Continuing to define the presidency downward

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Today, we have our own Lindsey Graham calling Donald Trump to task for his continued efforts to degrade the office of president:

He was responding to these childish, crude outbursts:

That gross effort to defame a woman based on her appearance was not, apparently, even loosely based in fact. As a post at CNN dryly noted, “For the record, photos from Mar-a-Lago do not show any blood or bandages on Brzezinski’s face.”

But what if it had been accurate? Seriously, can anyone even begin to imagine a previous president of the United States of America publicly making such a crude observation?

And so it goes, as Donald J. Trump continues to go far, far out of his way to define the presidency downward…

A laser display that lasts 10 years?

I read with mild interest the news that someone was going to set up an “installation” of laser beams criss-crossing our rivers downtown.

It might be an interesting thing to see one dark evening. I might even pause and contemplate it for a moment or two.

But then I got to the wild part, set out in this headline from Free Times:

I had to reply to that, asking “Ten YEARS?” You might not have been able to tell on Twitter, but I was channeling Jeremy Piven in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (see above).

I was assured that yes, that was correct.

Huh. It sounds cool for a night, sort of, but don’t they think people might tire of the same shtick over the course of TEN YEARS?

I think so. Some folks might even grow to find it irritating.

I mean… isn’t the really cool thing (or one of the really cool things) about light the fact that it’s so fast. 186,000 miles per second? Having a beam of light last for 10 years seems to take the shine, so to speak, off that reputation. It might make some ungrateful philistines wish they were 10 light years away from it.

I’ll close with what my state representative, Micah Caskey, had to say about it:

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Open Thread for Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Huck cogitates on whether to do something "unregular"...

Huck cogitates on whether to do something “unregular”…

Very quickly, as I have to be somewhere:

  1. As a Last Resort on Health Bill, G.O.P. May Try Bipartisanship — Those wild and crazy Republicans! For whatever reason, they remind me of Huck Finn, who in a desperate situation made a fateful and unprecedented decision: “I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks, though I ain’t had no experience, and can’t say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here’s a case where I’m blest if it don’t look to me like the truth is better and actuly SAFER than a lie. I must lay it by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it’s so kind of strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it. Well, I says to myself at last, I’m a-going to chance it; I’ll up and tell the truth this time, though it does seem most like setting down on a kag of powder and touching it off just to see where you’ll go to. ” Huck was as well acquainted with truth-telling as these lawmakers are with bipartisanship. As to whether they have it in them, well, we’ll see.
  2. Obamacare Had Big Impact in Kentucky. Its Senators Hate It. — Which shows you just how completely unaffected by reality ideologues are, and the extent to which it has warped our politics. You boys and girls may not believe it, but I’m old enough to remember a time when senators supported things that benefited the people of their states, instead of placing a greater priority on partisan purity.
  3. Just 17 Percent Of Americans Approve Of Republican Senate Health Care Bill — Just a little something McConnell et al. may want to consider…
  4. Will Folks go to jail to protect a source? — This is a fascinating situation. Will doesn’t adhere to a lot of the norms and standards that conventional journalists do, yet here he is standing on principle as a conventional journalist. Strange new ground. I hope it doesn’t come to him going to jail — for his and his family’s sake, and because I’m not sure what purpose it would serve. Yet Kenny’s lawyers are seeking just that…

Somebody forgot to drive a stake into the Senate ‘health’ bill

People on the left have told them it’s a horrible bill.

People on the right have told them it’s a horrible bill.

People in the center have done the same.

Yet Republican leaders in Congress keep on trying to resurrect it when it should be dead:

McConnell is trying to revise the Senate health-care bill by Friday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aiming to send a revised version of his health-care bill to the Congressional Budget Office by as soon as Friday, according to Capitol Hill aides and lobbyists.

The effort reflects the tight timeline McConnell faces in his attempt to hold a vote before the August recess — and the pressure he is under to make changes that improve the CBO’s measure of the bill’s impact on coverage levels and federal spending.

McConnell is trying to move quickly to produce a new CBO score by the time lawmakers return to Washington in mid-July, giving the Senate about two weeks to fulfill the majority leader’s goal of voting before the August recess….

Once again we see the relentless phenomenon that characterizes our politics. Keats said it this way:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

People with good intentions see that the bill is dead, say “that’s good,” and turn away. They go back to their lives. But the people with the very worst, most destructive ideas just never, ever give up. It happens time and again.

It’s like, in the final reel of the horror movie, when everybody thinks Dracula is dead, and he pops back up out of his coffin yet again — because no one remembered to put the stake through his heart…

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Open Thread for Tuesday, June 27, 2017

John Kasich, pictured here campaigning in South Carolina last year, and other governors led the charge against the Senate bill.

John Kasich, pictured here campaigning in South Carolina last year, and other governors led the charge against the Senate bill.

Since there was little interest in today’s earlier offerings, let me try a few other topics to see what bait you’ll rise to:

  1. Why a new car in SC will cost $200 more starting this week — I’ll tell you why. Because the car sales tax has been kept artificially, absurdly low for a generation, and lawmakers finally got up the nerve to raise the $300 cap a bit. If you buy a typical new car, you still won’t be paying sales tax on most of the value of the purchase. This is about as regressive as a tax can get. A poor man buying a beat-up used car to get to work pays full sales tax on the $10,000 price. Someone buying his kid a $50,000 Lexus to park at college doesn’t pay a dime in tax more than the guy buying the $10k model. This is backwards. We should make the first $10,000 in value tax-exempt, and tax the amount above that. (And that, ladies and gentlemen, is about as Bernie Sanders as you’ll see me get — unless you want to talk single-payer.)
  2. Senate leaders postpone vote to overhaul Obamacare as bill faces GOP rebellion — That’s a good start. Now if you’ll just go ahead and delay it for good, you’ll be onto something. It couldn’t happen to a meaner bill.
  3. Key Constituency Against Bill: Governors of Both Parties — Because governors have to deal just a bit more with reality than Congress does. Or some governors do. The maxim doesn’t necessarily apply to governors we’ve had in South Carolina for the past 15 years (although I still haven’t entirely given up on Henry, and Nikki did get better toward the end). The first governor cited in this story: My man John Kasich, who should be president now.
  4. New Ransomware Cyberattack Spreads From Europe to U.S. — Maybe we should go back to doing everything on paper. That would be a drag — instead of Twitter, I guess I’d have to write my tweets in a notebook, tear out the pages and throw them into the wind from the Capital City Club, which would put a crimp in my likes and retweets — but this is getting ridiculous.
  5. Pregnant Serena Williams poses nude for Vanity Fair cover shoot — Hah! Let’s see John McEnroe do that! On second thought, let’s not and say we did…

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De Tocqueville’s description of what’s wrong with America today

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

One of the great things about switching to the NYT is that now I can read all of David Brooks’ columns without going over my allotment of free stories for the month.

So, I recommend to you his column today, “The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism.” It’s about the Senate GOP’s morally and intellectually vapid “healthcare” bill, and it’s good throughout.

But the best bit wasn’t written by Brooks but by de Tocqueville about 180 years ago. He documented how the self-deceptive belief in radical individualism was a problem in our country from the start. Here’s the quote about those proto-libertarians:

“They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”

Yep. Sounds familiar…

Today, all celebrities are more than 50 years old

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Harry Harris brought up AARP, which reminded me of something I noticed on the way out the door this morning.

All of a sudden, all truly famous celebrities, all the big names, are over 50.

That hit me when I noticed the latest AARP magazine on our kitchen table, with Steve Martin on the cover. Of course, we all knew Steve Martin was old — he was white-headed when all the world was young.

But the more I’m exposed to this magazine — I never pick it up, but I do notice the covers — the more I’m convinced that everyone famous is now older than 50.

Look at the recent covers above and below.

  • Dustin Hoffman — We boomers think of him as the ultimate exemplar of youthful angst. If he made a move on someone Mrs. Robinson’s age now, she wouldn’t give him a second glance.
  • Bruce Springsteen — OK, I get it: Everyone called “boss” is a white guy over 50, right? Except in this case, he’s more than 60.
  • Michael J. Fox — Yep. This time Marty McFly has traveled way, WAY into the future.
  • Diane Keaton — OK, we saw this happening over the years. What can be said about it? That’s life. La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah
  • Kevin Spacey — Again, not surprising.
  • Dennis Quaid — I remember when “The Big Easy” came out, and a review called him something like “our best breezy young actor.” I’ll always picture him with that crewcut, playing the brash young Gordon Cooper in “The Right Stuff.”
  • Brad Pitt — OK, I’m not sure this was actually a cover. I think this was something AARP does when they’re calling out a celebrity for crossing the line. Anyway, I read something recently about him and other big-name actors not getting the great roles any more, as Hollywood turns away from big names and relies on interchangeable young actors named “Chris.” I’d link to the story, but I can’t find it now.
  • Kevin Costner — Remember the goofy, gawky gunslinger in “Silverado?” Now he might have to turn to playing the crotchety, grizzled prospector, à la Gabby Hayes.
  • Ron Howard — Opie! I see Opie on those reruns now and I think of my grandson — not someone old enough to be a grandfather himself.
  • Denzel Washington — We’ve watched him get gray, but did you know he’s 62?
  • Cyndi Lauper — Now you know why she keeps dyeing her hair those crazy colors. It’s not just to have fun.
  • Sharon Stone — Which, of course, is why you don’t hear about her any more.

Sure, there are some recognizable celebrities who are under 50. There’s um, Taylor Swift! And that little Bruno Mars guy. And maybe one or two others. Dave Matthews? Nope — he’s 50. All those superhero actors named “Chris” don’t count, by the way. A celebrity needs to stand out distinctively.

When I was young, not even the OLD stars my parents liked were over 50. Take 1965, which I have written about in the past as the most fevered time American popular culture (it was for me because I had just returned from years in South America without TV, and soaking up pop culture was like overdosing on a powerful drug — but I don’t think it was just me).

Dean Martin was 48. Frank Sinatra didn’t turn 50 until the end of that year, and he seemed ancient! Kirk Douglas, father of the now 72-year-old Michael, was only 49. James Garner, who was born looking like somebody’s dad, was 37. Nat King Cole, who died that year and whose daughter now graces the cover of AARP, was only 45.

While all the celebs we kids were interested in were in their 20s, if not teens.

Anyway, that’s the way I remember it. Your mileage may, you know…

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Open Thread for Monday, June 26, 2017

Boss Tweed on Flickr

Boss Tweed on Flickr

OK, people, let’s get some discussions going here:

  1. Supreme Court allows limited version of Trump’s travel ban to take effect — Bunch of court news, because it’s that time on the calendar. I was particularly interested in the Missouri case that said, yes, kids who go to parochial schools should also benefit from playground grants. Seems like that case has been dragging along for decades
  2. BMW to invest $600M, create another 1,000 jobs in SC — Again, nice job there, Gov. Campbell!
  3. 14 pounds! Lexington newborn surprises everyone — Yikes! And they thought the BMW thing was big news. Yes, it was a C-section.
  4. Nuclear project could be scrapped within 45 days — OK, a quick show of hands: How many of y’all think scrapping this project would be a good thing? I mean, aside from those of you who just don’t believe in nuclear power…
  5. Senate Republicans Alter Health Care Bill To Avoid ‘Death Spiral’ — I had thought that was the official name of the GOP plan: “Death Spiral.” Apparently not, since they’re trying to avoid that.
  6. McEnroe vs. Serena: 44 years after ‘Battle of the Sexes,’ the same dumb debate — Yeah, it’s dumb, but I’m not sure how it’s even a debate. McEnroe said Serena couldn’t beat male champions, and Serena herself seems to have agreed in the past. So where’s the debate? (By the way, my daughter who played on her high school team regularly beats me at tennis, for what that’s worth.)

The WSJ’s pricing pushes me over to the NYT

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When I was in college, one of my journalism professors told me that The Wall Street Journal was perhaps the best-written paper in the country. I didn’t discover how right he was until decades later.

As editorial page editor, I had print subscriptions to the Journal and The New York Times, plus The Economist, Foreign Affairs, The Post and Courier, The Greenville News, The Charlotte Observer and so forth. And I’d try to at least skim the Journal and the Times (as about the only person on the board who wrote about national and international issues, I felt the need to keep up).

But I really got into the Journal when The State made a deal to distribute that paper along our circulation routes. As part of that deal, we got a certain number of comp copies, so I arranged to have one delivered free to my house, brought by the same carrier who delivered The State. I wanted to get the Times at home, too, but the guy who contracts with them in this area refuses to deliver on my side of the river, or so I hear (Samuel Tenenbaum, who also lives in Lexington County, drives to the Publix in Lexington each morning to get his copy.)

I really got hooked on it. This was during the years that Murdoch was turning it into a national-international reporting powerhouse as well as just a financial paper. Every day I looked forward to the three pages of opinion, and on the weekends there was the wonderful Review section, always a feast for the mind.

The Journal wasn’t just a boon to me; my wife took the old copies with her when she tutored a Somali Bantu boy whose family our church was sponsoring, to help him with his English.

But after I got laid off, I had to make a decision whether to keep getting it and paying for it myself. And somehow, I managed to scrape along and keep doing it until sometime late last year, when my subscription ran out and they were not giving me a good-enough deal to keep it going.

To give some perspective: For the last two or three years, I’ve been subscribing to The Washington Post for $29 a year. Online only, but that’s fine — not only do they not circulate here, but I read all my papers on the iPad now. By contrast, I’ve been offered “deals” by WSJ for as much as $400-plus a year.

I chalk that up to the Journal continuing to be a paper that people pay for through their work expenses — or, if they pay for it themselves, they can afford it. I can’t.

To be fair, they kept offering me “professional courtesy” rates, usually about $99 for six months. And I’d think about it and shake my head — $99 for a year, maybe (which I think they offered me in years past). But not six months. Not when I’m getting the Post for $29 a year, and at a time when Jeff Bezos has been investing in the newsroom, and the paper’s political coverage is at least as good as it has ever been. Meanwhile, the WSJ has ditched the Arena section I use to enjoy on Fridays.

It was easy to pass up on these offers at first because, for some reason, the Journal was still letting me read the paper on my iPad app. Since that’s the way I prefer to read it anyway, no problem. But eventually — several weeks ago — they got wise and cut me off there, too.

So, I started reading The Guardian in the mornings in place of the Journal. It’s free, although they keep asking me to be nice and pay. But they don’t do it the right way. I think The Guardian‘s a great read, but they pitch it as though I’d want to support their editorial view, and I can’t go there.

Then, last week, The New York Times came at me with a proposition I couldn’t refuse — I could get the whole paper online for $7.50 a month — or $12.20 a month if I wanted the crossword, and one additional subscription for a friend. Why was this a good deal? Well, I was already subscribing to the NYT crossword iPad app, and was paying $6.99 a month for that alone. (Which I thought was really exorbitant, since I get The New Yorker on my iPad for only $5.99 a month, but hey, I enjoy the crosswords — at least, I do on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

So basically, I’d still get my crosswords, and then get the rest of the paper for only $5.51 — or $66.12 a year. With the offer expiring on Sunday, I pulled the trigger Saturday night.

Now, some of you will say — you won’t pay for The Guardian because of its editorial position, but you switch from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times — the national icons of the right and left, respectively — as though they were interchangeable?

Yep. Because they’re both great, well-written and -edited papers that bring me the world, and offer me something I enjoy reading on every page. Including the editorial pages. I probably disagree with both papers’ editorial boards about equally. But the opinions, especially the op-eds, are lively and though-provoking. And I’m not one of these people who has to agree with a view to enjoy reading it — in fact, I don’t understand such people.

Anyway, it had gotten to where my favorite columnist in the WSJ was Bret Stephens — and he just moved over to the NYT. As I start reading the paper daily, I expect my favorites will be the ones who skew right — Stephens, David Brooks, Ross Douthat — even as my favorites in the WSJ were more to the left, on the rare days when such was to be had.

Anyway, y’all will likely see me citing stories in the Times as much as I used to from the Journal. (Y’all had probably long ago noticed that I point you to the Post a lot.) I’m sure y’all will give me a heads-up if you think I’m getting reprogrammed…

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Norman: Let’s keep S.C. RED, for all you comrades out there

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Bryan Caskey brought this to my attention. Apparently, Ralph Norman tweeted it out early on the day of the special election, with the message, “The polls just opened in SC and will stay open until 7 tonight. This is a very tight race so make sure you vote!”

Bryan’s reaction:

Vote for this guy….because he’s a Republican. Apparently, that’s it.

Yup, that’s about the size of it. Actually… that overstates it. He’s not even being that explanatory. He’s just using a euphemism for being a Republican. And an unfortunate one, for a guy who’s anxious to be seen as a “conservative.”

I mean, if he gets on the Foreign Affairs Committee, is his mantra going to be, “Keep China Red?”

We’ll close with an appropriate tune, sung by the malchicks aboard Red October:

About that question: Can words kill people?

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I generally stay away from “people being beastly on the internet” stories because I’m just too busy with politics, policy and pop culture.

But this past week there were two horror stories that totally boggled what little mind I allowed to get distracted by them. Ironically, we had just had a discussion about cruel and unusual punishment when a prime candidate for such treatment was in the news: The monster who dangled his baby out a 15th-story window in a bid for Facebook “likes.” (Note that my link is to the Daily Mail, which seems the perfect setting for such a story.) You know how FB recently added those alternatives to “like”? For this guy, they need to add an “If I ever meet you in person, I’m breaking both of your arms so you can’t do that again” button.

Then there was the case Kathleen Parker wrote about under the headline, “Can words kill people?” It’s about “Michelle Carter’s conviction last week on involuntary-manslaughter charges in the 2014 suicide of her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.” Excerpt:

At the time of the suicide, Carter was a 17-year-old whose boyfriend spoke frequently of taking his own life. He finally did by filling his parked truck with carbon monoxide. Mind you, Carter was nowhere near. She had no physical hand in the death, although she did text and call Roy, urging him to go ahead and do it. When he had second thoughts and got out of his vehicle, she instructed him to get back in.

Manslaughter? Evil? Or just dumb?

If Carter’s words were Roy’s death sentence, then his death was hers, if not literally, then, indeed, virtually. For her clearly tangential role, which one could as easily interpret as drama-queen excess, Carter faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

It is easy to feel outrage at what transpired. Prosecutors introduced hundreds of text messages between Roy and Carter in which she encouraged him to end his life and sometimes taunted him for his lack of courage. In one, she wrote: “You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting.”

This alone is enough to make one dislike or even despise Carter. But is it enough to blame Carter for Roy’s death?…

Kathleen concluded that no, it isn’t. I was unsatisfied with that conclusion.

The columnist asks, “Manslaughter? Evil? Or just dumb?” The best of the three would seem to be evil. You read the words she wrote to this boy on the edge, and your blood runs cold. Mine does, anyway.

In terms of how to approach such a thing in the criminal justice system, manslaughter seems inaccurate. And I’m not sure how the law works on aiding and abetting. What should be the charge for being a cheerleader at a boy’s death?

There is evidently something essential missing in this girl, and at the very least it seems she should be confined somewhere until experts can figure out what it is, and whether it’s possible to fill that void.

Because anyone who will do what she did — repeatedly, insistently, matter-of-factly — is dangerous….

Anybody else almost have a wreck here?

park and taylor

For 30 years now, I’ve been pulling out of the St. Peter’s Catholic Church parking lot, turning right onto Park, then left onto Taylor to head home. I also frequently make the same move at the same intersection heading home from work during the week.

As you are no doubt aware, the part of Taylor to the left of Park (heading west) is one-way — four, later widening to five, lanes all heading down toward the river.

To the right (the east) of Park, Taylor is two-way. If you look at my crude graphic above, you’ll see there’s a concrete divider going off to the right, but none to the left.

For 30 years, I’ve had no trouble. Heading north on Park, I pull up to the intersection and stop, look carefully to my right to make sure no one’s coming and trying to change lanes suddenly leftward where it becomes one-way, and then turning left into the closest lane, the way you’re supposed to do.

And I’ll confess that, having done this perhaps thousands of times without incident — and being reluctant to turn away from the direction I expect other cars to come from — I’d gotten to where I’d start rolling out slowly out into Taylor even as my head was turning in that direction. And for 30 years, this bad habit did not cause any problems.

Until a couple of weeks ago. And then, twice in one week, I had to stomp on the brakes to avoid a head-on collision with a car coming up the hill, the wrong way, in my lane!

Twice in one week! The first time I saw as an anomaly, the second time I’m starting to look upon as a trend. (Once more, Jerry Ratts would say, and we can give it to Lifestyles — if we’re still alive.)

Needless to say, I look very carefully to the left now before letting my vehicle start to roll. I’m a little obsessive about it, now. But one near-collision didn’t fully teach me that, and the second time, the other guy and I had to hit our brakes so hard that smoke came from the other car’s tires.

It scared the bejeebers out of both of us, and he started yelling at me, and I started yelling at him, and then… I shut up, and slowly rolled forward so that our windows were next to each other, rolled down my window — being careful to seem non-threatening — and told him, “This is one-way.”

He started to protest, gesturing toward the concrete median dividing the road behind me, and I said, “Yes, that’s right — it’s two-way behind me. But from here on down to the river, it’s one-way. Really.” He seemed to believe me — at least he didn’t yell any more — and we both went on our ways.

If I’d had more presence of mind, I would have asked him where he was coming from, so I could figure out where the system had failed. Is there a missing one-way sign that had always been there before?

I don’t know. But I’m wondering whether any of y’all have encountered this heart-stopping phenomenon on that stretch of Taylor.

If so, maybe we need to lobby the city to do something…

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Donald Trump and Barack Obama on social media today

Let’s do a little compare-and-contrast.

Today, Senate Republicans released their health-care proposal, which apparently is almost, but not quite, entirely like the abominable House plan:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to make deep cuts in Medicaid and end the law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment…

Anyone checking to see what the president of the United States had to say about it via his favored mode of communication was disappointed. He didn’t address it. Here are his last two Tweets as of this posting:


How do you like that? He went into depth! Two whole Tweets on one topic! His other Tweets today were more or less in the usual “it’s all about me, and everybody else is to blame” mode.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who no longer gets paid to do this stuff, had this to say on Facebook:

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.Barack Obama Facebook

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

See which you find more valuable…

Can this takeover of Allendale schools make the difference?

Allendale County schools are known for a number of things, none of which is excellence.

SC Supt. Molly Spearman

SC Supt. Molly Spearman

The dysfunction starts at the top. Back in the ’90s, a school board member was accused of pulling a knife on the board chairman during a budget discussion. He was later, it should be said, acquitted.

A while later, then-Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum took over the district for a time, and for a time, things got better. But what gains there were were lost in the decade since local folks resumed control.

Now, Molly Spearman is trying again. And she’s laying the blame for the schools’ failure squarely upon the local officials:

“Management decisions that put self-interests ahead of our students’ achievement are unacceptable, and I will not stand by while students get left behind because of decisions the adults are making,” she said.

She declined to give specifics, other than to say whenever a new principal or superintendent attempted to make changes, Allendale County’s board intervened, and that nepotism can be a problem in the county of fewer than 10,000 people. Officials should make decisions based on “what’s best for students, not their relatives,” Spearman said….

She’s not being specific, but what she’s implying sounds pretty disgusting. Nevertheless, the local officials seem unashamed of themselves, since they’re suing to stop the takeover.

It will be interesting to see on what grounds local officials argue they should maintain control, given their record.

Locally-run schools are a great thing, when a community has the capacity, commitment and integrity to run them. Apparently, Allendale has again shown that it does not. Under the principle of subsidiarity, things should be run by the smallest and most local entity with the competence to run them. In Allendale County, that would appear to be the state.

Here’s hoping that this time, progress sticks. But I wonder whether that’s even possible unless the state keeps control indefinitely.

Ya think maybe next time SC Democrats can find themselves a candidate who’s willing to SHAVE?

Archie Parnell

No biggie, but each time South Carolina Democrats come up with a guy with a grizzled beard to be their sacrificial lamb to get creamed in a congressional election, I think, “They don’t even want to pretend that they’re serious.”

I grow a beard from time to time.

I grow a beard from time to time.

Come on, guys: Don’t you think it would be good, this being South Carolina, to have a candidate, just once, who is willing to take a minimal effort not to look like a professor who specializes in teaching European socialism?

I grow a beard from time to time. But you know what would be the very first thing I’d do if I decided to run for office? I’d shave. It would be the bare minimum; it would display the slightest willingness to do what it takes to get elected.

Yes, I know it’s stupid, but the criteria a lot of actual, real-life voters go by are stupid. Why give them such an obvious stumbling block? Why not make it just a little easier to win their votes, when it would cost you so little?

The fact that these guys won’t just shave, and then grow the beard back after the election if they must (that super-short one of Parnell’s shouldn’t take more than a week or two to come back), shows that they never really believe in their chances.

Yeah, I know the thing is stacked — the districts are gerrymandered so a Democrat can’t win. But can’t you at least make the minimal gesture, to look like you’re trying?

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Open Thread for Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Parnell

Not all that much out there today, but here’s what I’m looking at:

  1. Hard-fought House race in Georgia nears end as a referendum on Trump — Yeah, OK. But as I’ve said so many times before, it’s really none of my business whom the folks in Georgia want to sent to Congress.
  2. The SC 5th Congressional District election — I’m somewhat more interested in this one, although it’s apparently not as competitive as the one in Georgia (it would be nice to be surprised, however). Mostly what I know about this is the ads I’ve seen (which is always a lousy basis for making an electoral decision). And while I think Parnell’s have been rather silly, at least they show an original approach and don’t make me crazy the way Norman’s mindless “Ah’m a bidnessman and ah’m agin’ that Obama” approach. (Dang. There’s a particular ad I kept seeing last night that illustrated my point, and I’m not finding it…)
  3. Kasich & Hickenlooper: Another one-party health-care plan will be doomed to failure — I share this just to remind you that Kasich is the guy I wanted for president, and I’m not above saying “I told you so.” It’s interesting to see governors standing up and speaking out in the face of the Senate’s silence. You may also be interested in this interview on the subject with the independent governor of Alaska.
  4. How Could The Navy Destroyer Collision Happen? — That’s what we’d all still like to know.

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In case you wondered, this is why I’m Catholic

Best Tweet of the day, or perhaps I should say best of the millennium so far:

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about! This is why I’m a Catholic, people!

I don’t just mean that the Pope said something cool, so yay, Catholics….

I mean it speaks to the whole communitarian nature of Catholicism’s appeal to me.

I became a Catholic in 1991, and over the years, when people ask me why, I generally say something like… Being a person with a strong sense of history, I wanted to join the original (in the West, anyway) church, and more than that the universal (which is what catholic means, y’all) church.Franciscus_in_2015

Before that, I had been, technically, a Baptist (I was really pretty nondenominational, but I was baptized in a Baptist church). And (please correct me if I’m explaining this wrong, Baptist friends) each Baptist church sees itself as a separate church. If you go to a Baptist church other than your home church, you are a visitor — a welcome one, in my experience, but a visitor. The universal church is the opposite of that: Wherever you go in the world, you are a communicant of whatever Catholic church you walk into. Back in the days of the Latin Mass, the language would have been the same.

I wanted to be in communion not only with all Catholics in the world today, but with all who had ever lived and ever would live. That’s the way I looked at it. That was my motivation. Not my only motivation, to be sure, but the one I was best able to articulate.

Looks like maybe the Pope is Catholic for some of the same reasons. You know, aside from being an Italian who grew up in Argentina…

A New Hope: SCOTUS to consider fixing gerrymandering

800px-The_Gerry-Mander_Edit

This morning, I was in the middle of reading an E.J. Dionne column tracing the history of the breakdown in civility in our politics — headlined “The destruction of political norms started decades ago. Here’s how it happened” — when I received news of something that could actually reverse the evil process he was writing about:

 

The bulletin said:

Supreme Court to hear potentially landmark case on partisan gerrymandering

The Supreme Court declared Monday that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted.

The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes.

But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. If it does, it would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states….

A revolutionary impact, indeed.

A lot of us realize that the perpetual contest between the parties started getting nasty in the 1990s. (Actually, it got bad here and there even before that, but the cancer metastasized in the ’90s — and got much worse each decade after.)

And a huge reason for that is that the parties — particularly the GOP, as the story above notes — got much, much better at drawing people who might vote for the opposite party out of “their” districts.

Consequently, general elections came to mean nothing, and primaries became contests to see which candidate could be more extreme. That poisoned the partisan atmosphere to the point that even races for non-district offices, such U.S. Senate and president, became distorted as well.

And as I’ve said so many times, to the extent there’s a universal cure what what ails us politically, doing away with partisan gerrymandering is it. No single thing could do more to restore our republic.

So I’m pretty pumped about this. You?

The NYT makes a mistake, and Bryan and I have a spirited discussion about it

I had a dental appointment at 8 this morning, which meant I arrived there uncaffeinated, intending to eat afterward.

To keep from dozing off while the dentist and hygienist were out of the room, I looked at Twitter, and saw this from Bryan:

And I’m like, say what? Has @realdonaldtrump taken over Bryan’s feed? I glanced quickly over the link provided, but couldn’t tell what he was trying to convey by the time people came back into the room and made me open my mouth again.

When I got into my car to leave, I saw I had a couple of direct messages from Bryan, to this effect:

I hope Palin sues the hell out of the NYT.

and:

I mean, if you want “fake news” it’s right there.

Huh? I replied,

You have the advantage of me, sir. As the foremast jacks would say, what are you on about?

I then drove downtown to get some breakfast. And coffee. When I got there, I found the following messages:

The NYT “Editorial Board” wrote a piece about the Scalise shooting. They specifically blame Palin for Loughner shooting Giffords. Explicitly.b3f68215788bf24bfc7cc42223023a42_400x400

However, it has been specifically, demonstrably proven that Loughner had no idea about Palin, AND THAT WAS IN THE NYT back in 2011.

So the accusation in today’s editorial is demonstrably false according to the NYT itself.

Which, to my legal mind, is evidence of actual malice and enough to support a libel claim.

Do Editorial Boards not run things by lawyers on a regular basis? I can’t imagine any lawyer would have let them make this claim in today’s editorial.

… which was lot to take in during one’s first cup. I replied:

Well, I haven’t seen the reference, but obviously, no one intended to make a false claim. No one knew that they were doing so. They would have zero motivation for doing that. And when you don’t know something you’re referring to is problematic, why on earth would you consult a lawyer?

From Bryan:

Just saying, this editorial is completely counterproductive to having both sides come together, not to mention utterly wrong.

And it was exactly what I predicted and exactly why I hoped the shooter wasn’t left-wing.

It’s another example of why lots of folks don’t trust big news outlets.

You can’t be “the paper of record” and get something factually wrong six year later.

Me:

Well, there are two things going on here. There’s the point the NYT is making, and there’s the error that was made in a reference to a different case. Critics see a connection between the two. I don’t.

“You can’t be ‘the paper of record’ and get something factually wrong six year later.” Of COURSE you can. Let’s suppose for a moment the NYT is the best paper in the world, as it believes it is. It would still make errors, regularly. You seem to be assuming omniscience on he part of the editors, and therefor not only intent, but malicious intent. You show me a long profile about this Loughner guy, and I’m taking your word that somewhere down in it, there’s something that negates the reference in that editorial. Then, you seem to assume that everyone who works at the Times, being omniscient, HAD to know that that fact existed, buried in a profile that appeared in the paper SIX YEARS AGO. Do you not see how unlikely your assumptions are?

Bryan:

It’s not hard to avoid saying false things you know are false.

Me:

“It’s not hard to avoid saying false things you know are false.” That’s 100 percent true. But I fail to see what that assertion has to do with the present case.

Bryan:

I assume the Editors of the NYT are informed about important things reported in their own newspaper. This wasn’t an obscure event.

I don’t think you have to be omniscient to know there was zero evidence linking Loughner to Palin.

Me:

I think our disconnect arises from the differences in our experiences. An attorney has months, sometimes years, to pursue and research anything and everything that might bear upon the case he’s presenting. Try going from concept to publication in half an hour.

Bryan:

Maybe. Might not be the best defense in court, though.

 Me:

The fact that Gifford got shot was not an obscure event. The footnote you refer to most certainly was. I couldn’t have told you the guy’s name was Loughner…

 “Might not be the best defense in court, though.” Actually, it is. Without intent — and if you think about this, you HAVE to see no one would make such a mistake intentionally (and I’m still taking your word that it’s a mistake, since Google isn’t helping me find independent evidence outside of Breitbart et al.) — you can’t have malice.

I then drove to work. By the time I got here, Bryan had written:

I think the fact that it was in their own newspaper is enough to show malice. Maybe a jury would disagree with me, but I think it’s certainly enough to get to a jury and survive a summary judgment motion. If Pailin asked me, I would take the case.

Could be some prize money in it.

And as long as I didn’t have former editorial page editors on my jury, I’d feel pretty good about my chances.

Oh, and related: This editorial is how you get more Trump. If you are someone who is anti-Trump, you should discourage this sort of erroneous editorial. It’s going to make it easy for him to run against the NYT et al. when they continue to make it easy for him to do so with editorials like this.

I’m against this editorial for that reason (it enables Trump), for the reason that it breeds distrust and reinforces existing distrust, and breeds contempt between opposing viewpoints. Literally no good comes from this awful piece.

As you can see, the NYT has now issued a correction, completely retracting their false claim – so you can stop taking my word for it that it was an incorrect claim.

Oh, it it fits into my previous point (a few weeks ago) about the “fake news” being this paradigm: (1) false story trumpeted out from large media source and then repeated by lots of other sources; (2) it’s proven to be factually wrong; (3) retraction/correction is made, but it doesn’t get the same fanfare the original wrong statement did; (4) general public never remembers the correction.

Ok. I’m off my soapbox. I’ll be getting back to some actual legal work now. Cheers.

Now that I was at the office and on my laptop (making typing less laborious), I concluded:

“I think the fact that it was in their own newspaper is enough to show malice. Maybe a jury would disagree with me…” It certainly would if a single person who had a clue about the newspaper business was on the jury. Because the expectation that the editors HAD to know about that point of fact buried in a profile six years ago is one of the wildest things I’ve heard this week.

Bryan, I want to drop this, but every time I get back to Twitter I see multiple assertions I have to address… “This editorial is how you get more Trump.” Yeah, and it would be a bad idea to intentionally publish editorials that contain errors — except no one would be crazy enough to do that! Can’t you see the fundamental flaw in making that point?

As for your complaint about the corrections process, another thing that could only come from a non-journalist (seriously, what is your practical suggestion for an alternative), please examine your words: “false story trumpeted out from large media source.” What “false story?” “Trumpeted how?” One would think that “trumpeting” would at least, at LEAST entail a headline, and to in any way match your indignation here, the headline would have to be large, and would have to say, “Sarah Palin goes around encouraging mass killers.” Instead, this involved an erroneous assertion of fact that was NOT the point of the piece. And your evidence that it was malicious is that there was, once upon a time (six freaking years ago!) there was a lengthy news story that also, deep down, contained something that refuted that fact — as assertion of fact that, just like the current instance, was not the main point being made, or even close to it! It would be outrageous to expect every editor at a paper to remember every HEADLINE that had appeared in the paper in the past six years, much less every single assertion of fact that could be found in every single story!

You know, there’d be a lot fewer arguments like this if, as part of everyone’s civic education, everybody in the country were required to work at a newspaper for a month. It would stop arguments like this before they start…

Of course, my solution is impractical, because to fully get what I’m saying, you’d have to be a senior editor for that month — and you can’t be that without years of experience, experience that would necessarily make the month unnecessary. Here’s the bottom line: To an editor worth his salt, every error is intolerable, and inexcusable, and must never happen again. But of course, it will. And all you can do is correct it. Used to be, you had a whole day to sort things out and make the correction. Now, if you haven’t completely refuted yourself within a couple of hours, the world has a coronary…

Folks, I don’t care what you think of The New York Times, but I’m here to tell you, it is a credible institution — about as credible as you’re likely to find in this sin-stained world.

And its editors — like every editor I’ve ever known or worked with — would rather get a hard punch in the face than make a mistake like that. It’s excruciatingly painful. Any editor I know spends his or her days and sleepless nights worrying about errors like that, and doing everything he or she can to avoid it.

Think for a moment: What in the world do you think would be an editor’s motivation to screw up like that intentionally? I can’t imagine, but maybe you’ll come up with a reason that will surprise me.

Whatever else you come away from this discussion with, I hope you absorb that one point…