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A Further Perspective

Eric Holder’s Sorry Sense of Justice

By 2.9.15

Thursday morning’s “Building community trust” roundtable discussion in Oakland, California, with Attorney General Eric Holder, local law enforcement, elected officials, and community leaders was designed to “build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.” After brief remarks, Holder and company dismissed the press corps.

It is a courtesy, a Department of Justice spokesman explained, to allow participants to speak more candidly. And I knew that was the plan. Still, it was painful to watch as Holder spoke in favor of “body-worn cameras” for law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line and then effectively turned off media cameras that might have recorded any real dialogue, mayhap, of public officials whose polished images are on the line.

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State Watch

Medicaid Expansion Bites the Dust in Tennessee

By 2.9.15

Over the course of just 48 hours last week, Republican Tennessee governor Bill Haslam watched his two-year flirtation with the Medicaid expansion, made available through the Affordable Care Act, get buried by the state legislature.

It was a quick and unceremonious end to what Haslam hoped would be his legacy achievement on health care in the Volunteer State. For roughly twenty-one months, the governor and his policy counsel worked hard to finesse Republican legislators into softening their stance toward his plan, called Insure Tennessee. But in the end, no amount of massaging could win over conservatives in the capitol.

Of course, it’s not that the GOP legislative supermajority has been blind to the healthcare needs of Tennesseans. According to Haslam, it was the legislature that started him down the Insure Tennessee path in the first place when it asked him to identify and suggest ways to address the state’s needs. The problem was that the governor ultimately decided the best fix lay in the expansion of Medicaid services under Obamacare.

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Ben Stein's Diary

A Few Sunday Thoughts

By 2.8.15

I was just going to talk about how Barack Obama is not a historian or an Imam. At least he was not elected to be an Imam or a historian. He is PRESIDENT. His job is to lead us and to be our cheerleader. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, FDR didn’t say, “Well, look at the way we treated Asians. Look at our embargo. Look at our help to Chiang Kai-Shek. Let’s think about how we want to respond. Maybe they should have the Pacific.”

That’s a President.

Obama reaching back into some insane history file in his head to equate the Crusades to the way that ISIS treats hostages… that’s not Presidential. It is just plain stupid. And whips up our enemies.

But I won’t talk about that. Instead, I will talk about how insanely blessed I am to have the wife I have. How it’s the highest and best use of every minute of every day to spend time with her. How no matter what mistakes I make, she stays loyal. How I made at least one important decision in my life: to love and worship her, and how God reached down from his Holy Throne to make her the goddess she is and let me have her for every day. And every day I have with her is a miracle.

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The Obama Watch

The President’s Breakfast Crusade

By 2.7.15

A couple sentences in President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, typically a benignly feel-good event, ignited great controversy.

Citing ISIS horrors, Obama added:

And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

The reference ignited charges that Obama was comparing Christianity to ISIS, and responses that Obama critics were whitewashing the Crusades and maybe even white racism.

In the latter spirit, an Atlantic columnist berated the “foolish, historically illiterate” reaction to Obama’s prayer speech:

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Ben Stein's Diary

Anti-Semitic Outrage at UC Davis

By 2.7.15

A few days ago, at the campus of the University of California at Davis, a campus northeast of San Francisco with about 35,000 students, the student association of the campus voted to advise the UC system to “divest itself” of stocks in companies that, in their words, “aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and (quoting here) illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.…”

This was bad enough, because Israel is the only law-abiding democracy in the Middle East, and so far as can be determined, Arabs, who make up about a fifth of its population, make no effort to leave to go to “Arab lands.”

But it’s come to be standard at college campuses, many of which are now hotbeds of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic venom. But what came after is really a stunner. Some scummy little rats spray-painted swastikas on the exterior walls of the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.

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The Nation's Pulse

The Politics of Overly Paranoid Rob Lowe

By 2.6.15

Mother does not always know best. The sudden and strange revolt against vaccinations sounds like the feminine answer to masculine preoccupations with black helicopters.

On cable television—notably, the viewing choice of Overly Paranoid Rob Lowe—Bill Maher, Robert Kennedy Jr., and others have spread the gospel according to Dr. Jenny McCarthy. Anti-vaccination activists blame shots for everything from AIDS to Alzheimer’s to Autism. The more dogmatic anti-vaxxers overlook the proven role of preventative medicine in avoiding polio, measles, diphtheria, and other pests considerably more injurious than a pin prick.

One anti-vaccination website offers a list of six—could they not stretch it to ten?—reasons not to vaccinate children. They include such case closers as “pharmaceutical companies can’t be trusted,” “ALL vaccines are loaded with chemicals and other poisons,” “you can always get vaccinated, but you can never undo a vaccination,” and “fully vaccinated children are the unhealthiest, most chronically ill children I know.” 

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Special Report

The Impossible Job of Child Protective Services

By 2.6.15

Some years ago in Southern California, a 400-pound lesbian decided that life with her 300-pound partner and their three adopted children wasn’t worth living, so she drove into a semi truck, crushing her legs and hips and leaving her in the hospital for months. When she got out, she weighed just 90 pounds, but she was meaner than ever, a tweaker hooked on pain pills who took out her misery on the kids. One day, the youngest had to be airlifted out of the home with a knife in her chest.

“Her story on that changed many times,” an old acquaintance of mine, a lawyer who deals with these kinds of things, wrote me in an email. “The children say tweaker stabbed her. Tweaker says she fell running up the stairs. No CPS problem.” That’s CPS, as in Child Protective Services.

Since the late ’70s, the debate over child protective services has been driven by horror stories that have become a meta-narrative: social workers screw up by missing the telltale signs of abuse, kids get hurt, laws are reformed, and thus more at-risk children are taken out of their homes and given to loving adoptive families.

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In Memoriam

R.I.P. Rocky Bridges

By 2.6.15

It took more than the Ted Williams, Stan Musials, Duke Sniders, Mickey Mantles, and Willie Mays of the world to make the 1950s a golden-era for baseball. “The Show” could not have gone on without the less-talented, the utility guys, the players to be named later. Guys with names like Hobie Landrith, Wayne Terwilliger, Joe Ginsberg, and Sammy Esposito. They too serve who only hit .207 and play in 30 games.

Young fans of the “Game of the Week” with Dizzy Dean and collectors of baseball cards during that idyllic decade remember these C-list spear-carriers. One of my favorites from this lot was Rocky Bridges. Bridges managed to stay in the major leagues for 11 years on minimal talent. He stayed in the game long after his playing days, coaching in the bigs for a few years and managing in the minor leagues for a few decades.

Word has just reached me that Rocky Bridges (and isn’t that a great baseball name?) died January 27 morning of natural causes in his adopted home of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was 87 and is survived by two sons, a daughter, and a brace of grandchildren. His wife, Mary, died in 2008.

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At Large

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

By 2.6.15

“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re in your own little corner of paradise now.”

The words could have been straight from the “just what I’d expect him to say” files — Jeremy is a marketing manager for the resort — yet they were strangely comforting, and proved happily accurate for our family, much in need of a respite, even if brief, from the intense stress and deep sadness of my wife’s father’s death less than a week earlier.

Our trip had been planned eight months prior and was intended to end in Australia with a celebration of Bob Baillie’s 70th birthday (please do click on that link); instead it ended with his memorial service after a brief but brutal battle with merciless pancreatic cancer. But his wife, my mother-in-law, was insistent that we go on our trip as planned because Bob (whom she more frequently calls Rob) had been so enthusiastic about it for us and particularly for our children. Indeed, he had paid for much of it; Bob was always a remarkably generous person.

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Serve and Volley

Wily Vets Keep the Lid On

By 2.5.15

Federer falls in the third round! Nadal knocked out in straight sets by the man he beat seventeen times in a row! Venus and Serena, fantastic as ever, and Serena takes it all! Two fab teens, one Aussie, one American, make splendid runs into the second week. There was plenty of excitement at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, even from the distance and as seen on the small screen. Best of all, Leander Paes of India and Martina Hingis of Switzerland, teaming up in mixed doubles, beat the defending champs, Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor, for the title in that draw. It is always thrilling to see legends remain legendary.

There were sensational points though no matches that immediately passed into legend. But that is not necessary for a successful Grand Slam tournament. There were some high moments of competition, predictions were shattered, young people came up, and in the end veterans outplayed them, as usually they do; the show goes on. The Oz Open augurs well for a good 2015 Tour.

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