The Future of the Supreme Court in the Wake of RBG’s Death

I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of people saying the President should be prohibited from nominating, and the Senate should not be allowed to confirm, a Supreme Court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I’d like to, but I can’t. Here’s why:

The Constitution gives the president the right to nominate candidates to the Supreme Court. It further gives the Senate the duty to confirm or decline that candidate. That’s our system, and there’s nothing in the Constitution or law that indicates any period (i.e. just before an election) when this process is limited or does not apply.

Now, I can hear you screaming, “But what about Merrick Garland?”

For those not familiar with Merrick Garland, he was nominated for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia by President Obama in 2016. The Republicans, who controlled the majority in the Senate, decided they were not going to hold confirmation hearings on Garland, claiming that it was too close to an election. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the American people should have a say, and with the election just around the corner, the next president should decide who to nominate.

There was no legal reason not to hold confirmation hearings, but it was within the Senate’s rights to withhold their confirmation. Garland’s nomination wasn’t officially declined, but it did eventually expire.

Not holding confirmation hearing caused quite an uproar. Democrats in particular were outraged that McConnell wouldn’t at least hold hearings, but there was little they could do.

When speaking about the Senate’s refusal to take up Garland’s nomination, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

After the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, Graham further stated, “I’ll tell you this – this may make you feel better, but I really don’t care – if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.”

Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, ““It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”

Several other senators, including Cory Gardner (R-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) all went on the record saying the Senate should not hold confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court justice in the lead up to an election.

But within hours of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, McConnell, Graham, Cruz, and several other Senators have chimed in to say that Donald Trump should submit a nominee and the Senate should hold confirmation hearings before the election (or perhaps between the election and the inauguration in January 2021).

So, it’s clear. Republicans are hypocrites. Is that news? Not really. The days of statesmanship and fair dealing have been over for some time with these guys. They are liars and conmen who routinely choose party over country, but they are not abusing their power by holding nomination hearings.

In a more perfect world, Republicans would be true to their word and the commitments they made back in 2016. But that’s not the world we live in.

Will any Republicans show some honor and dignity, and refuse to confirm any nominee until after the election? Maybe. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have both voiced their reluctance to hold confirmation hearings. Susan Collins (R-ME) might join that group. If no more than three Republicans refuse to confirm Trump’s nominee, the Republicans will still have enough votes to seat another Supreme Court justice.

For Democrats, there is some light at the end of this particular tunnel. In the coming days, I expect Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and others to announce their intention to take the following actions should the Republicans move forward with the confirmation:

  1. Democrats will move to admit Washington, DC and Puerto Rico as the 51st and 52nd states in the union. This will add four new senators, and with both areas being heavily Democratic, those new senators will also likely be Democratic.
  2. Democrats will vote to end the Senate filibuster, an arcane Senate rule that allows the minority party to hold up legislation not to their liking.
  3. Democrats will vote to enlarge the Supreme Court. There is no law that says the court has to have nine members, so if Democrats increased the court to 13, they could add enough liberal judges to swing the court to a one vote liberal majority.

In order for this to work for the Democrats, two rather big things have to happen in November:

  1. Joe Biden (D) has to win the presidency, and
  2. The Democrats must take back control of the Senate

Both things appear to be doable. Biden is leading in the polls at the moment, and Democrats are likely to pick up several seats in the Senate. Will it be enough to carry out their threat? Only time will tell.

I should point out that Democrats would rather not do any of the three things I listed above. They’d like to add Washington, DC and Puerto Rico as states, but they’d prefer to do it in a slower, more deliberative fashion. Ramming through statehood for Washington, DC and Puerto Rico is not anyone’s preference.

In addition, the filibuster is a long-standing process in the Senate, and members are reluctant to get rid of it. However, Democrats would have to get rid of it in order to prevent Republicans, who in this scenario would be in the minority, from blocking their attempts to enlarge the Supreme Court.

In fact, enlarging the court is something Democrats would rather avoid. Nobody wants to mess with the court for political reasons. That’s just not something either party particularly likes to do. The Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics. But, if the Republicans are willing to play politics with RBGs open seat, then the Democrats would likely be willing to respond in kind.

If Donald Trump is smart (I know this is up for debate), he’ll decide not to submit a nominee. Why would he do that? Think about it. If he wins in November, he’s going to have another four years and will have plenty of time to nominate someone to the Supreme Court after he starts his next term.

On the other hand, if he loses, or if the Senate switches to Democratic control, he’s no worse off than he is now, with a conservative leaning court. Replacing Ginsburg with a liberal justice will only maintain the court’s status quo, not flip it.

Of course, this presupposes that Democrats won’t go forward with their threats if Trump plays nice, but honestly, I think that’s a pretty good bet. The threat the Democrats would be making is distasteful to them. They don’t want to do it, and will likely only follow through with their threat if they are forced to.

I agree with all of those that say the Republicans shouldn’t confirm a candidate this late in Trump’s term, but I understand that they are well within their rights to do so. If Trump nominates a candidate and the Senate holds confirmation hearings, the Democrats will be forced to take aggressive, steps to counter the Republicans, which will be ugly, divisive, and utterly necessary.

There is a way to avoid this possibility, but I honestly don’t think that Trump or the Republicans are capable of doing the smart, right thing when it comes to Supreme Court nominations. They’re like a heroin addict being offered free dope. Even if they can think clearly enough to know taking the dope is a bad idea, they’re craving will override their brain and lead them to take it anyway. And when it comes to the Supreme Court, the Republicans have an insatiable craving.

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The Evolution of My Political Ideology

If you’ve read any of my recent social media posts concerning racial injustice, the upcoming election, and police brutality, it might surprise you to learn that I am a registered Republican. Not only that, the work I have done for political campaigns has been exclusively for Republicans. And yet, friends and acquaintances on social media are convinced that I am a liberal Democrat who hates our country.

I thought it might be interesting to track the progress of my political ideology from a young pup who once joined a political campaign as a way to impress a girl, to today, where my concern is much more for the future of our country than the future of my love life.

My first taste of politics wasn’t much of a taste at all. My father was friendly with Jack Hill, a former Congressman who was running for mayor in my hometown. I didn’t know anything about Hill or his politics, but he had been nice to my father, so when Dad asked me to handout leaflets for Hill, I agreed. That was it. One afternoon of handing out leaflets. I guess it was an introduction to politics, but just barely.

I point to the 1980 presidential election as the time I became politically aware. Until then, politics was something that was happening outside my view. I knew it was out there somewhere. I just never saw it.  In 1980, there was a lot of buzz about Ronald Reagan, who was taking on the incumbent, Jimmy Carter. But it was neither Reagan nor Carter that I went to work for. It was John Anderson, the Illinois Congressman who ran as a Republican in the presidential primary, and when he lost, became the candidate for the National Unity Party.

Truthfully, I didn’t know much about Anderson or his policies. What I did know was that Debbie Marsh (not her real name) was beautiful and she was active in Anderson’s campaign. I was smitten and thought I could get close to her  by joining the campaign as a volunteer. I was wrong. After working a couple of weekends for Anderson, I met Debbie’s older, taller-and-better-looking-than-me boyfriend, and I lost interest in the election. In case you’re not good at history, Anderson didn’t win.

A few years later, a friend recruited me to place yard signs for Tom Corcoran, who was running for Congress from Illinois as a Republican. I was in college at the time and had taken a couple of political science courses. To see the street level version of a political campaign piqued my interest. I went back to college and immediately signed up to work on the Congressional campaign of Kenneth McMillan, a Republican. McMillan ended up losing, but the experience made me want to get more involved in future campaigns.

In college, I started developing a political ideology. In 1980, Jimmy Carter was president, and the nation felt depressed. The economy was doing poorly, we had been humiliated in Iran, and we were suffering through an energy crisis that included rolling brown outs in major cities. It seemed that our best days were behind us.

Then along came Ronald Reagan. Almost immediately, our hostages were returned by Iran, and things started to look up. Reagan had a charisma and a belief in America as “a shining city on a hill” that was contagious. He stood toe-to-toe with Russia during the Cold War, and did it with a confidence I hadn’t noticed in previous presidents. I liked what I saw. And since he was a Republican, I became a Republican.

After college, I went to law school for a year, but wasn’t a very good student, and didn’t like the school I was attending. So, I quit law school and instead went to grad school to get a masters degree in political science. By this time, I had developed a real interest in political systems and campaigns.

A few years later, while living in St. Louis, I worked for Jack Buechner, a Republican, who was running for Congress. I was fortunate to get more involved with Jack’s campaign, participating in fundraising activities, planning campaign events, and distributing signs and leaflets. It was a good experience. Jack won, and at the celebration of his victory on election night, I remember feeling like I had found a home with my Republican colleagues.

At this point in my life, I would have been considered a moderate Republican. Fiscally, I was conservative, but more moderate on social issues. Even then, despite the fact that I believed in small government and balanced budgets, I felt that government should work for the benefit of its citizens, not corporations or special interests.

The 1980s were good years for Republicans. Reagan pulled the country back up from the Carter doldrums and made us feel good about ourselves again. This ability to make people feel good about themselves and their situation is underrated. I understand the importance of a politician’s policies, but as important as they are, policies are often dry and technical. They don’t inspire people to action. They don’t inspire confidence. They don’t inspire pride. Politicians do that. And that was Reagan’s strength.

I admit that I am largely blinded by the politics of the 1980s and early 1990s. I saw the good, but often overlooked the bad. I made excuses for some of the ill-considered policies and excesses of Republicans of that era. I wanted to support winners, so I couldn’t admit that some of the things they were doing were wrong. It’s something that I see so clearly these days with Trump supporters. They can never be critical of the president because it would mean that they were wrong to give him their support. They would rather continue down the wrong path than admit that they made a wrong turn.

In 1993, I became the state legislative coordinator for a large insurance company. It was in this position that my eyes were really opened. My job involved encouraging employees and associates to get involved in the political process, working with lobbyists to push our company’s agenda, and occasionally meeting with legislators and government officials to discuss issues critical to our company.

That job was a great experience, but after doing it for a while, it really soured me on politics. They say that if you love sausage, you should never watch it being made. Same thing with politics. Seeing how things really work, and how important money is to the process, can be really discouraging. I went into the process a wide-eyed noob, and came out a disgruntled, frustrated veteran.

Despite getting burned out, working the legislative job had tremendous value. With everything I saw and experienced, it took me some time to process it all. When I left the job, I avoided politics for several years. I didn’t watch TV news, and rarely read anything about politics in newspapers or magazines. I didn’t really know what was going on politically, and I certainly didn’t have a deep understanding of current events. I’ve never been happier. Some would call it ignorant bliss, but I would point out that ignorant bliss is still bliss.

It was during this period of intentional disconnection that my political ideology began to change. Reflecting on my experience as a legislative coordinator, I began to recognize how much the government tends to work for its own interests, not the citizens. To be sure, like any profession, there are good, altrustic people in politics, and there are bad, self-interested people. And there are a lot that exist in the gray area somewhere in the middle. The thing that they all have in common is that they need money to continue their political careers. Often (but not always), if you are coming to them without money, they are not particularly inclined to listen to you.

This realization really bothered me because I recognized that most people don’t have lobbyists or trade associations to push their issues. They don’t have the disposable income to pay for access. So, even though, theoretically, the government exists to serve and defend them, in practice, most people don’t have the wherewithal or the voice to petition the government.

I also was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Republican party. My politics were beginning to evolve, but not in the same direction or at the same speed as the Republican Party. I think it was the Tea Party movement that really started pulling Republicans to the right. Not only that, but they influenced Republicans to be uncompromising in their positions. Particularly during the Obama years, Republicans in Congress became the party of obstruction. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell made it clear that his mission was to obstruct any legislation from passing, with the goal of making Obama a one-term president.

This statement by McConnell made it clear that he viewed his job first as political, and second as legislative. He wasn’t interested in governing. He wanted to thwart the re-election of his “enemy” He had chosen party over country.

For eight years, McConnell and the Republics did everything in their power to prevent legislation from passing. They became more and more intransigent, refusing to work with Obama and the Democrats. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Obama for the things he failed to accomplish during his two-terms in office, but Republicans deserve the lion’s share of the blame for simply refusing to do their jobs, hoping their bad faith efforts would reflect badly on their opponents.

Even now, with the nation suffering through a pandemic, high unemployment, our economy in free fall, and the president actively working to interfere in the upcoming election by, among other things, destroying the post office, McConnell still refuses to consider legislation to address any of these issues. He continues to choose party over country, and his Republican colleagues and supporters love him for it.

My political ideology was already changing before Trump landed on the political scene, but that change significantly accelerated upon his election. Trump is the worst of us. He is narcissistic, greedy, self-interested, dishonest, and untrustworthy. He is unlike any president we have had in my lifetime, and I would argue he is the worst president in history. But he has performed one very important function: He has shown the country how unprepared we are for someone like him.  And he has made it clear that we need laws and processes to make sure it never happens again.

Although I’m still a registered Republican, I no longer consider myself part of the Republican Party. In fact, I would argue that the Republican Party doesn’t exist anymore. They are now the Trump Party. They just haven’t made it official by changing their name.

I don’t particularly like labels. I’m no longer a Republican, and I’m not a Democrat. I’m also neither conservative nor liberal. If I have to have a label, I choose “pragmatic.” I like policies and programs that work, that make sense for the whole country. In fact, I think it’s a little strange that people are so quick to label themselves with one political ideology or the other, as if the same political philosophy is the correct answer to every issue. I reject that way of thinking. I have no allegiance to any political party. My only allegiance is to the country and its citizens. The policies I support are those designed to help citizens and make the country stronger. The policies I oppose are those designed to enrich a few at the expense of the many, ultimately weaking the country

There are three issues in particular I am passionate about at the moment. The first is getting Donald Trump out of office. He is the most serious  threat our democracy has ever faced. In recent months, he has inched us closer to authoritarianism and fascism. And with each move he has made, he has remained unchecked by Republicans in Congress, emboldening him further. If he is elected for a second term, I don’t think our democracy will survive. Our country is truly at a crossroads.

Second, I am passionate about improving race relations in the United States. The first step is to make changes that guarantee black Americans equal rights and justice under the law. We should not have to protest for blacks to have the Constitutional rights and privileges they are already entitled to. The George Floyd murder in Minneapolis was a horrible thing, but I think it opened a window for us to really address the issue of race in America. It’s well past time we made changes.

Third—and related to number two—is the issue of police brutality, especially against black males. This is a difficult issue to address, because the police, as a group, don’t believe they have a problem. It is also difficult because I, like a lot of people, know cops who are good, decent, hard-working, caring folks who want to do a good job for their communities. It’s hard to be critical of people you like and admire. Even so, as if it wasn’t obvious before, the death of George Floyd and the protests against police brutality that have been met with more brutality by law enforcement underscores how crucial this issue is.

There are two other issues that I’m passionae about, but haven’t talked about much yet. That is, universal healthcare and income inequality. There are good, conservative arguments to support both issues. I won’t bore you with those reasons now, but I expect to be talking about both much more in the future.

I have been very vocal on social media about these first three issues, but let me pull back the curtain a little bit to let you in on a little secret. I don’t like writing about politics. I don’t like writing about anything controversial. I used to not bring up political issues on social media at all. But the stakes are too high to remain quiet.

Remember how I said earlier that I was much happier when I didn’t follow the news or stay up on current events? Well, that is still the case. I know I would be much happier if I just sat out this election and didn’t comment on these issues. Truth is, because of my station in life, I have the privilege to ignore the election and remain silent on the issues facing us as a country. I’m a straight white male with a decent income and a safety net should things go wrong. Whatever Trump does to our country, I will probably be okay, or at least won’t be as affected as some. If race relations or police brutality aren’t resolved, its probably not going to impact me. But that wouldn’t be very responsible of me, would it? I have a voice and a platform (as small as it is), so I feel an obligation to speak up.

To quote the Bible, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). I have been blessed in life. That’s why I feel an obligation to try to make our country and our world a better place, and to advocate for “the least among us,” the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, and anyone else who needs a voice.

Put another way, as Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I want to be a good man, so I’m obliged to be involved, raise my voice, and take action.

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A Long Overdue Update

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here. It’s been a crazy time. With the pandemic, I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in the house, not venturing out for anything but groceries and an occasional errand. In theory, that should have given me plenty of time to write. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. My head just hasn’t been in the game. But I feel the tide turning. My plan is to write more often here on the blog as a way of rebuilding that writing muscle, and with the intent of using that stronger muscle to get back to my in-progress books.

So, let me tell you a little about those books. The first is tentatively titled Second Chances. It’s about a high school basketball team from the 80s. They go to the state championship, but lose to a team that is discovered to have cheated, having two ineligible older players. The scheme is revealed, but the state athletic association fails to adequately punish the cheaters, leaving the kids from the losing team little salve for their wounds.

Now it’s thirty-seven years later and players from that losing team, all in their mid-50s, have moved on with their lives. Or have they? Each of the members of the team struggles with issues from their state championship loss years after it happened. They’ve tried to move on, built families and careers, but there’s an empty space in each of them that they haven’t been able to fill. That is, until one of them concocts the idea of putting the team back together to compete in the state senior Olympics.

The novel follows each of the players through their lives, looking at how the state championship loss so long ago affected them, and how putting the team back together changes things.

Publication of Second Chances was originally scheduled for 12/1/20, but I have a feeling it may be delayed a bit.

The second book is tentatively titled Paris, but I’m almost certain to change that. The book was inspired by the Jimmy Buffet song “He Went to Paris,” which in turn was inspired by the life of Eddie Balchowsky, a one-armed veteran of the Spanish-American War who went on to become an artist and musician in Chicago. Buffet isn’t the only one to write a song inspired by Eddie. So did Loudon Wainwright, Utah Phillips, and Dion Dimucci (of Dion and The Belmonts fame).

The story follows a starry-eyed dreamer as he graduates from college (a rarity in the 1920s) and travels to Paris to solve some of the mysteries that trouble his mind. There, he meets and befriends Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and other members of The Lost Generation, all ex-pat artists who flocked to Paris after the first World War.

He gets a job as a newspaper reporter documenting the burgeoning blues scene, and meets an actress, who eventually becomes his wife. They move to England and he opens one of the first blues clubs in London. For a while, their life is idyllic. Their love deepens, they have a child, and the club prospers. But England is soon drawn into a war with Germany that leaves his life (and much of England) in tatters.

Paris (or whatever I end up calling it) is looking like it could become a novella. It still needs a lot of work, and I’m not sure when it will be published, although I’m leaning toward mid-to-late 2021.

In the coming days and weeks, I plan on writing much more here. In addition to book news, I want to start sharing more everyday things. In the past, I’ve avoided writing much about my life, except as it pertains to my books or short stories. I think I’d like to expand that a little by including my thoughts on other topics as well. Keep an eye out. We’ll see where this goes.

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Deep Dive: Theodore Parker and His Continuing Influence in the World

During times of civil unrest, particularly when that unrest is motivated by unequal justice based on race, people tend to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of Dr. King’s most popular quotes at times like this is:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Until recently, I didn’t realize that Dr. King was actually paraphrasing a quote from a 19th century theologian and abolitionist by the name of Theodore Parker. I had previously never heard of Parker, and decided to look into the man and his message. What I found was quite interesting.

Parker was born in Massachusetts in 1810 to a farming family with long roots in the history of the United States. His ancestors were involved in founding and running cities in early day Massachusetts, and his grandfather, John Parker, was leader of the Lexington militia in the American Revolution Battle of Lexington.

Parker was self-taught in several subjects, including math and Latin, and he began teaching in a local school at the age of seventeen. At the age of nineteen, he applied to and was accepted at Harvard University, but he could not pay the tuition. Instead of attending classes, he studied on his own, then took exams with his classmates. He completed his studies in three years and was hired to teach in a school in Watertown, Massachusetts, where he met his wife, Lydia Dodge Cabot.

In addition to teaching, Parker began writing, completing his first book, The History of the Jews, when he was just twenty-five years old. The book was an extension of his strong religious faith, which included a healthy skepticism in Biblical miracles. His beliefs led him to attend Harvard Divinity School, after which, he began preaching in 1836.

Both his marriage to Lydia and his career in the ministry turned out to be a disappointment to him in the late 1830s. He and Lydia could not have children, placing great stress on the marriage, and he was becoming increasingly disillusioned with orthodox theology.

Parker met Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837 and began attending Transcendentalist gatherings. During these gatherings, he met noted intellectuals such as Henry David Thoreau, Orestes Brownson, and Amos Bronson Alcot. Slowly, Transcendentalist thought began creeping into his sermons. After publishing an article about John Gorham Palfrey, in which Parker broke from the theology of supernatural realism, his critics in the Unitarian church began speaking out. Parker pushed back, and in 1841, gave a sermon entitled “A Discourse on the Transient and permanent Christianity,” openly breaking with orthodox theology by rejecting all Biblical miracles and revelations, and pointing out full contradictions and mistakes in the Bible. He kept his faith, but stressed the personal nature of belief, encouraging parishioners to “center their religious belief on individual experience” rather than on Biblical teachings.

Parker was attacked for his newly stated beliefs. Critics claimed that his denial of Biblical miracles and his belief that the Bible was not the literal authority of the church proved he was not a Christian. He fell out of favor with the Unitarian establishment, but his church at the time in West Roxbury stood by him. Increasingly isolated, Parker turned his attention to social activism, believing that advocating for the poor and disadvantaged in society was a natural out-growth of his religious beliefs.

As Parker matured in both his personal life and his ministry, both his marriage and career improved. He and Lydia traveled to Europe in 1843 and 1844. It was during this time that Parker developed and refined his theology. When he returned to the United States, the Unitarian establishment prevented him from resuming his post at the Roxbury church. Loyal congregants rented a hall in Boston, and, despite misgivings, Parker preached a sermon espousing his beliefs. The sermon went so well that he started a new congregation in Boston he referred to as the 28th Congregational Society of Boston. His congregation included several of the most prominent activists of the day, and eventually grew to more than 2000 congregants.

In 1846, Parker began to focus more of his efforts on social activism. Slavery was becoming a hot button issue in the country, and Parker was an avowed and devout abolitionist. He led the movement against the Fugitive Slave Act, which required citizens and law enforcement in all states, including free states, to assist in recovering fugitive slaves. He fought against the law, which was part of the Compromise of 1850, and personally smuggled and housed slaves in his home. His advocacy was so strong that between 1850 and the start of the Civil War in 1861, only two fugitive slaves were captured in Boston and returned to the South. Parker participated in reform movements of the day for peace, temperance, the condition of women, education, and justice reform, but no cause drew his energies the way the anti-slavery movement did.

In addition to inspiring MLK, President Abraham Lincoln paraphrased him in the Gettysburg Address. The words Lincoln used in that speech, “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” was borrowed from a speech Parker gave in 1850.

Dr. King’s quote was a paraphrase of a sermon given by Parker in which he said:

“Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

But it wasn’t just politicians or clergy or social activists that were influenced by Parker. In 1963, Betty Friedan, in her ground-breaking book The Feminine Mystic, quoted Parker in her epigraph:

“The domestic function of the woman does not exhaust her powers…To make one half of the human race consume its energies in the functions of housekeeper, wife and mother is a monstrous waste of the most precious material God ever made.”

Eight months after Friedan’s book was published, Kurt Vonnegut used the same quote in his short story “Lovers Anonymous,” which was originally published in Redbook magazine, and later included in his 1999 short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box.

Other quotes that speak to us still today include:

From “A Lesson for the Day”:

“Every man has at times in his mind the ideal of what he should be, but is not. This ideal may be high and complete, or it may be quite low and insufficient; yet in all men, that really seek to improve, it is better than the actual character. Perhaps no one is satisfied with himself, so that he never wishes to be wiser, better, and more holy. Man never falls so low, that he can see nothing higher than himself.”

From “Thoughts on Labour”:

“The world no doubt grows better; comfort is increased from age to age. What is a luxury in one generation, scarce attainable by the wealthy, becomes at last the possession of most men. Solomon with all his wealth had no carpet on his chamber-floor; no glass in his windows; no shirt to his back. But as the world goes, the increase of comforts does not fall chiefly into the hands of those who create them by their work. The mechanic cannot use the costly furniture he makes. This, however, is of small consequence ; but he has not always the more valuable consideration, TIME TO GROW WISER AND BETTER IN. As Society advances, the standard of poverty rises. A man in New England is called poor at this day, who would have been rich a hundred and fifty years ago; but as it rises, the number that falls beneath that standard becomes a greater part of the whole population. Of course the comfort of a few is purchased by the loss of the many. The world has grown rich and refined, but chiefly by the efforts of those who themselves continue poor and ignorant.”

From “The American Idea”:

“There is what I call the American idea. I so name it, because it seems to me to lie at the basis of all our truly original, distinctive, and American institutions. It is itself a complex idea, composed of three subordinate and more simple ideas, namely: The idea that all men have unalienable rights; that in respect thereof, all men are created equal; and that government is to be established and sustained for the purpose of giving every man an opportunity for the enjoyment and development of all these unalienable rights. This idea demands, as the proximate organization thereof, a democracy, that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government after the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness’ sake, I will call it the idea of Freedom.”

From Unnamed Sermon:

“It is very sad for a man to make himself servant to a single thing; his manhood all taken out of him by the hydraulic pressure of excessive business. — I should not like to be merely a great doctor, a great lawyer, a great minister, a great politician.—I should like to be, also, something of a man.”

From “Of Justice and the Conscience”:

“Man naturally loves justice, for its own sake, as the natural object of his conscience. As the mind loves truth and beauty, so conscience loves the right; it is true and beautiful to the moral faculties. Conscience rests in justice as an end, as the mind in truth. As truth is the side of God turned towards the intellect, so is justice the side of Him which conscience looks upon. Love of justice is the moral part of piety… The people are not satisfied with any form of government, or statute law, until it comes up to their sense of justice; so every progressive State revises its statutes from time to time, and at each revision comes nearer to the absolute right which human nature demands. Mankind, always progressive, revolutionizes constitutions, changes and changes, seeking to come close to the ideal justice, the divine and immutable law of the world, to which we all owe fealty, swear how we will.”

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The Ones That Got Away is Launched!

Thank you to everyone who purchased The Ones That Got Away, my new novel. Because of your purchases, The Ones That Got Away moved into the top 50,000 books on Amazon yesterday (6/1/20). That may not seem impressive, but for a book like mine without a top publisher and big marketing budget behind it, it’s not bad. It was also in:

• Top 1000 in historical literary fiction (Kindle)
• Top 6000 in historical fiction (Kindle)
• Top 6000 in literary fiction (Kindle and print)
• Top 7000 in historical fiction (print)

These are not best seller numbers, but they’re better than I expected. They’ve already started to go down, but for a brief, shining moment, they looked pretty good.

Thank you for purchasing the book. I hope you enjoy it.

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The Ones That Got Away: What If You Had a Second Chance?

Have you ever thought about what your life could be like if you had the chance to do it over? What mistakes would you correct? What regrets would you re-do? What would you do if you could do it all over again?

That’s what Scott Thompson wonders. Scott is the protagonist in my new novel, The Ones That Got Away. He’s just gone to bed in the guest bedroom after another fight with his wife, Kathy. He’s lying in the dark and thinks how much better his marriage and his life would be if he had married any one of the three women he seriously dated before meeting Kathy.

Melanie was his college sweetheart. She was smart, sexy, and adventurous. She could also be a handful when she drank; loving and amorous one night, volatile and angry the next. But when things were good with Melanie, they were very good.

He met Holly when he was in law school in Chicago. Holly was driven and in control. She had a plan for her life and she wanted Scott to join her on the journey.

Liz came into his life when he was first practicing law. She was a sweet and upbeat woman who was full of life. She loved her job as a teacher, and had plans to move into administration. The thing about dating Liz was, they never fought. Scott had never been with a woman he got along with so well.

He’s thinking about these three women as he drifts off to sleep. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds himself back in his college apartment. And lying next to him is a naked Melanie.

This is the start of Scott living his life over and over again. What changes will he make? Who will he build a relationship with? How will he try to change his life…and the world?

The Ones That Got Away comes out on June 1. It’s available as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon or your favorite bookstore.

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Thinking More About Baseball

In my last post about baseball, I listed my favorite players by position. Today, I’m going to list the best players by uniform number from 0-60. This was something that Tim Kurkjian did, and since I’m missing watching baseball games, I thought I’d do the same. Kurkjian only went to #55. I’m going to #60 to prove something or other.

O – Al Oliver (OF, 1B) – Adam Ottavino is a distant, distant second.

1 – Ozzie Smith (SS) – Lou Whitaker (2B) is a close second. Pee Wee Reese (SS, 3B) and Richie Ashburn (OF) are a little further behind.

2 – Derek Jeter (SS) –Charlie Gehringer (2B) was close. Jimmie Foxx (1B, 3B, C) was better, but only wore #2 for one season)

3 – Babe Ruth (OF) This is a no-brainer. Alex Rodriguez (SS, 3B) and Jimmie Foxx (1B, 3B, C) were also in the running.

4 – Rogers Hornsby (2B) – Because numbers were originally issued based on where a player hit in the batting order, there are a lot of really great players who wore #3 and #4. While Hornsby is the best player to wear #4, Lou Gehrig (1B) and Met Ott (OF, 3B) are near the top of the list.

5 – Albert Pujols (OF, 1B) – Henry Aaron and Mel Ott (again) both wore #5 for one year each and are both slightly better players than Pujols, but Pujols is the best player to wear #5 for most (or all) of his career. Others that could have been in the conversation are George Brett (3B, 1B), Jeff Bagwell (1B), Joe DiMaggio (OF), Brooks Robinson (3B), and Johnny Bench (C, 3B). A lot of really great players wore #5.

6 – Stan Musial (OF, 1B) – Hornsby (2B, SS, 3B) and Mickey Mantle (OF, 1B) each wore #6 for one season but are associated with other numbers. Al Kaline (OF, 1B) is also in the discussion.

7 – Mickey Mantle (OF) – Barry Bonds (OF) wore #7 for one season.

8 – Joe Morgan (2B) – This one was tough. It came down to Morgan, Carl Yastrzemski (OF, 1B), and Cal Ripken Jr. (SS, 3B). Yogi Berra (C) was also a tremendous player who wore #8. I went with Morgan because he is generally considered the best second baseman ever.

9 – Ted Williams (OF) – Rogers Hornsby (2B, SS, 3B) and Joe DiMaggio (OF) both wore #9 for one season but are more associated with other numbers.

10 – Chipper Jones (3B) – An argument can be made for Lefty Grove (P), but I went with Jones.

11 – Barry Larkin (SS) – This one was tough. Hornsby (2B, SS, 3B) wore #11 for two seasons, and Eddie Mathews (3B, 1B) for one, but both are more associated with other numbers. An argument can be made for Paul Waner (OF), Edgar Martinez (3B, DH), and Carl Hubbell (P).

12 – Roberto Alomar (2B) – Several people wore #12 who were better than Alomar, but they only wore the number for a short time. Wade Boggs (3B) wore #12 for seven seasons but is normally associated with another number.

13 – Alex Rodriguez (SS, 3B) – No one else is really close.

14 – Pete Rose (Everywhere but P and C) – Willie Mays (OF) and Ricky Henderson (OF) both wore #14 for one year each but are more associated with other numbers.

15 – Carlos Beltran (OF) – There were four players better than Beltran who wore #15 for a short time, but all were more associated with other numbers.

16 – Ted Lyons (P) – Kurkjian went with Whitey Ford (P), but I thought Lyons and Hal Newhouser (P) were both more deserving.

17 – Keith Hernandez (1B) – An argument can be made for Todd Helton (1B) or Scott Rolen (3B), but I went with Hernandez. Kurkjian went with Dizzy Dean, but I don’t think he’s in the conversation.

18 – Bret Saberhagen – This was a tough one. A good argument can be made for Johnny Damon (OF). Kurkjian went with Damon. Joe Morgan (2B) wore #18 for seven years, the same number of years as Saberhagen, but Morgan is more associated with #8.

19 – Robin Yount (SS, OF) – Another tough one. Tony Gwynn (OF) is definitely in the conversation, but I felt Yount was the better player.

20 – Mike Schmidt (3B) – This is almost unfair. Frank Robinson (OF, 1B) also wore #20, and I’ve always thought that he was an underrated player. But even when I’m in a position to give him some love, I can’t because he’s up against the greatest third baseman in history. Life isn’t fair.

21 – Roger Clemens (P) – Warren Spahn (P) and Roberto Clemente (OF) are both in the conversation. In fact, Kurkjian went with Clemente. I don’t know if steroids played into Kurkjian’s decision, but Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers in history.

22 – Jim Palmer (P) – Kurkjian went with Clayton Kershaw, which is reasonable. Several other better players wore #22 for a few years, including Roger Clemens, who wore it for nine years. But these players are more associated with other numbers.

23 – Ryne Sandberg (2B) – He’s my favorite player. You didn’t think I’d pick someone else, did you? If I had, it could have been Zack Grienke (P) or Luis Tiant (P).

24 – Willie Mays (OF) – A lot of really great players wore #24, including Barry Bonds (OF), Rickey Henderson (OF), and Ken Griffey Jr. (OF). But Willie Mays was the best of them all.

25 – Barry Bonds (OF) – Jim Thome is a distant second.

26 – Wade Boggs (3B) – No one else is even close.

27 – Mike Trout (OF) – Scott Rolen (3B) is in the conversation, but Trout is the class of the field.

28 – Bert Blyleven (P) – No one else is close.

29 – Adrian Beltre (3B) – Rod Carew is the only one close. Kurkjian went with Carew. He was wrong.

30 – Nolan Ryan (P) – Tim Raines (OF) is a close second.

31 – Greg Maddux (P) — #31 is a special number to Cubs fans. Both Maddux and Fergie Jenkins (P) wore the number. They are also the two best players in MLB to wear #31.

32 – Steve Carlton (P) – Kurkjian went with Sandy Koulfax (P). That’s reasonable, but Koulfax’s career was so much shorter. Of course, that’s always the argument with Koulfax.

33 – Larry Walker (OF) – Kurkjian went with Eddie Murray (1B), which is reasonable.

34 – David Ortiz (OF, 1B, DH) – Nolan Ryan (P) could have been the choice here as well as for #30, but I’ll toss Ortiz a bone.

35 – Rickey Henderson (OF) – Phil Niekro (P) is a distant second.

36 – Gaylord Perry (P) – Robin Roberts (P) is the only other one in the conversation.

37 – Dave Steib (P) – Keith Hernandez could have been the choice here as well as #17.

38 – Curt Shilling (P) – No one else in the conversation.

39 – Dave Parker (OF) – The best players to wear this number only wore it for a short time. Parker wore it for 19 seasons. Roy Campenella (C) is also in the conversation.

40 – Frank Tanana (P) – Kurkjian went with Bartolo Colon (P).

41 – Tom Seaver (P) – This one was automatic. Eddie Mathews (3B) is a distant second.

42 – Jackie Robinson (2B, 1B) – Robinson might be the only player that could beat out Mariano Rivera (P) for this honor.

43 – Dennis Eckersley (P) – No one else is even close.

44 – Henry Aaron (OF) – Lots of great players wore #44, including Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey. But no one is going to beat out Hammerin’ Hank.

45 – Bob Gibson (P) – This was a tough one. Pedro Martinez (P) is right there with Gibson, but only one can have this honor, and it goes to Gibson (Sorry, Pedro.).

46 – Andy Pettite (P) – I’m still scratching my head on this one. Kurkjian went with Lee Smith (P). I don’t think it’s even close.

47 – Tom Glavine (P) – Jack Morris (P) is in the conversation.

48 – Torii Hunter (OF) – I almost went with Rick Reuschel (P) who has a higher WAR in fewer seasons than Hunter. In fact, I think Reuschel’s career is badly underrated. But in the end, I went with Hunter.

49 – Charlie Hough (P) – Hough was one of the best knuckleballers ever. Kurkjian chose Hoyt Wilhelm (P), who he claims was the best knuckleballer ever. But Wilhelm only wore #49 for five seasons. Hough wore it for twenty-five. And if you want to throw a third knuckleballer into the mix, Tim Wakefield wore #49 for nineteen seasons.

50 – Mookie Betts (OF) – In just six seasons, Mookie Betts has a higher WAR than any player in history to wear #50, sans two players. One only wore the number for one year, and the other, Jamie Moyer (P), wore it for sixteen seasons. Kurkjian chose J.R. Richard, who was very good, but wouldn’t be in my top three.

51 – Randy Johnson (P) – I wanted to select Ichiro Suzuki (OF), but there was no way I could ignore Johnson. He was just too good.

52 – C.C. Sabathia (P) – No one else even close.

53 – Don Drysdale (P) – Bobby Abreu was in the conversation.

54 – Rich “Goose” Gossage (P) – No one else was close.

55 – Orel Hershiser (P) – Kevin Appier was close.

56 – Mark Buehrle (P) – No one else close.

57 – Johan Santana (P) – No one else close.

58 – Jonathan Papelbon (P) – Now I know why Kurkjian stopped at #55.

59 – Carlos Carrasco (P) – Ismael Valdez (P) is in the conversation.

60 – Dallas Keuchel (P) – No one else in the conversation.

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Petty Complaints From the Grocery Store

I went grocery shopping this morning. It’s not my favorite activity, especially now during a pandemic. For whatever reason, people often exhibit their worst behavior at the grocery store. I’m not sure why that is, but the grocery store seems to bring out their worst traits.

Before I begin my rant, let me be clear about one thing. I know I’m being petty. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” you’ll likely recognize that the things I’m complaining about are “the small stuff.” But writing is how I deal with most things in life, both good and bad. It helps clarify my thoughts, and often relieves any stress or anxiety. And it’s cheaper than therapy.

Shopping Carts

Probably my biggest complaint about the way people act at the grocery store is when they fail to put their shopping cart in the  cart return. Why would anyone think it’s okay to empty their cart and then simply leave it next to their car? The grocery store actually provides a place to put the used carts so they don’t cause parking problems or damage to shoppers’ cars. And the cart returns are conveniently located throughout the parking lot so they’re not too far from any parking spot. Yet, some people refuse to put forth even the tiny amount of effort it takes to put their used shopping cart where it belongs. These people make me so mad.

A couple of years ago I was walking out of the grocery store and saw a guy who had just emptied his groceries into his car. He pushed his empty cart to the front of his car and gave it a little shove. I normally would not have said anything, but I was in a bad mood and the thoughtless shopper set me off.

“Hey, there’s a cart return just down there,” I said, pointing at the cart return.

The shopper slowly turned toward me. When he did, I noticed his shriveled left arm. He looked confused and took a step toward me, limping badly. “What?” he asked. When he spoke, it became evident that he had a hair lip.

“Nothing,” I said in a friendly voice. “Never mind.” I quickly walked away.

I don’t chastise people anymore when they don’t put their used shopping cart in the cart return, but I still hate it.

Shopping Carts (Chapter 2)

I appreciate the fact that grocery stores put cart returns in their parking lots, but it irritates me to see a cart return overflowing with shopping carts. If shoppers are going to be good enough to put their used carts in the cart return, it needs to be emptied every once in a while. Otherwise, the carts left outside the full cart return can roll around and cause the exact same problems that carts left out in the parking lot can cause. Come on, people. You’re better than that.

Problem Parkers

Why do people insist on taking the parking spot closest to the store, even if they have to wait several minutes for another shopper to pull out of their parking spot? And why, while they’re waiting, do they hold up traffic in their aisle, despite the fact that there are plenty of other parking spots available?

At the store this morning, I saw a woman block traffic for several minutes waiting for someone to pull out of their parking spot. This, despite the fact that there was a parking spot open just three spots further from the store that she had to drive past before blocking the entire aisle. Stop doing this, people!

Wrong Way!

My grocery store has made each of their interior aisles one way, so shoppers in each aisle are all going in the same direction. I assume this is to help separate people because of the pandemic. Since I normally don’t go down every aisle, this is slightly inconvenient. Even so, I support it and follow the arrows for each aisle. These are not normal times.

Today, there was a woman (wearing a mask) who was going down the aisle the wrong way. She went past me, and then we crossed paths again in the next aisle. I wasn’t going to say anything. I didn’t think it was my place. She looked up at me, laughed, and said, “I know I’m going the wrong way.” She seemed embarrassed by her mistake. But she didn’t turn around to go the right way, and she proceeded to go the wrong way down the next aisle.

I’m not sure what she was trying to prove, if she was trying to prove anything. I took her deliberate disregard of the rules as a type of political statement, refusing to be told how to live her life. However, as I said, she was wearing a mask, so I could be wrong. It’s easy to ascribe evil motives, but in this case, I don’t have any idea why she refused to follow the rules.

Snippy Grocery Store Workers

A few weeks ago, I was shopping and had just paid for my groceries. As I was rolling my cart out of the store, one of the employees informed me that I was going out the wrong door. I was virtually one step away from being outside, but she apparently wanted me to go back into the store and then leave via the correct door. It wasn’t so much that she pointed out my mistake. It was her tone, filled with disdain, that really bothered me.

“Was there a sign?” I asked. I hadn’t seen one.

She pointed where she thought there was a sign, but the wall was empty. “It’s because of the coronavirus,” she said, not really answering my question.

I didn’t want to argue with her. If the store wanted to regulate the way people entered and exited as a way of promoting social distancing, that was fine with me. I’ was happy to comply. But I hadn’t seen a sign.

Today, as I was entering the store (through the correct door), I saw the employee who had confronted me, leaving the store from the incorrect door. Because I am an evolved, responsible adult, I didn’t say anything to her. But I did give her a dirty look.

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My Admittedly Limited View of the World

I had an unusual experience last night. But first, some background.

My son is in college and I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with him. When he is home with me, I often watch him play video games. It’s what he loves to do, and I want to spend time with him. Plus, by watching him, I have come to enjoy watching other people play video games. That seems a little weird to me. On the other hand, Twitch and YouTube were built on watching others play video games, so I guess I’m not alone.

Since I’ve been sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve started watching iRacing, primarily on Twitch. There is no real racing going on right now (although NASCAR starts back up this weekend), and I’ve been bored. So, I watch other people race virtual cars.

Some of those people I watch—primarily Conor Daly and Lando Norris—also stream themselves playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare. My son is a big Call of Duty fan, and I’ve watched him play in the past, so it seemed only natural for me to watch Conor and Lando.

I’m also a fan of Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5). I’ve played the game quite a bit, but I’ve never watched anyone else play it. So, last night, there was no sim racing on and I wasn’t enjoying Call of Duty, so I decided to watch someone play GTA5 on Twitch.

This is where things got weird. The person I was watching was in the GTA5 world, but he really wasn’t playing the game. His character was a police office (who he continually referred to as a LEO—Law Enforcement Officer), and he was on patrol in the online game world. He received police calls from a dispatcher (also a real human being), and he spoke to the dispatcher using police lingo, including 10-codes. He also used a fake southern accent when he spoke as the cop, an accent he definitely didn’t have when he spoke to his viewers on his Twitch stream.

I watched for about 20 minutes (Who is the real weirdo in this scenario?) and almost nothing happened. The player playing the cop received three calls in the 20 minutes I watched, and two of the calls were resolved before he even got to the location. The one call he received that he had to resolve himself was a burglar alarm call. It turned out that an elderly civilian (the cop’s word) set off his own alarm when he forgot his alarm code. There was no crime. No shooting. No arrests. Oh, and the elderly civilian. He was played by a real person too.

These role players routinely inhabit their characters for hours at a time, almost like they are working an actual shift. One guy I was watching was talking about his plans to “work a double shift” of 16 hours this weekend. These people are really committed to their role playing lifestyles.

I spoke to my son about what I had witnessed, and he was familiar with the phenomenon. There are apparently entire communities of like-minded role players who not only take on the roles of cops, dispatchers, civilians, criminals, etc., but they also create their own software and apps to go along with the game.

I want to put a little finer point on this idea of creating add-on software and apps for GTA5. The cop I was watching had a cop car, sirens and lights, police radio system, in-car radar, and supplies in his trunk (including Clorex wipes) that are not part of GTA5. They had to be created by some interested third-party. Like I said, there’s an entire community, including coders and graphic designers, who make this role playing possible.

Discovering this world of role players opened my eyes, yet again, to the fact that, no matter how worldly I think I am, I really live a fairly narrow, naïve life. There is so much going on in the world right now that I I’m completely unaware of.

When I was younger, I believed the everyone was generally good. I thought that the troubled, evil people I saw on TV were just the figment of some writer’s imagination. I didn’t think that these types of people actually existed in the real world. Even as I got older, I still didn’t fully comprehend how different the world could be from what I saw with my own two eyes.

Once, in a fiction writing workshop in grad school, we read the book Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. I thought the book was terrific. In the workshop, I admitted that I liked it very much, but that I had a problem with part of the storyline. In the book, the protagonist, a 15-year old female runaway, sleeps with every adult male who crosses her path, with the exception of an 80-year old gay man. My problem, I explained, was that I didn’t believe that so many adult males would have such low morals as to have sex with a 15-year old.

My professor and several classmates looked at me with a combination of confusion and derision. I don’t think they could believe my naivete. To them, the storyline was completely believable. Their lived experience told them that what the young protagonist went through was not only believable, but expected. My experience, on the other hand, told me that adults simply don’t act this way.

I have to admit that in the intervening years, I have come closer to sharing my professor’s and classmates’ opinions. People are not as good as I thought they were. And in particular, adult males are not as good. This saddens me, but it does open my eyes more to the world as it is, rather than the world that I saw while looking through rose-colored glasses. And, although I’m not happy to learn that the world isn’t the generally good place I thought it was, as a writer, it is good to know the truth, or at least as much of the truth as I can.

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Book Cover Reveal

We are only a couple of weeks away from the publication of my newest novel, The Ones That Got Away. Writing this book was a long, difficult slog. Even so, I’m happy with the way it turned out, and I’m excited for the publication date (June 1, 2020) to arrive.

Today, I want to introduce the cover for the new book.  Here is the cover for the ebook version of the book.

I would share the print version cover, but it’s in a format that this site doesn’t like. Oh well… How do you like the ebook version?

The last couple of weeks before a book is published are exciting and nerve-racking.  I’ll share more news with you as we get closer to June 1.

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