A US airstrike in Mosul last week appears to have killed upwards of 200 civilians. The New York Times reports:

American military officials insisted on Friday that the rules of engagement had not changed. They acknowledged, however, that American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had been heavier in an effort to press the Islamic State on multiple fronts.

....Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, said that the military was seeking to determine whether the explosion in Mosul might have been prompted by an American or coalition airstrike, or was a bomb or booby trap placed by the Islamic State....Iraqi officers, though, say they know exactly what happened: Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses’ basements were filled with civilians.

....Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes. Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration.

This may simply be an appalling incident not related to any change in policy. Even with the best preparation, sometimes horrible things happen when you're at war. Still, in the past two months we've had a botched raid in Yemen; two attacks in Syria with heavy civilian casualties; and now an airstrike in Mosul that left hundreds of civilians dead. It's fair to wonder if a guy whose idea of military strategy is to "bomb the shit out of ISIS" has also decided that he doesn't much care about civilian casualties while he's doing it.

Here's a fascinating chart from the Wall Street Journal:

Even the Journal's own description says "holdouts from two wings of the party" sank the Republican health care bill. But that's not what their own chart shows. Ideologically, there was neither a "coverage caucus" nor a "conservative" caucus. The holdouts spanned the entire spectrum of the party in a pretty even way.

I can't think of any insightful point to make about this, but it's worth mentioning anyway. The conventional narrative of the bill being caught between two extreme ends of the party looks like it's not really correct.

By the way, here's how the Journal's article begins:

With the collapse of Republicans’ health plan in the House on Friday, the Trump administration is set to ramp up its efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act in one of the few ways it has left—by making changes to the law through waivers and rule changes.

Obamacare won't implode on its own, but it might after Trump does everything he can to sabotage it.

Here is the last paragraph of David Brooks' blow-by-blow evisceration of every single thing related to the Republican health care debacle:

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

Remember the Mayberry Machiavellis? In the Bush White House they were "staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption." This is now the entire Republican Party leadership. Keep in mind that they never wanted to propose an Obamacare replacement in the first place. They figured they could just promise one for later. So deliciously Machiavellian! But it turned out that even the rubes who usually take their cues from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity saw through their repeal-and-delay ploy. So they had to come up with a plan. Any plan.

And they did. Within a few days they whipped up a health care bill. No one cared very much what was in it. Sean Spicer's initial selling point—seriously—was the fact that it was much shorter than Obamacare. A few days later the CBO gave it possibly the most devastating score of any bill in history: 24 million people would lose coverage. But that was just substance, not important stuff like politics, so Republicans shrugged. When Tucker Carlson told Donald Trump about the millions who would be kicked off their plans, Trump muttered "I know" and swiftly moved on.

Then the horsetrading began. Not over details here and there, but over the very foundations of the bill. Old people would see their premiums treble or quadruple, which nobody considered a problem until AARP pointed out that old people vote. So Paul Ryan tossed in $75 billion and told the Senate to figure out what to do with the money. Cutting nearly a trillion dollars in Medicaid funding wasn't enough for some? Fine, let states add work requirements. The ultras don't like essential health benefits? Out they go.

By the time they were finished, a Rube Goldberg bill that was as brutal as anything we've ever seen had almost literally become tatters. Nobody cared what was in it. Nobody cared if it would work. Nobody cared if it would actually cover anyone.

And even at that, something like 90 percent of the Republican House caucus was apparently willing to shrug and vote for it. Promise made, promise kept. Who cares what's in it?

The silver lining here is that apparently there really is a limit to the power of Mayberry Machiavellianism. Merely repeating that the bill was "great" over and over wasn't enough. The hustle was just too raw. Even the white working class, the famous demographic that delivered the White House to Donald Trump, disapproved of the bill 48-22 percent.

So now we move on to tax cuts for the rich. Will the hustle work this time? Or has health care finally made even the Fox News crowd skeptical that Republicans have the best interests of the working class at heart?

The American Action Network PAC aired a bunch of ads on basketball games tonight congratulating Republican members of Congress for voting to repeal Obamacare. Here's my artist's conception of Obama's response.

Pete Souza/The White House via ZUMA

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Barton (R–TX) earns quote-of-the-day honors for this explanation of why, after Republicans had unanimously voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly over the past six years, they couldn't get it done this time:

Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game. We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.

LOLOLOLOLOL. And Trump himself comes in a close second:

I’m a team player....It’s very hard when you need almost 100 percent of the votes and we have no votes, zero, from the Democrats. It’s unheard of.

Unheard of! LOLOLOLOLOL.

If you want to know why Trumpcare failed so disastrously, here's a big part of the answer:

The process toward passing Obamacare began on March 5, 2009, when President Obama convened a "health summit" with various players in the health care industry. It finished 383 days later, on March 23, 2010, when he signed it into law.

Trumpcare began life on February 16, 2017, when Paul Ryan released an outline of what a Republican bill would look like. It was abandoned 36 days later, on March 24, 2017.

And this doesn't even count the fact that Democrats had been seriously debating and designing health care policy for decades before Obamacare was born. Republicans had never gone much beyond the debating point stage. But policy matters: detailed, messy, real-life policy that makes compromises in order to produce something that works and has the support of all the stakeholders. The problem is that Trump isn't used to that kind of thing. Ezra Klein points out today that, in fact, Trump isn't a very good dealmaker. That's true, and it's something I've written about frequently. But he also says this:

In Trump’s past jobs, he could simply move on from failed deals and find new partners, and new markets, and new sectors. But that’s not how the presidency works, and it’s not clear he realizes that.

"Take it or leave it" works only if you really are willing to leave it. Trump often is, because he can always turn around and do a different deal with someone else. But there's only one Congress. If Trump gets bored after a whole month of negotiations and gives up, there's no other Congress he can turn to. That's why Trumpcare is dead.

It's laughable watching President Trump whine endlessly this afternoon about how his health care bill didn't get any Democratic votes. Not one! The Democrats just wouldn't work with him to craft a bill! Boy, that sure makes things tough.

Needless to say, neither Trump nor Paul Ryan ever tried to bring Democrats into this bill. It was purely a Republican plan from the start, and neither of them wanted any Democratic input. That's just the opposite of Obamacare, where Democrats tried mightily to get Republican buy-in, and still ended up getting no Republican votes in the end. Not one!

Anyway, Trump's plan now is to wait for Obamacare to implode and then Democrats will have to do a deal. I guess it hasn't occurred to him that he could do a deal with Democrats right now if he were really serious about fixing health care. But no. Trump says he intends to move on to tax reform, because that's something he actually cares about.

In the meantime, it's very unclear what will happen to Obamacare. With so much uncertainty surrounding it, it's hard to say how insurance companies will respond. They might give up and pull out. Or they might stick it out and wait. It's pretty close to a profitable business now, so there's probably no urgency one way or the other for most of them. And anyway, somewhere there's an equilibrium. Having only one insurer in a particular county might be bad for residents of that county, but it's great for the insurer: they can raise their prices with no worries. There are no competitors to steal their business, and the federal subsidies mean that customers on the exchanges won't see much of a change even if prices go up. In places where they have these mini-monopolies, Obamacare should be a nice money spinner.

April will be a key month, as insurers begin to announce their plans for 2018. We'll see what happens.

POSTSCRIPT: It was also amusing to hear Trump say that he learned a lot during this process about "arcane" procedures in the House and Senate. Like what? Filibusters? Having to persuade people to vote for your bill? The fact that the opposition party isn't going to give you any votes for a bill that destroys one of their signature achievements? Reconciliation and the Byrd rule? I believe him when he says this was all new to him, which means he never had the slightest clue what was in this bill or how it was going to pass.

Well, that's it. Obamacare repeal has failed. The House will not vote on the Republican health care bill.

So what's next? The first thing, of course, is for Trump to insist that he bears no blame for this. Possible candidates for being thrown under the bus include Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, Democrats, Obama, and illegal immigration.

But what's next after that? This is the depressing part. From a partisan perspective, I imagine the best bet is to sabotage Obamacare as much as possible and wait for it to fail. Then Trump can say that he was right all along (isn't he always?) and now we really have to do something.

But there's also the perspective of what's best for the country. If Obamacare repeal can't pass, the best bet is to work on making Obamacare better. This could be done fairly easily, since it's mostly tweaks that are needed. There are even deals to be made here. Democrats would probably be willing to give Republicans some things they want (tort reform, expanded HSAs, etc.) in return for modest changes that would make Obamacare more stable (higher penalties, tweaks to the subsidies, funding the risk corridors, etc.).

But that's a fantasy. There's little chance of anyone in Congress these days working across the aisle to do what's best for the country.

UPDATE: And the winner is...Democrats!

ZOMG! If Hopper is even closer than this, HOW CLOSE IS SHE???

So here's where we are. Apparently things are getting worse, not better, for the Republican health care bill. More and more members of the House are publicly saying they'll vote No, and it's threatening to turn into a bandwagon. Who wants to vote in favor of a terrible bill that's going down to defeat anyway?

Paul Ryan and the rest of the House leadership is considering pulling the bill rather than suffering through an embarrassing loss, and Ryan has told President Trump he doesn't have the votes to pass it. Trump still wants a vote, though, so he can take down the names of the No voters and swear eternal vengeance on them. He's already declared war on the Freedom Caucus.

Anyway, the vote is only about an hour away (3:30 pm Eastern), and it hasn't been officially postponed yet. Sean Spicer just told the press corps that it was still going forward. Paul Ryan may know when to beat a tactical retreat, but Trump is not really a tactical retreat kind of guy. Most likely, he's going to insist on a vote no matter what. And the bill will go down.

From the New York Times:

Republican senators moved Thursday to dismantle landmark internet privacy protections for consumers in the first decisive strike against telecommunications and technology regulations created during the Obama administration, and a harbinger of further deregulation.

The measure passed in a 50-to-48 vote largely along party lines. The House is expected to mirror the Senate’s action next week, followed by a signature from President Trump.

The move means Verizon, Comcast or AT&T can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without permission, and it alarmed consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers. They warned that broadband providers have the widest look into Americans’ online habits, and that without the rules, the companies would have more power to collect data on people and sell sensitive information.

This kind of thing genuinely puzzles me. It's not unexpected, but I still can't figure out why Republicans are so hellbent on doing this. There's nothing particularly conservative about allowing telecom companies to collect personal information without permission. Neither the general public nor the tea party base is clamoring to repeal this rule. And there's no special reason Republicans should favor telecoms in their endless fight against content providers (Google, Facebook, etc.).

But Republicans seem to prefer a privacy free-for-all. Is this just blind opposition to something Democrats like? Part of a general attitude that big corporations should be able to do anything they want? Or perhaps it's just a realistic appraisal of the fact that Americans seemingly don't care much about their personal information:

Personally, I favor very strong privacy protections. But even a more moderate view should understand that certain industries operate core infrastructure we all have to interact with: banks, credit card companies, doctors, phone companies, internet providers, and so forth. This puts them in a unique position to collect a lot of information.

But being in that position shouldn't mean they get to do anything they want with all this information. Quite the contrary. The fact that we have essentially no choice in dealing with these folks means that privacy regulations should be especially tight on them. They shouldn't be able to share their information with anyone else except under very specific conditions (for example, blinded scientific studies), and they should even be limited in what they can do with this information internally—especially since "internally" can mean a huge number of subsidiaries and sister corporations these days.

But for now, that's off the table. Big telecoms will be allowed to do anything they want and only a few privacy nuts seem to care. Still, you can put me down among the 8 percent who aren't thrilled about large corporations all having access to information about everything I buy. It's a lonely 8 percent, but at least there are still a few of us around.