I can’t give blood for a year, because Kanchanaburi is on a list

Bridge

Well, I went to give platelets at the Red Cross yesterday, and I answered “yes” to the question about whether I’d been out of the country in the past three years, and that led to a long discussion about just where I had been.

Turns out, it wasn’t a problem that I was in Thailand. The problem was that the Red Cross has one of the many places we visited in Thailand listed as posing a risk of malaria.

That was Kanchanaburi. Those of you who were following me on social media may have already seen the above picture of me taken in that town. I’m standing in front of “the” Bridge On the River Kwai, which while it’s not the one from the movie (the movie was fictional, based on a novel inspired by the real-life Death Railway), actually is where the still-active rail line first laid by slave labor (Allied POWs and civilians) under the Japanese crosses the Kwai.

As you can see, I’m looking pretty grubby. If the Red Cross knew everything I’d done that day, they really would have worried. I had spent most of the day with elephants — feeding them by hand, bathing them in the river, and riding them. Taking a midday break from elephant care, we had floated down the Kwai, way out in the country, for 40 minutes, without a boat. Just life vests. Very refreshing.

(We were at this really neat place a few miles out of town that rescues elephants from the logging industry and from begging in the streets, and enlists tourists to help in their daily care. This was the thing my daughter had most wanted to do while we were with her in Thailand, and it did not disappoint.)

Then, on the way back to the resort in Kanchanaburi, I realized we were passing close to the Bridge, which I had only seen in the dark, the night before. So I asked someone to rap on the back of the cab of the songthaew we were riding in, and hopped off alone to go check out the bridge.

I ran into three American veterans from Bangkok who were painting the base of a memorial to the Americans who had died building the railway. The wife of one of them took the above picture.

But I digress. The point is, I can’t give for a year. So some of y’all will have to take up the slack…

Here I'd feeding bananas to a rather elderly elephant named Wasana. She's about 65 years old and a fairly slow eater for an elephant -- so it took a little patience.

Here I’m feeding bananas to a rather elderly elephant named Wasana. She’s about 65 years old and a fairly slow eater for an elephant — so it took a little patience.

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Kind of a slow news day. But here are some possible topics:

1. Darius Rucker tells ‘Today’ Hootie & the Blowfish will reunite — If you’re a Midlands resident of a certain age, this has got to be kind of exciting, right?

2. Airline admits it knew of co-pilot’s depression in ’09 – I’m really glad that I’m not in charge of crisis management at this airline.

3. Comedy Central stands by new Daily Show host Trevor Noah — Wow, that didn’t take long. I mean, how about letting a guy at least get into the room before you jump him?

4. Iran Nuclear Talks Deadline Will Be Extended By A Day, U.S. Says — And will that make all the difference? Will another day cause Iran to change its mind about wanting to be a nuclear power?

… or whatever y’all want to talk about…

All hope is lost? You sure? THEN STOP BOTHERING ME.

hope

I think the hyperbole machine at the DCCC has outdone itself this time.

I mean, after “all hope is lost,” what’s left in the way of rhetoric designed to instill panic in the saps who give you money to crank out this pooge?

You can’t top this…

I’ve noticed that these emails have been slightly more hysterical than usual, since I’ve been back. One the other day was just totally freaking out because the Republicans had passed a budget. And I was like, Yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do when elected to Congress. You’re supposed to pass a budget. I realize this is a new concept to you…

Jon Stewart’s replacement, Trevor Noah

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Any thoughts on Jon Stewart’s announced replacement, Trevor Noah?

I mean, beyond the purely superficial sort of hail-the-Obama-of-talk-show-hosts observation?

I don’t know what I think, because the clips I’ve seen today meant to explain who Trevor Noah is have been kind of light and limited. Perhaps he has the comedic range and ironic take on American politics that make him a good replacement. But I haven’t seen it.

We knew what we were getting with Jimmy Fallon (a guy I used to not like, but who had grown on me by the time he took over the Tonight Show). We know what we will be getting when Stephen Colbert takes over for Letterman, although some might wonder a little as to what he’ll be like as himself.

The president of Comedy Central said, “You don’t hope to find the next Jon Stewart — there is no next Jon Stewart. So, our goal was to find someone who brings something really exciting and new and different.”

So, I suppose we’ll see what that something different will be.

On a completely unrelated note, I ran across this quote today from Stewart, which was new to me:

I view America like this: 70 to 80 percent [are] pretty reasonable people that truthfully, if they sat down, even on contentious issues, would get along. And the other 20 percent of the country run it.

Good one. If Comedy Central had given me a vote, I’d have voted to hire somebody who will come up with more quotes like that, whoever that might be…

Didn’t we all have a right to know Lubitz’ condition?

Right now, it’s leading most national and international news reports:

Which got me to thinking….

In our society, we make quite a fetish of medical privacy. Which makes me wonder — if we were all more open about our health conditions, including our psychological conditions, and didn’t have a legal climate that made disclosing patient information a cardinal sin for providers, might it prevent tragedies such as this one?

I’m not saying I have any idea how to bring that about — it’s so ingrained in us as a significant value. And true, it’s not every day that a pilot deliberately flies a plane full of people into a mountain.

It’s just an idle thought, and probably a complete non sequitur

Should we move toward a consumption-based tax system?

You may or may not recall that our own Fritz Hollings has long been an advocate of a VAT tax on the federal level.

Well, Fritz is probably pleased by this story in the WSJ today:

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle increasingly are finding appeal in an ambitious concept for overhauling the nation’s income-tax system: a tax based on consumption, a tool long used around the world.

The tax-writing Senate Finance Committee is giving new consideration to the consumption-tax idea with the hope that its promised boost to economic growth would ease the way to a revamp.

As lawmakers have examined a tax overhaul, “it becomes extremely difficult to see a political path to accomplish it” within the confines of the current income-tax system, said Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), co-chairman of a Finance Committee working group negotiating a possible overhaul of business taxes.

As a result, the idea of a consumption tax “is getting a great deal more respect, and it is in the discussions,” he said.

Mr. Cardin introduced legislation last year to create a type of consumption tax known as a value-added tax and at the same time lower business taxes and scrap income taxes completely for lower-income Americans….

What do y’all think?

Former lawmaker McMaster charged with burglary

I’m seeing several news reports out there about Joe McMaster, brother of Henry, being arrested and charged with burglary.

Joe McMaster

Joe McMaster

Here’s The State‘s version.

I was struck by the fact that none of the reports so far have mentioned that Joe is not just the brother of a politician. Joe himself served in the Legislature a few years back. He briefly held a House seat — I want to say just one term — before being defeated for re-election by Joel Lourie in 1998.

He represented District 78, the same seat held today by Beth Bernstein.

I wasn’t positive at first that he was the McMaster brother who held the House seat until I saw the mug shot released by the county jail, and thought, yep, that’s Joe. A little worse for wear, mind you, but that’s Joe. (In his defense, I should probably say what the character Ives said when a German remarked negatively on a POW ID photo of him: “I’d like to see one of you under similar circumstances.”)

Anyway, I thought that detail was worth taking note of…

That’s a trilby, not a fedora. And that’s not charcoal gray

trilby

Yes, I know I’m being absurdly pedantic — after all, the cutline doesn’t claim, specifically, that the picture shows what is being described.

But I like to find fault with the people who still get paid to work for newspapers (especially prestige publications such as the NYT), and don’t do the job as well as I would in their place. Which is not a trait I’m proud of, but what are you gonna do?…

Also, did Don Draper ever wear a fedora? Seems like he’s more of a trilby man all the way, although he could have worn a broad-brimmed hat some time, and I’ve just forgotten…

DEA trying to make Secret Service look well-behaved

That's one for the DEA!

That’s one for the DEA!

Very recently, it looked like the Secret Service had the whole Outrageous Behavior by Feds with Guns Sweepstakes wrapped up. It was, as Bryan wrote during my absence, an entirely intramural competition, and it was fierce.

But now, suddenly, coming up on the outside, it’s the DEA, and they’re neck and neck!

Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.

The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.

Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.

Former police officers in Colombia also alleged that three DEA supervisory special agents were provided with money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members, according to the report….

Colombia? Hey, that’s our turf, the Secret Service agents cry…

I don’t know what the Secret Service guys (yes, I know there are women in the Secret Service, but this sort of behavior is definitely something guys are better at) are going to do to top that. Taking gifts from drug lords? The Secret Service equivalent to that would be taking gifts from would-be assassins. And that they won’t do, I feel quite certain.

So what will they do to uphold the dishonor of their storied agency? We wait with bated breath, and considerable apprehension…

Harry Reid’s leaving. So can we open Yucca Mountain now?

That was my first thought when I heard that at long last, Harry Reid will be leaving the Senate.

By Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the place the nation decided long ago would be our permanent repository for nuclear waste MAY open, with its chief obstacle retiring. It’s long past time that Yucca Mountain provide South Carolina (and other states) some relief on this. That was the plan, and it was always a good one.

So now it can happen.

Hey, I can hope, can’t I?

But beyond that, can you think of anything about Reid’s tenure as majority/minority leader that was good? Neither can I. His name just conjures up a lot of unpleasantness for me. He’s not alone in that; I have similar impressions of names such as Boehner, Pelosi and McConnell. Together they’ve presided over a particularly ugly and unproductive period in congressional history.

Dare I hope he’ll be replaced by someone who will turn that around?

Ummmm… Maybe I should just stick to hoping for the Yucca Mountain thing. That’ll be tough enough…

Yes! For once, I didn’t stink at Slate news quiz

slate triumph

As I’ve boasted in the past, I tend to test well, but that does not apply to the Slate news quiz — something about the quirkiness of the topics, or the fact that it’s timed (which tends to rattle me), or something. Anyway, I’ve developed kind of a complex about it.

But this morning, I did not totally stink at it! Which for me is a minor triumph. Take that, Features Editor Jessica Winter! Bow down before me, you merely average folk! I edged you out (barely)!

Try it yourself….

Now that’s MY kind of infographic

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I ran across this on Pinterest while researching this previous post.

You can keep your infographics about the national debt and such; this is the kind I like.

And I say that even though Maxim’s usual sort of “graphic” is more like this.

I really appreciate that someone took the time to work this out. I’ve gotta get me a job like that…

The whole ‘red state/blue state’ thing is backwards

"Red state, blue state" by Angr - self-made; base map is Image:Blank US Map.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg#/media/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg

“Red state, blue state” by Angr – self-made; base map is Image:Blank US Map.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg#/media/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg

While I was gone, one of my ADCO colleagues pinned this item on Pinterest, and my attention was drawn to it today when I saw it had gotten some repins.

It was a fun graphic from Digital Information World about all the associations we have with various colors. But what grabbed my attention was the observations about the political meanings of two colors in particular:

red

blue

Indeed, I have found this whole business of calling conservative states “red” and liberal states “blue” confusing ever since it got started.

Red has always been the color of revolution, of overturning the status quo, of charging the ramparts in the cause of radical change. Blue is the natural color of conservativism, as in blueblood, or the blue associated with royalty. Red is hot and dynamic, while blue is cool, sedate, satisfied with the status quo.

So why have we so widely accepted the opposite in recent years? Well, it was pretty random. Here’s Wikipedia’s account:

This terminology came into use in the United States presidential election of 2000 on an episode of the Today show on October 30, 2000. According to AlterNet and The Washington Post, the terms were coined by journalist Tim Russert, during his televised coverage of the 2000 presidential election.[1] That was not the first election during which the news media used colored maps to depict voter preferences in the various states, but it was the first time a standard color scheme took hold; the colors were often reversed or different colors used before the 2000 election.

It was just that random. Whoever made up the graphic just happened to use those colors that day, and it stuck, contrary to all reason.

And in the very next graf, Wikipedia acknowledges the contradiction:

This reverses a long-standing convention ofpolitical colors where red symbols (such as the Red Flag or Red Star) are associated with revolutionary movements, and conservative movements often choose blue as a contrasting color.[2]

That’s right. Anyway, it still bugs me…

Obamacare anniversary: Two blind men describing an elephant

That’s what I thought of when I saw these competing comments as I was cleaning out email from when I was gone.

First, from Lindsey Graham:

Obamacare’s Five-Year Anniversary 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today issued the following statement on Obamacare five years after it was signed into law.

 

“Obamacare isn’t getting better with age.

 

“Five years after it became law, we’ve seen millions of Americans lose the health care coverage they were promised they could keep, while many other Americans have had their work hours and incomes reduced because of Obamacare.  I’ve opposed Obamacare from Day One and oppose it still today.  I believe we should ‘Repeal and Replace’ or allow Americans to ‘Opt-Out’ of Obamacare as I fear the worst is still to come.”

 

#####

Then, from Jim Clyburn:

CLYBURN STATEMENT ON 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn delivered the following statement today on the Capitol steps about the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act:

“Speaking at an international health care conference in 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” I profoundly agree with that view. Affordable access to quality health care should not depend on the circumstances of one’s birth.

“More than five years ago, during House debate on the Affordable Care Act, I labeled it “the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century,” and I am pleased and very proud that the law is living up to that moniker.

“Under the ACA, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against the 129 million Americans who have pre-existing conditions. 105 million Americans no longer have a lifetime limit on their health coverage. No longer can women be penalized by insurance companies simply for being women. Thanks to the ACA, 16 million Americans who were previously uninsured finally have the security of health insurance for their families.

“Despite repeated Republican claims that the ACA would kill jobs, our economy is creating jobs at the fastest rate since the 1990s. So, as we gather to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, I’ve got a message to our Republican friends: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Let’s work together to make it better.”’

– 30 -

Kinda hard to believe they’re looking at the same animal, isn’t it?

The governor has really crossed a line when she’s managed to provoke Lucas to this extent

middle school

When I saw the above headline this morning, I immediately assumed that the quote came from a Democrat.

Not that most Republicans in the Legislature wouldn’t have been peeved at the governor over her latest outburst. In fact, privately, they would probably be more perturbed than the Dems.

But there’s a protocol to these kinds of things. Most lawmakers of both parties may be ticked off, but the Republican response to their own governor will normally be more muted, in terms of on-the-record comments, while the Democrats will say the over-the-top stuff in an effort to, well, get quoted in a headline. Because there’s no political cost for them in doing so.

So my eyebrows rose considerably when I read this part of the story:

Speaker Lucas took to the House floor Wednesday — flanked by House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland — and called the governor’s remarks unwarranted and unprovoked.

The speaker said the governor’s comments were inappropriate when speaking of lawmakers who include military veterans and working mothers.

“I believe the comments of the governor were below (her) office,” Lucas said. “I believe these are serious times with serious issues, and they demand serious people with serious answers — not name calling, not middle-school insults that serve no purpose but to poison the well.”…

The governor has really outdone herself this time.

We know she never had a good relationship with the former speaker. But he’s gone now, and good riddance. And he’s been replaced by a guy with a reputation for trying hard to work constructively with everyone, including Democrats, and especially with the governor of his own party.

Given Lucas’ reputation, he must have reached the point of thinking things are pretty far gone to have gotten up and said something like that.

Not that he’s wrong. “Middle school insults” is pretty much dead-on. I was thinking just this morning that the way our governor uses social media reminds me of the “slam books” that used to get passed around campus when I was in junior high in New Orleans all those years ago. If you don’t know what a slam book is, boys and girls, it’s like a particularly virulent form of low-tech Facebook. It was a notebook that got passed around, and kids would write things “slamming” their classmates, competing with each other to see who could be the most insulting.

But he must have concluded that things could not be improved by walking down to the governor’s office and having a chat with her. And that, as I say, indicates a pretty bad situation, the kind Strother Martin would decry as “a failure to communicate.”

Which is bad in terms of our chances for sound policy to come out of the State House.

After a couple of years in which not much got done while Bobby Harrell underwent his political Götterdämmerung, I had hoped for a more productive atmosphere in the State House. This does not bode well…

Below you can see and hear the governor making the remarks in question:

Open Thread for Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Was it a sitcom or a game show?

Was it a sitcom or a game show?

I’m trying to bring myself back down to Earth by reminding myself that not EVERY moment of my trip was ecstatic. There was, for instance, those several hours we were trapped on a bus that was supposed to be air-conditioned and wasn’t, watching a loud Thai TV show that was some sort of cross between a sitcom and a game show — hard to describe, especially since I didn’t understand a word of what was being said.

Of course, other than that, every moment was fantastic, and even that brief experience I’m trying to remember as negative was interesting… so it’s going to take me awhile to adjust to ordinary routine. Bear with me. And be patient as I unfold bits and pieces of our trip and share them with you, beyond what you’ve already seen on social media.

In the meantime, here’s some stuff for y’all to discuss:

  1. Hey, didn’t Bryan do an awesome job while I was gone? — Be careful. That’s a fargin’ trick question. No, seriously, I’m deeply appreciative of what he did to allow me to concentrate on being a tourist, which was pretty all-consuming. Now, I’d appreciate some feedback: What did Bryan do that you’d like to see more of going forward here on the blog? Maybe that can be arranged…
  2. Bergdahl charged with desertion — Well, this was pretty much predictable from the moment the president swapped five high-value Taliban terrorists to get this guy back.What a mess. What an embarrassment for the country. But I’m glad the Army is confronting the problem, and not just ignoring what happened.
  3. Legislature tries to do the right thing in spite of governor — Trying to catch up on the latest bad craziness here in SC. At long last, lawmakers are facing up to the fact that we need to raise the gas tax, and doing it despite the governor’s insistence that we won’t ALLOW us to have a tax increase, even if we want one. No, really; I’m not making that up.
  4. FBI still needs to get better at countering terrorism — That’s the conclusion of a review of how well the agency has been doing with implementing reforms after 9/11.
  5. White House going overboard in anti-Bibi rhetoric — Things seem to have hit a new low with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough saying “an occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”

Or, whatever y’all want to talk about…

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All that overwhelming beauty

windward

I’m not just jet-lagged today. I’m experiencing a sort of sensory trough after being overwhelmed by stimuli that unfairly increased what my brain expects to be fed.

After the many gorgeous sights — and tastes, and smells, and sounds — of Thailand, there were those ridiculous couple of days in Hawaii. I had been there before, of course — it was where I had graduated from high school. But I was reminded of why I had trouble, back in my college years, adjusting to the mainland scenery.

This was underlined by my wife’s reaction, during the tour our friend Burl Burlingame gave us of Ford Island, and on a drive the next day around Diamond Head, and on up the Windward coast as far as Kailua — then back across the mountains with a stop at Pali Lookout. She had never been there before, and every place we stopped, she got out and started shooting video with her iPad, turning and exclaiming over the water, the mountains, the colors, the light, that incredible Hawaii air…

A most satisfying experience. I’d be like, “I think you’ll like this next thing,” and she’d be all like, “Wow!” I was never disappointed in her reaction.

My eyes have been filled these last days. Now, back on the diet…

Showering Regularly Is Important

It’s almost as important as being polite.

“Because I know many of you are going to the State House, which I love, just make sure you take a good shower when you leave,” Haley told the S.C. Realtors on a recording of her speech posted on the governor’s YouTube page.

File this one under: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Maybe someone can ‘splain this to me

Consider this the beginning of the “transition period” back to your regularly scheduled programming of Brad’s Blog. He’s back (but jet-lagged) so I’ll put this up here for y’all.

Maybe one of y’all can ‘splain this to me:

The question I have is: Why? There’s already a federal law in place that prohibits anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence”  or even “subject to a domestic violence protective order” from possessing a firearm.

So why do we need a state law? It’s already the law. I’m just a simple ol’ lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that a federal law works just as well as a state law.

Sometimes you just gotta sleep

My three year old son, Henry, was really excited about flying back home today. He loves airplanes, so actually riding on one is a big thrill. I mean, seriously. AIrplanes are a big deal to him.

Unfortunately for him, our flight back departed at 6:00AM, which meant we had to wake up substantially earlier to get dressed, get to the airport, and go through all the hoopla before boarding.

Despite the early morning, he was fired up. He actually didn’t mind going through TSA because there was the payoff of getting to ride in an airplane waiting for him afterwards.

Getting on the plane was fun, and he’s very compliant when I tell him that buckling up and sitting still is an order from the pilot. He was really excited about just getting on the plane. Taking off was the highlight, but as soon as we took off, he was fast asleep.

Henry Asleep

I didn’t have the heart to wake him. Sometimes you just gotta sleep.