Low bar to clear? 并非难事

2021.04.09

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “low bar to clear”: Jerry doesn’t have a lot of friends, so being his best friend is a low bar to clear.

 

My comments:

“A low bar to clear” is an American idiom. Here, it means that trying to become Jerry’s best friend is not the most difficult thing to accomplish in the world.

Far from it.

In fact, it should be easy, due to less competition.

You see, if Jerry had hundreds of friends, all close to him, it’d be difficult to be his best friend, the one whose friendship he treasures more than any other’s.

Luckily, Jerry’s not that kind of popular guy. He perhaps likes to be alone most of the time and has only a few friends.

Hence, it should be easy for anyone to be his best friend.

That’s taking things at face value, of course. It should be difficult to be anyone’s best friend no matter what, but here, in our example, that seems to be the logic. Being Jerry’s best friend should be easy because of fewer competitions – there are not a lot of people around to compete for that distinction.

Oh, low bar to clear. That’s an analogy to the high jump competition. In a high jump contest, a horizontal bar is set for athletes to clear or jump over. Obviously the higher the bar, the more difficult it is for them to clear.

Hence, the saying “a low bar to clear” and it means that something is easy to do, that the standard is not high, that the degree of difficulty involved is low.

Okay?

Okay. All right, here are media examples of someone having “a low bar to clear”:

1 After pulling over a Georgia man driving 10 mph over the speed limit on Interstate 10 in 2013, Mobile County sheriff's deputies seized more than $75,000 that the driver planned to use to buy a Chinese restaurant in Lake Charles, La.

Last year, a Mobile man discovered that his car -- with his daughter’s boyfriend at the wheel -- wound up in a high-speed chase. Prichard police seized the vehicle.

Neither Ming Tong Liu, in the I-10 stop, nor Daren J. Coleman in the Prichard incident, ever faced accusations of criminal wrongdoing connected to their property. But in both cases, authorities moved to seize the property under civil asset forfeiture laws that allow the government to take control of money, houses and vehicles without ever bringing criminal charges.

Darpana Sheth, an attorney with the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, told a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers in Mobile Thursday that the practice is rife with abuse and creates a perverse incentive for law enforcement authorities, who often are allowed to keep the seized property for their own agencies.

“No one in America should lose his property without first being convicted of a crime,” Sheth told the Brevard Hand-Alex Howard Chapter of the Mobile Federalist Society.

Matt Green, the president of the chapter, represented Coleman for free in the Prichard case after his law office accidentally was listed as the address of the assistant district attorney handling the case.

Green said he was skeptical as Coleman told his story.

“I looked at the case and said, ‘That can’t be true,’” Green said.

The more Green studied the case, though, the more he realized that it was true. Police had a low bar to clear in order to demonstrate that the 2003 Toyota Corolla had been used in a crime.After that, the burden shifted to Coleman to prove that he had no knowledge of the crime.

“It’s an upside-down world where the innocent owners have to prove their innocence,” he said.

Green said his client needed the car to get to his job at a Pascagoula shipyard. Fortunately, Green said, the police allowed Coleman to keep the car while the case made its way through Mobile County Circuit Court. But it took several weeks to resolve and would have cost thousands of dollars in legal fees if Green had not agreed to handle it for free.

“Any good attorney would charge far more than this car is worth,” he said.

Liu's case had a similar trajectory. It took him 10 months to get back his $75,195, but only after paying a lawyer thousands of dollars to fight the seizure and missing his opportunity to buy the restaurant.

- When cops seize money or property in Alabama, it’s owner’s burden to prove he’s innocent, AL.com, January 13, 2019.

 

2 The passage of Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill was met by euphoria from the liberal media, along with requisite nay-saying from some on the Left. Undoubtedly, there are, as usual, good reasons to be frustrated with the Democratic Party leadership’s refusal to fight harder for the inclusion of a desperately needed minimum wage increase, and their unnecessary concessions on the size and scope of direct payments and unemployment benefits.

Yet the bill will substantially alleviate the suffering of many, while also signaling a political and economic shift toward the provision of public welfare.

Between the direct payments, the extension of enhanced unemployment, money allotted to states, child tax credits, and other benefits, many poor and working-class people will receive a far-reaching amount of governmental support — and potentially cut child poverty in half. And unlike last year’s relief packages, the bill’s payout will go almost exclusively to the public, not corporations.

It’s true that the almost nonexistent social safety net in the United States is a low bar to clear.Nevertheless, it has not been cleared for decades. The occasion of the pandemic, and the deep roots of pre-pandemic inequality that exacerbated its impact, have reopened a door that has been slammed shut: An expectation that the government is responsible for society’s ills, and that substantial amounts of money can and should be handed out.

As former Democratic congressman Barney Frank put it to the Washington Post:

It’s been a major shift. People have gone from being anti-government, to beyond being even neutral on it, to thinking: “We need the government; it has to help us,” You have a new consensus in America — that the government has an important role, and that Ronald Reagan was wrong. For the first time in my lifetime, people are saying that the government has done too little rather than doing too much.

- Joe Biden’s COVID Relief Bill is Rightfully Bringing Back Government Handouts, JacobinMag.com, March 11, 2021.

 

3 Jennifer Decker has solid conservative credentials. A first-term Republican state lawmaker in Kentucky who used to work for Sen. Rand Paul, she represents a county that voted for Donald Trump last year by nearly 30 percentage points.

Yet at a time when many of her Republican counterparts around the country are racing to pass stringent new restrictions on voting — fueled in part by Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election — Decker’s first major bill swerved.

It aimed to make it easier for people to vote in the state.

Kentucky on Wednesday became the only state in the country with a Republican-controlled legislature to expand voting rights after a bitter presidential election that tested the country’s democratic institutions and elevated ballot access as an animating issue for both parties.

In a signing ceremony on Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, hailed the bill as a bipartisan effort that cut against the push in other Republican legislatures to put up barriers to voting.

“When much of the country has put in more restrictive laws, Kentucky legislators, Kentucky leaders were able to come together to stand up for democracy and to expand the opportunity for people to vote,” Beshear said.

The reasons that Kentucky Republicans have diverged on voting rights range from the political to the logistical. For one, they had an easier sell: With sweeping new rules allowing the election to be held safely during the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans in Kentucky had one of their best cycles in years, with both Sen. Mitch McConnell and Trump easily winning in the state.

And expanding voting access in Kentucky was a low bar to clear;the state had some of the tightest voting laws in the country before 2020, with not a single day of early voting, and strict limits on absentee balloting.

- Why Kentucky Just Became the Only Red State to Expand Voting Rights, The New York Times, April 6, 2021.

 

About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

 

(作者:张欣)

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