scharrison's blog

When local newspapers die, democracy dies with them

When you don't watch the pot, it often boils over:

It’s a crisis that threatens American democracy. Local newspapers, despite all their flaws and limitations, have been a trusted — and necessary — source of information for citizens across the country.

When local news withers, bad things happen, studies show. People vote less, and they vote in a more politically polarized way. Political corruption has more opportunity to flourish, unnoticed by the local watchdog. And municipal costs may rise.

After being involved in local government for several years now, I don't subscribe to the view that governments would go crazy with unnecessary spending in the absence of a journalistic watchdog. Voters don't (necessarily) need to read about their property tax going up to notice it, it's right there on their monthly mortgage bill when the escrow goes up. Elected officials are aware of that when they crunch their budgets every year (or two). But those voters won't know "why" their property tax went up, or anything else about their local government, and that's a huge problem. Which is why I also don't subscribe to the view that local governments should withhold information, make it harder for journalists to cover their activities. If the newspaper gets it wrong, it's usually because some official thought it was "wise" to be tight-lipped. It rarely is. But there may be a philanthropic light at the end of this tunnel:

Leading while Black: Charlotte Council members get racist hate mail

Trump's rhetoric is dangerous, and spreading:

More than a dozen city leaders, all of them African American except for one, received a letter in the mail to their respective offices that was threatening and racist. Now, police are taking a close look. "If I can assume the intent, the intent was to intimidate," Councilman Braxton Winston said.

The letter read in part, "...Each of you despicable BLACK democrats should be tarred and feathered and run out of town (my town) on a rail..." It blamed African Americans for various things, praised President Donald Trump and used a phrase that was chanted by his supporters at a North Carolina rally earlier this year: "Send her back"

Even if I didn't agree with Braxton's assumption (I do), his background in Anthropology makes that more than just an assumption, it's a studied assessment. But for people like the letter writer, none of that matters. He's Black, and that is an irredeemable trait. It's important to understand that, before any time is wasted by looking at the attitude or performance or potential character flaws of those who have been threatened. We have an almost automatic impulse to argue against such, to present reasons why these bigots are wrong, but that's like trying to groom a skunk. You'll stink for days after the effort, and the skunk will still be a hot mess.

The NRA tries to rewrite history over background checks

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Methinks she doth protest too much:

"I've been talking about this for a couple of years now and the last time I brought this up on television as a real problem I was screamed at and shouted down," former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch tweeted late Tuesday, including a link to WRAL's story. "We going to take it seriously yet?"

Current NRA officials didn't repond to a request for comment Wednesday.

She was actually screamed at by some other Fox & Friends idiot, but I don't have the patience or intestinal fortitude to go down that rabid rabbit hole. The truth is, shortly before the NICS database came online, the NRA pushed the Conservative U.S. Supreme Court to undermine the entire system:

Greenville's minorities still reeling from "send her back" rally chant

It's just not the same anymore:

Police in Greenville say they have seen no increase in reported hate speech or crimes since the president’s July 17 visit. But to immigrants, refugees and others who don’t fit neatly into some people’s ideas of what an American should look like, the appearance has spawned fears that the president’s words could be used as a pretext for violence.

And the crowd’s chant has prompted painful reflection: Was the hostility on display at the rally new for Greenville? Or was it here all along, just waiting to be activated? Heidi Serrano, who was born in Guatemala but has lived in Greenville her entire adult life, has reluctantly concluded the latter. And now she wonders if some of her neighbors and co-workers truly want her here.

Ten years ago, I would have told her not to worry about those on the fringe; that radical white supremacist groups struggle to get more than two dozen like-minded idiots to flock to their cause. I can't tell her that now. Trump has exposed the 30+% extreme racist underbelly of our country, and given them a mandate to hate:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Somebody has to act:

The NC GOP needs to get with the program on common sense gun regulations. People are tired of thoughts and prayers.

Republican leaders quash consent bill once again

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Apparently "No!" means "Just go right ahead."

For the fourth time, a bill that would close a loophole in North Carolina law when it comes to consent is dead. And Jeff Jackson, the state senator who has filed it four times, is beyond frustrated.

"I wish we could say we were confused at this point except at this point we know," Jackson said. "A couple of years ago you could say, 'Maybe these guys just don’t understand the issue.' You can't give them the benefit of the doubt anymore. This is purposeful." The "guys" Jackson is referring to are Republican state lawmakers. The issue is being able to revoke consent during sexual intercourse.

"Sexual behavior" is one of the broadest terms that could be used, ranging from timid to violently aggressive. There is no way to know how somebody will act once they've fallen into that primal zone, and it's nothing short of insane to posit that a woman who suddenly finds a hand wrapped around her neck, slowly tightening, does not have a legal right to extricate herself from that situation. Here's more from Jeff Jackson:

Wealthy pedophile and child sex-trafficker hangs himself in jail

Not shedding any tears for this piece of trash:

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges last month, committed suicide at a Manhattan jail, officials said on Saturday.

Manhattan federal prosecutors last month charged Mr. Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14, and details of his behavior have been emerging for years. Mr. Epstein, a financier with opulent homes, a private jet and access to elite circles, had been dogged for decades by accusations that he had paid dozens of girls for sexual acts in Florida.

Don't say I never post good news or upbeat stories and such. This is better than a baker's dozen of fluffy bunnies.

Association Health Plans are still a bad idea

You're probably better off with no insurance at all:

These types of plans were nixed under the Affordable Care Act, which required all insurance policies to contain 10 essential benefits and disallowed so-called “skinny” plans that provide little beyond basic catastrophic coverage, if that.

Association health plans were green-lighted again under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in October 2017, which was seen by many as a way of undermining former President Barack Obama’s ACA. But the plans also come with a host of caveats. They make some observers nervous because in the past association health plans have produced substandard policies that left some patients with big bills or skyrocketing premiums.

All insurance "pools" are a rarefied version of a Ponzi scheme, but these association health plans are even more so. There's simply not enough money in the pot to pay off all the losers if there's even a slight bump in the percentage of catastrophic health treatments, and the fact these "skinny" plans don't cover well care visits or other prophylactic measures actually increases that likelihood. Instead of fast-tracking boondoggles like this, which will likely only be tempting to those who make over the ACA subsidy threshold, the NCGA should be expanding Medicaid to cover those in the gap. And before approving AHPs, they need to wait and see how the courts and Federal government decide this issue:

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