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John Embry: "I'm not saying it's easy but finding the true Christmas spirit in all of us is worth the effort."

          Local:  The irony of the holiday season is that although it is almost universally recognized as a time of joy, many folks still struggle to find that joy, or peace, in their lives.  Why?  We miss dearly many of our family and friends who are no longer here.  We experience acute financial discomfort associated with gift buying and as parents we sometimes feel like we fail our children the most this time of year.  We struggle with all the holiday-oriented "things" that we are convinced have to get done.  We stress over the Christmas tree, decorations, cooking food and then eating too much of it, and a multitude of extended family events that can lead to a spike in blood pressure.  In short, we all have a tendency to put too much on our plate, with too many expectations, which results in us creating a recipe for failure. 

          Fight these inclinations and reclaim the simplicity of Christmas. How? Listen to Christmas music.  Attend Christmas Parades - Morgantown and Quality are both wonderful events.  Go to church.  Attend one of the many holiday events sponsored by local churches.  Say Merry Christmas.  Reflect on the type of community in which you live.  A community that gives thousands of dollars to events like the Morgantown Mission's Holiday Food Baskets, the Boys and Girls Club Radio Auction.  A community that steps up in a big way to support grieving families like the recent event for the Ben Phelps family.  A community that still decorates its streets and plays Christmas music from loud speakers.  I'm not saying it's easy but finding the true Christmas spirit in all of us is worth the effort.

          State:  Governor Matt Bevin announced changes in 2016 to the state's decision to expand Medicaid coverage as part of the provision of the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare).  Bevin's plan is set to begin April 1, 2019, as part of a new initiative- Kentucky HEALTH.  The Medicaid waiver has been approved twice by the Trump administration but has been repeatedly challenged in court and put on hold.  It has now been greenlighted again at the federal level but is once again being challenged legally. 

          The governor is concerned about how the significant expansion of Medicaid will ultimately impact the state fiscally and that it could endanger the services for traditional program recipients.  Critic contend that it arbitrarily tries to limit basic health coverage for thousands of Kentuckians. 

          What is so egregious about Governor Bevin's plan?  Apparently, the work requirement.  The Bevin plan would require working age, non-disabled adults without dependents to work, volunteer, go to job training or participate in a myriad of community-based activities for up to 80 hours per month in order to maintain Medicaid coverage.  Is this requirement really that unreasonable, punitive in nature, or an attack on the poor? Is it unfair to ask those who are able and who can to contribute in some way to the community for the social safety net of services they are receiving?  It doesn't seem that way to me.


          National:  I promised last week to begin the discussion on how to possibly return civility to political discourse.  A starting point is to create an environment where actual violence is universally condemned by all sides.  Surely, opposing violence in all its forms can be a place for common ground. How about organizing a group of ten Republicans and ten Democrats of national stature and reflecting the diversity within the respective party, that will collectively stand up and call out incidents of real violence wherever it is found?      

          Sometimes in the past, one party has been really quick to criticize violent tendencies on the other side but slow to turn the critical lens around.  Whether it is Aryan Nation skinheads and the KKK on the far right or Antifa and the Black Panthers on the far left, the violence and intimidation that these groups often promote should be condemned in a bipartisan way.  We do this sometimes but probably not often enough.  Republicans can do a better job of condemning its hard-right flank and Democrats can do a better job of condemning the radical-left flank of its own party.  Political extremism resulting in violence is a bipartisan problem.  Thus, it requires a bipartisan solution.  Maybe this could be a step in that direction. 


Dumb (maybe naïve) Quote of the Week: 

"America does not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.  What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them." --John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme. 

I admire Chief Justice John Roberts, our judicial process and the legal profession in general, and I hesitate to call this a dumb quote but at the very least it is a naïve one.  Federal judges (and Justices) have different ways of interpreting the U.S. Constitution.  Those nominated by Republican presidents, on balance, take a more narrow view of the document, while those nominated by Democratic presidents often take a more expansive approach.  Mountains of evidence point to this fact and to suggest that in 2018 partisan politics plays no role in judicial decisions is demonstrably false. 


          Parting Shot:  Florida Republicans Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott won narrow races for governor and senator, respectively.  One factor that contributed to their election was a higher-than-expected percentage of support from the black and Hispanic communities.  According to exit polling data, DeSantis received about 14 percent of black voters and around 44 percent of Hispanic voters - both significant increases from typical levels of GOP support among these groups.  Interestingly, the deciding issue appeared to be Republican support of school choice and specifically the expansion of charter schools - both of which were generally opposed by their Democratic opponents.  Could this be an opening for the GOP to attract even more voters across the nation and in the future from these constituencies?  We'll see.  



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