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This Week in Garbageville

Freedom’s just another word for ‘no health insurance for the elderly’

We’ve lived another seven days under the Trump Administration — or as Betsy DeVos calls it, another trip around the sun — and if you are reading this, you (most likely!) survived. This week, microwaves spoke to us, Steve King was an asshole, Trumpcare will free the elderly from the terrible burden of having health care, and, surprise, we're sending ground troops to Syria!* Should you care? We mean, of course you should care, and do care, but should you lose sleep caring? Discuss.

*Hey, remember that time when one of the presidential candidates was a war hawk, and that's why we shouldn't vote for her? Boy that was a real lucky miss, good job, us.

Maddow, in the Vault, with the Magnifying Glass

You can’t really talk about Rachel Maddow’s show without talking about how Rachel Maddow’s show has been covering our very own papaya-cheeked tyrant. An approach that hews as closely as possible to what Donald Trump and his assorted underlings do, not what they say, has set the 9 p.m. MSNBC hour apart both in levels of pearl-clutchery and in ratings. So if you tuned in to her show at the top of the hour expecting to be presented immediately with a dive into Trump’s tax returns, understand that what you saw instead is very much Rachel’s jam. (This approach also gave her and David Cay Johnston, the journalist who received the documents in his mailbox, ample time to note — and they do, right up front — that yuuuuup, it’s totally plausible somebody in the Trump camp leaked this directly to them, bc lookit, taxes, see, solved it!)

Maddow got semi-savaged online, predictably, both in the run-up to the reveal itself and after the show, but consider that you, political enthusiast gulping this in on Twitter, were perhaps not the intended audience for Tuesday’s show. That Maddow’s own day-to-day viewership may not have been, either, nor the hordes of fiscal neophytes tuning in just to see what all the hollering was about. It’s hard to read Tuesday night’s show as anything but an hourlong overt appeal directly to would-be leakers themselves: Look here. See how carefully we’ll treat your material? See how we’ll thread it through with context to the point of exhaustion and exasperation? Trust us.

Should I bother paying attention to this?

If you’ve got documents at the ready and a hankering to become a federal mole, sure. For the rest of us, it’s maybe worth taking this moment to consider the virtues of training our eyes not on the tweeting thumbs of our loudest governing critters, but where they put their signatures. (See also: Iowa congressman and noted racism enthusiast Steve King, a politer sort of bigot who takes the time to helpfully explain that, yeah, he’s super-racist, thanks for asking. We already know this about him! No one requires further proof! He will suffer no consequences for continuing to shame his mama on the internet! You’re not gonna win anything by calling Steve King’s racist ass racist. Your fellow Americans will reap tangible benefits, on the other hand, from drumming up enough popular support to knock down things like Steve King’s stupid birthright citizenship bill. He’s got more bad ideas than bad words, if you can believe it.)

Travel Ban, Begin Again

Donald Trump tried to ban people from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States in February — and lost in court. So he tried it again (this time with six countries) — and got stopped in court, again, in two separate states (Hawaii and Maryland).

Why? Because despite what the order said, Trump's own comments (coupled with those of America's oldest thirtysomething, Stephen Miller) made it clear that the travel bans were intended to affect practitioners of a specific religion (and you can't do that).

Now, legally, saying that someone's prior statements render a piece of law that does not include those statements unconstitutional gets a little bit messy (what if you passed a law that intended to do something good but had said something about it beforehand that would render the law — which doesn't include what you said — unconstitutional?). But, be that as it may, a normal person would stop saying the things that keep getting his travel ban tossed out by federal judges. Donald Trump is not a normal person. And honestly, that might be the only thing we have going for us: pure, uncut incompetence.

Should I bother paying attention to this?

Since there's a 90 percent chance it'll (1) go to the Supreme Court, and (2) require some poor solicitor general to explain to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that repeatedly saying "we need a Muslim ban" doesn't mean it's a ban on Muslims — yes.

A Ground War in the Middle East (Also Again!)

There are already 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, where a civil war that began in 2012 (but has decades-old roots) has killed hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of children. Now it looks like that troop number will double, as U.S. coalition forces look to launch an offensive on the unofficial ISIS capital of Raqqa.

Or that's the plan, as of right now. Problem is, the situation in Syria is hopelessly complex, with Russian, Turkish, and Syrian opposition forces (not including the Syrian government's own existing military) all jockeying for power. Sometimes, American forces are fighting with Russian troops. Sometimes, those American forces are getting shelled by those same Russian troops. And since we don't really have goals, or specific allies, or an endgame, we really don't know what we appear to be wandering aimlessly into.

Should I bother paying attention to this?

Keeping in mind that we've been in Afghanistan for just about 15 years, have no idea what we're doing, and would be sending more ground troops into another Middle Eastern country to do … something — yes, yes you should.

Jeff Sessions Has No Idea What Marijuana Is

Jeff Sessions appears to believe that marijuana (which is not as bad as heroin) is almost as bad as heroin (it is not). At a speech to law enforcement officials in Richmond, Virginia, Sessions said that legalizing marijuana would just be trading "one life-wrecking dependency for another that's only slightly less awful."

A note to Jeff Sessions: Marijuana is not "slightly less awful" than heroin. In 2015, more than 50,000 people died from drug overdoses, including from heroin and from synthetic opiates like OxyContin. That is larger than the number of people who died in car crashes or from guns. Zero people died from the use of marijuana in 2016. In fact, no one has ever died from the use of marijuana. "Overdosing" on marijuana means a trip under a fuzzy blanket, perhaps accompanied by a light snack of hummus and tortilla chips, not a trip to the hospital. Jeff Sessions believing that marijuana is akin to heroin is like believing Jeff Sessions is akin to one of Blanche Devereaux's more useless paramours on Golden Girls. Believing it don't make it true.

Should I bother paying attention to this?

Well, it's probably not a good sign that America's highest-ranking law enforcement official believes something that is obviously and patently wrong regarding marijuana, particularly when the enforcement of laws regarding marijuana has disproportionately affected minorities. Though Sessions said he'd continue the Obama era's "we don't like it but whatever" enforcement of marijuana laws in states that have legalized it, these statements indicate otherwise.

Healthcare: It's Hard!

It turns out that running for eight years on repealing Obamacare didn't necessarily correlate to having a plan to replace it, which is why Trumpcare is currently less popular than Northwestern alums discussing Northwestern basketball. Democrats hate it, Republicans hate it, and Breitbart really, really, really hates it (and Paul Ryan). And that was before the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill and found that not only would 24 million people be at risk of losing access to health care (some because they would choose not to have it, but a lot because they wouldn't be able to afford it), but many of those people would be older, poorer, and living in red states. (And then the White House found the same thing, but worse!)

And you know what? It's Trump's fault, because it turns out elections do matter, and campaigning on how no one will lose health-care coverage or "die in the street" means that people will expect it for some strange reason. That's tough when many members of the GOP don't think that the government should be offering health insurance in the first place, and that's especially tough when the bill they designed makes that pretty freaking clear. Oh, and it's downright awful when Trump knows exactly how bad things will get for the people who voted for him if this thing passes.

Take a bow, GOP. After eight years of Monday-morning quarterbacking the health-care debate, you finally got in the game. And then you heaved the ball at the other team and ran away.

Should I bother paying attention to this?

Millions of people could lose access to life-saving health-care coverage and it's all because Republicans had no idea what the hell they were doing, so yes, you should pay attention to this.

Budget? You Budge It

Everybody’s favorite apricot autocrat released his proposed 2018 budget Thursday, a budget no one can credibly say with any certainty that the president has read. The Washington Post has a handy visual breakdown of whose money is coming from where and going to whom. It’s early, but so far the loudest shrieks of protest are being directed toward the Department of Defense, in line for a spending increase of more than $50 billion that’s being cast alternately as both parsimonious based on Trump’s campaign promises and exorbitant based on the agencies whose funding is imperiled as a result, depending on who’s doing the shrieking at that particular moment.

Skating by in relative quiet so far? The building of that “big, beautiful wall” between the United States and Mexico, and the big, beautiful price tag that’s going to come with it. Could a shared absence of any desire whatsoever to pay for this harebrained contraption be the issue that finally unites all Americans? With each other and with certain other North American businessman-presidents?

Should I bother paying attention to this?

Yes and no. It’s important to note that this is a budget proposal, that there are numerous hurdles and calendar pages it has to clear before it starts to affect your life and the lives of people you care about. HOWEVER. Those hurdles will be set up and braced or knocked down by your elected representatives, who — lest we forget — work for you, and will do what you tell them to do if enough of you tell them to do it. Take five minutes this weekend and let them know what you think about all this, why don’t you?