost insurance.

– Margins matter. The estimates of how many votes the Republicans were short is in the neighborhood of 15 or so when it was closest to passing. If the Republicans had 30 more seats in the House it easily could have passed. (although who knows what would have happened in the Senate…but again, the Republicans have a very slim majority there)

– We’re going to lose a lot. It was great (and important!) to win this battle, but the Republicans still control the House, Senate, and Presidency, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pass some terrible tax bill or whatnot. So don’t lose hope when this happens, and don’t give up!

why you should oppose the Republican health care bill (aka the ACA “repeal and replace”)

If you want to read the bill itself, you can do so at the clever URL ReadTheBill.gop. I tried to get through it and gave up – it’s 120 pages and not the easiest thing to read. But I do appreciate having the bill easily available!

If you want to read articles by people smarter than me, here’s a pretty good summary, and here’s an article wondering why the bill exists because both conservative and moderate Republicans are unhappy about it for different reasons. And here’s a roundup of how people are responding to it.

Here are some weird/bad things about it:

If you don’t have insurance through your employer, poorer people will get less of a subsidy/tax credit, and richer people will get more – see here for a chart with some samples. The original bill would give a tax credit to everyone (without employer health insurance) based solely on age, so Mark Zuckerberg and I would get the same amount. Now they added some phasing out based on income, so Zuckerberg won’t get anything. But it’s still less progressive than the ACA, and people are worried that more low-income people won’t be able to afford insurance at all.

We don’t know how much it will cost or how many people will lose coverage because the Republicans are voting on it out of committee tomorrow – the plan was released yesterday and they want to vote on it tomorrow! They’re not waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to “score” it, which is awfully suspicious. An expert suspects 15 to 20 million people would lose coverage under the bill.

The individual mandate is gone, but if you stop coverage and later want it your premiums will go up 30% which is just weird. One big problem you have to worry about in healthcare is that people will not buy insurance until they get sick, then they’ll buy it to cover procedures, etc. This can lead to the feared “death spiral” where more healthy people drop their insurance, which makes premiums go up, which makes more healthy people drop their insurance, etc. Pre-ACA insurers dealt with this by either refusing to cover people with “preexisting conditions” or raising their premiums sky-high. The ACA attempted to solve this with the mandate, which says you have to have insurance or pay a penalty. But raising someone’s premium by 30% is probably not enough to dissuade people from doing this.

There’s a sweet tax break for insurance company executives that make more than $500K because it wouldn’t be a Republican bill without a tax break for the rich, I guess?

Six pages of the bill deal with keeping lottery winners off of Medicaid which really threw me for a loop when I started reading the bill! (more coverage here)

writing a test for a bug before fixing it: a good idea most of the time

I’m not fully onboard with test-driven development, but I have started to like it a lot when I’m fixing bugs. First I reproduce the bug manually in the product, then I write a test for it that fails, then I fix it and makes sure that the test passes. Good stuff!

Friday I started working on a bug that I was surprised to see, because I had written a test that I thought should cover it. So I tried it manually in the product, and was easily able to reproduce it. I noticed some differences with the way the test was set up, so I started trying to tweak the test to get it to fail.

And I spent like 4 hours trying to do this, getting more and more frustrated. I could not for the life of me figure out what was going on!

Finally I said “whatever” and investigated the bug in the product. It took me like 10 minutes to find the cause of the bug, which also revealed why my test hadn’t caught it. Another 20 minutes later, and I was able to make a test that failed without the bug fix and passed with it.

So this is a reminder to myself: it’s OK to do things out of order sometimes!

Two great twists: Rogue One and The Good Place (season 1)

MASSIVE SPOILERS here – if you haven’t seen Rogue One or season 1 of The Good Place (the whole season is streaming on nbc.com!), go watch them!

Rogue One (highlight to read if the text doesn’t show up)

This twist was genius because it took what was commonly seen as a plot hole in the first movie and made it a poignant plot point. Honestly, I was never that bothered by the convenient fact that you could blow up the whole Death Star with a carefully placed torpedo – movies are gonna movie, after all. But 40 years later finding out that the weakness was deliberately introduced by a reluctant Imperial engineer? Nicely done!

The Good Place

David and I almost had the twist in the final episode spoiled – luckily the four people that wanted to talk about it were polite enough to ask if we had seen it first. Well done, friends! But even though we knew something big was coming, I was still blown away by the reveal, which was played up soap-opera style – appropriate for something that changes the way we look at a whole season.

And it was clearly planned from the beginning, too. Going back and rewatching the season (which I recommend!) you can definitely see little bits here and there. But the best part about this is it takes what originally looked like standard sitcom tropes (Eleanor and Chidi are keeping a secret, but oh no, the marriage counselor and human lie detector have to move in with them!) and makes them calculated and probably sinister. Again, I wasn’t really bothered by these in the first place, because TV shows are gonna TV, but it was very clever!

(of course, now I’m worried that the show can’t possibly top this, but since it got renewed we’ll see what happens in season 2…)

Anyway – a good few months for twists!

Here’s what you can do about the pseudo-#MuslimBan

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven countries. This included US green card holders from those countries who happened to be out of the US at the time, which led to chaos at US airports before some of the executive order was stayed.

(it’s not technically a ban on Muslim immigration, but Rudy Giuliani has admitted that was the intent, and they crafted it to try to make it legal)

This is unprecedented. Here’s an admittedly conservative commentator about why this is both malevolent and incompetent. I spent a lot of yesterday in intermittent despair, but today I’m ready to do something about it. Here are some things you can do:

  • Call your representative and senators: Wait, come back! I know this sounds intimidating, but it really doesn’t have to be. There’s a very helpful step-by-step process for this at 5calls.org! Or read on for some common objections:
    • I don’t know who they are or how to reach them! – See usecalltoaction.com to look up your representative and his/her phone number. To find your senator, you can look them up by state at senate.gov.
    • I don’t know what to say! – Yeah, this was my big obstacle for a while. But you don’t have to be particularly eloquent and it doesn’t have to be long. Try this:

      Hi, my name is and I’m a constituent from . I’m calling to urge Senator/Representative to stand against President Trump’s cruel and unAmerican executive order on immigration. Thank you for your time.

      Feel free to add more at the end, but be polite since you’ll be talking to a staffer!

    • My representative/senator is a Republican, of course they’re going to support it, why should I bother? – Not so fast! Not many Republicans have said one way or the other where they stand on it. And you can read more in this guide written by former congressional staffers, but representatives do keep track of calls for and against issues. Trump’s popularity is already pretty low, so it’s not inevitable that Congresspeople are going to stand behind him!
    • My representative/senator is a Democrat, of course they’re going to oppose it, why should I bother? – Well, according to the same chart there are still some Democrats that haven’t made a statement about it. And if they have, thanking them for doing the right thing will encourage them to do so in the future. (see again the guide written by former congressional staffers)
  • Contact your representative and senators on social media – This is less helpful than a phone call, but still valuable. My representative Bill Flores actually responds to tweets, although that seems pretty rare. Again, this doesn’t have to be particularly eloquent; here’s mine:
  • Give to the ACLU – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the executive order and won, which stopped some people from being deported. They’re making a real difference – help them!
  • Register to vote – Keith Ellison reminds us that elections are coming soon – if you’re not registered, here’s where you can get started.
  • Help a burned-down mosque in Victoria, TX – So this isn’t directly related, but early Saturday morning a mosque in Victoria, TX burned down. They’re still investigating the cause, but it certainly seems suspicious based on the timing. They have set up a GoFundMe to raise money for rebuilding – show them that Americans of all faiths stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters!
  • Tell others what’s going on – Taking these actions privately is good, but leading by example is better. It’s been such a chaotic week that your friends may have missed this. Let them know what’s going on, why it’s terrible and frightening, and what they can do!

And as always, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. I must have checked Twitter a hundred times yesterday (as you can probably tell by all my retweets :-/) and by the end of the day I was feeling pretty despondent. Sadly, my usual distraction of reading a book on my Kindle didn’t help much because it’s about politics, so I found other things to do. Playing with a baby is recommended 🙂 as is seeing how many people are giving to help rebuild the mosque in Victoria!

why this whole crowd size thing is a big deal

Background: here is an example news story showing that Obama’s inauguration certainly appears bigger that started this whole kerfuffle, and the story about Press Secretary Sean Spicer lying about said crowd size among other things. (kudos to CNN for the title “White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds”)

First of all, in terms of ranking presidents, “crowd size at inauguration” is really really unimportant. It’s probably biased towards Democrats since DC itself is very Democratic and so is Maryland (and northern Virginia, at least), and you have to be able to take a day off from work, and the weather, etc, etc, etc. It is also not a huge surprise that Trump cares a lot about it, though.

The way I see it this is both good and (mostly) bad:
– The bad news, obviously, is that we have apparently have an administration/press secretary that is willing to lie to the American people right out of the gate. So that’s not great.
– The good news is that, instead of being devious about this, 1 day into the administration we know we can’t trust them. If they had been truthful for a while and then starting lying about intelligence when we were about to go to war, they would have some credibility. Now we can know not to trust them, and hopefully the media will not be cowed into unskeptically reporting lies.

Also kudos to the Dallas Stars Jumbotron operator! (thanks Adam!)