If you've been hearing from right-wingers that Obamacare is in a "death spiral," you should know that it's not really true. Paul Ryan's mistake, of course, was saying Obamacare was in "what the actuaries call a death spiral." I'm happy to tell you how badly the Democrats do trying to appear smarter than everyone else, but dropping in the ten-dollar word "actuaries" takes "death spiral" out of the realm of the colloquial (where Mr. Trump always leaves it, you notice) and into the realm where "death spiral" actually has a fairly precise meaning: it involves a health insurance market that suffers from "shrinking enrollment," "a deteriorating risk pool," and "rising premiums," and not only does Obamacare suffer from only one of those problems, that problem (rising premiums) has always been a feature of our health insurance market, and Obamacare subsidies are pretty much flattening its effect. Of course, if Mr. Trump runs Obamacare into the ground, folks won't remember the precise meaning of "death spiral" and they'll just conclude Paul Ryan was right. Which might make him clever, but wouldn't make him, you know, not evil.
I missed out on this piece about the career of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) from early January, but it's worth reading. You may recognize the star of this piece, journalist Alec MacGillis, from numerous ProPublica articles, but he literally wrote the book on Mitch McConnell, a book aptly titled The Cynic, and here we follow Mr. McConnell from his early days targeting "lowerclassmen and unpopular kids" as a way of winning a high school election through his days as a center-left Republican fighting anti-abortion legislation and supporting collective bargaining to his reawakening as a Reaganite. The overarching theme is that Mr. McConnell "is obsessed with electoral self-preservation and improvement, with no clear larger purpose" -- hence his archives at the University of Louisville talk about his victories and not his accomplishments, and hence he crusades against campaign finance reform, because how can such a man win elections if not for larger piles of money? I hope and pray for a Damascus moment in his life, not because he's a potential bulwark against Mr. Trump, but for his own sake. From where I'm standing, it sure looks like he needs one.
Emily Dreyfuss at Wired describes how Silicon Valley "transhumanists" would like to "cure" death, but seem to be ignoring most of the ways it could actually help extend people's lives. An actual futurist lists some of the technologies that already "augment" our lives: "clean water; urban sanitation; smokeless cooking facilities; free access to healthcare; a guaranteed minimum income; a good, free education" -- and not "apps or toys for rich people," in the words of another observer. Of course, if you've been reading Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal! and have thus had your fill of watching contemporary Democrats natter on and on about the "innovation" coming out of Silicon Valley, you may have already decided that Silicon Valley's War on Death is more likely a war on your pocketbook. Also, not for nothing, but has anyone from Silicon Valley trumpeting the need to "add years to your life" actually talked to someone over 100? They lose not just their mobility but their eyesight and their hearing just by living long enough. They lose all their friends and outlive their children and even their grandchildren. It's far from an idyllic existence -- unless, I guess, you can buy friendship and love.