Saturday, December 22, 2012

Can't Wait for Tomorrow to End, part II OR, It's OK, There's Enough Whipped Cream Left.

Well, we have survived.  Minor damage to the premesis, all repairable with a vacuum cleaner. 

The End began yesterday.  Just like a Hollywood disaster movie, the cataclysm started on the other end of the neighborhood and rolled this direction.  Wind was displaced.  Clanging sounds were heard.  Dogs barked.  Fence posts rattled.  Trees bent and debris stirred along the streets.

Then they arrived, each one carrying packs of mischief draped from their 11-year-old frames.  You've heard of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, these were the Seven Packmules of Judgment.  The single most prevalent item in these bags of terror were Airsoft pellets.  A Homeland Security warning was put out against such items; still, they found their way through security.  Preppers, every last one of 'em.  One even conveyed his private stash of Wavy Lays - now that's survivalism.

I thought we had dodged the worst of it for most of the evening.  Our stockpile held out.  The toilet didn't clog, although it appeared that one or two of the survivors made an unauthorized discharge of their poop chute in the executive washroom.  But then, the unexpected.  The Birthday Boy came screaming into headquarters that toilet paper was being flung at our walls.  Upon inspection, a small gang of 6th grade females were seen fleeing in terror, their efforts completely busted.  Some still carried the rolls in their hands; caught brown-handed, I guess you could say.  Others stared, frozen.  One was so bewildered that her shoes flew off.

Our only female, a 9-year-old, who was part of our group was seized with panic and excitement.  She grabbed a broom and held it high against the assault team of other girls.  "Let's get this party started!" she declared, shaking her hips.

Eventually, the zombies were chased off.  Shoes were returned.  The 911 call was rescinded.  The National Guard stood down.  Quiet was rediscovered.  The leadership of the band of survivors prepared for rest.

Then the giant 14-year-old arrived, having temporarily joined another camp.  He trudged into headquarters and collapsed on to the carpet.  "Dad, you're carpet's so comfortable..." and trailed off to sleep.  Not wanting to awake the monster, I left him as I was when I retired.  Lights out, however, I could not fall asleep in spite of my exhaustion.  His zombie force wheezed in and out of his greasy mouth and nose, making a maddening guttural sound.  I decided I had to risk it.  I gently roused the beast and directed him to the light, down the hall where other creatures of the night had gathered.  There were no repercussions, fortunately.

The next thing I remember was looking at the clock and seeing 6 am.  The sounds across the premesis were identical to those I heard the last time I saw the clock, when it read 11:42.  I gave them an hour, and just as I predicted, Birthday Boy came in and asked when the pancakes would be ready.  There was no, "I can't believe we survived the End of the World, Dad, I love you.  Thanks for giving me NCAA 2013; we're gonna make it through this 'cause we're men."  There was only, "Don't worry we have enough whip cream left for breakfast, so get up and start cooking."

Normalcy had returned.  I have lived to tell this.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Can't Wait for Tomorrow to End, part I

It's finally here!  The end of the world!  Tomorrow, the foundation of my house will be shaken by 6th graders observing the birthday of one of their number.  Added to the doom will be a giant, trudging 14-year-old capable of spewing attitude from his nostrils, and (more to the others) a pestilential little sister.  I intend to survive this cataclysm by first hurling my stockpile of Newman's Own marinara at this horde.  Then I will retreat to my bunker where everything I need to survive is in abundance:  LOTR and Star Wars on Spotify, Sir Walter Raleigh in a pouch, and images of the patron saint of all good Calvinists who find themselves surrounded by struggle and conflict, Stonewall Jackson.

But in all seriousness, the question we should be asking as the world ends is not, Why God? but, Why can't I stop watching it?  If the world is ending, why aren't I running my middle-aged buns off in the opposite direction?  Why have I chosen to embrace it?  Why am I rubbernecking at it as if Elvis just had a car wreck?

Why can't I turn off Fox News as they blather on about the fiscal cliff, which we were never going to avoid?  Why do I keep wanting to strain apart the bewildering debate over the awful situation of a week ago, when there is no law that could have stopped it, nor will there ever be one to prevent a worse one from occuring?  Why do I keep wanting to pour out my own bowls of judgment on every one who practices Islam and hates America?  Why am I anxiously awaiting news that yet another celebrity or acquaintance or friend has crossed that last river this year?  Why this gallows humor?

I think the answer has something to do with a secret desire that the world really would end.  There, I admitted it!  I am honest, while everyone else is just whistling in the Walmart aisle.

Bring it on!  Apocalypse, you've messed with the wrong Yankee-educated Redneck.

That's all I've got for now.  Tune in tomorrow, and I'll let you know what I saw when the world ended.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is a Creative Republican

Republicans have once again been steamrolled on messaging.  The Obama Administration and the Democrats have sold the American public on returning to the Clinton-modified fiscal policies of the 1960s.  For a party that ridiculed President Regan for his nostalgic rhetoric about America's past, the Democrats' crowing on about the good ol'days of LBJ-Clinton tax-and-spend policies is nauseatingly hypocritical.  But to give the devil and his demons their due, the White House has successfully undermined the concern of the fiscal cliff and is now preparing the country for the good things that will happen once the rich start paying their fair share.

The President's finesse on the debate has been aided by an inability of the taxpaying public to understand what will happen.  We will arrive at the fiscal cliff on January 1, we will feel the bump underneath our tires and we will keep going.  It won't be until April 15, 2014 when we will all have to file at higher marginal rates along with reduced child tax credits, among other things, that we will wonder why there's no road beneath us.  Until then, our vehicles will look like those wide shots of a stunt vehicle flying off a California ledge in slow motion.  Obama is betting that to most Americans, paying a little more in marginal rates will be no different than paying a little more at the gas pump.

But what America and even many Republicans are failing to understand is that when federal revenues go full tilt starting next year, the expected contraction of the already anemic U.S. economy will be by design.  Liberal economists want there to be a shrink to what they in their Bolshevik mentality see as a bourgeois "market culture run amok" (to borrow a phrase Newsweek once used to describe the 80s).  It's the perfect storm - the Hurricane Sandy -- of central planning:  prevent retailers from expanding so that consumers will quit being victimized, Chinese manufacturers will quit stealing our jobs, food processors will quit selling high fructose corn syrup, developers will quit getting rich, land will quit getting paved, cars won't have to drive as far to the mall and the environment will be protected.  In the minds of liberal economists, they will kill multiple birds with one stone.  They will one day congratulate themselves on getting the 47% to pay more (even though health care subsidies will go to them through the back door).

Any idea of growing the economy is irrelevant to these apparatchniks.  It was during the election and during O's first term.  And, so-called sustainable growth is viewed cyncially.  Socialists believe that spending is always a given, that there will always be a baseline for private sector sales and the funds they transfer up the line to CEOs.  They believe that corporations should retain most of the capital in an economy in an effort to control and minimize risk and waste -- venture capital they think should be coming to them and their efforts to control the unemployed through the welfare state.  The horror of this situation is that innovation is choked.  Warren Buffett, George Lucas, Craig Jelinek and everyone else who writes big checks to the DNC would be nowhere without the radical tax and spending changes of the 80s and 90s executed by Republicans.  Paul Krugman recently hummed about how we now have better food than the Twinkie to get us through a 50s and 60s-style "fair" economy; where does he think our better food today came from?!?!

Which brings us back to where we conservatives have failed, why our message is weak and simply not being heard.  We can't blame the news media - Fox News has made it their mission to hype up the fiscal cliff, but the number one news broadcaster is not breaking through.  The failure came in September 2008 when John McCain waffled on his opposition to the bank bailouts.  He had a chance, right after the GOP convention, to make himself look different than the status quo.  Republicans in the House were backing him up.  He buckled, along with a host of GOP Senators.  Yes, there would have been serious economic consequences to allowing those banks to fail, but probably no worse than what has happened anyway.  But more importantly, it would have defined the GOP as NOT the puppet of the rich, even if McCain would have lost.  This label is what has wiped out our mainstream appeal.  Attempting to fill the vacuum is the TEA Party, but their acerbic amateurism has only made Republicans more off-putting.

As a result, no one is listening to us anymore.  Even when Senator McConnell put revenue increases on the table, the Obama Administration yawned and polished up their golf balls.  The President believes that the rejection of Romney last month signaled a clear rejection of the economics which turned our nation around three decades ago.  I think he believes correctly.  I want a creative Republican for Christmas.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Greatest Presbyterian Who Ever Lived

The following is a tribute to my former pastor, Tom Barnes. Tom was the Teaching Elder of our little P.C.A. congregation in Greenville, Westminster Presbyterian Church, from 1989-2005. He has completed his sojourn here on earth now in Robertsdale, Alabama, surrounded by his family.  This blog is being distrubed privately to those of us closest to the Barnes.

Why are we Christians? Why does God choose us, and why do we reciprocate the choice? Every now and then in life you meet someone who fully answers the question. This individual doesn't actually give a verbal answer, but instead reveals it through his life and actions, of which any words to the effect are a subset. This individual is an expression of the Master Artist. He or she is a sculpture fitted for God's garden, even if we are currently banished from the garden.

Tom Barnes was one of these individuals. He had been in private business and received the call to ministry late in life. He left behind a successful insurance agency to work as a church janitor so that he could attend seminary during the day. Simultaneously, he and his wife Mary had their third child, Claire. He joked that his fellow seminary students claimed that Tom and Mary's conception of Claire proved the scientific likelihood of Abraham and Sarah's conception of Isaac.

This is but one example of the joy that coursed through his veins. But it is his actions I will never forget. When one smarts off his mouth, God gives one a Tom Barnes to gently correct the attitude. When one abuses the gifts one has been given, God gives one a Tom Barnes. When one makes commitments one can't or won't honor, God gives one a Tom Barnes. When one is so full of himself so as to manipulate others into the same delusion, God gives one a Tom Barnes. When one’s family is in pieces, God gives a Tom Barnes. When one's sinfulness and weakness succeed in alienating one from everyone else who cares about you, God gives one a Tom Barnes. God gave me a Tom Barnes.

Presbyterians are notorious for being inward, or the "frozen chosen." Whether you are involved in a vibrant fellowship or a dying mainline congregation, the tendency of those of us whose worship is intricately woven with Calvinism tend to think we’re special. Tragically, and in disobedience to God, our openness and evangelism suffers. Not so if you ever met Tom Barnes. He understood compassion and didn’t think twice about expressing it. Presbyterians get their name from the Greek presbuteros, which means “elder.” The ancient Hebrews used it to describe the men of faithful devotion in their synagogues and institutions well before Paul used it in explaining how a church was to be organized and governed. 1 Timothy 3:2-4 lists the qualities a “presbyter” is to have. The verses read like the Apostle just met Tom Barnes. He was the greatest Presbyterian who ever lived.

When we wonder why we are Christians, God reveals to us a Tom Barnes so that we can not only see and understand the model, but we can get a glimpse of what that mysterious thing called God's glory looks like. Servants like Tom Barnes are the happy subtext to the Bible's statement that Christians become "the righteouness of Christ." When we doubt the journey we are on, we can look at the twilight faithfulness of a Tom Barnes and remember why we are Christians.

God bless you, Claire and Mary as you hold this great man by his hands as he nears the river. God bless you, Tom. Save me a place in the court of our King next to General Lee and Stonewall.

NOTE:  This blog has been revised from its original post date.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

REVIEW of "Lincoln": Spoiled by Spielberg

The only redeeming quality about watching Steven Spielberg's candidate win reelection earlier this month was eagerly waiting to watch his movie about Abraham Lincoln, which was released yesterday.  Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President, my two sons and I were counting the minutes when we could see the big-budget Hollywood treatment of the man responsible for the War Between the States.

Of course, the craftsmanship of the film is exceptional.  And my biggest fear was not realized:  that we'd be stuck with another drawn out visual snoozer a'la War Horse.  This was remedied by Tony Kushner's strong script which went the route all period dramas should, which is do the best you can with historic language.  This script in turn forced Speilberg to rely on his skill with the camera to deliver the diaglogue-reliant story without falling into the boredom which can come from, say, a poorly-stage Shakespeare play.  And, I earnestly believe Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest actor of our time.  I don't fawn after his movies, but Lewis is unbelievable - or fully believeable - in this role.  I actually thought it was Lincoln from the very start.

Here, however, I have to stop the good words.  Blame the history nerd within.  Spielberg and Kushner do accomplish one lone service to the record:  that Mary Todd Lincoln (played by Sally Field) was not completely deranged as First Lady.  In fact, she was every bit the political animal Lincoln was, and that comes across masterfully by Field at sweet moments in the couple's scenes.  The tragedies of her life were hard on her, undoubtedly, and it is true that she had trouble holding herself together as the years went on, but the real Mary Todd was quite lucid and sharp in the interval.  Lincoln probably would not have made it to be the President to push through the 13th Amendment had it not been for her.

Otherwise Lincoln tells one big liberal lie that is hard to stomach, and it does it with a uniquely Leninist technique:  by embellishing history.  The film's plot is built around passage of the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives.  Passage of an amending resolution (an H.J.Res) requires a 2/3rds majority in each chamber before it is sent out to the states for ratification, as set forth by the Constitution.  In early 1865, Lincoln needed 20 votes beyond the Republican bloc in order to get this.  In the movie, an affable crew of political fixers, including an especially greasy James Spader, set out to bribe congressmen they suspect are ripe for the corrupting.

Yes, the record reveals that considerable horse-trading was done by the administration with congressmen to get passage.  The record does not, however, suggest anything to the degree of corruption portrayed in the film.  I guess having a unit of "plumbers" supported by the White House is ok as long as they are pursuing a liberal agenda.  But dirty politics aside, the deeper, uniquely liberal lie of the film is encapsualted by Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones, who was Al Gore's college roommate) at the film's end:  "The greatest measure of the 19th Century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America."  In other words, the means are irrelevant as long as your motives are righteous.  Knowing of the filmmakers' mega-support of President Obama, this line is nauseating, frankly.  I was being pleasantly entertained by Spielberg,, until I was forced to hear the jarring note of an Obamacare commercial.

Anyway, these are my thoughts.  Go to see it just to witness Day-Lewis' grand performance.  To keep your inner history nerd from spoiling all the fun, check out this handy article from The Kansas City Star which does the fact-checking for you.  WARNING:  spoilers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Signature #25,674,681

We've been having some cyber adventures this week with Micah H.'s petition to the White House to allow Texas to secede.  I do not know Micah H.  I did, however, sometime when were back in the 19,000s, notice a "Trey B.," but he was from Cedar Hill, which is roughly 60 miles to the southwest of me.  Micah H. holds the either certifiable or heroic -- depending on your point of view -- Signature #1 on the petition.  He's either the first patient in the asylum to scream or the Samuel Adams of the state.  I wonder if he and his 103,736 (as of this writing) fellow cantakeriots realize that via their email, they have eagerly done the Obama Administration's work for them of creating a database of subversives.  Don't let the four simple fields fool you; by signing in to the We the People website to sign on, your email and the IP address that got you there now mean there is absolutely no escape for you, your family, or that dog of yours with the heavy carbon footprint.

The secession petition is legitimate protest, however.  Millions of freedom-loving Americans are still stunned over what happened last week - but not over Obama's status quo reelection.  We are reeling from the contest's symbolic shift of America's descent into irresponsibility.  Columnist S.E. Cupp attempted to downplay this great conspiracy by the 47% by going on about how conservatives need to explain themselves better.  Not possible given the current educational system, I'm sorry.  To quote Ann Coulter, It's over.

But that's OK.  If you're a Christian, see my last post so that you don't despair.  There is also reason not to despair if you just a good ol' red-blooded American, too.  But secession is not the answer.  It should only seriously be considered if you have the chance to be Signature #25,674,681 (this figure is the 2011 population of Texas).  If you are this signature, we have already formed the Army of the Republic of Texas.  Please report to your nearest recruiting station.  Every man, woman and child will need a gun.

Seriously though, there is a Ghandiesque flavor to the secession petition.  It kinda fits in the "first they ignore/then they ridicule/then they fight" mixture.  We'll see how long the White House takes to respond.  With the exceptions of Georgia and Florida, which were sill close to the 25,000 signature threshold at press time, only the Texas petition cries out to be answered.  I'm not expecting much, though, outside of a boilerplate response that the petition was received with subtle instructions to replace one's sheets back on to one's bed.

I don't need to expect much, either.  Nor do I need to.  My goal is to take care of myself and my family and focus on my neighbor.  I believe steadfastly in the power of conservative principles to help my neighbor care for himself, but the onus is ultimately on me as a follower of God to convey those principles.  Any document that comes my way better not require a signature that commits me to anything less.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Out With the Newt, in With the O

A old friend of mine from the Hill -- a Democrat -- giddily reported to me last night that the President was going to do something new in his second term to promote fitness and competition among the country's youth, starting next year.  The program, which he can implement via Executive Order, had been on hold pending his re-election.  Apparently, starting in the summer of 2013, regions of the country will be organized into twelve districts, then each district will send a boy and girl to compete in a kind of national Olympics.  My friend said the EO will provide that the rules of these games will be such that they can be altered from year to year in case they start to get boring.

Jusk kidding.

To be honest, I'm quite puzzled as to why this tired, jaded hack feels the way he does about last night.  As a Republican, I have more heartbreak than consummation for my trouble; as a consultant I definitely have more Ls than Ws.  So why do I have a sense of foreboding about the totals from yesterday?  Why am I not resting on the comfort that the House of Representatives has been bolstered in its role as stopper to the Obama agenda?

I think because last night we saw America say, "Yes, I want what's mine and some of what you have, too."  It was raw.  It represented a paradigm shift, permitted by the financial bailout starting four years ago.  We are becoming a statist nation.  It's real, and it's here.  We no longer have to warn and whine about it.  We are, in fact, there.

But I don't want to scrawl out some kind of lament, either, because I'm not sad.  Politics has never given cause to depress me.  I actually think this is a good thing, chiefly because Christians who have taken on the duty to get engaged in the process can finally begin to separate their American-ness from their faith, their house from their true Home.  We can jettison this hackneyed, specious attitude of exceptionalism that's been around in various forms for the past 175 years and finally celebrate our country's true virtues for what they are.  We can accept the gross defects along with those virtues and truly understand God's right purpose in our lives, communities and nation.  And if persecution develops as a result of observing and celebrating these virtues, well, then, we as American Christians can officially say we have joined the human race.

Many of my fellow activists are verbalizing their preparation for the next fight.  Certainly, this is a duty that should not be avoided.  But the old style of conservatism found in the old Grand Old Party is dead, and it will not return.  The nation is not listening to us.  Governor Romney was an as articulate rock star of business and fiscal policy as we've ever put on the ballot at ANY LEVEL, and he could not close the deal.  This is because the people don't even want the deal; they are not even in the room.  Empathy and concern within public policy positions is part of the solution, but this has been tried overtly before in Compassionate Conservatism with ridiculous results.  Neither is the solution in picking "tougher conservatives" to lead us.  For every Ted Cruz there's a Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock - two nincompoops who failed us miserably.  And as capable as Mr. Cruz is, the nature of his service will be one of vocality and confrontation, not stewardship.  Pontificating will become the nature of Senate service as never before for both sides.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich got a burst last winter because he is a man of ideas who can get your attention with them.  He more than anyone got Romney the nomination because he forced the Governor to take on the language of problem-solver and creative thinker during the GOP debates.  This is indeed Newt's great legacy to the Republicans.  But America has chosen to reject ideas.  They only want benefits.  To borrow a phrase from the President during the second debate, "There's nothing wrong with that; that's just what they do."

Sorry to be a downer, but I think it helps for us all to understand exactly what we're dealing with as we move...well...Forward.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Liberal Who Was Saved (or How to Anger Every One of your Facebook Friends)

In light of the upcoming election, I thought I would provide a memoir-like post that might shed a little light on what's happened to the country politically and where the Christian fits in.  That, and world peace are all subjects one can easily lay out in an online post.

Winston Churchill once said, "If you're not a liberal when you're twenty you don't have a heart.  If you're not a conservative when you're forty, you don't have a brain."  This kind of describes most of my political journey.  As I've always said, I've had a special affinity for politics, becoming active when I was very young.  In college, however, at Wheaton, I dallied with more liberal-minded ideas.  There were two "cultures" or dynamics which allowed for this, and they sketch a miniature version of what I think has happened to so much of the electorate.

First, almost all of my friends were through the theater, and perhaps my most influental professor was there, the late Jim Young.  Jim was an unabashaed liberal Democrat whose office was adorned with McGovern campaign posters and the like.  Although it was easy to spot and slightly obnoxious, his liberalism nevertheless possessed the street cred of deep, true, unconditional compassion for others.  This influence had the effect of turning young people from conservative Christian households into partisan Ds and of legitimizing the free-thinking rebelliousness of others, which is common at this age.  Most powerful, Jim's theater culture was a place where young Christian men struggling with their sexual orientation could find acceptance.  I had many friends who were having a hard time with this.  But during my years at Wheaton (1990-1993), I witnessed Jim change from a counselor who hoped to guide these young men out of their homosexuality, into a quiet supporter of homosexual behavior among those who still tried to call themselves Christians.  In the process he took up their demands for political equality.  As a twenty-year-old who thought Christians could still respect each other but disagree politically, this disillusioned me.  To make sense of brothers in Christ like Jim who seemed to cross a line from a policy disagreement into condoning sin, I tried to tell myself he was being caring of someone who was gay the same way he might care about another student who was struggling with some chemical addiction or another sexual problem.  But to see Jim become a quiet advocate convinced me that Christians who went down the path of modern liberalism could not escape compromising where it mattered most.  Although I loved Jim, I was made afraid of his weakness in this area, specifically how he essentially politicized sin.  I wanted to find another path, which I'll talk more about in a minute.

The second culture which flirted with my political conscience came courtesy of the ministry-driven extracurricular program of Wheaton.  Located 20 miles from Chicago's notorious West Side, the College sponsored a score of ministries for us which were heavily oriented toward the metro area's urban poor.  I myself opted for the jail ministry inside the foreboding Cook County Department of Corrections.  Even though I was no stranger to African-Ameircan poverty having grown up in East Texas, the size and scope of it in a city like Chicago took my breath away.  It was easy for me to buy into the despair of so many of these people, especially the men, who were lost in a wilderness of thousands and fed each other with a sickening diet of blame, ignorance, laziness, mediocrity, manipulation, immorality and envy.  I began to think that these people needed more than just Jesus - they truly needed a leg up.  I labored at my ministry of helping the men in the jail earn their GED.  That, to me, seemed the best way I could help.  But of all my students, only one showed the slightest motivation, and at age 27 his brain was so damaged by marijuana that he simply could not compute the most basic of fractions.  I left the ministry after my sophomore year very discouraged.  There had to be another path.

I was desperate for another path.  Many of my generation don't like the political divisiveness we are in and believe that common ground is there.  Because this has not been forthcoming, many are becoming permanently absent on Election Day.

I desperately hope there is a better path.  The fruit of my friends in the theater today reveals just how I have been saved.  My friends who struggled with their sexual orientation are now fully out of the closet, such that I wonder why they even bother to identify with Christianity at all.  Another close buddy is an actor who's best gig was getting cast as this scary pimp on a network television show.  Another is an actress who portrayed an incestous wife in a major motion picture this summer - a film filled with that and other rank vulgarities passed off as comedy.  Many of these brothers and sisters of mine seem truly lost, such that it pangs me.  They are all outspoken in their support for Obama.

What was the fruit of my work in the jail?  I'll never know.  But, our President's political career is rooted in Cook County.  Maybe if that one inmate had learned his fractions, none of this would have happened.

And yet I knew the shortcomings of the old path I was on within Reganite Republicanism.  I loved the Gipper's ability to inspire and get Americans to believe in the best of themselves, but I saw at Wheaton how the appeal of Republican values to the people who needed to hear them the most fell flat.  I concluded the problem lay in empathy, or in what pollsters today call "the concern gap."  Bill Clinton brought this to bear in 1992 and it has been an important plank of campaigning ever since -- for candidates of both parties.  The perception that Obama is more concerned about Americans is the single biggest reason he is tied with Romney, even when the former's record is so atrocious.  It's why FDR was constantly reelected during years of hardship.  Suffice it to say there are plenty of opportunties for Republicans who can show concern.

I also became alarmed, even resentful, at how my fellow Republicans were so eager to become self-righteous and legalistic about our ideas.  I got turned off by what the GOP had become in the mid-Nineties when I came home from college.  This attitude is the stark opposite of empathy.  It's this spirit that is creating so much contention in the party today where unity is less important, such as in Texas -- if they haven't left altogether and formed a TEA Party.  Now, unfortunately, we Republicans are forced to vote nationally more out of fear than hope due to Obama's policies and the agenda coming out of Cook County.  Voting out of fear rarely carries the day.  Even though we are forty, there's a tendendency not to use our brains when fear is in the air.

So, to summarize this meditation, I wonder how the country can also be saved from liberalism.  It will take more power than I have, certainly.  I think the change lies in returning to an idea that humans always have the tendency to do the wrong thing.  This is not where secular conservatism begins; it begins with the idea that my self-interest -- rugged individualism -- will bring about wealth, order and fairness.  That's OK if I remember that my self-interest is unreliable and I need to God to direct it.  May God save us all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You Big Dummy!

The final presidential debate last night was a victory for Romney.  This is because the exchange completed his primary objective through this autumn of introducing himself to America as the competent alternative to an incumbent.  The foreign policy subject matter served to round out the image of Romney as commander-in-chief.  Obama had some well-rehearsed zingers, but those didn't hit as hard given the subject matter and came across as adolescent.  Otherwise, the President looked like Fred G. Sanford, poking his fists in the air in a comical attempt to box the opponent who has pierced him with the truth.

The debate moderated by the far more competent Bob Schieffer was really a sleeper.  One Tweeter said in the first 30 minutes, "I'm calling it for...Zzzzzzz."  It's good our politics are returning to normal.  But Obama had one line in there that aroused that deep, dark place inside me.  I can banter with the best of'em about politics, philosophy, theology, etc., make dumb statements and foolish predictions, come up with sarcastic, crude insults all in a spirit of passing the time.  But if you offend the history nerd in me, my face turns to stone and I'll consider arson.

Last night, this occurred when the President accused Romney of wanting to "go back to the 80s on foreign policy, the 50s on social policy and the 20s on economic policy."  I felt a shudder at this statement.  Why?  Not because our idiot-in-chief attempted to oversimplify American history - that's no surprise.  The soul sickness I experienced at this line by Obama was due to the fact that he was trying once more to ridicule our country's strengths.  The President tried to deny his "apology tour"; with his terse reference to some of our nation's brightest decades, Obama revealed, unequivocally, that he hates America.

Yes, the 80s brought us Max Headroom, but they were a glorious period centered around celebrating our strengths with Ronald Reagan as the MC.  This exuberance was what brought the Berlin Wall down, more than anything.  Yes, the 50s subjected untold numbers to B movies containing atomically-enhanced insects, but it was a stunning era that saw black Americans organize successfully to overcome institutional racism.  Backing them up were Eisenhower's Supreme Court and the 82nd Airborne, not Barack's lazy, pot-smoking professors.  And while it's true the 20s saw the biggest failed experiment in moral legislation - Prohibition - it was also the era that proved the middle class could share in and benefit from the financial system until then utilized only by the elite.  Yes, there were bumps in the road in this sharing, but Americans today would have no hope of growing their wealth such as we do without the low-tax vision of Calvin Coolidge.

Obama hates America because his father suffered from alcohol-fueled envy, borne of I truly don't know what.  This negative, ungrateful spirit of covetousness was impressed upon him by a weak-minded mother who couldn't make sense of the polygamous man who abandoned her and their son.  As such, Obama has pitifully bought the liberal line that America's strengths lie not in our innovation, courage and responsibility, but in our darker passions of domination, sloth and manipulation.  What Obama calls good government, history calls the 1930s.  What Obama would call liberty history calls the 1970s.  What Obama calls success, history calls the dot-com era of the 1990s, a time of financial fakery that is like a stain on the dress of our past.  This twisted perspective stirs in me another of Fred Sanford's reactionary statements.  I want to cry out to the President, "You big dummy!"

It's time for him to go for so many reasons, but Obama's lame revisionist history demands we toss him over the side.  Vote straight ticket Republican, starting yesterday if you live in Texas!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dreaming in Color Television

Last night's second presidential debate messed with my mind.  Everyone's talking about the rough-and-tumble of it, which was exciting, but I was enshrouded by that old spirit of being turned off from the gobbledygook that our politicians seem stuck in.  I actually failed to concentrate on the segment dealing with automatic weapons and the kids who love them, or some such.  Romney's "binder of women" comment was his worst example of this - an as clumsy an answer to the pay parity myth as anyone could muster.  For the President, it was his long-running onomonopoeia of rank dishonesty, basically making up his policy (oil and gas) and revising it (Benghazi) as he went along and deceiving everyone about his support of free enterprise.  The old Obama was indeed "back" last night; it was the nauseating, Tyler Perry-melodramatic actor that has effectively tuned out the nation from our serious public problems.  This is what Biden reminded us of last week.  Democrats are just good at doing this.  We used to say of Harry Reid and Tom Harkin during Senate floor colloquies:  they're whining now, and frankly they're better at it.

I had an intense dream early this morning that I was helping the Romney campaign.  I was corralled in a room full of fresh volunteers, where I seemed to get closer and closer in proximity to the Governor, hoping to respectfully proffer some advice.  Then I saw him smoking a cigar, which is odd since he's LDS.  I think because his performance two weeks ago reignited a long jaded pleasure center in my brain - the same spot that is stimulated by my pipe and the occasional cigar - that is why I followed him out of the volunteer room in my dream in the hopes of correcting some of his missed verbal opportunities during the debate.  But then I felt in a rush to go pick up the kids from school and woke up.

But what discouraged me the most during the broadcast last night was the fact that simply by climbing back into this manufactured role he has as President, Obama's sychophant supporters cheered on the liar-in-chief as if nothing has happened in his campaign and to the rest of the country.  This, Candy Kommissar the moderator, and that pathetic collection of so-called undecided voters (who were really upstate New York Democrats that were undecided only because they either supported Hillary last time and skipped the general, or they can't bring themselves to vote for a black man at all) all served to stoke the darkness again above my head about this election.  Even if Romney wins - which I think he will - we will have four more years of the 47% howling and hollering that our ideas are worthless and that they should get more, that they need it to "make it."

I share the growing frustration of many of my friends about Romney not obliterating the underpinning of the left's ideology.  Why is college so expensive?  Because WE SUBSIDIZE it through loans and Pell grants.  Why are food prices high?  Because WE SUBSIDIZE ethanol production through the tax code and its feedstock through farm programs.  Why is housing still in a slump nationwide?  Because WE SUBSIDIZED the sub-prime lending market and ruined opportunites for modest earners who were credit-worthy.  Why is crude oil high?  Because we SUBSIDIZE its availability through the Pentagon and the blood of our young people.  Why is health care expensive?  You guessed it...and Obamacare is but the straw on the camel's back after decades of Medicare extending Americans' age longevity.  Why doesn't Romney take on what's at the heart of these problems?  We don't have to chuck these programs; we just need to require more skin from their participants.

I'm willing to roll the dice that Romney can do this if we can just get him and Ryan in the White House.  This is my dream.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why We Fight

Last week I wrote:  "If the Democrats think tonight was bad, wait until Ryan gets a hold of Biden."  What transpired last night was a bit of surprise to my prediction about how Ryan would handle the Senator from Plugaware, but Ryan's calm, solid performance was no less damning.  Ryan had only one objective last night:  reassure America that he could take over the Presidency at a moment's notice.  Biden, on the other hand, was a washed-up, class warfare hack called on to save a second-rate politician who's in over his head - Obama.

What surprised me was how Biden assisted in his own damnation.  Last night, the Vice-President was the old, rude, snobby, liberal jerk that, in my opinion is the purest form of the poison that has ruined our ability to have a discussion on anything in a rational manner.  It's all about pushyness, not policy; deceit, not discourse.  Esteemed presidential historian Larry Sabato tweeted, "Biden is treating this debate as a Sunday morning talk show. He's done them 40 yrs, knows how to dominate panel."  You could almost add the media to the mix of "old, rude, snobby, liberal jerk," but that is too obvious.

I was concerned that the debate last night would be more like two Congress guys arguing on a Sunday talk show, people would get turned off and shrug, well, so much for the revitalization of our republic we saw last week.  This kind of happened.  But the saving grace was how Ryan stood in as the calm, competent Good Republican.  This is in keeping with the R/R strategy of presenting the ticket as the adults in the room.  This demeanor is what I signed up to be a part of in the GOP thirty-two years ago.

But more than campagin brass-tacks, Ryan also demonstrated why Republicans fight.  We are the creative ones.  We are the true problem solvers, remembering government is part of the problem.  We are the ones who think freedom means responsibility, and that an extra $4300 a year for a wealthier senior's health care is reasonable.  We are the ones who empathize with and honor the widow and the veteran and who want to bring them into a community - made up of ourselves - that can help them, as opposed to government.  This is the Ryanesque order of battle.

We can do it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Good Television

Yes, it is true, the first Romney-Obama debate invigorated us GOPers.  The Romney Campaign has been pursuing a simple, low-key strategy all along, which has been:  present Mitt as the competent alternative.  This was successfully done during the GOP Convention.  It was executed magnificently last night.  The plan will continue during the remaining debates, including the Veep forum one week from today.  If the Democrats think tonight was bad, wait until Ryan gets a hold of Biden.

But in the words of Charles Krauthammer, a former clinical psychiatrist, "I don't expect [the President] to hold back next time" (I paraphrase).  I don't either.  However, what I do expect - and this is why this tired, old Republican hack is excited - is for Romney to do what he's been doing and doing well for the past 5 1/2 years:  debate.  He will rebut every false premise and falsehood Obama utters.  If Obama is more forceful with prepped soundbites, Romney will deflate them.  There is nowhere to hide.

Romney was downright thrilling last night because he provided so many things that Republican candidates - any candidate - have been lacking for so long:  substance.  He was a master of facts and figures without being boring.  He was energetic without being hyper.  He was heartfelt without that sweaty, fake passion that  others try to muster up.  He was sharp.  He was, in short, a good Republican.

But what Romney accomplished last night was something far greater than just winning an important debate.  For one key moment early on, he actually captured the voice of the American people.  Jim Lehrer - who I am surprised hasn't been hung in effigy outside the White House yet, and was generally horrible - asked Romney to ask the President what he wanted to ask him about the economy.  In one of those defining moments that Presidential campaigns are made of, Romney was the frustrated voice of the hard-working enterprise class, the folks in the country who "get it."  He never lost my attention afterward.

Equally important was that, really for the first time, Americans saw that Obama and all Democrats absolutely don't get it.  The heart of the debate last night was about getting the economy moving.  Every domestic issue is tied into that.  It is true that the best economy is a spending economy, as my high school economics teacher drilled into us.  But where Democrats are lost on this principle is on just who the spender really is and should be.  They seize upon somewhat isolated examples of the past (wars, the Great Society, the Clinton years, etc.) as the proper way to stimulate an economy.  In their pseudo-economic way of thinking, they believe the household is the central economic unit.  This is incorrect.  The reality is that businesspeople - not households - are the true spenders.  They spend on hiring, which then in turn stimulates the household.  Obama doesn't understand this at all, and he said so in so many words last night.  Romney does, and has the street cred to prove it.

Recently, the Dallas Morning News endorsed Governor Romney as a "Chamber of Commerce Republican."  I couldn't agree more.  There's a world title in his future if, like the Rangers, he can keep it up.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking

There is really only one story about the Cruz win last night:  130,000 Texans switched their vote.  That is why Mr. Cruz, a virtual unknown in state politics and about whom MUCH is still unknown, beat a well-funded state official with widely established name ID.

So for the sake of quarterbacking after Lt. Gov. Dewhurst's stunning loss, all criticism should only be made in the light of one question about the one story:  why did 130,000 Texans switch their vote?  This is actually an amazing phenomenon - one that doesn't happen too often.  Voting is like going through the drive-thru, we almost always buy the same exact thing.  Rarely do we decide we don't want a burger and opt for the fillet-o-fish.  But in the case of the U.S. Senate race, the Cruz campaign benefitted from a massive vote switch of the kind you only hear about in grammar school civics.  How did this happen?

THE DELAYED PRIMARY SEASON -- Campaigning 101 requires that you build name ID.  Tell 'em who you are, we say.  Cruz was relying on the cult-like buzz of social media to do this, but it was nowhere six months ago.  At that time, his social media support were a loose collection of malcontents, and even they were undecided, preoccupied with the Presidential race.   Once the federal panel in San Antonio started delaying things last year, the drip-drip-drip of Cruz' social media efforts began to find a current.  Smartly, he positioned himself as the TEA Party candidate, and began gathering up their pockets of online support.  This took about three months just to congeal that group, which was around April.  Had the regular March date been the Primary, Dewhurst would have broken 50% easily and Cruz' social media strategy would have left him stillborn.

"CONVICTION" -- One commentator last spring described Cruz' debate style and public speaking as "strong as garlic."  Cruz does not inspire with his speech-making.  Instead, he is simply "strong," and that is a style of campaigning that has been missing from the stump around here for many, many years.  This skin-deep "conviction" animated a large slice of voters this summer in the same way a constable candidate named Clint Eastwood gets votes in a crowded field.  This was a sharp contrast to Dewhurst's more low key style, which became sharper as the debates wore on.  I am not faulting the Dewhurst campaign for agreeing to more debates; this tactic was not his fault.  He had to do it.  And as I wrote in my last post, these people who attack the Lt. Governor for being "timid" are mean-spirited and cruel.

MEDIA CONTENT BY THE DEWHURST CAMPAIGN -- I'm not going to go on and on about the mistakes here; the people in Austin will spend the next 72 hours doing that.  It's not constructive.  But from an academic point of view, and in response to my thesis of why did people switch votes, I encountered one overriding factor among many of the people I talk to out in the country who switched, and it was:  "Those television commericals."  Normally, negative campaigning is designed to suppress the opponent's support.  Never does it persuade.  In Dewhurst's case, the nightmare scenario of one's own commericals turning off a voter to you and toward the other guy occurred.  The Lt. Governor in effect spent his own money on driving away those who had already voted for him!  No one I talked to who "switched" was particularly excited about Cruz.  They switched because they just were so up in arms about Dewhurst's commericals.  The irony is they failed to specify any particular commerical - they just didn't like them for some reason.

All in all, Cruz did not engineer a victory in the tradtional sense of campaigning.  He did have a plan, which was simply to play to the non-establishment right, but that was it.  He benefited from favorable winds, which he smartly exploited here in our unusual runoff season.  Still, the Cruz win exposes a fault line in the state party that is regrettable.  We now apparently have two groups in the state party, and they are not "moderate vs. conservative."  The best description is one of "haves and have-nots."  It's difficult to want to work between the two groups, as the leadership of the have-nots are driven by bald fear, envy and self-righteousness, for the most part.  And these two groups are further defined by attitudes.  It's the attitude of being content with incremental change, as our constitutional systems are defined, and demanding Bastille-like change.

Well, we all know what happened the last time folks demanded change.  Now let's make sure Cruz beats Mr. Sadler and retake the White House with him.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ted Cleon?

My fellow Republican and acquaintance, Ken Emanuelson, recently posted a very good question on his FB page asking, “Where is David Dewhurst’s support?” This is a valid inquiry deserving a thoughtful answer. Mr. Emanuelson is an East Dallas activist who I have respected for many years, and he represents the light side of the Force when it comes to the TEA Party movement. He is also a senior member of the Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate campaign.

An empirical answer to Mr. Emanuelson’s question is that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s support exists in the form of the more than 624,000 Texans who voted for him during the Primary. This number was a solid 10% greater than Mr. Cruz’ vote total of 479,000, and I cannot find a case in recent memory where that much of a spread has been overcome in a runoff, notoriously low turnout in such races notwithstanding.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has the mathematical support to win the runoff on July 31 simply by showing up. Runoffs are won by one strategy and one strategy alone: re-amassing the total of votes (or a derivative thereof) one had on Primary Day. There is no reason to believe Dewhurst’s voters will not turn out; NONE whatsoever (the usual Primary turnout driver, the Presidential race, was a non-factor this year in Texas). Cruz’s fatal problem is that he cannot add to his total given the nature of his candidacy, whereas Dewhurst has some wiggle room even if his total may be suppressed by any number of factors (ads, debate performance, summer vacation, the Rangers, the planets, etc.). Cruz’ only mathematical hope would be for a Leppert endorsement, which is highly unlikely. Conversely, a Leppert endorsement of Dewhurst would be like sending in an Airborne platoon to attack a brigade that has already has been disintegrated by photon guns.

But Mr. Emanuelson’s question is interesting because the sentiment behind it reflects the heart of what’s been going on within the Party nationally for about five years and now locally. I am a serious Dewhurst supporter (I have been acquainted with him for 13 years and had the privilege of working with him and his staff on a state-federal policy matter when I was a staffer on the Hill), and I’m tempted to ask the same question: why don’t we hear from his people? Why am I not more “vocal.” The answer has to do with styles of participation in the body politic. And the best example of this contrast comes from Ancient Greece.

The democratic system of Athens in the 5th Century B.C. utilized a two-tiered system for picking its leaders. The “ecclesia,” which was everyone, picked a “boule,” which was a massive executive council of 500 men. And it truly was a democratic system (if you were a free male); it was only republican on a rotating basis. The principle behind this system of government was to attempt to break up oligarchies and cliques which naturally form any place there are more than two people with beating hearts. Even the generals, or “strategoi” were elected annually and closely scrutinized by the boule during their term. For example, if a strategos lost a battle, he could be fined, imprisoned or even executed!

Times of war made being a strategos difficult, even though he was elected to fight. This is what happened during the Pelopennesian Wars (431-404 BC), when the Greek city-states of the Pelopennesian peninsula, led by Sparta, got cross-ways with Athens and its allies. Thanks to Hollywood, we are all aware of the virtual invincibility of the Spartans as a land army. The Athenians knew this too and so barricaded themselves and their port behind an equally unscaleable wall, also relying on their superior navy. In the process, Athens protected its commercial system across the Aegean Sea and thus its supplies and wealth. This “conservative” defense policy was put in place by the popular and longtime strategos, Pericles, who was like the George Washington of Athens.

But staying safe behind the walls wasn’t enough for some Athenians, notably those who did have land around Athens which would get ravaged by the Spartans every year. These more hawkish elements called for Pericles’ dismissal as strategos, and they were organized and led by an eloquent, radical non-aristocrat named Cleon. Cleon was a constant, haranguing vocal critic of Pericles, giving little deference to the latter’s admiration by the people and service over the years. He was articulate, but Cleon would have likely had no sway had it not been for the support of some of the landed elite who were being affected by Pericles’ policies (which were put in place in everyone’s best, if uncomfortable, interest). Today, Cleon would have been a blogger or serial tweeter, no doubt about it. But Pericles knew best, and the Athenians endured with him. Still, Cleon eventually managed to get his way temporarily over Pericles when epidemics began to break out in overcrowded Athens behind those protecting walls. Under pressure, the ecclesia dismissed Pericles, but later reinstated him as he undertook a naval expedition to raid the coast south of Sparta. Ironically, Pericles died as the result of one of these mass illnesses afflicting refugee Athens, thus clearing the way for Cleon to become strategos.

But Cleon proved ill-equipped to be a general. His attempts to take on the Spartans in the open resulted in failure, just as Pericles insisted. Cleon was also paranoid and intemperate. Driven by envy and a lust for power, he cut off all contact with the Athenian aristocrats even after they initially supported him. He brutally suppressed a rebellious Athenian province by killing 1000 of its men in cold blood. Cleon used Athenian money to pay the city’s citizen jurors for the first time, in effect buying votes. He also employed a system of informants on his fellow citizens.

Strangely enough, Cleon himself died while conducting one of his ill-fated military expeditions, along with the opposing Spartan general. The result was for both sides to eagerly make peace.

I support David Dewhurst for many reasons. And I don’t have to be vocal about it. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is in a position that many established office holders get into: their representation is solid because their work is solid. 624,000 Texans think his work is solid and want to promote him. Dewhurst is not a career politician; he is almost 67 years old and has only held office for 14 of those years. He is good at public service, and there is no shame in staying in office as long as one is doing a good job. His supporters don’t have to stand up, yell and act like fools because that’s not our style, nor is it his. Calling Lt. Gov. Dewhurst “timid” is mean-spirited and the equivalent of a bully calling someone sensible enough to walk away from a rapid dog, “chicken.” If Dewhurst is “unable to articulate conservatism,” then so is John Cornyn. They have exactly the same speaking styles.

People like Mr. Cruz have the luxury of throwing bombs because they have NO RECORD and have never had to make a tough decision affecting the lives of millions – that’s their style.

Mr. Cruz has never had to get his hands dirty in public policy. And I don’t mean dirty like many in our era want it to mean, as in crooked. Mr. Cruz has never ONCE had to craft a public budget that tries to help as many of Texas’ most vulnerable citizens as it can, all the while making sure every kid gets a decent education and crime is fought. Mr. Cruz has basically been a legal contractor with the State of Texas as Solicitor General. He hasn’t been bad at it; it’s just that he’s no conservative hero, because he hasn’t had to test that conservatism in the fires of the legislative arena. He’s only had to present arguments to a handful of judges here and there – that is the full extent of his public policy experience. Even Ronald Reagan had to work within a very anti-enterprise, unruly actors’ union before becoming Governor of California.

Mr. Cruz’ candidacy, like the 50+ other failed GOP Primary challenges this year which could be characterized as “anti-incumbent,” is fueled by anger in search of a victim. He and his supporters are simply in Hulk-Smash! mode. THIS DOES NOT WIN ELECTIONS. Furthermore, to get elected on a tide of envy and anger is just as bad as winning with Democrat votes, in my opinion. It’s not who we are as Republicans, definitely not Texans.

The truly odd thing about this Senate race is that Cruz and Dewhurst truly disagree on VERY, VERY little. Instead, Cruz has been forced to attack Dewhurst for doing his job. The Texas Senate’s version of the Sanctuary Cities bill, which would have held up better in court, was no good because it wasn’t “ours” (the TEA Party’s). The Texas Senate’s version of the TSA anti-groping bill was no good because it wasn’t “our version.”

But there is another important consideration to be made on why Dewhurst MUST be chosen over Cruz, and this involves U.S. Senate Committee assignments. Article I of the Constitution requires the Senate and House to organize with committees. John Cornyn already sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, arguably the most powerful committee today in Congress when one considers their role in approving judicial nominees. The Senate GOP leadership, Cornyn included, will never allow two Texans from the same party to serve on the Judiciary Committee. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s unfair to the other states. If Ted Cruz’ attractiveness is because he’s a Constitution super-lawyer, why would we send him to Washington if he’s unable to serve on the committee that best matches his skill set? I know of no plans about Cornyn’s departure from that committee, let alone the Senate. And besides, Cornyn is already a super-Constitutional lawyer who could litigate Cruz into knots. WE DO NOT NEED ANOTHER LAWYER FOR A SENATOR.

Moreover, Texas is losing its Appropriator, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Someone responsible has to be prepared to fill the void in a couple of years. If this were Ted Cruz, he would find himself having to make all those tough spending decisions which he has ZIP experience doing. He would be eaten alive by that committee, and Texas would be crippled in the process. I’d like to see Ted Cruz’ justification for cutting V-22s out of Ft. Worth and Amarillo, or for not supporting a badly needed rehabilitation wing at the Waco VA. I’d like to see Ted Cruz say no to fixing an impoverished East Texas town’s failed sewer system after they’re rejected for an EPA grant. I’d like to hear Ted Cruz explain why he zeroed out an NIH cancer research program that is saving lives in Houston. Bob Dole put Phil Gramm on Appropriations – even making him a subcommittee chairman -- in an effort to make the budget hawk eat crow on spending and thus cripple a potential Presidential rival. It worked. Gramm once said, after bringing the leanest Commerce-Justice-State Departments' Appropriations bill he could make to the Floor, “Mr. President, my bill is carrying so much pork that I’ve got trichinosis.”

I will admit that many of Dewhurst’s supporters might be “quiet” out of resentment. We are giving the Cruz camp the silent treatment. There are many of the Dewhurst 624,000 who have been carrying the torch of conservatism for a long, long, long time, and we resent it when people come smashing into the China shop we have worked so hard to wrest from the Democrats. This is wrong for us to be resentful, but the Cruz camp, which is an alliance of TEA Partiers and Ron Paul supporters, needs to start taking yes for an answer.

I voted for Ron Paul last month, because I am somewhat acquainted with him, not unlike my relationship with David Dewhurst. I wish I knew Ted Cruz better, and maybe I wouldn't be so hard on him. This is how I make my voting decisions: I try to get to know the candidate in addition to his policy positions. Both Dr. Paul and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst are great men of integrity, and their policy positions are most in line with mine for the office sought. I don’t have any real disagreements with Mr. Cruz on policy. But I do take issue with his style, and ESPECIALLY that of his supporters.  How a man leads others is a HUGE indicator of his character.  I have been grateful to see that Mr. Cruz tends to leave a lot of self-righteousness at the door, even in the heat of a campaign. However, I will never vote for someone who appears to be exploiting the angry and envious, who in turn want to kill whoever does not agree with them 100%. Our state and party cannot afford a Cleon.

No, I’m not vocal. But I do blog every so often. :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to Turn 40

Long time since the last post. Work is to blame.

Today is the 149th Anniversary of the accidental shooting of T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a great American and Christian who stands unequalled in Trey Bahm’s pantheon of heroes. Although we are commemorating many sesquicentennial events of the Civil War these years, the 149th shooting at dusk on Day Two of the Battle of Chancellorsville is significant because of the General’s age at the time of his death: 39. I have 26 days remaining on this number.

Turning 40 is a big deal, simply because it’s happening to me. We make much of aging and dying young in America. And if you don’t have the vain honor of leaving a good-looking corpse, there’s always the Mid-life Crisis to fall back on, or more aptly for 2012: playing out one’s health drama on Facebook.

I don’t know that I would have been close to the General had I been a contemporary and in his peer group. He himself was admittedly misanthropic. Some historians even believe he had Asperger’s. He certainly had a quirky, really aloof personality. And yet I’ve always been drawn to those types of folks, so maybe we would have at least become well-acquainted. But what makes the General undoubtedly a brother in Christ, and informs my faith that I will absolutely see him standing alongside my Lord to welcome me into eternity, was a special blessing of peace that he seemed to have been given from on high. Jackson had a measure of serenity that seemed to have been given to him by Providence during an unbelievably difficult childhood of fatherlessness and poverty. Even before he began his spiritual journey as a young officer stationed in Mexico, Jackson seemed to possess a mind-boggling peace that stunned his fellow soldiers. During Winfield Scott’s assault on Mexico City in 1847, Lt. Jackson and a sergeant, their battery shot to pieces, single-handedly held a position against Mexican soldiers pouring lead into them from Chapultepec Castle. Jackson attempted to rally his command with, “See, there is no danger! I am not hit!”

Although he later confessed it was the only instance during which he lied to his subordinates, God’s truth merged with the peace He seemed to have already installed in him when Jackson embraced the salvation of Christ not long afterward.  His coolness in battle and life are well known, in no small effort informed by his Reformed interpretation of God's word - it is the very source of his nickname.  Of course, he was human and a perfectionist – he demanded of his sweet wife, who he loved dearly, that his home life “swing on golden hinges” (meaning it had to be super-organized). This peace that passed all understanding built up in Jackson a faith that carried him through a lifetime of hard tragedy (his first wife and child died) and one of the grimmest wars known to humanity.

So, Stonewall comes to mind as 39 ends. After being shot by his own men, suffering severe blood loss, an amputation and pneumonia, the General died on May 10, 1863. In his passing fever, he started to shout out orders then suddenly stopped, saying, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” This is how I plan to turn 40: by allowing God to give the orders and pursing peace – even with some of those clowns who irritate me.

I’ve also cranked up the morning workout. I am a now a jogger, like my father before me. I think subconsciously I want to run by my birthday.