When Donald Trump ran for president, he brushed off concerns about his lack of governing experience by repeatedly promising to hire “only with the best and most serious people,” adding: “We want top-of-the-line professionals.” When asked just weeks before Election Day 2016 what his criteria would be for choosing senior staff, he answered: “Track record. Great competence, love of what they’re doing, how they’re getting along with people, references.” He added a bit later, “you need people that are truly, truly capable.”

If one theme surfaced in Texas Tribune founder Evan Smith’s frantic but engaging interview with Republican state Reps. Charles “Doc” Anderson and Kyle Kacal at last week’s forum at Baylor University, it was how term after legislative term has passed — especially with Doc Anderson — without critical issues such as school finance and property-tax relief being smartly resolved. Meanwhile, legislators have fiddled with thoroughly nutty right-wing priorities such as public bathroom usage by transgendered people — clearly a solution in search of a problem.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed major changes to federal enforcement of Title IX, the statute that deals with gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct in schools. The changes would restore due process protections for students accused of sexual assault and thus have earned the ire of victims’ advocacy groups, Democratic politicians and even the American Civil Liberties Union, which usually takes positions favoring due process.

Anyone who knows Dr. Michael Attas knows that, as a physician, a preacher and a philosopher, he never ceases to turn issues over and over in his head. He seeks new epiphanies and questions certain paradigms. So it’s no surprise his new book, “Medicine at the Crossroads: A Collection of Stories and Conversations to Forge a Vision for Health Care” — while drawn from his popular Trib columns several years ago — nonetheless offers a fresh, inquisitive look at the sprawling, confounding topic of health care.

There was a time that four issues largely defined the agendas of many prominent Republicans: A concern about national debt, a belief in a strong American presence on the world stage, the value of “free markets and free people” and a certain moralism built on personal accountability. In the Trump era, all four have been abandoned by the Republican Party. Any challenger, Republican or Democrat, who picks up these four gold coins will do well with a broad swath of those moderate voters who so often decide elections. They will also make our country a better place.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment — the work of more than 350 scientists, including myself — is clear: Earth is warming faster than at any time in human history, and we’re the ones causing it. Climate change is already affecting people, and the more carbon we produce, the more dangerous the impacts. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe and propagate some misleading myths. Here are the five I hear most frequently.

In 2015, when Pope Francis issued his Laudato Si’, an encyclical on the environment, he instantly became the world’s religious leader on anthropogenic climate change. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many evangelical Christian pastors expressed skepticism or denial of climate change. But given the plethora of religious traditions in the world, it is important to consider what other faiths teach on this crucial issue.

AGRINIO, Greece — There is no dark cloud hanging over Europe. There are a bunch of them. Taken together they account for a sense of foreboding, not quite despair, but a definite feeling that things are unraveling and, worse, that there is no leadership — second-raters at all the national helms.

It was a last-minute, serendipitous side trip — a change of plans like so many in retired life as I drive down from Arkansas to Texas to attend Baylor University events in Waco or visit kids strewn across the widest part of the state from Houston to El Paso. I had lingered in North Texas for Christmas music. Monday it was Handel’s “Messiah” at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Thanks to a Baylor friend with a spare ticket, Wednesday’s fare was Wynton Marsalis’ yuletide jazz at the Meyerson in Dallas.

Our nation paused this past week to bid an emotional farewell to its last president drawn from the Greatest Generation, a generation that, by God’s grace and undaunted courage, helped save Western Civilization. Tributes cascaded from the pulpits of both the National Cathedral in Washington and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. That generation’s enduring virtues of guts and sacrifice were celebrated by renowned statesmen such as his closest friend, former Secretary of State James Baker; insightful chroniclers such as Bush’s biographer, Jon Meacham; and by family members likewise drawn to public service — a son, President George W. Bush 43, and a grandson, George P. Bush.

Like the semi-mythical Christmas truce between the British and the Germans on the front lines during World War I, Wednesday’s state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush showed two Washingtons and two Republican parties — in one sense, two Americas — taking a momentary step back from the bonfire that is now our national politics. The day, unlike almost anything involving President Donald Trump, was subdued and respectful.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wants to make prescription-drug pricing more transparent. We agree, but his well-intentioned plan will only confuse and mislead consumers. What’s the good of listing drug prices in advertising if almost no one pays that “list price?” When patients say, “My drugs are too expensive,” they’re not talking about the list price — they’re talking about their co-pays at the pharmacy.

Three years ago I attended my 60th high school reunion. At the Friday night banquet I surveyed the crowd: We had almost 600 in our graduating class, so even 60-plus years later we had a good group. But as I looked around, I wondered: Who are these old people? Answer: They were the people I grew up with, spent a remarkable period of my life with. Many of them I remembered all the way back to elementary school.

Americans have an irrational fear of artificial intelligence, or AI, and this is compromising our ability to lead the direction this revolutionary technology takes in the future. Precipitated by Hollywood’s fondness for movies that show machines taking over the world, this irrational fear of AI is allowing the competition — mainly China, which does not share this type of fear — to charge ahead in converting new breakthroughs into thousands of useful and commercially viable products.

Now that we’re in that spirited Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period of holiday spending, this might be a good time to remember lessons learned from a financial discussion a few weeks ago. That’s when a panel of financial and economic experts offered five key words of advice to the black community: “Handle your money with care.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has had quite the year. Just months ago, he was swanning from capital to capital, feted by politicians, celebrities and business bigwigs. He and his advisers boasted about their plans for reform and innovation. Prominent commentators in the West even believed the youthful royal could usher in a new liberalism in the Middle East.

In 2004, President George W. Bush announced the aim of a broader “Ownership Society” so more Americans could benefit from owning a home, retirement accounts and other financial assets. “If you own something,” he declared, “you have a vital stake in the future of our country. The more ownership there is in America, the more vitality there is in America.”

In 1953, Charles Wilson, then president of General Motors, famously told a congressional committee that “what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.” A version of that soft industrial nationalism has been Donald Trump’s core political philosophy. Though with a codicil: “What’s good for both is also very good for one Donald J. Trump.”

There’s an old tradition of telling ghost stories around Christmastime. Consider one of the most popular Christmas tales: Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Henry James’ gothic fiction, ghost story novella “The Turn of the Screw” opens on Christmas Eve. With each passing year, the period stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve feels like an especially haunted time — haunted by memories of occasions long gone, of people who’ve died.

Judaism has a tradition that those who mourn should not listen to any music for one month. On Tuesday, exactly one month after 11 worshippers were shot at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, violinist Itzhak Perlman will hold a concert in honor of those who died. On Oct. 27, my beloved hometown of Pittsburgh experienced the worst anti-Semitic attack on American soil.

When Elvis Presley was included among President Trump’s honorees for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, my first thought was, “It’s about time,” followed by the recognition that it would reignite the popular revisionist claim that Presley “appropriated” black culture and music, an allegation that wasn’t shared by most of the black artists of the 1950s.

This holiday season, Santa’s little helpers might come with a battery. While retailers across the country are beefing up seasonal hires to prepare for the holiday shopping apocalypse, Amazon is taking a different tack — hiring 20,000 fewer seasonal hires from previous years and increasing workplace automation.

Recently the New York Times published an article about the Lutheran Church in Sweden. In an attempt to appeal to younger generations, the church began to include popular songs in their worship services. It was an important article for such is the anxiety of the church: How shall we appeal to the current generation of people? And like most anxiety it leads us down the wrong road.

Of all the roles of the presidency, commander in chief was perhaps the one that candidate Donald Trump most relished. His take-charge style, his hat and slogan, his command presence on the stage, his early experience at New York Military Academy and his boasting that “I know more about ISIS than the generals do” demonstrated his inclinations.

We aren’t among those who assume our president and first lady are such snowflakes that they can’t take the sort of good-natured ribbing to which our Republican friends subjected earlier presidents and first ladies (i.e., Obamas, Clintons). We thus politely decline the suggestion (tied to a brick that came through the front window) to “LEAVE THE TRUMPS ALONE.”


What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.