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Editor's Note: Every Friday, Tom Keane offers up assorted observations, conundra and miscellanea about the week that was. Here's his round-up for the week ending Nov. 17, 2017.
It was the week when the Republican establishment discovered that there is someone even more problematic than Donald Trump: Roy Moore.
Mall Rat. Maybe he’ll surprise us all and quit, but I’m not counting on it: Alabama’s Moore has made his career on never backing down and he likely won’t this time either. For Democrats, that makes the Alabamian a gift that keeps on giving. If he loses, the Dems pick up a Senate seat — good for six years. If he wins, Moore becomes the poster child for the GOP — the bogeyman Democrats feature in every political ad run during the 2018 midterms. And best of all, Moore’s depredations are making sure everyone overlooks those of Bill Clinton.
Abdication. Trump returned from a tour of Asia that he bragged was “tremendously successful” and to give the president some credit, the optics for the most part were great. In his stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, he hammered on international trade, one of the key issues that got him elected in the first place. The problem? The substance. China, in particular, was pleased with the president, and why not? With Trump essentially tearing up the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, China now has free rein to dominate the region. America First at home means America Last abroad.
Compatriots. Many were shocked during the Asian trip at Trump’s fawning treatment of Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Not me. Duterte had a long-running battle with Barack Obama, at various times calling him a “son of a bitch” and telling him to “go to hell.” The enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess. Plus, Duterte has led a long, brutal and extrajudicial crackdown on illegal drugs. Given Trump’s own disdain for the niceties of the U.S. Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights), it makes sense they bonded.
Kind and gentle. After stories broke last week of sexual harassment at Berklee College of Music, the school admitted this week it had fired 11 faculty members over the last 13 years for a variety of sex-related misdeeds. It’s good the college got rid of them, but bad the way it did so: slowly and quietly, with payoffs and confidentiality agreements. Hardly punishment at all. If we treated thieves the way Berklee treated abusers, all our possessions would be gone.
Twofer. Even as they try to manage the Roy Moore crisis, congressional Republicans pushed forward on their tax overhaul, this time added a new wrinkle that feels like the zombie that just can’t be killed: repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate. Ultimately, that would mean the doom of the health care law which is, of course, the GOP’s objective. Plus, it makes tax reform a lot simpler: With less need to spend hundreds of millions on health care, the savings go right into the pockets of those benefiting from lower taxes. It’s Robin Hood in reverse!
Is there an Uber for booze? A Boston Globe investigation found out that depending on who you know, the price of a liquor license in Cambridge varies from zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s outrageous and the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is now looking into the matter. But what’s really outrageous is liquor licenses themselves. Just like with taxi medallions, liquor licenses limit supply and become a tradeable commodity, inviting abuse and stifling competition. The right approach: Permit a business to serve alcohol in the same way we permit it to serve food. Play by the rules — serve alcohol and food responsibly and safely — and the permit stays in place. Don’t, and you’re out of business.
A rose by any other name. Dunkin’ Donuts, the Quincy shop that went international, is thinking about changing its name to just “Dunkin’.” The “donut” reference is archaic: Not as many of us are eating donuts and the chain wants to position itself as a coffee shop/all-day fast-food place. I get that. But how about “dunkin’”? Apparently, people once used to dip their donuts in coffee. Ugh. Sounds disgusting. In any event, who today is shoving their Big ‘N Toasted into a blue raspberry Coolatta? No one.
And I thought I was doing so well… After struggling for years to get their blood pressure below 140/90, Americans learned this week that health care professionals just moved the goalposts, saying we now must be below 130/80. Great. Cut salt, exercise more, drink less and otherwise try to be a dietary saint and suddenly you find out that at best you’re in field-goal range. The doctors think the new numbers will encourage more Americans to address hypertension. Maybe. Or maybe we’ll just give up and go back to our chips and fries.
Home together. And finally, after a year of trying to reconcile with family members offended by last Thanksgiving’s arguments over Donald Trump, Americans warily prepared for yet another round of raised voices, hurled insults and slamming doors. To be followed by yet another year of attempted reconciliations.
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