Columns » Max Brantley

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The Arkansas Lottery Commission last week hired Ernie Passailaigue, director of the South Carolina lottery, to lead the startup of Arkansas's lottery. Why would he want to come to Arkansas?

Easy. He makes about $226,000 in South Carolina. He'll make $324,000 here, plus become eligible to draw more than $100,000 in South Carolina retirement.

After a bumbling start, the commission appears to have made a popular choice, football coach-level salary aside. He's a lottery pro. But he's also a good ol' boy politico, a former Democratic state senator and gubernatorial candidate who charmed Arkansas key legislators during a consulting trip here. Legislators who were anxious to control the Arkansas lottery through appointment of a good ol' boy Arkansan need not fear a new way of doing business. Their calls will be returned; their job recommendees duly considered.

If Passailaigue produces in Arkansas what's been built in South Carolina, no one will care. After seven years, the South Carolina lottery is producing about $60 in profits for every resident in the state. If he matches that in Arkansas, that would mean some $175 million in Arkansas annually for college scholarships, far more than even the optimistic predictions of the Father of the Arkansas Lottery, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

 

Should Barack Obama's national health care plan include a so-called public option — a government insurance plan, with its proven lower administrative costs?

You already know what the health insurance industry thinks about that. Wrote The New York Times:

“But critics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage. They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.”

Wrote Jon Taplin on Talking Points Memo:

“So let me get this straight. It's not fair to have a public option because they don't have to make obscene profits for their shareholders and they can use the leverage of the combined group of Medicare and public option customers to negotiate better fees with doctors, hospitals and drug companies.”

 

Another press clipping worthy of note, this one from Virginia coverage of Mike Huckabee's appearance at a Virginia forum “Rediscovering God in America.”

The Huckster — who refuses to call tornadoes acts of God, who indicated God picked the winner (him) in the Iowa Republican caucuses and who has a long record of claiming divine intervention when the outcome suits — was not happy about President Obama's remarks in the Middle East when the president said one nation should not be exalted over another. From Tribune News Service commentary:

“ ‘The notion that we are just one of many among equals is nonsense,' Huckabee said. The United States is a ‘blessed' nation, he said, calling the American revolutionary defeat of the British empire ‘a miracle from God's hand.'

“The same sort of miracle-working was at hand in the defeat of California's gay marriage amendment, Huckabee suggested — voters ‘did it because some things are right and some things are wrong and they had to make a stand.' ”

The remarks drew wide derision on the web. My favorite was the blogger Pharyngula who said, “Thanks to Mike Huckabee, we now know that God is a) French, and b) Mormon.”

 

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