Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Take on Bathroom Laws

Over the past 24 hours I have taken a hard and quite bizarre journey into the new world of gender identity. In order to make sense of the controversy surrounding the bathroom debate in North Carolina, I had to wade through the new sexual identity lexicon. I'm still quite sure that I don't understand any of it, but here they are, just in case you're wondering:

Transgender, pansexual, bisexual, asexual, cisgender, intersex, queer, genderqueer

Incidentally, approximately 99.7% of us are not transgendered, so therefore, not subject to either the protections or violations of this North Carolina law, depending on which side of this issue you happen to be on. In other words, most of us are cisgender. Despite the minuscule number of people involved, apparently Charlotte, North Carolina is the epi-center of transgender life in America since that city saw fit to craft a law that allowed its citizens to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable with, rather than the one which matches what's on their birth certificates, or as the Trans folks like to say, "the gender you were assigned at birth." I found this phrase amusing, since it conjured up an image of some gray haired old kill joy arbitrarily assigning gender on a spiteful whim, rather than by just looking and saying, "Ok, that one's got a penis. Male...check!

Anyway, once the Governor of the State got wind of what the city of Charlotte was up to, he hastily called the state assembly into special session to put a stop to it by passing, he insists with bipartisan support, NC house bill 2. This bill requires that all North Carolinians use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender identification on their birth certificate. If someone who has actually gone to the trouble of having all of the operations necessary to become fully, physically transgendered, they could have their birth certificates changed and use their new preferred sexual identity bathroom. If they haven't bothered to have their birth certificates changed, then they will be in violation of this new law. So a person who was born female but identifies as male, would have to go the ladies bathroom. Conversely, a person born male, but who identifies as female, would have to visit the men's room.

 I blame all of this on indoor plumbing. You didn't have these types of problems in the days of outhouses. Back then, the only thing anyone was concerned with come bathroom time was coming out alive! This is what happens with all of these fancy new gadgets. Somebody developes advanced plumbing methods and pretty soon you've got long rows of shiny urinals as far as the eye can see. It was a recipe for disaster from the beginning!

Couple of things...I don't understand what horrible wrong the Charlotte law was trying to remedy. Has there been an uptick in sexually charged bathroom attacks throughout the city? Or is this a solution in desperate need of a problem? I mean, we're talking .3% of the population, right? Maybe the LBGT crowd figured that they've been on such a winning streak lately, what the heck? Why not go for bathroom equality? But, I also can't quite understand what the North Carolina Governor was aiming at with his law either. Here's why.

Ok, when I pop in to your garden variety public bathroom, I'm a pretty single minded guy. I'm thinking, this place is disgusting, why didn't I go before I left the house! My mission is to find a urinal which is farthest away from any human as possible. If not, I want the one next to the best dressed, least odiferous human. Once in place, my eyes are front and center baby, there's no turning to the right or to the left. I'm not interested in anybody else's work, I'm trying to set the all time land speed record for getting the hell out of a public bathroom, that's all! Now, if the Charlotte law were the law of the land, my chances of sidling up next to a transgendered man are roughly as high as my chances of winning the lottery while juggling chainsaws, as I walk on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.(slightly higher in Key West). Nevertheless, if, against all odds it were to happen, if I understand the physics properly, then the woman/man standing at the urinal beside me, wouldn't be, because she/he would most likely be in a stall...because of...you know, biology. So, I will most likely miss out on my chance encounter. For my wife, her chance encounter would be similar since the man/woman standing at the urinal next to her wouldn't be standing there because there are no urinals in the ladies bathroom! So this elusive transgendered person would be going about his/her business in the privacy of his/her stall. So...what encounter?

But Doug, but Doug, you may be thinking...how would you feel if some ripped, hot, twenty something male model walked into the same bathroom that your wife was in the process of using? I probably wouldn't like it very much, but that isn't what this law is about. Yeah, I know. Slippery slopes and all that. Well, in the immortal words of Ted Kennedy, let's drive off that bridge when we get there!

Yesterday I published a quote from a transgendered man named Charlie. I repeat it here:

"Some of us transition physically, some of us don't. Some of us are more feminine or more masculine with no correlation to what gender we are. Some of us identify as nonbinary/gender nonconforming, and I realize these might be new terms for folks. Look it up. Educate. I am a transgender male and nonbinary, and yes, that is possible."

Never in a million years will I ever be able to understand what Charlie's life must be like. To go through life fraught with so much physical, sexual, emotional, not to mention spiritual confusion is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. So, part of me thinks, listen, if it gets him through the day, he can go in whatever bathroom he wants. I admit, I don't know the statistics on sexual assaults among the transgender community. Are they many times more likely to commit sexual assaults, especially on children? If so, maybe the North Carolina law is a good thing. But if not, maybe we should all just chill out for a minute and ask ourselves whether either one of these laws was a necessary step. How about we all just remember to go before we leave the house? Even better, why don't we all consider reinstating the outhouse?

I now will officially retire this subject from further discussion ever on this blog. Yes, I wash my hands of this business forever!




This is Going To Be Harder Than I Thought

Ok, after this morning's blogpost about the North Carolina transgender bathroom kerfuffle, I have been bombarded by my readers with articles, news releases and videos to help me educate myself on this contentious issue. So much so, that I feel a sudden urge to relieve myself...of my obligation to write a follow up piece. If I do write it, afterwards I intend to wash my hands of the whole business. I am learning all sorts of things though. Did you know, for instance, of ure-inate expectation of privacy in a public bathroom? Me neither!

This issue, when boiled down to it's essence, involves a couple of things...number 1 and number 2, and who exactly we should be doing either in the presence of. When writing tomorrow's blog, I will try to cover my words in at least a thin tissue of respectability. This will not be easy since at the moment I am flush with loads of bathroom humor. Yes, I know that this is a very serious issue and we are all adults here. However, it's difficult to resist middle school humor with a subject which can reasonably and appropriately begin with the phrase...Two transvestites walk into a bathroom.

But, I promise that after tomorrow morning, no more stall-ing. I will not dump this responsibility onto anyone else. I fully intend to delve deeply into the bowels of the issue, and produce a reasoned and fair presentation of the facts. Who knows, maybe my words will start a great movement.

 

Nature's Call in North Carolina Just Got Complicated

A friend of mine, and resident of North Carolina, recently asked my opinion about that State's new law requiring people to use the public bathrooms which correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. I told her that I hadn't yet formed an opinion since this is exactly the type of story that I have a hard time making it through to the end. Usually about half way through, my mind begins to melt.  So, this morning I've been reading as many articles as I can find about this raging controversy. In one of them, I ran across this quote from a transgendered man:

"Some of us transition physically, some of us don’t. Some of us are more feminine or more masculine with no correlation to what gender we are. Some of us identify as nonbinary/gender nonconforming, and I realize these might be new terms for folks. Look it up. Educate. I am a transgender male and nonbinary, and yes, that is possible!"

"New terms??" Try new universe!

Clearly, I have a lot to learn

So, I will launch myself on a voyage of discovery into this strange new world. At some point when I feel sufficiently educated, I will issue an opinion. My uneducated opinion is...what the heck?

                                                           To be continued

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In Praise of Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.

I have spent quite a bit of time in this space lamenting the woeful state of our current crop of Presidential candidates. So, perhaps it's about time I said something praiseworthy about a couple of them.

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are about as different as two men running for office could possibly be. Put them in a room together and ask them to agree on something...anything, and it might be a very long night. But each of these men have done something extraordinary during this campaign season. They have each won a primary in a State despite coming out against that state's most sacred cow. This bold example of anti-pandering is not only rare, but they were both right on the merits, a happy bonus. Here's what happened...

Ted Cruz was the only Republican candidate in Iowa to come out against the Ethanol lobby, a feather bedding government boondoggle of epic proportions which has been a gigantic waste of money, but a very popular and lucrative form of corporate welfare for Iowa farmers. Cruz was advised that his position would cost him any chance of winning the state. He stuck to his guns and his limited government principles. He won.

Bernie Sanders just annihilated Hillary Clinton in Washington State. That state's biggest employer and most powerful force happens to be Boeing, the nation's biggest beneficiary of the corporate welfare, crony capitalism monstrosity which is the Export-Import Bank. Sanders is perhaps the only Democrat in the US Senate who has consistently voted against the Bank, and he campaigned loudly against it in a state which benefits from it more than most. (Probably the biggest champion of the EI bank is Hillary Clinton). He won.

Congratulations to them both. Taking a stand on principle, despite the risks to their careers is what we say we want in our politicians. We say we hate poll-driven, politically expedient decision making. Well, in these two cases, we actually put our votes where our mouths were. Good for us!

Monday, March 28, 2016

An American Apology

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3511343/Marauding-parents-Easter-Egg-hunt-rampage-control-adults-push-children-ground-steal-buckets-leave-one-four-year-old-bloody-chaotic-free-event.html.....

I would like to apologize in advance for ruining your day. The link above will take you to a dark place, a place where your fellow man never fails to disappoint. Reading this story makes you doubt Mr. Jefferson's wisdom, for while man may be created equal, he doesn't stay that way for long.

Whenever I am confronted with a story like this, I simply cannot believe that it is true, largely because I don't know a single person who would behave this way...not one! Listen, in my universe of friends, family and acquaintances, there resides a few rather bizarre folks, more than a handful of mold busters, and quite a few who live on the fringes of normal. But, I don't know anyone who would show up at an Easter egg hunt determined to trample toddlers underfoot in their quest for...candy eggs. Of course, to make this horrifying spectacle much, much worse, the story appears in a British newspaper, insuring that America's dirtiest laundry enjoys a worldwide airing. 

There's a lot of that going around these days. The world is being treated to a daily dose of ugly American stories, courtesy of our Presidential election campaign...Your wife is ugly. Well, your wife is a slut. The world would be excused for thinking that all of America has jumped the shark. 

Well, to those of you reading this in foreign countries( and if my tracking statistics are to be believed, there are lots of you ), please believe me when I tell you that the America I know is filled with decent, kind and loving people. We are not all like the outliers you read about in the Daily Mail. Many of us look around us and think that some of our fellow citizens have lost their minds, sure. But for the most part, we are good people. We work hard, care about each other and love our kids...just like you. Some of those who want to lead us are embarrassing, and dumber than a bag of hammers, but be honest...aren't your politicians knuckleheads too? If you really want to know what our families are like, watch some old Walton's reruns, or check out a few episodes of Blue Bloods. 

Just promise me that you'll look the other way on Black Friday.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thinking About Easter

Easter Sunday will be strange tomorrow. This year, Pam and I are alone in this big old house. Last year we were in Nashville celebrating with our son and meeting his new girlfriend. Easter morning saw us at a packed Episcopal church. Before that, it had been the same for over twenty years...plastic eggs filled with money hidden downstairs, then empty tomb rolls for breakfast. Times change, along with our celebrations.

We will still have empty tomb rolls, which will seem weird without the kids. Then we will dress up for church, the one Sunday these days when we dress for church like we used to dress every Sunday. Yet another change. Because it's Grove, the music will be sweeping and grand, although all I really want to hear on this day is a thunderous pipe organ belting out Christ the Lord is Risen Today, the bass notes pounding in my chest! But that old classic has gone the way of the responsive reading in the modern Baptist liturgy. 

Easter is what I cling to nowadays. At a time when church has lost its urgency for me, and at a time when I spend most of my time there feeling embarrassed, the resurrection still moves me. It remains the essential doctrine that for me validates my faith. I have studied the story a thousand times, a thousand times I have tried and failed to fashion an explanation for it that doesn't include the physical resurrection of Jesus. Still, nothing explains the impact wrought on civilization by Christianity, other than that band of poor, itinerant fishermen seeing and touching the risen Christ. Nothing. Because he rose from the grave, he must have been the Son of God. For me, it all boils down to that central fact of history. Everything else is fluff.

So, tomorrow, alone among a year's worth of Sundays, I know that I'll be exactly where I'm supposed to be...at church

Friday, March 25, 2016

Two Political Jokes For Your Friday


John Kerry walks into a bar.
Bartender says, "Why the long face?"



Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are having lunch, going over the latest Congressional approval numbers when Harry says, "These numbers are terrible. The American people think we have lost touch with them, that we are all a bunch of pampered elitists. Nancy comes up with an idea. "Hey, how about you and I rent a dog and show up at a bar somewhere in Wyoming or someplace and buy everyone drinks. That will prove to everyone that we are just ordinary people, just like them! And who doesn't love dogs?"

So, they find a yellow lab at the local dog shelter


Then they hop a private jet and pretty soon they walk into the Cowboy Bar and Grill in Gillette, Wyoming just in time for happy hour, walk up to the bar and exclaim, "Free drinks on the house!" About ten minutes later a grizzled old rancher walks into the bar, walks up to Nancy and Harry, then reaches down and pulls up the dog's tail and carefully inspects his rear end, shakes his head and walks out. Fifteen minutes later, another rancher walks in and does the same thing...looks at the Congressmen, then inspects the poor dog's behind, then walks out. After three more such strange encounters, Harry Reid finally turns to the bartender and asks, "What's the deal with all of these guys lifting up our dog's tail?"

 The bartender answers, "Well, there's a rumor spreading around town that there's a dog in here with two assholes."


Thursday, March 24, 2016

We Are Better Than This.

I had a coach years ago who whenever we would do something wrong would say, "You're better than that!" That's how I feel about the United States right now. Surely, we are better than this. The trouble is that it's hard to find the evidence, since good news doesn't sell. Until this morning.

I posted the story on my Facebook page about a chance encounter between a mother who was about to go into labor and two strangers an hour away. To read about it is like taking a long hot shower after a day of yard work. Here's what happened:

A lady was about to go into labor at a hospital somewhere in Florida or Georgia. So she sent out a group text to family and friends appraising everyone of the situation. One of the people on her group text no longer used the cell number she had...so it was sent to someone else. The young man who received the text replied something like, "Ha, I think this text was meant for someone else, but congratulations!" When the expectant parents apologized for the mistake, the stranger replied, "no problem, my brother and I will come by later to get pictures with your baby!" What followed was about the sweetest, most decent thing I've run across in a very long time. Even though the hospital in question was over an hour's drive from the young man, Dennis Williams along with his brother Deorick not only made the drive, but incredibly, thought to stop at a store and buy some diapers, pacifiers and bottles as gifts.

Listen, we live in a screwed up world. Each morning's news paper is like a roll call of human failure. But, there are still good people all around us. Decent human beings who can take a half a day to drive an hour to bring gifts to a total stranger to help them celebrate the birth of their child. This story is made even more wonderful because these two stalwart human beings are African-Americans, and the new parents are white. 

God bless the Williams brothers for their generous spirits and for proving to all of us that we can be...better than this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Brussels

This time, it was Brussels, another suicide bomb attack in an airport and a subway station. 30 killed, hundreds wounded. The bombs contained nails, we were told. There's a video showing terrified travelers cowering behind their luggage. There are grisly photographs of the carnage and one grainy one of the bombers walking through the airport minutes before the detonation. I stared at it for several minutes, wondering what must have been going through their minds at such a moment. Were they afraid? Ecstatic at the prospect of their virgins? Or simply ablaze with religious zeal, delirious at the thought of administering judgement on the infidels?

The President of France made a statement. Something about how an attack on Brussels was an attack on all of Europe. Our President inserted a 51 second diversion from his prepared remarks in Cuba to express solidarity with the Belgian people. Later, during remarks to an ESPN reporter at a baseball game, he mentioned how this latest attack was another reminder of how the world needed to stand together against terrorism and violence. Some commentator mentioned NATO and the words of it's charter which require us, the U.S. to respond militarily. Another pundit mentioned that these types of attacks seem to target European cities rather than American one's of late. Yet another spoke of the symbolism and propaganda victory it was for ISIS to pull off an attack in the literal capital of the European Union and headquarters of NATO.

Our Presidential candidates held to form. Donald Trump immediately called for tighter control of our border and tightened immigration. Hillary Clinton immediately dispatched a Tweet declaring that "Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism." I would have thought that this Tweet might have sounded less rediculously clueless had she used the modifier..."most,". 

The European commentariat took to drawing touching cartoons of weeping Belgians being comforted by their empathetic EU brothers. The Eiffle Tower was lit up in Belgian colors last night. Soon, hashtag campaigns will sprout up like daffodils in April. My Facebook feed will become festooned with the Belgian flag. We will all become Belgian for a week. Then we will go back to our lives and wait for the next great city of western civilization to be besieged. Who will it be? Prague? Berlin, Budapest, Barcelona? Munich, Madrid, Valencia? Whoever it turns out to be, we can be relied upon to express solidarity with the victims, and to pledge to do whatever it takes to wipe out the scourge of international terrorism from the face of the earth.

That, and a couple of lira might buy you a cappuccino in Valencia.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Thinking Nervously About Noah

"Americans More Skeptical of God Than Ever..." was the headline that caught my eye on Drudge this morning. 

On a related note, God Isn't Terribly Thrilled With Us At The Moment Either, would have been a nice companion story.

Every few years we see these surveys taken which attempt to measure the religious beliefs of Americans. All of the trends seem to suggest that we have lost or are in the process of losing our faith. There is plenty of room for quibbling with the data. While belief in God is declining, interest in spirituality had been on the upswing...until this latest survey which has even that slipping away. In addition, belief in God and membership and identification with one of the many churches claiming to represent him are two different things. But even here, the numbers don't look good. Membership and attendance are way down across the board. All of which leaves me with the nagging question of, which came first? Have we abandoned our faith because we have become such horrible, selfish people...or have we become horrible, selfish people because we have abandoned our faith? I'll leave that one to the theologians.

As I survey the world around me, I come to the inescapable conclusion that if I were God, I would wash my hands of all of us. God is patient and kind and long suffering, we are informed by the book of Psalms. Well, it's a good thing, or we would all be toast. When I observe how we treat each other down here, the greed, the hatred, the ugliness, I've got to think that there's a part of God that is getting increasingly pissed off. Back in Noah's day, we learned that God's famous forebearence had limits. The stuff they were doing back then seems like entry level degradation compared to a typical Tuesday afternoon on the Internet today.

At this point, I'd settle for some basic human decency. Sometimes, I'll find some story of a homeless guy who stumbles across a wad of 100 dollar bills that has fallen out of someone's pocket. I watch the video of the guy spending 15 minutes trying to find the owner, then when that fails he finds some of his homeless friends and shares his largesse with all of them. On the one hand, the story warms my heart, on the other hand it shames me because I know that most "respectable people" in a similar situation might have tried (briefly) to find the owner, but afterwards would have pocketed every red nickel. Would I have sought out five of my friends to share the money with? Uh...no. This, I believe is at the root of our problem.mthe more stuff we have, the less important our fellow man becomes to us. The homeless guy has nothing, except those he shares his life on the streets with. They are his prized possessions. The words of Jesus ring true, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."


Sunday, March 20, 2016

What Do I Want For My Birthday?

Exactly two weeks from today, I will endure another birthday. It will be my 58th. Pretty soon my wife will ask me what I want for my birthday. I will offer one of my famously frustrating answers, "I really can't think of anything. Whatever you get will be fine." She will rightly point out that this is not an answer. The problem is that everything that I want is either too expensive, or too theoretical. How exactly to you wrap up, calmness? In what size box do you place, peace?

Don't misunderstand me, I have many reasons to celebrate April the 3rd, not the least of which is that it sure beats the alternative. In ways large and small, I have lived a blessed life. It has featured more victory than defeat, more health than illness, and more wealth than poverty. It was my very good fortune to be raised by two extraordinary parents, and surrounded by three loving siblings. I married far beyond my station and brought two exemplary children into this world. I received a hard won education, started and built a business of my own from scratch. Along the way I have found friends to share it all with. And yet...

This is where one must be careful. It is difficult to speak of anxiety and disenchantment without sounding like a whiner. Indeed, it may be impossible. We are about to find out, I suppose. This year, as I approach April 3rd, I do so with an odd heaviness, a weight of doubt. Many things contribute to the weight, and none of them particularly stand out as the prime culprit. In no particular order, here they are...

1. I miss my kids.

My children are grown and gone, and this is a fabulous and happy thing. Both of them have become independent adults, valuable additions to their communities and terrific human beings. I am quite proud of both of them. My oldest, Kaitlin, a world class teacher of the English language to middle schoolers, married a fabulous young man who has proven his mettle both as a husband and provider. My son, Patrick, is a hard working businessman and musician who has carved out a nice life for himself the old fashioned way...by working hard and well. The trouble with all of this is that they are miles and miles away from us. Columbia, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee are not cities where you drop by for dinner when you live in Short Pump, Virginia. So, they live and build their full lives without us. Yes, we text, talk and FaceTime. Yes, we plan vacations together. But, neither of them are here, and that fact has left a vacuum. When they start having kids of their own the vacuum will become a canyon.

2. Running a business isn't nearly as fulfilling as starting one.

Establishing myself in the investment advisory business was no small feat. I nearly quit a hundred times. But eventually, I was able to make a go of it, and it has been a rewarding career. Of course, the hand maiden of my work is often debilitating stress. As a younger man, I never gave it a second thought. The older I have gotten, the harder it has become to manage. 

3. I miss my parents.

My mom died nearly four years ago. My dad followed her two years later. I have never fully recovered from their loss. I don't weep, I'm not paralyzed by depression. But hardly a week goes by when at least once I think of how much I want to pick up the phone and hear their voices on the other end of the line. There are so many things I wish I could tell them, things I want to ask them about. But, it's too late for that. Instead, I must rely on my increasingly faded memories.

4. I have become spiritually homeless.

It has been a long, slow process, but I have become disconnected from the Baptist denomination in general and my home church of 27 years in particular. Most of this disconnection is my own fault. There is nothing especially horrible about my church. In many ways it is a remarkable place with a proud and noble heritage of faith. For me, it has become irrelevant to the realities of life in 2016. Nothing much has changed about the place since I joined as a young man. As life has gotten more complicated and much more serious, it's casual air of informality has begun to irritate me. I guess I'm longing for spiritually sterner stuff, something which finds its roots in an earlier century, a liturgy that wasn't conjured up in the 1950's, but rather closer to AD 50.

But, enough with all of this self reflection. What do I want for my birthday? It's simple really:

I want a week in Key West, in a villa on Sunset Key where Jon and Kaitlin can have one bedroom, Patrick's wonderful girlfriend, Sarah, can have another, and Patrick can sleep on a pull out sofa in the den. Pam and I will have the master bedroom which has its own private deck overlooking the blue ocean. While we are there, the stock market will go up every day, and all of my clients will be deliriously happy with their portfolios in my absence. At the end of a sandy road in an obscure corner of the island, we will find an Evangelical-Anglican-Holiness church with a 100 voice choir and sixty piece professional orchestra, where the guest speaker will be a hologram of C.S. Lewis. After a thunderous adaptation of an anthem by Handel, special music will be supplied by Steven Curtis Chapman accompanying himself on a Martin six string after he shared the inspiring story of the lives of Emmett and Betty Dunnevant.

Got all that, Pam?







Friday, March 18, 2016

Worst Case Scenario

Ok kids, it's the day after St. Patrick's Day, the perfect time to contemplate worst case scenarios.

As I survey the dystopian carnage that is the political landscape of 2016, a couple of things seem apparent. At this point it no longer serves any purpose to pretend that the coming train wreck can be avoided, so let's dive into the abyss, shall we?

1. Donald Trump will either win the Republican nomination outright, or go to the convention with a majority of the delegates. In either case, the Republican Party hierarchy will come up with some way to deny him the nomination, either by way of some imaginative rule interpretation or outright thievery. If they stiff The Donald, there probably will be riots. Only, this time the riots will not be celebrated by the left or contextualized by the media like the ones in Ferguson and Baltimore. There will be no faculty lounge talk of legitimate expressions of rage by the dispossessed. No, these riots will be the old fashioned kind.

2. Upon leaving Cleveland, what's left of the Republican Party will be running someone like Jeb Bush, or John Kasich or Paul Ryan as their compromise candidate. The Donald will no doubt launch a third party bid for the Presidency. Having thus split the opposition, Hillary Clinton will sweep to an electoral college victory with only a plurality of the vote( just like her husband in 1992 ). She, of course, will misinterpret this as a mandate. On the heels of the Republican Party crackup, Democrats will take back both houses of Congress.

Admittedly, I paint a bleak picture, but isn't that what worst case sceneries are? Only this particular WCS isn't so far fetched. Which brings me to a question that I have privately been pondering ever since I heard Trump explain how highly educated he was by saying, "I have lots of words, I have the best words." What is to become of my country on November the 9th, 2016 when she only has one functioning national political party?"

As feckless and incompetent as they have often been, the Republican Party has at least provided a break on some of the more unhinged tendencies of the party of government. Although the Republican Party shares much of the blame for our 19 Trillion dollar national debt, can you imagine how high that number would be if Washington was only inhabited by people who wake up every morning salivating at the prospect of spending other people's money? And while examples of Republicans actually trying to reduce spending come along about as rarely as Thursday night sex, with only Democrats around, will the idea ever make another appearance in the public discussion? Having a political party in Washington that at least made an attempt to temper the boundless expansion of government, I like to think, has helped preserve what it left of the entrepreneurial instincts of this country. But when the Republican Party dies, then all that will be left is a triumphant, jubilant and emboldened Socialist project that no longer has to pay lip service to free enterprise. Thanks, Donald.

What are the alternatives to my worst case scenario?

1. Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination and sweeps into the White House with Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

2. Ted Cruz wins the Republican nomination on the second ballot in Cleveland, names John Kasich as his compromise VP, and this odd couple beat Hillary Clinton in November. Donald Trump, ever gracious in defeat, campaigns tirelessly for the Cruz-Kasich ticket.

The chances of either of these two coming to pass are roughly equivalent to Snoop Dogg's chances of landing the role of Captain Von Trapp in the coming remake of The Sound of Music.

So, until something more plausible comes along, I'll stick to doomsday.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Horrible Working Conditions?


Adam LaRoche is a left handed, power hitting, slick fielding first baseman for the Chicago White Sox...or at least he was until the other day when he suddenly announced his retirement from baseball at age 35. When the announcement came down I was shocked. He might not be in his prime, but he is still an outstanding player. Oh, and by retiring he will forfeit his $13,000,000.00 salary for 2016. The explanation he gave was "personal reasons."

I'm particularly interested in this story because LaRoche is a former Washington National, and I enjoyed watching him play there. By all accounts, he was not only a terrific player but a great clubhouse guy, popular not only with the fans but with his teammates as well. The little guy in the picture? That's Adam's son, Drake. They are practically inseparable. In his time in Washington, Drake was a constant clubhouse presence, sort of a team mascot.

It's not every day when a professional athlete voluntarily walks away from 13 million dollars. While it's true that during Mr. LaRoche's 12 year career he has banked nearly 70 million dollars, still...walking away from 13 more is rare. My first thought was...maybe his wife is ill, maybe some sort of family thing.

But then the story came out that the reason he was retiring from the game was indeed a family matter. White Sox general manager Ken Williams had apparently asked LaRoche to stop bring his son to work every day. It was Williams' position that a baseball clubhouse was not an appropriate place for a kid to spend all of his time, and besides, if every player brought their kids to work the place would turn into a zoo and somebody would end up getting hurt. LaRoche's response was, ok, if I can't bring my boy to work, then I won't come either.

Wow.

The reaction has so far been overwhelmingly positive in favor of LaRoche's stand. Former teammates have tweeted their support. Fans have hailed his devotion to his son. It's been a love fest.

So, why do I think he's nuts?

Listen, I love my kids, love being with them, love sharing life with them.  I've even brought them into my office on occasion. But is it an unreasonable request for an employer to ask an employee to leave their kid at home once in a while? No matter how much money LaRoche makes, he's still an employee. The boss gets to make the rules, and if he says no kids in the clubhouse, well, that's the way it's got to be, right? The White Sox planned their season assuming that Adam LaRoche was going to be their first baseman.  Now they've got to come up with a plan B because their guy got all butt hurt because Drake can't come to work with him? I'm sorry. Be a professional! Doesn't the kid have, like...school or something? 

The cynic in me is thinking that this is all a stunt to get LaRoche out of Chicago. Maybe he wants to play for someone else and he thinks that by threatening to retire, the Sox will trade him somewhere else. If not, and it actually IS all about the kid, sorry, it's stupid. Yet another pampered athlete that can't manage to play a game for which he gets paid an insane amount of money, unless he gets his way.

Is this yet another job that Americans won't do?


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Devil and the Deep Blue Pantsuit

Was yesterday Super Tuesday II or III? I can't keep up with all of the super stuff happening in this election. Nevertheless, the results yielded winners and losers:

LOSERS:

1. Marco Rubio. After getting clobbered in his home state of Florida by a man he clearly despises, the young Senator finally called it quits. I like him, voted for him when I had the chance. While I didn't agree on every position he took on the issues, I just liked him. He's smart, confident and positive. He's the kind of man who would as President imbue the office with youth and vigor. Maybe he was too young, maybe his resume too thin for 2016.

2. Ted Cruz. Even though he came close in Missouri and North Carolina, coming close isn't good enough when you're supposed to be the man who is going to overtake Trump. Losing in North Carolina was particularly disappointing, since it was a State that seemed well suited for his message. No matter how his campaign labors to spin the results, coming in second isn't how you become the nominee.

3. Bernie Sanders. Clearly, getting swept by Hillary Clinton last night put an end to the pipe dream that always was his candidacy. "FEEL THE BERN" was always a pretty cool slogan and all, but the heat is gone now. He put up a decent fight, and the fact that Hillary Clinton, with her war chest of dirty money and virtual lock on super delegates, had such a difficult time dispatching a 74 year old Socialist, says more about her than him. Although Bernie Sanders lives at the other end of the political universe from me, there was always something endearing about the man. For one thing, he was authentic. He didn't need an army of pollsters and confidence men to tell him how or what to think. He never once had to reinvent himself. He just walked up to the podium and said, "I'm Bernie Sanders. I'm a Red and proud of it. Vote for me." I'll miss him.

WINNERS:

1. Hillary Clinton. Barring an FBI indictment, a New York Times expose of a lesbian affair, or the discovery of a cancerous tumor in her lungs as the source of her incessant coughing, she is not only your Democratic nominee, but the next President of the United States. 

2. John Kasich. Finally...after 27 contests, the man wins something. Although, in all honesty, declaring a man with a 1-26 record in primaries a winner is sort of like declaring Bruce Jenner a lovely lady...sort of true, but not very convincing. What's next for the guy? Where can he possibly pull off another win? Nowhere. His big hope is to somehow become the compromise, consensus pick of a brokered convention. Good luck with that, John. 

3. Donald Trump. Anyone else who won four out of five contests last night on the Republican side would have been declared the clear winner. But every media outlet known to exist in the free world keeps grasping at the elusive straw of a deadlocked convention as a way of denying the man. In my lifetime, I have never seen a candidate so universally hated by practically every corner of the political establishment as Donald Trump...and yet, he keeps winning. It's actually funny hearing all of the wise men casting doubts..."Yes, but...he can't get above 45%!...Yes, but now that Rubio is out, conservatives will coalesce around Cruz!...Yes, but now that Kasich has won Ohio, he won't be able to get enough delegates before the convention!" When I was growing up, this kind of talk was called, whistling past the graveyard.

So, my takeaway from last night was this...the 2016 election will be a contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton...the Devil and the Deep Blue Pantsuit. Come November the 8th, all of us will be about ready to blow our brains out.

Monday, March 14, 2016

...And Now it Gets Ugly

"If we can make it through this election without someone getting shot, it will be a miracle."

 I wrote the above on March 2. After the events of this past weekend, the odds have gotten a lot longer. I spent the past few days in North Myrtle Beach relaxing and enjoying some truly beautiful weather. After one particularly spectacular day of lounging on the beach, we settled in front of the television in our pajamas. Both FOX and CNN were wall to wall with the Chicago ugliness. There were several hundred protesters marching on the floor of a Trump rally holding signs and locking arms. Some wore sombreros, one had wrapped himself in a Mexican flag, one held a sign that said, We Are Not Rapists. There were Bernie Sanders supporters, people from Black Lives Matters. Most were young, most seemed from one ethnic minority group or another. A black man appeared on the podium tearing up a piece of paper, trying to avoid being whisked away by a pair of security people. Then suddenly a white man and a black man were shown nose to nose in a heated argument. Soon, they were throwing punches. Trump supporters then started coming down from the crowd into the stew of chanters on the  floor of the hall, mostly middle aged men holding their own signs, thrusting pointed fingers angrily at the equally angry protesters. Meanwhile, outside the arena, Chicago police were trying to maintain order among the thousand of so protesters in the street. Arrests were being made, angry people, tightly packed together swayed back and forth, being jostled this way and that by the confused efforts of police batons. Faces contorted by angry shouts filled my television screen. Breathless announcers did their best to make a bad situation worse by piling on unhinged reactions to the images on screen.

Soon, Donald Trump was on the phone informing us that he had cancelled the event because of his concern for everyone's safety. For the next fifteen minutes, he skillfully played the victim, once again live and in prime time, via television time that he didn't have to pay for. 

As I watched this unfold in front of me, this thought came to me...Donald Trump just won the Republican nomination.

An argument can be made that Trump had this coming. His rallies have featured several ugly incidents of protesters being roughed up, with his vocal encouragement. But, like my mother used to say, "It's all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out!" Some may say that it's poetic justice that a Trump rally would be cancelled because of a thousand immigrant protesters. Others might point out that it's the height of irony for Trump to present himself as having had his First Amendment rights violated...when it has been Donald Trump who has championed an opening up of libel laws that would make it easier for him to lock up people who write bad things about him! But, as I watched the events unfold, all I could see was how a majority of people in my country would see it...an unruly mob trying to silence speech. Whatever the purpose of this protest was, if it was designed to rally people against Trump, it was a miserable failure. I would have felt exactly the same if a thousand Trump supporters had shown up at a Bernie Sanders of Hillary Clinton rally and forced its cancellation. My sympathies would have been squarely with Sanders and Clinton, not the screamers.

Now, a new chapter to the 2016 election story is opened, the part where we try to shout each other down, the part where protesters attempt to silence speech they would prefer not to hear. Each new event will feature louder and angrier denunciations. The blowback will be strong and equally angry. 
 
Somewhere, an unbalanced man or woman is contemplating martyrdom.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Breakfast With No Regrets


I've been eating breakfast at this place for literally decades. The Golden Griddle in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It's run by a handful of the nicest women in the world and is only opened for breakfast. Show up here for lunch or dinner and you're out of luck. It's a no fuss sort of place, where they unapologetically offer paper placemats with a map of South Carolina. The decor?...plastic golfer kitsch.


But, then they bring you your food...



When a meal like this is placed in front of you, immediately your health obsessed, calorie counting  alter ego starts barking at you, "This is a mistake! You're gonna regret this all day!" Perhaps. But the other part of you, the real you, the one that hasn't changed his habits since middle school is thrilled. This entire feast is mine for $12.99, every caveman morsel will be eaten.

There's their world famous short stack of buttermilk pancakes. I like the term short stack because it suggests that I exercised restraint by not ordering the tall stack,(much better value). When my waitress, the beautiful and talented Daisy suggested I try the sausage special of the day...spicy kielbasa, I figured I better go with the short stack. Incidentally, any eating establishment that features a daily sausage special wins at life. The special was as advertised...spicy, to the point that I had to ask for a refill on ice water. Daisy did so cheerfully adding a sincere, "bless your heart." As she walked away I noticed her t-shirt...I'm a hot mess.

The three plates are empty. I have left no evidence that any food was ever, in fact, served to me. I feel full...in a dangerous way. The plan now is to pay for my sins with a long run on the beach while I wait for Pam and Kaitlin to get here. I came down yesterday to meet with my two Pawley's Island clients and decided to make a weekend of it. It's 75 and sunny. I may even swing a golf club for the first time in 6 months. But this meal, this place will be one of the highlights.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Robots Writing Poetry?

I sit here on a Tuesday evening waiting for the election results, wondering if the Trump-Train gets derailed, or if we continue our slouch towards Gomorrah. Will Hillary's joyless forced march to the nomination continue, or will the old man steal one in Michigan?

While I wait, I'll share with you all an extrordinarily depressing text conversation I had with my son this afternoon. In the course of an otherwise harmless exchange, he informed me that there now exist robots who have been programmed to write music for the purposes of background music for commercials, movies etc. and apparently, they aren't half bad! Oh, and software exists that can extend the Bot-music for as long as the sequence demands. In other words, human musicians need not apply.

Since nobody on earth could accuse me of keeping up with technology, I was flabbergasted that such a thing was possible. Aghast, I shot back:

"What!? I wonder when we will see our first robot-written novel?? Or poetry???"

To which, without so much as a moment's hesitation, he delivered the news that it's already happened on the poetry side. He then provided me a link where I could go and read a collection of poetry and try and decide whether a poem was written by a human or a robot! I informed him that if I lived to be a hundred years old, I would never visit such a website!! 

Our conversation ended on a happier note, but it stills haunts me. Robots writing novels? Bot-music?? I'm sorry, art simply isn't art unless it proceeds from the imagination of human being. Art can't be produced by soulless things. Otherwise, it's just a commodity, a mass-produced blob of a thing that is spit out of a giant, faceless machine! The very idea that a programmed device is thought  capable of the creative impulse neccesary to conceive and then construct art is...is...I don't know what it is. But I'm pretty sure it's despicable!

All of my life I've been told by all the smart people how the technological revolution was great news for the human race. Indeed, I enjoy it's fruit every single day, and am right this minute, writing this blog on my iPad. But when I see the rise of drones and the rapidly advancing army of robots out there...yes, making our work easier, but also making us easier to do without, I'm starting to fear this brave new world. I'm no Luddite, just a little concerned about just where we human beings fit into the plans of the geniuses in Silicon Valley. Will my as yet unborn grandchildren have enough skill to do anything better and cheaper than the machines that will be coming online 20 years from now? If not, what on earth will they do with themselves?


Monday, March 7, 2016

Goodbye, Downton Abbey

Pam and I watched the very last episode of Downton Abbey last night. The fact that someone like me would have watched even one episode of such a show is astonishing now that I think about it. Generally speaking, I've never been particularly fond of the British, with the notable exceptions of Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, and The Beatles. When I think of England, I think of General Bernard Montgomery of WWII fame, a pompous gasbag who couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag, but looked splendid in a uniform having his afternoon tea while George Patton was busy kicking Germany's ass. But, I digress.

Despite my misgivings, this show got it's hooks into me from the very start six years ago. I have spent those six years trying to figure out why. Was it the house? Might it have been the great writing? The richly drawn characters? The fascinating interaction of the classes? The grand sweep of the story?

Yes.

 Although last night's two hour finale wasn't the show's finest hour...everything got wrapped up with too tidy a bow for my taste...it left me sad that it was over. It felt like my one hour a week of civilization has died. Now we can all go back to the sewer of the Presidential election 24/7. Great. But, all good things must come to an end, I'm told. 

So, goodbye to a drama about characters who you cared about. Goodbye to intelligent conversation. Goodbye to that beautiful estate, and that majestic countryside. Goodbye to Carson's prodigious eyebrows, Mrs. Hughes' charming Scottish accent. Goodbye to Daisy's insufferable whining, and Mr. Bates' perpetually tilted head and slumped shoulders. Goodbye to sweet, sweet Anna, the lovably bumbling Mosley, and the constantly harried Mrs. Patmore. But most of all...and I can hardly make myself write it...goodbye to the splendid, unstoppable Dowager Countess, without whom the show would have failed miserably. Watching her for six years on Sunday nights has forced me to add Maggie Smith to my list of most admired Englishmen. What a beauty she was, with her caustic observations, withering one-liners and truly hysterical facial expressions. The woman carried the show, and above all others will be missed, even mourned the most.

Goodbye Downton, and here's hoping that your lasting legacy might prove to be a return to....good manners.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pat Conroy. Oct. 1945 - Mar. 2016

Pat Conroy died yesterday. He was only 70. He had pancreatic cancer. I wasn't even aware that he was sick. Still, it surprised me that he would have died by means other than suicide. Pat Conroy was and remains my favorite American writer of the 20th century. No one else is even close.

I was introduced to him the year before the birth of my first child, 1986. The book was The Prince of Tides. I was mesmerized by the lushness of his prose, its beauty and power, and the dark, disturbing story. Like all of Conroy's work, Prince was thinly veiled autobiography. To say that he had a rough childhood somehow sounds flippant. His childhood was brutal and horrifying, and the fictionalized version of it made for spellbinding reading. I was hooked. 

From there I began devouring everything else from this modern day Faulkner. First it was The Great Santini, then The River is Wide and The Lords of Discipline. All were set in the low country of South Carolina, with its brooding marshes, succulent shrimp dishes and humid briny breezes. Each novel was a new chapter from the author's tortured life; Santini, the story of his animalistic marine corps father, River, the story of his short, unhappy year as a teacher of poor kids on Daufuskie Island, and Lords, the deeply disturbing account of his four years at South Carolina's Citadel. I would read his work in much the same way as a motorist stares at a four car pile up on the interstate, half expecting to see a severed head rolling along the road. But despite the bleak darkness of his life, there were moments of beauty made more compelling by the darkness. There was a tenderness about his heroes that survived  the evil. Even though you knew there wouldn't be a happy ending, you plowed on because the beauty of his writing was worth it. He had the southerner's gift for story telling, the kind of stories that just couldn't possibly be true. As you read, you were convinced that it was all outlandish fiction right up to the very second when you discovered it wasn't, an artful turn of phrase that betrayed the autobiographers hand. It was then that you would shudder, and recoil a bit. Great writing will do that.

I became something of a Pat Conroy evangelist back in 1986. I gave the book to my sister, raving that I had discovered the greatest southern novelist since Thomas Wolfe. She hated it. Claimed it was too disturbing. She was right, of course. I soon discovered that Conroy wasn't for everyone.

His later novels, Beach Music and South of Broad werent as good as his earlier work, but still very good. In an interview he gave a few years ago he had said that growing up in a dysfunctional family had been the greatest gift any writer could have been given. His brother Tom committed suicide, his sister spent time in a mental hospital, and the author had two nervous breakdowns while writing, or at least two that his publicist will admit to. And now he has succumbed to cancer.

To read a Conroy book is like grieving for something. To become emersed in such a nightmarish life is to appreciate all the more the normality of your own. To imagine the Great Santini striding over his family like a simmering, hulking beast is to nearly cry at the gentle goodness of your own father. When I finished Santini I remember thinking, this is what life could have been like if I had belonged to someone else.

So, today I thank the great writer for making me love my parents even more.

Rest in Peace, Pat Conroy.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Perfect President

It's a whole lot easier to identify bad Presidential candidates than it is to recognize good ones. In this particular race the truly horrendous ones stand out like sore thumbs...again with the hands!! But the better candidates all have flaws as well. Besides, just being associated with this WWF-style campaign has stained them all. So, what if you could go into a lab somewhere and build the perfect Presidential candidate? What if you could create the perfect candidate out of spare parts from the basement over at the Smithsonian? Of course, the candidate who I would build wouldn't necessarily be perfect for my liberal friends. My conservative friends wouldn't be totally thrilled either, I suspect, but...here goes.

Presidential candidate prototype

Physical characteristics:

Female, 5'6" 135 pounds. Blond hair, blue eyes. Not stunningly beautiful, but fairly attractive. No obvious scars or tattoos. No annoying facial tics. 55 years old.

Background:

Born in Kansas. Graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Obtained her Masters degree in History from the University of Virginia. Met and married her husband after grad school and settled in Charlottesville, Virginia where she began teaching high school history. After having two children and in only her fifth year as an educator, she wins national teacher of the year honors in a ceremony at the White House. It is while touring that great house that she decides she might like to be President one day. To better prepare herself for the job, she decides to retire from teaching and join the military. Consequently, she spends the next eight years serving her country in the United States Navy. Upon completion of her tour of duty, she returns to Charlottesville and wins a seat on the local school board, then as a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly, then two terms as a Congresswoman in Washington, DC.

Religion:

Presbyterian who actually attends church every Sunday, but never, ever talks about her faith in the course of her professional duties. When asked by the media about her faith she always responds, "I am a Christian who attends a Presbyterian church."

Hobbies:

Avid reader. Loves the classics, but also indulges in espionage novels, sci-fi thrillers, and the occasional murder mystery. Enjoys dogs, fishing, golf and brewing her own beer.

Policy Positions:

Wants to figure out a way to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for future generations while reversing the actuarial trend lines of those entitlements. Is committed to looking at all options available to get this done, including but not limited to, tax increases, benefit cuts, raising the retirement age, means testing and partial privatization. She sees all of these programs on a path to bankruptcy in the not too distant future and will not under any circumstances continue to do absolutely nothing about it. This is the central plank in her platform and primary motivation for her candidacy.

Is committed to achieving a balanced federal budget within ten years. Is willing to cut spending and raise taxes to get it done. No federal program will be exempt from cuts, including and especially the defense budget. 

Her foreign policy platform is based on a very old school of thought which she traces back to the founding fathers who believed in avoiding all "entangling alliances." She believes that if America doesn't want to get involved in another war in the Middle East, we should get the hell out of the Middle East. As a veteran, she is proud of the capabilities and virtue of the United States military, but is keenly aware of its limitations. It is not a nation building enterprise, it is a force to protect the American people from those who would do us harm, not a plaything of politicians who seem addicted to projecting power all over the world.

On the subject of immigration, she believes that our national borders can and should be secured. Any nation that loses control of its borders loses control of itself. However, building a giant wall to accomplish this is about as dumb an idea that has come along since the creation of the helium reserve. As far as the millions of undocumented aliens currently in the country, she believes that some pathway to becoming citizens would work better than rounding up millions of people for deportation.

She believes in a philosophy of honest government doing the things that it does best and only doing those things which the Constitution has given it the authority to do. Therefore, under her administration, all departments and bureaus of the federal government will be reviewed by a large and distinguished panel of scholars to determine their constitutionality. Then a recommendation will be submitted to Congress to determine the future of the Commerse Department, Department of Education, HUD etc...Any savings that may come from shuttered agencies will be put towards repaying the National debt.

She believes that abortion should only be an option if the life of the mother is at risk. She views the issue as one of protecting the defenseless child. However, she also views the issue as settled law that as President she has no power to change by fiat. Instead, she prefers promoting adoption as a more humane alternative. On the issue of gay marriage, she believes in the definition of marriage that had survived for four thousand years, but doesn't believe that the institution of marriage is something that is very much of the government's business in the first place.

She believes in tort law reform and criminal justice reform, especially in the area of sentencing. She believes that Americans should be discouraged from suing each other at the drop of a hat. She also believes that employers should not be allowed to deny job applicants consideration solely because of a criminal conviction. This needed reform would go a long way towards reversing the unacceptable unemployment rate among minorities.

She believes in tax reform which would feature the elimination of corporate tax loopholes that allow for the off-shoring of profits and the on-shoring of deductions. She prefers a combination of a flat tax with a minimum income requirement which would protect lower income families. She is flexible as to what rate the tax would settle on and is willing to listen to all suggestions. However, the end result must be the abolition of the IRS, and the end of tax accountants making a fortune courtesy of our 700,000 page tax code.

Ok, there you have it...my perfect Presidential candidate. If I left out your pet issue, feel free to complain. Or, even better...build your own candidate. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Debate Fatigue

Apparently Donald Trump won another debate last night. At least that's what all the unscientific online polls say. Oh, and since Trump tweeted that he clearly won, it must be true. I didn't watch this time. I just couldn't. I'm worn out by it all.

From everything I've read this morning Mr. Trump outdid himself. Perhaps the all-time low point came when he reassured the American people that the size of his penis was indeed Presidential. That remark falls under the category, JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT COULDNT POSSIBLY GET ANY WORSE.

As an American, one who loves his country and feels grateful to live here, it is hard not to give in to despair, watching one of the two major political parties commit suicide. The reemergence of Mitt Romney, a two time loser in presidential politics, dark talk of a brokered convention and a third party challenge either to Trump or by him lead me to the conclusion that the Republican Party is about to go the way of the Whigs. And this from a party which controls both houses of congress and a majority of state houses. How, in the name of all that is holy did this happen?

I hear that Americans are angry. I hear this every day. It is referenced as a way of explaining the filthy thing that this campaign has become, as if anger justifies insanity. Am I angry? Well, yes. There are things about America in 2016 that I'm angry about. I'm angry that neither party seems to care about the 19 trillion dollars of debt we have run up. I'm angry that no one currently running for president has articulated how he or she plans on altering the certain fact that in 17 year's time every single dime that the federal government  spends will go to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Pentagon and the interest on our national debt. Sure, I'm angry about lots of things. But am I angry enough to jettison the Constitution, and elect a strongman? Am I angry enough at terrorism to elect a man who vows to force our military to commit war crimes? Am I angry enough at political correctness to elect a man who has elevated crudeness to presidential status? No. I will never be that angry.

Nothing seems to stop Mr. Trump's rise. No matter how many times he contradicts himself, no matter how many lies he gets caught in, no matter what vile thing flies out of his mouth, his poll numbers stay high. Maybe America is at a place where we want a strongman. Maybe we want someone large and in charge to ride into town and destroy things. Maybe we want to be freed from that straight jacket called the Bill of Rights. Maybe we have lost so much faith in our founding documents and principles that we are ready to have faith in something else, someone else. Maybe we are looking for the man on the strong horse because we have grown weary of weakness. 

But I have run out of explanations for Trump. Nothing I thought about him or his candidacy 8 months ago has turned out to be true, so what do I know? This I do know...no matter what happens from this point going forward, the Republican Party and this nation will never be the same as it was before Trump. I am overcome with the feeling that we are witnessing something gravely important, something about which our grandchildren will ask us to explain, "Pops, where were you and what did you do when Donald Trump took over the country?" I hope that I can claim that I fought hard against him, that I wasn't one of those who took the bait, that I maintained my faith in my country as founded. Hopefully I can point my grandkids to this blog as proof of my allegiance to republican government. 




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Find The Trump Voter

"I just got back from my voting precinct.  I walked in beside an elderly couple, observed a mom inviting her teenage daughters to watch her mark her choice on her ballot, and stood in line behind 2 Muslim women and a young Hispanic woman.  My ID was taken by a woman who may have been of Greek descent, and I was given a ballot by an African-American woman.  A retired white man showed me how to submit my paper ballot, and a college-aged guy gave me my I VOTED sticker.  This is how we roll in America!  Whatever the outcome is today, we are in this together."

This is what my wife wrote yesterday after returning from her trip to Short Pump Elementary School where she had just voted. It was a beautiful sentiment. I too had been in that same gym several hours earlier doing the same thing. I too noticed the diversity of the folks in line ahead of me. But, unlike my wife, I was busy playing a more cynical game called, "Find the Trump voter."

There were about 40 people ahead of me in line when I arrived around 8:00 AM. The first person I noticed was a young guy with a man bun, wearing clothes from the 1970's Goodwill Industries collection. I immediately judged him to be a Bernie Sanders voter. Check.

Since I vote in a Short Pump precinct, there were only two African-Americans in line, a petite older woman directly in front of me and a college aged girl in the front of the line. Considering the fact that blacks are the only demographic in America who vote monolithically, there's a roughly 90% chance that these two women were Hillary voters. Check.

Then it got tougher. Here was a middle aged man with a neatly trimmed beard in khakis. Over there was a older man wearing jeans and a Titleist hat. Behind me, a harried younger woman with two toddlers had just walked in. Any of these people could have been Trump voters. Even the man directly behind me was suspect. He was a large man who smelled of banana bread and had started humming the tune to Onward Christian Soldiers. I thought, either Cruz or Trump. Check.

Then it occurred to me, that others in line might be playing the same game. If so, I wondered how they would judge me. I was wearing black dress pants and a casual shirt, with my black Raybans balanced on top of my head. Maybe the dude with the man bun had me pegged as a self-satisfied suburban sell-out who was probably going to vote for Jeb Bush. Check.

The results from last night were disappointing for me. Rubio came so close to pulling it out here in Virginia, but failed. Cruz won his home state and a couple of neighboring ones to remain relevant. If Rubio doesn't win his home state in a couple of weeks he will be gone. The big winner of the night, again, was Donald Trump. I just can't even.....

But, on the bright side, in my home state, 65% of those who cast ballots in the Republican primary cast them for someone other than Donald Trump. In addition, nowhere last night did he receive a majority of the votes, which I take to believe means that not everyone has taken leave of their senses. Still, unless voters can coalesce around a single alternative, the Republican nomination is Trump's for the taking. For the Democrats, it was never going to be anyone but Hillary Clinton. Note to Sanders supporters: you don't win elections by posting crap on Facebook, you win by actually showing up to vote!

So, now we wait for the next round of contests and look forward to weeks and weeks of political ads. As I walked back to my car after voting, a chilling thought came to mind . . . If America can make it through this election without somebody getting shot it will be a miracle.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voting For Rubio

I'll be voting for Marco Rubio today. I'll walk past the volunteers making last minute pitches for their guy. I'll stand in line to prove to the nice old lady at the folding table that I am who I say I am. She will smile and place a mark by my name in her book, then kindly hand me off to another nice gentlemen who will walk me to the first available booth. Then I will mark my ballot for Mr. Rubio, the young senator from Florida.

He is not my first choice. I had preferred Rand Paul, but he dropped out weeks ago. Rubio is not without his share of shortcomings. His resume is a bit thin. His aggressive foreign policy stances make me nervous. But in a field which features a brain surgeon, a bloviating bore, and a bomb-throwing back bencher, he has gotten my vote by default.

I vote for Rubio primarily because I believe him to have the best chance, albeit a rapidly vanishing one, to derail the Trump nightmare. The second factor in my decision is the issue of temperament. Ted Cruz is very smart, knows the constitution as well as anyone to come along in politics in my lifetime. But he seems to revel in the fact that his colleagues despise him, lacking the self awareness that this fact might disqualify his ability to get anything done once elected. If everyone hates you there's two ways you can respond. You can step back and ask some hard questions of yourself like, "Geez, how come everybody hates me? Maybe I should stop acting like a jerk." Or, you can double down on your asshattery by convincing yourself that they all hate you because you're smarter than them. Mr. Cruz seems to have settled on the latter. While some may view this as principled, others may judge this as a character flaw which would make his Presidency problematic , making the building of coalitions difficult if not impossible.

So, I vote for Rubio. Then I get my sticker and place it on my shirt. I will watch the returns tonight to see if voters around the country, having stared into the abyss of Donald Trump, have suddenly recoiled in horror and snapped out of it, or if Super Tuesday goes down as the day the Republican Party slipped into the oblivion of history. 

If it's Trump after tonight, the Republican Party will have chosen a man who can't even disavow David Duke, and who's most famous bit of life advice was, "You know, it doesn't really matter what the media says about you as long as you have a young, beautiful piece of ass."

Let that sink in for a minute, then go and do your civic duty.