Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
A few years ago, I lived on a street in Southern Pines, near the airport. One of my neighbors on that street owned a feisty little dog who would chase my car down the street every day, barking his fool head off.
One day, I slammed on the brakes, looked out the car window, and told the baffled pooch “OK, pal, you caught it! Now what are you gonna do with it?”
Needless to say, he didn’t have an answer.
I’ve been thinking about that dog a lot as I watch the new Republican Congress members try to follow through on the promise they and Russian-backed President-elect Donald Trump made to “repeal and replace Obamacare on Day One.”
You may not have noticed, what with the New Year and all, but Day One has come and gone, and, well, they’re still trying to figure out how to do it.
They’ve whipped up a “budget resolution” that says, in effect, “Yessiree, we’re sure ’nuff going to repeal that nasty Obamacare, just you wait and see,” but how it’s going to be done, and what will replace it, remain as much a mystery as why McDonald’s keeps bringing back the awful McRib sandwich or why “Dating Naked” is an actual TV show.
Meanwhile, Comrade Trumpovitch took a break from his busy schedule of writing thank-you notes to Vladimir Putin and throwing online shade at Meryl Streep to let the Congress know that delays would be unacceptable, and he wants both repeal and replace right now, dang it. He told The New York Times he wants a repeal vote “next week” and a replacement bill “very quickly or simultaneously.”
Trump demanded that no more than “a few weeks” must pass before an entirely new health care bill must be plucked from out of the vast roaring void that is the Republican source of health care ideas. Then it has to pass through the legislative process and be voted on.
Oh, and according to Trump’s prior fiats, it has to keep the things that Americans like, like the prohibition against denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions and letting people keep their offspring on their family health plan until they’re 26. And it has to bring costs down. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York and a member of Trump’s transition team, fell back on what’s become a standard Trump response: The guy whose supporters love him because he says what he means doesn’t really mean what he says. Collins told CNN that “I'm not reading it literally literally” when Trump says he wants it done right away.
OK, let me just say right now, I am totally stealing “speaks in concepts.” I can see it now: “Sure, honey, I said I’d be home by 11 and it’s 3 a.m., but, you know, I was just speaking in concepts. You should know not to take me literally literally.” I could also use it at work: “Your Honor, I know I said I’d have that order to you by Friday, but I was, you know, speaking in concepts.”
In any case, the actual timeline for full “repeal and replace” (which, unlike a simple budget resolution, will most likely take some Democratic votes in the Senate), could take months. If they keep the promise made by House GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who said, “Let me be clear: No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage,” the timeline might stretch out even further, as in “never.”
In that case, one can only imagine the Twitter storm to follow. It’ll be like that famous and often-parodied scene in the movie “Downfall,” in which a certain German dictator goes completely berserk when told that the units he’s ordering into brilliant counterattacks against the encroaching Allies don’t exist anymore. Except from Trump it’ll be 140 characters at a time.
But don’t worry, Congress. Before long, Alec Baldwin or a Dixie Chick will say something President Tweety doesn’t like and he’ll get distracted and leave you alone while he goes off on them, and you can get back to failing at your jobs. Once again, the Republicans have shown that while they can win elections, they’re incapable of doing the actual work of governing.
When we entered a new year at midnight on Jan. 1, a lot of things changed here in North Carolina.
Our new governor, Roy Cooper, was officially sworn in. Numerous changes in laws ranging from foster care to sales taxes to road tolls kicked in. And, in one fell swoop, we got a bunch of new residents from South Carolina.
The new residents of the Tar Heel State came to us as part of the resolution of a long-standing question as to exactly where the border between North and South Carolina is.
It seems that, back in 1735, when the original survey party was sent out to map the border, they got as far as the mosquito-infested swamps and dense woods that covered what’s now York County, south of Charlotte, and decided, “You know what? We are not getting paid nearly enough for this.”
Subsequent efforts to fix the border only compounded the problem, especially since there’s apparently some sort of “magnetic anomaly” west of Charlotte that’s been mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey and which throws off compasses.
(I feel like somebody really should have looked into this a long time ago. Is there some sort of meteorite buried there? An alien monolith? Gov. Cooper, please get on this ASAP.)
Anyway, it eventually occurred to people that we really needed to get this whole thing settled, and thanks to the miracle of GPS satellites, now we can.
Some wrangling inevitably ensued, however, since the people in the contested borderlands weren’t all that eager to switch states. Eventually, however, compromises were hammered out.
For instance, the Lake Wylie Mini Mart, although suddenly finding itself in North Carolina, can still sell fireworks, and it can keep selling alcohol and gasoline using South Carolina’s lower tax rates. Kids whose state of residence has suddenly changed can get in-state tuition in either state for the next 10 years. And so on.
It’s not clear how many new North Carolinians there are. The South Carolina magazine The State says it’s only 16 (while three families are being shifted to South Carolina), but WRAL’s website pegs the total at “50 homeowners.” Whether it’s 16 or 50, however, we here in the Old North State bid you folks a warm welcome! Now, here are some things you’ll need to know:
First, you’re going to need to pick a North Carolina ACC team to root for. I know some of you former Clemson fans are going to find this traumatic, but that’s just the way it is. The choices are UNC (the Tar Heels), NC State (the Wolfpack), and Wake Forest (the Demon Deacons, a name which we can all agree makes no flippin’ sense whatsoever).
Oh, and some school from Durham. The Blue Meanies or some such nonsense. It’s a school that’s mostly attended by Yankee transplants who aren’t even going to stay here when they graduate, so forget those guys. The choice, of course, is up to you, but I would observe that your new home, North Carolina, is known as the “Tar Heel State.” Just sayin’.
A more emotionally fraught choice involves barbecue. I hear that what South Carolina regards as “barbecue” involves some kind of mustard-based sauce. To which I can only say: I’m so glad we got to you in time. North Carolina ’cue is either Western or “Lexington” style, which usually uses the shoulder of the pig and a tomato-ey sauce, while Eastern, or “the best” style, uses the whole hog, cooked slowly for hours over a wood fire, and a delicious, tangy sauce made of vinegar and pepper.
As I’ve gotten older, my feelings toward Western style have moderated somewhat, which means I no longer consider it an abomination before God. Just no mustard. Please.
Oh, and for the time being, you’re going to have to have your birth certificate handy when you use a public restroom. Don’t ask why, because the answer’s stupid, and we hope we can remedy it soon. But it is what it is.
So, again, welcome to our new North Carolinians, and we hope that, in the words of our State Toast, your weak go strong, and your strong grow great! Just know that they’re never going to do it cheering on some lame team from Durham and eating nasty mustard-based barbecue.