Sunday, October 30, 2016

I guess I'm with her

I've been challenging myself to outline the reasons why I'm voting for Mrs. Clinton rather than against Mr. Trump. It took me a while. But here, with about a week remaining, are my reasons which I'll state without lapsing into criticism of the Republican nominee.

  • Her record while in office is that of a competent policymaker willing to reach across the aisle in the sake of compromise. I think we could use that kind of person in the White House. 
  • She'll likely draw on allies with involvement in, or one degree removed from, advisers in her husband's administration in the 1990s. The domestic legislative accomplishments of that administration, though by no means unblemished, promoted some meaningful reform in a partisan 1990s climate. I like the idea of a president surrounded by advisers who will make things happen. 
  • Her campaign platform, and record as a policymaker, suggest she'll put forward policies to benefit working-class Americans, children, and young families. Also, it suggests she'll promote modest measures at regulating firearms. These are policies I think are prudent. 
  • Her tax recommendations are budget neutral relative to the track on which we currently find ourselves. 
  • She's a good mother. Her daughter, Chelsea, is a credit to her parenting. Given how Chelsea came of age while her father was president, and in the midst of the scandals he brought upon the family and administration, this is no small feat. 

Enthusiastic? No. Convincing? Probably not. I'll sleep fine on November 8 having cast a vote for her. Moreover, I'm a little bit more at ease given that I have some solid (though arguable) reasons for supporting her rather than opposing him. I've spent enough time on this blog criticizing Mr. Trump. Probably too much. But I'd like to conclude this season looking more at the merits of her rather than the demerits of him.

Like a good neighbor, eh?

Another outstanding cover of The Economist. It's a sharp commentary on how Canada is serving as a bastion of Western values (you know, the good kind) in a time when the U.S. and Western Europe is struggling to live up to the ideals that have been some of the West's greatest contributions. 

In some ways, it makes sense for us to perhaps hand over the Statue of Liberty to our friends up North. Not permanently. Just for safe-keeping until our irrational moods subside. They're good neighbors. They'll take good care of her and give her back unscathed when we ask for it. 

In case you're interested in reading the article for yourself, here's the link. 

An Odyssey in an Odyssey

The newest addition to our kitchen is the 16-month calendar from the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forest Foundation. It's a much more adequate calendar for our kitchen than the free one we got from Gettysburg College which, for 2016, seemed to be trying too hard in its photographs. Now, though, as the weather gets colder and the family and work schedules less forgiving, I'm taunted by photographs of beautiful parks I want to visit.

Salt Springs is this month's temptation. 
The calendar got me to thinking, could I get to all sixteen parks during the time this calendar is hanging on our wall? A park a month might seem too ambitious. However, I could exclude from the list the parks I've already visited, so that would make this quest more doable.

That's Shades of Death Trail!
So, I got to thinking. What about a road trip that would take us through the parks on the calendar that we haven't yet visited. If we did that, here's what the trip would look like:

This 700-mile trip has been arranged for efficiency. It doesn't include the trip home, which would tack on a mere 268 miles to this odyssey.
Setting up and taking down campsites at nine state parks seems like a poor use of our time. Obviously, we'd have to simply stop and see some of the parks. Neshaminy, for instance, might be worthy of a quick hello rather than an overnight stay. Bald Eagle, too, might just get the drive-by as we make our way from Raymond B. Winter to Cook Forest. The tough call would be whether to stay the night at Cook Forest or Moraine.

To further minimize the time and effort consumed by setting up and taking down, we'll obviously require a camper. However, I don't want to get something that would tax my minivan as we traverse the Commonwealth's countryside. Good thing that I know of a place that sells Cricket trailers nearby.

This daydream is becoming expensive.

And I interrupted this blog to look more at the TaxaOutdoors website and I'm seeing other ways to spend money there.

Our family took what has proven to be our favorite vacation last year to England. But trips to England are expensive and we had resolved to be more frugal with our vacationing in 2017. It would appear as if a relatively inexpensive wall calendar is tempting me to backtrack on that resolution.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


A few years ago the saga of then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane made me quite indignant. It's come to an end. She's been sentenced. She'll go to jail. Here's how the Philadelphia news reported on it. Somehow, I don't find myself at all satisfied.

I really wish the state legislature had impeached and removed her rather than see her convicted and sent to jail. Was the jail sentence warranted? Probably. But President Ford was right forty-some years ago when he issued a pardon, basically leaving Richard Nixon's punishment for a political crime political banishment.

Kane's saga marks something of a beginning of an angry phase in my political life. I remember feeling quite red over her shenanigans. Why was my tax money paying for this bully's salary? Why was this person the chief law enforcement officer of my state? Her conduct disgusted me.

As my interest in that story bated, the presidential campaign heated up. And in that I found a new figure seemingly worthy of my scorn. Now I ponder about what impact Mr. Trump's likely defeat will have on me. Will I feel vindicated? Probably not. I'll probably feel empty and frustrated over the wasted time, energy, and passion. Feeling right isn't the same as feeling good.


Today's news brought word that health coverage premiums are rising by 25% (or is it 22%) in the Obamacare exchanges. Here's how NPR's marketplace covered it. It's a shame it's broken.

There was a 20-minute window of time last week when I had to operate under the assumption that Sam's broken pinkie wasn't covered by my health plan. It was pretty obvious that there was some sort of paperwork error. And I knew that even if I did have to pay up front for the surgery with a check eventually it would get worked out. It's reassuring, and I know how privileged I am to have such assurances. I'm fortunate enough that I could've have written the check had it been necessary. But for about 20 minutes, I got a glimpse from the other side of this system.

The bill for my son to be seen by a specialist and then operated on by that specialist the next day would have been $1,300.

I don't know what the cost of our trip to the Inova Hopital ER in Alexandria would have been.

Let's get back to the $1,300. That's to properly set a slightly angulated fracture of the left pinkie belonging to a healthy 10-year-old.

I understand the cost, and I appreciate the quality of care my son is receiving.

The experience made me mindful of how impossibly uneven the system can be. For how many families is an awkward fall on one's pinkie a crippling financial setback?

So, back to Obamacare. I was against the legislation when it was passed. Now, I'd like it to just work. And I remain optimistic that after these elections a pragmatic president and a Speaker of the House who prizes little steps in the right direction might just look at that piece of legislation (certainly one with flaws) and fix it so it works. I'd really like to see it work so well that nearly every parent can proceed with assurance when their son, or daughter, or wife, or parent breaks a pinkie. Or worse.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The BINGO Card and Other Amusements

My BINGO card gave me some amusement last night as I watched the debate. I was surprised that it took 20 minutes for me to check off even one box. But then the candidates swerved away from a substantive policy debate into the acrimony that's characterized this debate. *Sigh. At least I felt like a winner when "Mike Pence" was uttered, allowing me to claim a diagonal win.

Though I profess to not engage in politics on Facebook I do violate that pledge once in a while. In the spring I announced my change of party affiliation by posting a picture of my new voter ID card. Last night, I posted this BINGO card, which I thought to be irreverent and politically ambivalent though it probably reflected my leanings anyway. Heck, that I made it in a sense of irreverence says something about me politically. Perhaps it says I don't take the election seriously. Perhaps it says that I'm more comfortable than I was three weeks ago that the candidate I support this year looks likely to win. I thought it harmless, but at least one person found it harmful.

Perhaps deep down inside I knew it was not as benign as I pretended it to be when posting.

So to revisit the trappings of the political posts on Facebook. It's something that's unwise for me to do because . . .

  • the format of the medium encourages people to get in the ever-elusive last word (there rarely is a last word)
  • tone, especially sarcasm, is hard to convey in words and it's increasingly likely online 
  • wit is rewarded more than wisdom
  • I like and love a lot of people who will disagree with me on many, many political issues 
And if those people whom I like wander to me on Facebook, expecting to see photos of my kids, my house, myself, my cross-eyed cat, but instead get met with political commentary that is more biting, condescending, or irreverent than they intended to find, then the blame is on me. So I should keep my politics over here, where it's expected. 

But I'll probably err again. 

Witty, eh? 

Sunday, October 9, 2016


In 20 minutes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will square off in their second debate. I refuse to watch a minute of it. I take this stand despite my curiosity at how Hillary holds up to a blistering attack, my hope that she does so well, and despite the fact that my students will likely watch this debate and want to discuss it tomorrow.

In the last 48 hours or so I've seen and heard everything I need to see and hear to know that I will not cast a vote for Donald Trump under any circumstances. He's a lout. A bully. A beast. A fool. A knave. A bigot.

He has no regard for anyone else. None.

So, why would I every want to waste a minute watching this debate. He'll attack Hillary like a caged animal. He'll be rabid. Though she'll survive it, it will do damage to her presidency.

She will be the next president. There's nothing he can do to alter that course. All he can do is cause damage to her, the office she's about to earn, the party he is leaving in tatters. Watching the debate tonight only serves to enhance his ego and give more oxygen to a fire he will set.

The Republican Party was mine for a long time. I admired its principles and its people. The party that was the party of decent, assertive, and positive leaders such as Reagan, Ford, and Bush has now given us this wreck of a human being.