Long Before Ted Cruz, Giants Walked Among Us



I identified as Republican most of my life. However, the Tea Party base now rules the day, and moderates like me are persona non grata. Of late, even John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Coburn are being blasted as not pure enough.

I think of all the remarkable Republicans I’ve admired, or at least respected, over the years. Some were true giants.

Howard Baker.
Mark Hatfield,.
Richard Lugar.
John Danforth.
Orrin Hatch.
Alan Simpson.
Lamar Alexander.
Bob Dole.
Elizabeth Dole.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Ronald Reagan.
John Ashcroft.
James Baker.
Rudy Guiliani.
Nancy Kassebaum.
William Cohen.
Warren Rudman.
Pete Wilson.
Dan Quayle.
Nelson Rockefeller.
George HW Bush.
Colin Powell.
Barry Goldwater.
Arlen Specter.
Phil Gramm.
Gerald Ford.
Richard Shelby.
Olympia Snowe.
Jack Kemp.
Kay Bailey Hutchison.
John Connolly.
George Romney.
Dwight Eisenhower….

I miss those folks.

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Scratching, Spitting, and the Designated Hitter

A friend, a student of baseball, tried to explain to me the difference between the American League and the National League. This, as I told him, is beyond my threshold of caring. However I think I now understand the difference.

The American League players scratch their behinds, and the National League players scratch…the other side. This is a time-honored tradition, and baseball is all about time-honoring. And spitting, of course. My friend also said something about a silly rule called “designated hitter,” which he considered central to the differences between the leagues, but I lost interest.

I’m sure there are many other distinctions between the leagues, such as preferred chewing tobacco and nuanced bat-tapping-on-cleats rituals. But at my advanced stage of life, when it comes to baseball, scratching and itching is as much interest as I can muster.

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Healthcare Website: Not Ready for Prime Time


They goofed big-time with the sign-up process at Healthcare.gov. I went through the registration process twice last night, yet still couldn’t log in. I tried both accounts this morning, and still no luck. Says my username or password are wrong, and I KNOW they aren’t. So I created a third account this morning…same thing. I’m rapidly approaching the definition of insanity.

These are not fatal flaws–just technical glitches that can be fixed. But it’s a PR fiasco in getting Obamacare started. I’m sure millions of users are frustrated. And the wait times are unacceptable. Makes me seriously wonder, considering the virulence of the opposition, if some high-tech sabotage is occurring.

My interest is only curiosity. The exchanges are for the minority of people who either don’t have insurance or who buy insurance on their own. Most of us get insurance through our work, and it’s generally better insurance than the exchanges offer. But I did want to compare costs, out of curiosity, and so far I’ve not been able to get that far.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of time. Obamacare coverage doesn’t start until January 1, and people can sign up through March. Hopefully they’ll fix the site to allow for the traffic, which should have been expected and is totally capable of being handled.

Having said that–I’ve been using the Healthcare.gov website for several weeks to do research. It’s well designed, very user friendly, easy to navigate, and clearly written. The sign-up screens are very user-friendly. I’m quite impressed overall. I experienced no problems until October 1, when the sign-up began. They just have some major functionality and bandwidth issues with the enrollment process.

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Washington Weakness


Several days ago on Morning Joe, Jim VandeHei of Politico made an interesting observation which has stayed with me. He mentioned two dynamics which contribute to our problems in Washington.

First, all of our leaders are weak.

  • President Obama is weak.
  • John Boehner is terribly weak as Speaker, always looking over his shoulder.
  • Nancy Pelosi was a fairly strong Speaker, but now has little influence.
  • In the Senate, Harry Reid radiates wimpishness,.
  • Minority leader Mitch McConnell is running scared of being primaried.

So there are no strong leaders, only weak persons in positions of leadership.

Second, all of these persons dislike each other.

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Slow-down Amidst the Shutdown

The anti-Obamacare folks are having a party pointing out problems with the healthcare.gov website. And they have a point. Never in the history of the internet has excessive traffic caused a brand new website, on its first day, to slow down or crash.

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Let’s Get It Over With


From the stuck records file…. Every couple months, it seems, some financial deadline arises and we’re faced with a possible government shutdown, with accompanying apocalyptic handwringing. A bunch of Congressman on both sides of the aisle seem interested in doing this, and are fearless of the consequences.

You have some hardline conservatives who kinda campaigned on doing something like this, and would relish going back to their constituents with proven bravado. And you have Democrats who are 95% sure a shutdown would hurt Republicans, and are happy to unspool more rope. So while everyone says they don’t want a shutdown, I suspect a good number of Congressman secretly hope for one.

I think we ought to just do it. Shut the government down, and get it out of their systems.

As a side benefit, it’ll give the pundits endless hours of fun arguing about who “won” the shutdown. “It’s certainly not the American people,” they will all agree, while blaming whichever side they are not.

Then, after having finally played with this toy in their sandbox, maybe our leaders will say, “Okay, that was fun, but once is enough. Now let’s figure out how to responsibly govern this country.”

Although, that’s probably a bridge too far.

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Where Have All the Heroes Gone?


We lost the Sopranos, in which the protagonists were mobsters.

We’ve lost Weeds, in which our hero is a marijuana dealer–a mother just trying to support her family.

We’ve lost Dexter, whose main character is a serial killer.

And now we’ve lost Breaking Bad, about a meth dealer.

What will fill the void to provide new role models for our children?

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Free Speech, Facebook, and Your Boss

Six employees of a sheriff’s office in Virginia lost their jobs for liking and commenting on the Facebook page of their boss’s opponent. The US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, saying a “Like” on Facebook is protected free speech. A lower court judge had differentiated between hitting the “Like” button and posting a full comment.

What if I “Like” a page of some organization whose values don’t agree with those of the denomination I work for? What if some of my constituents made a stink about it?

I once interviewed Paul Rees, an evangelical leader, who mentioned that he subscribed to a liberal Protestant publication. When I raised my eyebrows at the mention of that publication, he told me, “I don’t agree with them, but I want to know what they’re saying.” Could he have been blackballed because of that subscription?

I’ve read books by atheists, to better understand how they view my faith. Could I be labeled as guilty by association? The political punditocracy certainly majors on this, drawing obscure connections and decreeing, “Guilty!”

Suppose I “Liked” an LGBT Facebook page. My intent might be innocent enough–just trying to keep abreast of what they are saying. But suppose I also posted on that LGBT page positive comments about LGBT lifestyles. Okay, that could get me in big trouble with my church constituency. Could it get me fired? Possibly.

Could I win a court challenge, claiming free speech? Possibly…but I would hope not. A Christian organization should be able to enforce its beliefs.

Just some musings from the intersection of technology and free speech.

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A Clue to National Priorities


Guess who the highest-paid public employee is in most states? This map is a little sad, considering what it says about our priorities. All I can say is–hooray for the blue states.

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When Slang and Quotation Marks Meet

Today, class, let’s “chat” about slang.

People like to use quotation marks around slangish words.

– Teens think it’s “cool” to smoke.
– The hoodlums demanded “protection” money from the store owner.
– The movie used too many “f-bombs.”
– My “bucket list” still has three items on it.
– He “barfed” all over the back seat.
– I thought he was going to “blow a fuse.”
– The driver was “smashed.”

Are the quotes necessary? No. People know what those words mean, and nobody is being quoted. Lose the quotes.

I see this all the time–people surrounding slang and colloquialisms with quotation marks. It’s like they think they’re doing something naughty, something educated folks don’t do. “I know this isn’t a real or proper word, so please forgive me.” As an editor, I typically remove the quotes.

There is a place for using quotes. For instance, in a few words I’ll properly surround “smashed” with quotes, because I’m calling attention to the word. Other contexts arise in which quotes seem appropriate, or at least a legitimate judgment call.

But in ordinary writing, be courageous. Use slang without apology. Own the word.

And that, class, is a wrap.

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