by Max Brantley
i'm slowly turning toward home and, now that I'm in London and no longer restricted by cruise ship Interet limitations, able to catch up on mail and newspapers. Sigh.
Strawberries have arrived in Surrey. Raspberries are in season. The fruit is available everywhere. And good. Better than Arkansas strawberries in a good year? Can't say that.
Every other pub or restaurant seemed to be offering a British summer favorite — Pimms cocktails (a sweet, fruity booze mixed with soda, lemon, more sugar, fruit, mint and !cucumber slices!) — as the drink of the day. So I bought one just to show you what they look like.
Sunday is also the day that many British have Sunday roast for a midday meal — roast beef and trimmings. We had ours at a restaurant appropriately named Roast, in the Borough Market by the London Bridge. Good, rare beef with a giant Yorkshire pudding sitting alongside in a pool of pan drippings. Those same drippings were used to roast skinned new potatoes, enough for a meal on their own. Eaton mess — the concoction of crumbled meringue, raspberries and cream — came for dessert. Father's Day in England is apparently observed by treating dad to a slab of bloody beef.
Talk about bitter.
Now it's time for more serious matters. The Sunday Democrat-Gazette had a number of noteworthy articles, but a pub crawl awaits so I'll just mention two:
* SLOPPING THE HOGS: Michael Wickline did another fine piece of notable labor in tallying the $1 million or so lobbyists spent on the 2013 legislature. As ever, several lobby groups "forgot" to properly report their expenditures. Like Julie Mullenix, who just simply overlooked reporting $21,000 in legislative hog slopping at a realtors-paid Capital Hotel soiree. You need to know that the Mullenix firm was the single strongest opponent to legislative efforts to stiffen ethics laws, including the Regnat Populus proposed amendment that will nominally outlaw individual legislative hog slopping but still allow group hog slops such as the one Mullenix "forgot" to report. She laments her style of lobbying could get more expensive under the Regnat Populus amendment, because she'll have to invite all legislators to the wine-and-dines, not just the critical lawmakers who do the heavy lifting. Poor thing. Not to worry. There are plenty like the realtors to pay the bill. And that presumes lobbyists will obey that new law any better than they obey the current porous and rarely enforced ethics laws. Ethics Commission Graham Sloan admitted the general meaninglessness of the filings to the D-G today. The amendment will be no different unless the enforcement agency is strengthened. With the legislature in charge of the appropriation, good luck with that.
* SHAME ON JOHN BRUMMETT: The Democrat-Gazette includes further reporting by Andy Davis on the groups to be hired to get out the word on signing up for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion approved by the 2013 legislature. There's more there on legislative resistance to allowing Planned Parenthood, a health delivery organization, to hire workers to provide information about getting health care coverage to Arkansas people. Over on the op-ed page, John Brummett, a stenographer for Rep. John Burris and Sen. David Sanders' view of how the legislature should be run, laments that a state agency director, Jay Bradford, didn't accede to private directions from Burris and Sanders not to allow Planned Parenthood to take part in the outreach.
A reminder: Planned Parenthood is a legal organization. It provides a variety of legal services. It will not be providing abortions in this outreach nor even talking about it. It will be advising Arkansas people how to get basic health coverage.
Brummett thinks it's fine for legislators to prevent state contracts from going to agencies that hold beliefs with which Burris and Sanders disapprove. Otherwise, he says, we'll fight about abortion again. Why can't Planned Parenthood just shut up? To Brummett, it is Planned Parenthood's fault and not that of the bullies Burris and Sanders that we're having this divisive discussion.
Maybe I could quietly ask Education Director Tom Kimbrell to quietly veto applications for state dollars that go to daycares run by Sen. Johnny Key and Rep. Justin Harris because, hey, they proselytize on tax dollars at their church schools. If we give them money, it just sets up another one of those tiresome no-win battles on the establishment clause, right? Rather than fight that battle, couldn't we just get them to go away?
Of course they shouldn't go away. But they should abide by the Constitution and keep religion out of their classes, just as Planned Parenthood should and will keep abortion out of helping people sign up for health insurance. It is unconstitutional to deny state participation to an agency qualified to do work on account of that agency's viewpoint (which happens to be a legal viewpoint as well). It is more repugnant that it could be denied in secret by veto-wielding legislators and that a newspaper columnist, nominally a 1st Amendment advocate, would side with coercion of unpopular beliefs. Appeasement is not a winning strategy against bullies.The D-G noted today that Rep. Kim Hammer has some gay coddlers in his crosshairs now, too. Brummett presumably would tell them to also shut up and go away. If anyone thinks this kind of tactic by Burris and Sanders starts and stops with Planned Parenthood and women's medical autonomy, they haven't been paying attention.
PS — Brummett's condescending habit of referring to an unnamed "liberal blog" as a nuisance in his continuing glorification of the Bully Boys and on other topics also grows a bit tiresome.