Saturday, December 30, 2006

Gerry Ford

It was a sad week as Michigan has lost their famous son Gerald R. Ford. Some of my earliest political memories revolve around Ford.

During the 76 election, my Dad was undecided who to vote for. He was a lifelong Democrat but Ford was from Grand Rapids and my Dad liked him. He was so undecided that he took me into the voting booth with him on election day and had me pull the lever on his behalf. As a precocious three year old, I didn't have the same political savvy that I have today so I voted mistakenly voted for Jimmy Carter. One can only assume that the reason Carter won that election were the votes of many other ignorant three year olds across the country. By 1980 we had all matured enough to not vote for him and that was his downfall.

One interesting thing that I learned only a couple years ago was that Ford was actually born Leslie King, Jr. His mother got pregnant out of wedlock by Leslie King, Sr. when they lived in Nebraska. She would keep the baby and get married to King, Sr. but he was an abusive drunk and threatened to kill her and the baby early into the marriage. Ford's mother would quickly divorce him and eventually migrated to Grand Rapids where she would meet Ford, Sr. who would marry her and raise her son as his own.

Much is made of Ford's startling rise to the presidency. He is often referred to as the unexpected or accidental president. This title is usually given because he was appointed Vice President and then became President without ever being elected. I maintain that his achievement is all the more unexpected given his early childhood. What if his mother did what many women of that day did and stayed with her abusive husband? Would Ford have become President or merely been a King instead? What if Ford Sr. hadn't truly embraced him as a son? I find it fascinating that his success in life was partly the result of choices made by other people.

But Ford made the most of his opportunity and that is why I consider him a model of the American spirit. Regardless of how he came to power, history has proven him to be the right man at the right time to lead our country. I know that many of my conservative friends look down on Ford because was moderate and bi-partisan and they view both of those characteristics as four letter words. But those traits were needed to help bind up the wounds that resulted from Nixon's disgrace. How much more would those traits help heal the nation's divide today? Who will be the next Gerald R. Ford?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Persecution

Every year during the holiday season, there are several stories that highlight the growing incursion against celebrating Christmas in the public square. In the past it has focused on whether nativity scenes should be displayed on public property or if school's should give students "Christmas break" or "holiday break". This year's big story revolves around whether or not Seattle's airport should display Christmas trees.

Often, accompanying these stories are howls from the Christian community who fear that we are being discriminated against and that these incidents are signs that are culture is becoming anti-Christian. While I agree that communities should be allowed to celebrate Christmas, I wonder if this is really an issue we as Christians should get so worked up about. Trust me, nobody has more animosity for the secular elitist that want to purge Christianity from our culture than I do, but what difference does it make if airport has Christmas Trees or not? Or if Walmart wishes their customers Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays?

Sometimes in our zest to not be treated as second class citizens, we lose track of the important issues that we should be upset with; sexual promiscuity among young people, increased violent crime, rising poverty, the AIDS epidemic, just to name a few. Regardless of what we may choose to believe, the ship has already sailed when it comes to our country being Christian. While, there is a still a Christian residue in the country, our culture is mostly filled with moral relativism and materialism. Ironically, Christmas tends to feed that materialism more than deter it.

I understand the frustration that many of my Christian friends express this time of year. But let's not over exaggerate the situation as if we are really being persecuted. Real persecution is happening around the globe where Christians are actually dying and being jailed for their faith. When American Christians complain about these supposed mistreatments, we only cheapen their hardship by comparison. Yes, we want to be respected by our culture. But Christ himself was not respected by his culture. Why should we feel more entitled than Him?

We do have a message to share with our country and the Christmas incarnation is a key component of that story. But that message isn't shared by simply placing a nativity scene in a public place or by wishing people Merry Christmas. The true message of the gospel is much more about love, sacrifice and service to our fellow neighbors. Maybe if we spent as much time serving others as we do complaining, more people would actually understand the true Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

All about Power

Nothing more exposes the real agenda in Washington DC than the recent events surrounding Sen. Tim Johnson. Within minutes of his stroke/brain aneurysm, the headline was not about his health or his record of service but it was about how this situation would impact who controls the US Senate. This ghoulish behavior was shared equally by both Republican and Democrats as each side rushed to stake out their claim to power.

This incident is revealing because it shows that maintaining or regaining power is the most important goal even above public service or the well-being of the country. If the politicians are more concerned with power than they are with the health of one of their own, how much less can they care about the health and well-being of their constituents when it conflicts with their quest for power?

No wonder most Americans are so cynical about politics.

Stem cell horrors

This morning there is a chilling headline on the Drudge Report that the BBC has learned that newborn babies in Ukraine are being stolen and used for stem cell research. Just reading the article made me sick to my stomach. Unfortunately, Ukraine is a hotbed of stemcell research and the high demand for stemcells cannot be filled solely with aborted fetuses. If you believe the mainstream media you would assume that stem cells only come from frozen embryos that will be disposed of anyways. They use this argument to justify their position. This article exposes this to be simply untrue and I fear that these revelations are not uncommon. The scientific community must act quickly to condemn these practices and send the message that life still has some inherent value.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Was Jesus White?

I was just reading an article in Newsweek about the Nativity. This movie is the story of Mary and Joseph and how they come upon Bethlehem as the place where Jesus was to be born. One of the interesting facts about this movie, is that the cast is made up of largely dark skinned actors and actresses. Their dark skinned appearance would fit historically with the ethnicity in that time and region. But why then is Jesus normally portrayed as a white man?

The Newsweek article explores this dilemma and comes to the conclusion that one would expect. Our white-American culture wants a Jesus that looks like us. I find this answer to be simple yet very profound and revealing. Rather than seeking out an accurate portrait of Jesus, we are content to assume that he was one of us. This may not have much impact when we are talking about skin color but what if we take that approach to other parts of Jesus' life?

Have we reinvented Jesus in our own image? Do we want a Jesus who not only looks like us but also acts like us as well? This gives me great pause to imagine how much damage that type of thinking has done to the true person of Jesus. This idea would explain why we largely accept his teachings and actions which seem to comply with our own culture but then ignore certain others that seem out of place with our view of the world. It's a slippery slope, that begins with how we view the physical Jesus but it certainly has implications with how we view the whole Jesus.

This Christmas as we remember his incarnation, let us not celebrate an American Jesus that is a product of our own finite culture. Rather let us worship the true Jesus who transcends all cultures and nationalities.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraq study group

Let me preface by saying that I have not read the Iraq study group's report directly. My opinions are taken from several other media sources who presumably have read the report. Having said that, I am not convinced that the recommendations contained in the report are in the best interest of winning the war against radical Islam. It appears to me that the report is a plan for retreat disguised as being the only realistic solution.

What strikes me most about the report is the premise. That we are losing the war and the only avenue is to find an exit strategy that will not leave Iraq a complete disaster. Rather than spending time on finding this proposed exit strategy maybe they should have been examining ways to actually win the war. I fear that our country has learned very little from our previous conflicts. When we do not pursue absolute victory we end up defeating ourselves and we leave the countries we were trying to liberate in worse shape than when we started. Our enemies do not view our retreat as a good will gesture or a as a means to political diplomacy. Rather, they see at as it is; weakness and lack of will to see our fights through to the finish line.

The Iraq people will not be in the streets cheering when we leave. Instead they will be in their houses hiding from the ruthless thugs that will be left unchecked without our troops in place. On top of this, we will lose all credibility with our allies as they will no longer trust us. They will realize that when the going gets tough, the US is predisposed to find a quick exit strategy with little regard to long term peace.

I hope that President Bush rejects this report as he examines other solutions to win the war. I support McCain's idea to double the amount of troops and Sen. Biden's idea of splitting Iraq into separate countries should be given serious consideration. Retreating is not the only answer.

Yes, the current war is not going well but History should remind us that all wars do not go well. During World War II we suffered many defeats and setbacks including D Day where we lost thousands of men. Did we form a study group to look for ways to get out of the war? No! We pushed forward as a country and by doing so liberated an entire continent from tyranny. We should do no less today.

Monday, December 04, 2006

BCS Mess

College football is very frustrating. It's a great sport full of passion and tradition and great rivalries. But each year the whole season is ruined by a corrupt and antiquated system that decides the champions based on votes by coaches and computers. It is hard to justify why the protectors of college football continue to fight for the status quo in the face of disaster after disaster. Two years ago it was Auburn that got screwed and this year it is Michigan and a host of other teams. Why shouldn't Boise St get to play for the championship? They won all there games but they are locked out by a system that protects the big conferences ensuring that they get to divvy up a majority of the money.

But more importantly it's the college football fan that gets cheated out of a true playoff system. While I could write pages and pages why Michigan is more deserving than Florida to play for the championship, I shouldn't have to. I should be able to watch them settle it on the field. The problem isn't that Florida was picked over Michigan, it's the system itself that is the true villain. The current system is based on greed and money and how it doesn't violate the law is beyond me. If I were Boise St or another jilted school I would sue the NCAA for collusion and they would definitely have a case. But instead the NCAA tried to buy them off by giving them an invitation to the Fiesta bowl which is nothing more than a glorified exhibition game.

We need a playoff system. There are no more excuses. Saving the bowls and tradition doesn't work anymore. For all the hype about the bowls, nobody cares about these games outside the teams that play in them. TV viewership is down, game attendance is down at a majority of them and yet we keep getting fed the line that the reason we don't have a playoff system is to protect the bowl system. Quick, tell me who played in the cotton bowl last year or who played in pointsettia bowl. Better yet try to name 10 bowls that are not part of the BCS. My guess is that you can't answer any of those questions. The worst part about the bowl system is that I won't get to watch a meaningful game until January and then the game will be played by teams that have had over 6 weeks off from football. They have all this momentum from the regular season and yet they just put it on hold for no good reason. You couldn't design a worse system if you planned it.

So while yes I am pissed that Michigan didn't get picked for the championship game, but I am more pissed that we still don't have a real playoff.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Stem Cells

During the recent election there was a lot of talk about stem cell research. What got lost in much of that debate was the bright line between using embryonic stem cells and other types of stem cells.

Today, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that encourages the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells. Before we introduced the bill, I had very little knowledge about this topic but the science is pretty amazing. Basically, the blood in the umbilical cord is rich in productive stem cells that are used to treat dozens of diseases. During testimony in committee, a family explained how their son's sickle cell anemia was cured by transplanting the stem cells from his brother's umbilical cord.

Currently in Michigan there are several private banks that families use to store their umbilical cords for potential future use. However, there are only a handful of public banks in the state. There is a need to expand the number of public banks to increase the chances of finding matching donors. Our legislation is part of a package to create a statewide network of public banks and provide tax credits for donating umbilical cord blood to these banks. Our bill specifically requires the state to educate the public on the science of umbilical cord stem cells and the benefits of donating umbilical cords.

The legislation passed with bi-partisan support but of course one Democratic Senator attempted to amend the bill and link it with embryonic stem cell research. It's frustrating that she couldn't just support the bill on its own merits. Instead she felt the need to score political points and muck it up with what she knows to be a matter of personal ethics for many Senators. It reminded me of what a friend of mine once told me about Democrats. He said there slogan should be if we can't help everyone we shouldn't help anyone. This was a good example of that mentality.

Leaving out the ethical concerns of using embryonic stem cells there are practical problems with this type of research. While there may be some long-term potential in that area, the existing science has not demonstrated any results especially when compared to using umbilical cord stem cells or adult stem cells from bone marrow. To date the latter stem cells have helped treat or cure over 70 diseases while embryonic stem cell research has not cured one disease.

Yet despite the lack of scientific of results and the ethical concerns raised by using human embryo's many people still prefer to fight for embryonic stem cell research. Usually in science, the money and the efforts follow results and progress, yet it seems like the debate in moving in the opposite direction. Why doesn't the scientific community put their efforts more firmly behind the stem cell science that actually works? And if the embryonic stem cells are so promising why isn't more private money pouring into that research? Why do they demand that public money be spent on unproven results knowing that many people have ethical concerns over the research?

Thankfully her amendment failed and despite the attempt to muddy up the debate it was a good day in the Michigan Senate. The fact that we were able to help people address the very real medical problems they are facing is a positive step forward. Sometimes, even government gets it right and today was one of those days.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bond, James Bond

Friday night I finally got to the theater to see the new James Bond movie. I have been a fan of the bond movies since the early 80's. With the risk of offending many older Bond fans, Roger Moore will always be the original Bond to me. My first movie was For Your Eyes Only and I remember running around my Grandparents house afterwards pretending to be James Bond.

To me there was always something suave and sophisticated about James Bond. He was an international spy who could date gorgeous women and save the world at the same time. But more importantly he was cool and confident which was such a contrast from my own experiences. As I got older I began to realize that the movies were far fetched but that wasn't the point. The point was I got to escape from the real world and live vicariously through this really cool spy. When your young and impressionable, that's about as good as it gets.

As for the new movie, it's above average but a definite departure from earlier bond movies. Gone is the refined, sophisticated Bond and in his place is a rough and tumble replacement. Daniel Craig is still cool but he has an uneven edge to his personality. I think the new Bond is closer to how Ian Fleming originally created him to be. I look forward to seeing how they develop his character in future films.

The plot of the Casino Royale is a little weak and under developed. Yes there are a couple twists and turns but most people in the audience will see them coming. But the biggest disappointment was that I thought the story is supposed to be about Bond in the early years. But the story takes place in modern times which is a little confusing. Plus, they try to take advantage of the latest poker craze by highlighting Texas hold'em poker. It doesn't really work. The real Bond wouldn't play something so pedestrian, he would play baccarat instead.

Despite the flaws, it was still an enjoyable movie. Replacing Pierce Brosnan with Craig works to jumpstart the series. Bronson had gotten a little stale and the change allows them to pursue some new angles to the series. It will interesting to see where they take the new James Bond. I am already anticipating the next movie.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What is she thinking?

I have been watching the incoming Democratic majority from a distance. My initial impression is that Speaker Pelosi is in a little over her head and she should thank her caucus for electing Heney Stoyer as a way of providing some checks and balances to her. If she had gotten her man Murtha elected into leadership it would have been an embarrassment to her party and to the country. Murtha is linked with corruption charges and has been a nominal back bench Congressman with little record of achievement. Yet this was her person to help run the House.

From her support of Murtha as Majority Leader to her pending selection of Rep. Alcee Hastings to chair the intelligence committee, one wonders if her poor judgment will not soon become her worst enemy. Rep. Hastings is a formerly impeached judge who was convicted of taking bribes in return for favorable rulings towards mobsters. He also has several million in debt which makes him the perfect target for corruption again. Why would she want to put him in charge of the nations most sensitive information in a time of war? Hopefully common sense will prevail but it appears common sense will have to be applied externally to deter her own poor decision making ability.

A lot has been made about Pelosi being the first woman speaker of the house but I wonder what happens if she is a colossal failure. If she does prove herself to be a feckless leader how will that effect Hillary Clinton's chances in 2008. Will she unfortunately taint the public's mind that women may not be up to the job of leading this country? I hope not because there are many capable women that are up to the task. It's too bad she isn't one of them.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Women and Coffee

I am not sure when I originally heard this phrase but it goes something like this: I like my women as I like my coffee... hot and black. It's a funny saying when you used in the right context. I can usually get a good laugh out of people.

That comparison between coffee and women has me thinking of other descriptions of coffee and how they might also apply to women. I trust that women will not consider this idea disparaging as coffee is one of my favorite indulgences. In fact it ranks only slightly behind women. Rather, coffee can be a poetic metaphor for all the wonderful attributes women have to offer.

The following are real descriptions of coffee taken from a major coffee seller. I hope you enjoy the comparison.

Sparkling brightness and a huge velvety body

A pure and delicate sweetness, is one of the finest in the world

Unassuming and cheering, starts sweetly and quietly, perfect for slow mornings or those days you have to rush to work

With smooth harmonious silkiness, underneath it all is a subtle yet delightful hint of melon

Possesses a moderate brightness and mellow body, a clean, tart finish, smooth taste makes it a favorite to enjoy every morning

A bold creamy texture reminiscent of a fine burgundy wine

Big-bodied, relaxed complexity and perfectly proportioned with universal appeal, delightful any time of the day or night

Creamy liveliness that is sweet, smooth, and sophisticated, with a powerful flavor that explodes in your mouth

Good for an evening curled up by a fire or with a touch of milk after dinner

Subdued with an aroma like autumn leaves and a taste reminiscent of butterscotch, herbs, and wild mushrooms

A spicy, bittersweet cup laced with hints of wild honey

Wraps you in fragrant aroma and lingers deliciously in your mouth

Blended mix of African and Indonesian from the darker end of our spectrum, wonderful for entertaining or enjoying as the weather begins to cool

Beautiful dark brown, with a smooth, heavy body - an utter indulgence, perfect for chilly mornings

I have to think that Dr. Freud would have a field day explaining the coffee writers sexual repression. But then again, sometimes a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Porn in Church?

Due to the campaign and then taking a trip out of town I hadn't been to my church in a couple weeks. Last night it was good to be back and catch up with everyone. At first I was hesitant to leave the U of M- Ohio St game at halftime but thankfully the church had a TV in the lobby to keep tabs on the game.

The message last night was on pornography and when I first heard it I was a little shocked and worried about how it would work handling that topic. I had never heard it explicitly preached on from the pulpit. Usually it is couched in terms of sexual purity or some other code word that tries to avoid making people uncomfortable. But Noah to his credit didn't pull any punches. He basically laid it out there that there. There are many people in our church that struggle with pornography and he wasn't going to sweep that subject under the rug.

His blunt approach was a little risky but proved to be the exact right course. Talking to a few people afterwards there was a strange sense that it was about time that this sin was brought out in the open. Even the new couple sitting with me told me that they were glad the church was so up front about things.

What I appreciated most about the sermon was that is done with a heavy does of grace. The emphasis was that we know this is a huge temptation for many men in the church but we don't think you're weird or sinful because of it. Instead the church wants to help people break out of that habit because it destroys the soul and robs people of meaningful intimacy. My gut tells me that true freedom from pornography will begin to take hold in our church because of last night's sermon.

After being away from barefoot for a couple weeks, I gained a sense of perspective on what I appreciate about the church. We are not perfect but I like being part of a body that doesn't mind taking risks. I also like that our church is committed to being more than just surface level religion. It's a bit scary practicing this idea of real life community. My natural inclination is to do what most people do with this type of topic by hiding it somewhere and hoping that it just goes away. I get the feeling that this church is going to hold me to a higher standard.

If you are interested I have link to Barefoot Lansing on the right and last night's sermon is available on-line.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Next President?

A few days before the election, Sen. Frist from Tennessee did a campaign stop in our district. He is a really likeable guy and I wish him well in his bid for President.

Waiting in Line

I have a funny job some days. The rules of the legislature allow for each incoming senator and representative to draft 10 bills for next year starting this morning. These bills are drafted by the Legislative Service Bureau (LSB) which is a non-partisan team of lawyers. The bills are drafted on a first come, first serve basis and each caucus likes to bundle their requests together.

I got a call yesterday afternoon asking if I would take a shift during the night to make sure that the Senate Republicans were the first in line to have our bills drafted. Since I live downtown, I didn't mind. We had staffers rotating on 90 minute shifts starting at 2:00 am outside the building. The LSB office opened up at 8 am this morning. I drew the 5 -6:30 shift which wasn't that bad. We were the first ones to arrive just beating the House Republicans who slept in until 4:00 a.m. The newspaper delivery person let us in the building around 5:30 so we didn't have to wait in the cold. A few minutes later the House Democrats came by and we decided to be nice and let them in the building as well. We sat in the hallway outside LSB just talking about the elections and who the next leadership would be in both the House and Senate. It was kind of fun. It reminded me of waiting in line for concert tickets.

Thankfully, I got relieved of my duties at 6:30 and went home to take a shower. I never did see any staff from Senate Democrats. Maybe they don't plan to introduce any new bills. Who knows? All I know is that Senate Republicans were first in line.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election update

I wanted to let everybody know that we won our race late last night with 50.6%. It was another long night as we did not get the vote totals until 3:00 in the morning. Four years ago we fell behind early and had to slowly climb back the rest of the night. This year we got out a decent size lead and held on due to the onslaught of inner city voters. While I do not like it being that close, I am pleased we did as well as we did considering the bloodbath the rest of the Republicans took across the state and nationwide. We lost the state house of reps but we held the state senate pending two recounts. It's weird to win by only 1428 votes and not be the closest race. We now have the nickname of landslide Vanwoerkom.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What went wrong?

Okay, I just watched my beloved Steelers lose against the dreaded Oakland Raiders. Just two weeks ago it looked like the Raiders might go winless this season and now my team loses to them. What should have been at least a playoff season is now looking like the dreaded 6-10 rebuilding season.

I just don't understand. The Steelers have basically the same roster as last year's superbowl team but can't seem to put it together this year. Maybe the team over achieved last year. Could the problem be Big Ben and all the health issues he has faced? Could losing the Bus and his leadership really make that much of a difference? Maybe it's that Bill Cowher has already checked out and is looking forward to his new home in North Carolina.

As painful as this season has been, I am still living off the adrenaline of last year and am not as upset as I should be. I feel like I had my great year last year and I can live with a down season. Besides I still have Michigan football to cheer for.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My friend Leonard

A little over 8 years ago during our first campaign, I met my friend Leonard. He responded to a campaign letter that we sent out and he offered to volunteer. At first I was skeptical because he promised to do quite a bit of work but he is mildly retarded and I doubted he would follow through. Boy was I surprised. Leonard has turned out to be my most loyal and hardworking volunteer. In fact, I would guess he works harder than some of the paid campaign staff. Over the past 8 years he has placed upwards of ten thousand yards signs and walked in over a 100 parades. While that sounds like an exaggeration he would probably argue correctly that the numbers are too conservative.

Leonard knows our district better than anybody else I know. Last week as he and I were driving in the most rural part of our district placing signs, I began laughing because he knows all the roads, the address numbers and the townships boundaries. Even people living in those boondocks don't know the area as well as Leonard. When we first started campaigning many years ago I would try to map out our routes but now I just get in the car, hand Leonard our sign list and he tells me where to turn. I think he likes this because we get to spend time together and he is empowered to tell me what to do.

Leonard stands for everything that is right in politics. Because of his service, our campaign and my boss has personally embraced him with open arms. He has become part of the Van Woerkom family and he has ownership of the campaign. He has also experienced plenty of perks including attending fancy fundraisers and meeting Governors, Senators and even Presidents. I am still jealous because my boss gave his extra ticket to Ford's birthday party to Leonard instead of me but at least he is deserving of it. Leonard demonstrates that you don't have to be rich or successful to contribute in politics. He has proven that hard work and loyalty trump all else and I find that refreshing.

Two weeks ago I began to get sad as this will most likely be our last and final campaign together. He and I have been through four tough elections and have grown quite close. He has become more than just a volunteer but a good friend. My goal over the next two crazy weeks is to not get lost in the flurry of activity but to simply enjoy Leonard's friendship along the campaign trail.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What the election is all about

I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard the hosts talking about what it means if Democrats take control of the legislature. They pointed out several ideas that the Democrats have proposed including eliminating the bush tax cuts and retreating in Iraq. The purpose was to scare conservative listeners into voting this election.

If elected, the Democrats will certainly try to advance their left wing agenda after being out of power for so long but this doesn't matter much to the electorate. Even though their agenda is way out of the mainstream, this election is not about issues or agendas. If you listen to the Democrats on the campaign trail, they are not promoting a national agenda like the Republican's Contract with America. Instead they are tapping into the general dissatisfaction of the electorate and urging change. What is driving this dissatisfaction? Some might argue that corruption is the key issue this year but I think most people realize that Republicans and Democrats are equally corrupt. Instead this election is all about competence and a lack of public confidence in our leaders.

For many years, Republicans have been seen as the more effective managers of government resources. The public may not have always agreed with them but at least they trusted them to get the job done. That image has been tarnished fairly or unfairly by several factors including Iraq and Katrina. Most of us see Iraq as a mess that has no end in sight. That's the reality of war but people want to know that we have a realistic plan to win. After all the blood shed "stay the course" rings hollow and serves only as a substitute for a legitimate plan. I realize that the Democrats don't have a plan either but that isn't the point. The public doesn't expect them to have one. They expect Republicans with their traditional foreign policy experience to have one and they don't.

But more than Iraq, the memory of Katrina is what really hurts Republicans. The federal response was totally ineffective and we are still paying the price for that. When disaster strikes, people want comfort and reassurance that somebody is in control and in charge. They need someone or something to believe in. Instead what they got were stories of chaos and violence. This event more than any other cut to the core of Republican dissatisfaction because it demonstrated the government's incompetence. Republicans were once defined as the responsible, competent party but unfortunately they failed that test during Katrina. If would be as if the Democrats were exposed as being intolerant or uncaring because those are the things that define who they are to the public.

Heck, even the Foley scandal plays to the incompetence of how Republican leaders handled the situation. People were equally embarrassed by the cover up and blame game going on in Washington as they were to what actually happened to the pages. The public began to wonder if the Speaker of the House cannot even control his own congressman then how is he going to be effective in turning the country around?

So while there is a concerted effort among radio hosts and internet bloggers to scare people with the upcoming Democrat agenda, I just don't think it will sink it with the voters. Sometimes the issues play second fiddle to the desire to have leaders that we trust to get things done. Right now, Republicans do not fit that description and no amount of late advertising or scare tactics can change that perception.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I have never been a big fan of Miami football. I hated them in the 80's and cheered when they lost to Penn St in the Fiesta Bowl. The teams back then were made up of punks and while they briefly cleaned up their act, it looks like thuggery has again returned.

I couldn't believe it when I watched the fight that broke out last weekend between Miami and Florida International. I was especially shocked to see the player who was wildly swinging his helmet as a weapon. I assumed like many others that there would be swift and severe punishment for each player involved in the melee. Florida International suspended all the players involved indefinitely which was the right thing to do. But apparently the Miami leadership could care less.

Donna Shalala, the President of the University and former Clinton cabinet member, came out this week and said that the players would only be suspended one game and that she was sick of the witch hunt that was going on. When pressed if she had seen tape of the fight she said she saw the fight in person but did not watch the tape. Watching it in person, I am sure she missed the severity of the situation. That is the only explanation for why she would treat this instance so lightly. But how does the person handing out the punishment not even watch what happened on the field? Her punishment is a joke because the game the players will miss is against Duke which is the equivalent of suspending them during the bye week.

I guess Miami cares more about football and making money off their crooked team than they do about character and conduct. It's not like this is the first time Miami players have stepped out of line. Last year in the Peach bowl they got in a fight with LSU in the tunnel before the game. Then this year they tried to intimidate Louisville by stomping on their logo at midfield. But with leaders like Shalala sticking up for their behavior, it't no wonder the thug mentality continues to grow in college athletics.

To view the fight go here:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mainstream Media

I am sick and tired of the mainstream media and their intention on influencing politics. Every time I turn on CNN or CNBC or one of the networks they all speak from the same lame talking points. The past few weeks have been on Mark Foley and how that scandal will hurt the Republicans in the midterm elections. Not that they have any facts to back up this allegation but they think by repeating that argument often enough it will drive done Republican support and become a self fulfilling prophecy. What's interesting is that the polling suggests that Foley's scandal doesn't make much of a difference with evangelicals because they can see the scandal as what it is. The problem is Mark Foley and his inability to control his sexual desires. And since when did Democrats care about that issue among elected officials? What's sad is that these young pages are being disregarded as nothing more than pawns in a political power grab.

Lost in all the Foley discussions is the fact that the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has his own scandal to explain. He was in partnership with a crooked Las Vegas lawyer on a shady property deal. Reid made more than a $1 million on a $400,000 investment and then didn't report it to Senate. What's really frustrating is that the mainstream media doesn't seem to care. The Washington Post just assumes it was a reporting oversight and gives him the benefit of the doubt. But when it comes to Hastert they assume he is guilty until proven innocent. Why the difference in approach? Because Reid's indiscretions don't fit the media's talking points that the Republicans are the party of corruption. The reality is that both parties are broken and have deep rooted corruption. But if that story got out then there wouldn't be a compelling enough reason to vote out Republicans.

Maybe I am naive but what ever happened to real reporting and unbias news coverage. All we have today are spin machines for the political powers masquerading as news. No wonder most people just turn off the news and figure they are powerless to change anything.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Winter Already?

I woke up yesterday to Flurries and this morning there was actual snow on the ground. What the heck happened to summer? Just last week I was up in Ludington and it was warm and sunny and I was able to walk out on the pier. One week later, I am ready to go into hibernation. It just doesn't seem right, how cold and dark it gets this early in the fall. Now I have to endure 8 more months of this crap before summer peaks around the corner. Oh well, at least it's football season.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I realize that most people have no idea who Conrad Burns is but he is the current Republican senator from Montana. He is facing a tough challenge from John Tester and is viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent in the senate.

Because I have no life, I sometimes watch the debates that C-Span plays. Earlier tonight I was watching the Burns-Tester debate and if I were a voter in Montana I wouldn't vote. Burns comes across horribly. He makes George Bush look articulate and fast on his feet. I have a hard time figuring out how Burns got elected in the first place. Not only does he appear to not be very bright but he is also tangled up in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Tester on the other hand is your typical liberal that opposes the patriot act, wants to retreat on the war and wants to repeal the Bush tax cuts. What kind of choice is that for Montana voters? I keep asking myself if this is the best Montana can come up with?

I just read a article on this race by Hugh Hewitt who I usually agree with but not today. He argues that one should vote for Burns to retain Republican majority and because of the Supreme Court. While I am worried about the court, that doesn't entitle Republicans to put up crappy candidates and expect the public to vote for them. As I look at the coming election, maybe Republicans are getting what they deserve. When we send incompetent and corrupt people to DC, it's no wonder the public is getting tired of us.

North Korea

Let me preface this post by stating that I have absolutely no expertise in handling international affairs. Having said that, let me share some amateur thoughts on the recent showdown with North Korea

1. Bill Clinton's policies did not work. Under his administration we gave them millions of dollars and shared technical information in the hopes that they would back down from building a bomb. Obviously they had no intention on following through on their promises and played Clinton like a sucker. This example should demonstrate that we should not trust dictators.

2. North Korea is becoming more and more desperate for money. The reason they set off the bomb was to scare us into coming to the table and offering them more money. They think they can play Bush just like they played Clinton. Why else are they demanding that we have one on one discussions with them? My guess is that if they do not receive a huge influx of cash within the next year, the country will collapse just as communist Russia did.

3. Iran is watching to see how we respond. If we are seen as weak they will be emboldened with their nuclear program. Other countries are also watching to see if they should move forward with their own programs including Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to name a few. The problem is that we are dependent on other countries to respond to North Korea and cannot directly control what the response will be. This is the downside of multilateralism that all the democrats prefer. Often times are supposed allies have other interests than our own or they lack the political will to stand up to despots. Unfortunately, we don't the strength to handle this conflict on our own.

4. China holds the key to what happens next. If China plays hardball, North Korea's collapse will be expedited because China controls a majority of the fuel coming into North Korea. But China does not want North Korean refugees pouring across the border and their best interest is to continue the status quo. We need to make the case that a nuclear North Korea is a greater danger than taking on refugees. If we can't make that case, then we need to bribe China into action.

5. Is there any doubt that the UN is completely worthless? Whenever I hear that the UN is going to get involved, I know that we have already lost the battle. Despots do not respect the UN and only use it to delay action and influence world opinion. Several countries have obtained nuclear weapons under the UN's watch, so why should we trust them to provide answers to nuclear proliferation? My prediction is that the UN will offer stern words of condemnation, enact a couple of weak sanctions and nothing will be resolved.

6. This issue should play well for Republicans in the upcoming election because it shifts the focus back onto national security. Unfortunately, the republicans don't have a clear response on this issue so it may not help as much as they think. They keep talking about a missile defense system which sounds nice but will not address the real threat. North Korea will never attack us directly with a missile but they will sell their weapons and technology to terrorists and other regimes that would be willing to attack us. A missile defense system wouldn't prevent terrorists from bringing suitcase bombs into Manhatten.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Interesting football facts

I woke up this morning listening to sports radio and they were discussing all the new starting quarterbacks today. With Gradkowski starting in Tampa there are now 5 starting QB's from the MAC. Out of sheer curiosity I decided to look up every QB to see what conference they played in. The results were surprising. Half of today's starters played in 3 conferences. The PAC 10 is the dominate QB factory with 8 starters. The MAC is second with 5 and then the ACC is in third with 4. Although it's a dishonest count because both Vick and Hasselbeck played when their teams were in the Big East. If you count them in the Big East, then that conference has 4 starters. One other startling fact is how pathetic the Big 12 is. There are just as many starters from Division 2 as there are from the Big 12. And that starter is none other than rookie Vince Young. I guess all that wishbone offense held back the conference's QB development. And for you Lions fans, you have the distinction for cheering for the only division 2 starter. His conference was so bad that ESPN doesn't even list them in their conference standings. In terms of Specific teams, I was also surprised that Michigan has only one starter as they are often referred to as a QB factory. In fact the Big 10 has only two starters total. There are actually 4 teams with 2 starters each today and they include USC, AZ state, Washington, and Marshall. The following is a breakdown of the results. I hope you enjoy this useless trivia.

PAC 10 - 8
MAC - 5
ACC - 4 (includes all current teams)
SEC - 3
C-USA - 3
Big 10 - 2
Big East -2
Mountain West
Sun Belt
Big 12
North Central Conference (Division 2)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Baseball Predictions

Now that the playoffs are started, I am changing my preseason predictions. Since I cannot root for the Pirates I am switching to the Tigers. And for financial reasons I am cheering for the Padres. I am not convinced that either of them will actually win the world series but it could be 1984 all over again. Without further ado here is how the playoffs will play out:

Tigers over the Yankees in 5
Oakland over the Twins in 4
Padres over the Cardinals in 3
Dodgers over the Mets in 5

Tigers over the A's in 7
Dodgers over the Padres in 6

Tigers over the Dodgers in 5

Take these predictions with a grain of salt as I thought this could be the year that Pittsburgh would make the playoffs.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Congressman Foley

It is sickening to read about the illicit emails that congressman Foley sent to a 16 year old male page. His action is such a violation of trust and I pray for the kids that he violated. As the details begin to leak out it appears that many people in Congress knew that something was not right. The page program warned new pages to be careful around Foley and the house leadership was alerted that there was a problem 6 months ago but failed to find anything specific and only warned him to limit contact with pages. My question is if the media could get a hold of these emails why couldn't the Speaker's office find them when they were investigating? The whole situation is a disgrace.

This morning I was listening to the radio and the talk is about how Foley's resignation will impact the midterm elections. With control of the House up for grabs this seat could tip the balance of power to the Democrats. But this discussion just trivializes what happened to these young boys and demonstrates what's wrong with our culture. We are more worried about political power than we are about protecting our young people. Who cares who wins that seat? The real issue is making sure that nothing like this happens again.

Sadly, I doubt this is an isolated incident. When I lived in DC there were often rumors about pages and congressmen having inappropriate relationships but they were mostly ignored as rumor and innuendo. Maybe congress should be more proactive to investigate these rumors in the future. I was going to write that maybe voters should be discriminating when voting for their leaders but how does the public know what happens in the dark hearts of man. We don't but there has to be system in place to reign in these passions but apparently that system is broken.

First Service

Last night we held our first official worship service at Barefoot Lansing. It went very well despite a few technical difficulties before hand and some last minute running around. We have a coffee lounge before the service to mingle and meet new people. I was supposed to be on coffee duty which requires making sure we had plenty of coffee made and such but I kept getting distracted with conversations. My friend Rachel took over thankfully and I don't think I will have that role next week. I enjoyed the coffee lounge idea but an hour is a long time to make small talk.

We had several new people attend which is encouraging and they all had different stories and reasons for being there. One couple recently got married and they haven't found a church that they both liked so they were checking us out. Two married women came without their husbands and were curious about the church after receiving our mailing. I don't think they are believers yet. One younger women was looking for the new church experience. She was already attending three other services weekly and is going to try and add us to the list. After the service, I met two men who are Antioch orthodox who came to the service mostly to criticize it and push their own version of the church. I pray that each of the new people who came were able to see God in the church last night.

The service itself went off without a hitch. I was able to be part of the worship band which was fun. Noah gave a compelling sermon on why we were created and pleaded for us to lead lives of meaning. Next week were are going to be talking about the fall and what to do with sin in our lives. I am interested to see who returns and if we get additional visitors. Starting from scratch it is hard to predict what's next but I have confidence that we are building a firm foundation.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Let's talk politics

Because I don't have enough things to do these days, I decided to start a seperate blog to follow the 2008 presidential election. The address is and there is a link to it from this blog. I think you will enjoy my political ramblings.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup starts this week Friday and I am already excited about it. In fact, of all the sporting events, I think the Ryder Cup might be in my top 5. Two years ago they held the event here in Michigan and I was able to attend a practice day which was very cool.

This year's Ryder Cup is hard to predict. After several disgraces by the Americans, we still are the perceived favorite. On paper we bring the top 2 players in the world in Tiger and Jim Furyk and several other accomplished players. But every year we bring the more talented team and every year the Europeans kick our butt with a bunch of guys who can't win a major and most of whom we've never even heard of.

In the Ryder Cup, the world rankings and raw talent mean very little. What counts is teamwork which is why the Americans struggle. Tiger and Mickelson both suck when it comes the Ryder Cup because they are so used to playing for themselves that they do not know how to play as a team. If either one of them would play up to their potential we would have a strong shot at bringing back the cup. However, the key to America's success will be how our young guys play this year. For the past few Cups we've had a lot of deadweight on the team and finally we have some new guys like Zach Johnson and JJ Henry to bring a fresh perspective.

I also think having Tom Lehman as captain will help the team this year. He has played well in these events in the past and he understands the camaraderie that it takes to win the cup. Having said that, my expectations for winning the cup are still low. Win or lose, I plan to sit back and enjoy the high drama of the Ryder Cup.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is Islam Evil?

Last week the Pope made some remarks that were critical of Islam by stating that it was evil and inhumane. How did the Islamic community respond to these comments? They started rioting and threatening violence against the Pope. This morning it was reported that a catholic nun had been murdered in retalitation to the comments. It seems to me that this response only reinforces the Pope's argument. I can certainly understand being upset when someone criticizes one's religion but since when did that give license to respond with violence?

Also last week, Rosie O'Donnell on the View compared radical Christianity to the Muslim terrorists, presumably because many of us don't endorse her homosexual lifestyle. Her comments obviously drew condemnation from the Christian community but to my knowledge nobody has threatened her life or started rioting in the streets. Maybe Christians will boycott the show but I doubt that will work since nobody watches the View anyways.

It's irritating listening to all the pundits wring their hands when anyone questions Islam's true intentions or beliefs. Yet Christians get mocked and ridiculed daily in the media, the schools and in the entertainment industry. Why is there a double standard? And since when did religion freedom mean that average citizens cannot criticize other people's religion. By definition, if one is a Christian then they do not endorse Islam and vice versa. The two faiths have little to no room for agreement. The Muslims get this but apparently we hold freedom of religion as so sacrosanct that it applies to more than just government but to our own personal religious views.

Now as to content of the Pope's comments. I do not believe that all Muslims are evil people. They are no more or no less evil than I am as all men are born with sinful intentions. But as a religion Islam is in direct contrast to the redemption and transformation offered by Christ. You may not want to call that opposition evil but I would hardly call it good.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day of Caring

The other day our campaign decided to send several volunteers to the local United Way day of caring. While I was there I kept thinking that I was part of some NFL United Way commercial but it wasn't really that glamorous and no pro athletes were there to help. Our crew was assigned to clean up the baseball field and tennis courts at a park in Muskegon Hts. By the looks of things, nobody had touched the park in a long time and it was a mess. We were able to make some progress but it seemed a little futile because I wonder how many kids are actually going to use those fields even after they are cleaned up. Only time will tell I guess.

Several people have asked me why we sent our volunteers to clean a park when we are in such a close election. Most campaigns would be out campaigning but I can honestly say that my boss is different than most politicians. Some suggested that we were only there to get good PR for the campaign but we didn't send out a press release and to my knowledge my boss didn't even speak to the newspaper that was there covering the event. His avoidance of the spotlight was not unusual.

To give you an idea about my boss, I need to share story from our first reelection campaign. The legislature has just received a huge pay increase just as the economy was going in the tank. Several other representatives decided to donate portions of their raise to charities and made sure the media knew about it. It worked well and they got tremendous positive coverage. When I suggested that idea to my boss he simply replied that the left hand shouldn't know what the right hand was doing and that if he gave away his money it wouldn't be for political gain. In the end I think he did donate to several community groups but I'll never know for sure because he didn't broadcast it.

Even on days when I don't agree with my boss or when I get really tired of the campaign grind, I always look back to that story as to why I work for who I do. Anybody can work for an up and coming politician but few in my business get to work for somebody with such humility.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Government Spending

I was just finished an interesting conversation with my friend Craig about the proper role of government spending. He was trying to point out that government wastes money on useless things which I canagree to a certain point. However, not all governments spend lavishly. This morning for instance we had the Vice President of Travel Michigan before our committee to testify on the state's new advertising campaign to attract new tourists to the state. He wanted to show a DVD clip of the new commercials but the senate doesn't have any DVD players. We only have VCR's. Granted they are VHS and not Beta but not exactly high tech. I had to lug in a DVD player from home so we could view the clips this morning.

On a more serious note, Travel Michigan's presentation was very impressive. To view the adds, you can visit Last year, the state set aside $7.5 million from the 21st Century Job money to fund this marketing campaign. This was on top of the $5.7 million we spend in general fund money. This may sound like a lot of money but compared to surrounding states, we spend far less to attract visitors. Illinois spends $48 million a year in marketing. One interesting point about the money being spent for the campaign is that for every dollar spent, the state brings in $3.43 in new tax revenue. It's a convoluted formula but tourists do spend money when they come to Michigan and that generates lots of tax revenue. I point all this out to illustrate that sometimes government spending can actually reap a return on that investment.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

American Top 40 Flashback

XM radio has recently been replaying Top 40 countdowns from the 1980's. Being a child of the 80's I tuned in and it was like going back in time. Casey Kasem's familiar voice along with great hits from Kool and the Gang, Bruce Springstein and Loverboy, made me long for the music of my youth. They even had a long distance dedication.

What was fun about listening to the show was how vivid my memories are tied to music. I remember when I was about 10 my Mom would go to Sunday School over at Sutton Club Apartments. I would go with her but sneak out into the parking lot to listen to the top 40 countdown while sitting in the car. Things were so carefree back then that the only thing I worried about was if my favorite song would be number one. Today's music just doesn't carry the same emotional attachment as it did back then.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Football predictions

It seems like just yesterday that I was drinking champaign from the sweet cup of superbowl victory but alas the NFL season starts tomorrow night with the Steelers defending their crown against the Dolphins. It would have been a great game except that Big Ben is out because of his appendix. I am beginning to think he may be cursed. I can see all these Bengals fans plucking needles into their Roethlisberger doll wishing revenge and casting spells in the name of Carson Palmer.

Every year I like to pretend that I have some talent in predicting the season so I thought I would share my predictions.

AFC East
New England

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West
San Diego
Kansas City

The Bengals and New England will win the wildcard and Cincinatti will win the AFC championship.

NFC East

NFC North
Green Bay

NFC South
Tampa Bay
New Orleans

NFC West
St. Louis
San Francisco

Dallas and Tampa Bay are the wildcards and Carolina wins the NFC Championship.

And the super bowl winner is Carolina over Cincinatti in a thriller.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The perfect storm

I was recently on and was studying the state by state Senate races this year. There are about 8 or 9 competitive races that should determine who controls the Senate Majority next year. After looking at the polling the democrats are in the lead in most of the races which spells doom for Republicans.

Then I read an article that three state branches of the Christian Coalition were breaking off and starting their own organizations. Factor in that the coalition is over a million in debt, they have weak national leadership and that their former director Ralph Reed couldn't even win the Lt. Governor's primary last month and you see just feckless that organization has become.

Finally, I read a survey that the percentage of people who think the Republican party is religious has dropped from 55 to 47 percent. The biggest drop was among white evangelicals and Catholics. Democrats are no better as only 29 percent view them as religious. Still that drop suggests a lack of enthusiam among the Republican base.

With dismal poll numbers and a weak grassroots base, it looks like Republicans are in big, big trouble going into the election.

Target audience

The other day I was having lunch with a friend of mine who works for Gov. Granholm. Being a campaign year, her boss's reelection campaign came up and I mentioned that I didn't like her TV commercials. She took the criticism fairly well but I could tell she thought I was full of crap.

About a week later I noticed that Granholm was rising in the polls and is now leading Devos 50-43 which is the best position she has been in quite a while. So I emailed my friend and told her that I had obviously misjudged the commercial's effectiveness. She wrote back and said that she never pre-judges any commercials herself because she is not the target audience. Which got me to thinking that I must not be the target audience either.

How funny that two well informed and educated people are not the target audience. But politics by default has to play to the larger uninformed electorate because that's where the votes are. This isn't to say that the public isn't capable of seeing through the BS most of the time but most people are simply too busy with their own life to pay much attention to Lansing unless it impacts them directly. Sadly, many politicians take advantage of that attention deficit and count on voter apathy and ignorance. And we wonder why people are disenfranchised by government?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Build A Well

Tomorrow night is the concert that my church is sponsoring. We should raise several thousand dollars to help those suffering with AIDS. The City Pulse just ran a nice story about the event. If you are in town tomorrow night, I encourage you to stop by the Temple Club and buy a ticket.

To my fellow bloggers

One of the coolest things about blogging is it allows all of us to keep in touch with a lot of people despite living all over the country. Part of that ability comes from linking to other people's blogs. I know a lot of people use my site to link to other IWU alumni. Unfortunately, a number of you bloggers out there are not keeping up with your writing. So as of today I am placing you on probation. If you can't update your blog more than once every two months then your link will be removed. Yes, that means you CJ. I am tired of checking your site to read all about March Madness. Hello it's August. So consider this fair warning.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Just a bunch of kids

This article is why I love the Steelers so much.

Family Values

I just came across a fascinating study comparing the birth rate among liberals and conservatives in America. What the study reveals is that there is a growing gap between the number of kids each group is having. Of the 100 liberals surveyed, they had 147 children. Meanwhile the 100 conservatives had 208 children. That's a 41 percent difference. This percentage is growing as more and more conservatives have more and more children.

What explains this gap? I would say that the numbers are a predictable outflow of their belief systems. With all the talk about family values, conservatives should have big families. Liberals on the other hand are more likely to encourage birth control and abortion. Additionally, many of them do not want to contribute to overpopulating the world.

The reason behind this trend isn't nearly as important as the impact. This study spells bad news for liberals. Consider the fact that about 80 percent of voters vote the same way their parents did growing up and you can see that the voting population is trending significantly conservative. This could explain why liberals are doing poorly with their get out the vote efforts among young people. It also explains why liberals are so desperate to indoctrinate kids through the schools and universities. It's their only hope to undo many of these kids conservative upbringing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


This weekend I was able to go down to Kentucky and visit my stepsisters and catch a Reds-Pirates game. It was a fun weekend and I really enjoy both Kelly and Tina's company. But as I was there, I noticed a little tension between Kelly and her husband John. John is a good guy but he seems to put his interests before his family's and while Kelly handles it quite well, the rest of our family gets a little annoyed by it. Later in the weekend, Kelly admitted that she doesn't really have any other close friends and it's basically just John that she depends on. I wish he realized just how much she counts on him.

Two weekends ago, I found out that my brother and his wife are getting a divorce. I feel sick about it and can tell it's just killing him inside. His eyes have this incredible sadness and I wish that I could help him understand that getting a divorce does not make any less of a man. He doesn't need to be married to be loved and appreciated. Unfortunately, he has always put a lot of hope and faith in women's acceptance but I am praying that he can use this time to start fresh and find his own way before he settles down with another woman.

I just got a call from a girlfriend of mine who can't make up her mind about the guy she is dating. They fight and break up and get back together over and over again. It would be obvious to any stranger that their relationship is not the healthiest. I have another girlfriend that knows she should break up with her boyfriend but doesn't want to let go because she has already invested so much time into the relationship and thinks he might really change this time.
Both of these friends are smart, self-assured, attractive women that could easily go out with any number of men. So why are they still in these less than perfect relationships?

I realize the importance of love and romantic relationships but it seems like for each good healthy relationship there are dozens of unhealthy ones that either end in divorce or long term stress and bitterness. Is this really what I am missing out by being a single person in my thirties? I want to experience a healthy romance but the relational carnage scares me away.

It just strikes me as ironic that in a society where marriage and dating are so prevalent and encouraged that so many of them don't seem to bring the joy and happiness that is promised.

Friday, August 18, 2006

To The Least Of These

I know economic times are tough in Michigan these day but it seems like things are getting worse lately. In the past few days I have been approached by homeless people asking for food or for money to take the bus back to Detroit. When I lived in DC begging was part of the culture so I used to carry change in my backpack and I would just hand that out to people who asked for money. But here in Lansing, I am not quite sure how to react.

Last night as I was walking home a guy stopped me to explain how he was stuck in Lansing and needed bus money to get back to Detroit. He even began to rap as a gesture to prove he was really from Mo-town. About halfway through his song, I pulled out a few bucks and gave it to him. Not really out of compassion or because I even believed him but simply to shut him up.

As I began the rest of my walk home, I reflected on a sermon I recently heard about giving to the least of these. The premise being, that our true faith is measured by how we treat those in need. I want to be a compassionate person and I do see the need in the community. That is partly why I am part of Barefoot Lansing Church. But is my moral obligation bigger than just being a part of church that reaches out to this community? What is my responsibility when a street person asks for money?

At first my gut tells me that most of the people asking for money are crooks. But now I think, that my role is to be compassionate and that even if the person is lying, I helped that person in good faith. Their actions are their responsibility and they will reap what they sow. And maybe the guy last night was telling me the truth and my money I helped him get a ride back to Detroit. I don't know. But I do know I can't afford to help every person that asks for money regardless of the legitimacy. Am even I supposed to? Or am I supposed to intervene in their lives and arrange contact with social service agencies? To be honest, sometimes I don't want to spend that kind of time and would rather give them some money to leave me alone. I realize that attitude does not advance the kingdom of God which is why I am wrestling with how to respond in these situations.

I am not sure what the answer is or even if there is one solution that works in all cases. But at least I am questioning what it means to take care of the least of these.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Which football is best?

I usually don't like it when ESPN tries to manufacture a sporting topic but recently they have been running stories on whether college football or pro football is better. As a longtime fan of both there is really no question that the NFL is much superior to the NCAA.

First of all the NFL actually decides the championship on the field. For my money no college team can ever claim a legitimate national championship because they don't have to prove it against the best competition. Instead, it's the big schools who make the most money that get preferential treatment by higher preseason rankings and easier paths to the BCS games. The whole championship is political and it really hurts the game. Why they don't have a playoff system like every other sports league is beyond me.

My second problem with the college game is that there is not a level playing field. The same 15 teams or so dominate the landscape each year. If you went back and looked at the top 25 poll from 1986 I bet it would look almost identical to the current poll. On the other hand, The NFL is complete crapshoot. Who else besides myself picked the Steelers to win it all last year? And what about the Rams and Ravens and even the Patriots winning the superbowl all after non-winning seasons the year before? I like that unpredictability and it gives all fans hope and an interest going into the season.

The third reason that the NFL is better than college football is that you can start the season slowly and still win the championship. The format allows you to build a team along the way and it rewards peaking at the end of the season. Every year, I lose interest in college football as soon as Michigan loses their first game which is usually to Notre Dame in September. Why as a fan should I care about the remainder of the season if my team has little or no chance to win the championship? It's a joke. And to those who say this makes the regular season more interesting, I say look at the schedules this year. To avoid losing an early game the major programs are playing lousy teams instead of facing stiff competition. So instead of say Auburn and Michigan playing each other they play Southern Sisters of the Poor and Our Lady of SE Michigan. How that makes the regular season compelling is beyond me.

Finally, the real reason that the NFL is superior is fantasy football. The only reason I watch a lot of NFL games is because I have players involved. Why else would I watch the Titans Jets game? Well maybe if I had money on it but I don't wager that much anymore. I love fantasy football because it combines my love of sports and my love of competition together into one neat hobby. Often times, I watch the scrolling scoreboard more than I watch the actual game because I want to keep track of my team's performance. Until the NCAA comes up with their own fantasy league, which I don't think they can do because they cannot use the athletes names, the NFL will continue to be my favorite form of football.

For All You Conspiracy Theorists

I just heard on the news last night that NASA can not find the original tapes of the first moon landing. Wow, I know I am disorganized but even I could figure a way to not lose such important historical documentation.

Losing these tapes will only add fuel to all the conspiracy theories that we didn't really land on the moon. Even my stepdad, who is a smart man, thinks that we were probably were duped into believing this event. He and others suggest that it was simply an early Hollywood invention designed to give us a public relations advantage during the cold war. As strange as this sounds, I wouldn't completely rule it out of the question. Where were the bloggers back then to verify the facts?

This morning as I was discussing this story with my co-worker she asked me how long I thought Neil Armstrong practiced saying his famous phrase "one small step for man, one giant step for mankind". This got us to thinking about what else he said up there. The following is my top 10 list of what else he might of said.

1 Where's the restroom?

2 I have an itch but I can't scratch it in this stupid suit

3 Dang, I forgot my camera

4 Take that you Russian commies

5 Visa; never leave home without it

6 Where's the cheese?

7 This is even better than that one summer at space camp

8 Hey, I think I can see the smog over LA from up here.

9 Maybe I should run for Congress. Nah, who would ever vote for an astronaut?

10 I hope those suckers back home believe all this

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I wish I could write

There are a lot of things that I am itching to write about lately. Unfortunately, I feel constrained by my job to avoid sharing my opinion on these matters with the public. The nature of my job allows me incite into many political dramas facing the state but it also compels me to be silent on many of them.

That's the one problem with blogging. It's a fine line between sharing good information with people while not jeopardizing one's profession and reputation. I heard that a new hiring technique is to google potential employees and read their blogs to see what the person is really like. While it's cool to be self revealing to the public, there is a responsibility attached to it.

I hope that explains the dearth of information regarding Michigan politics in this blog. Believe me I could write something new everyday. But my better judgment and my need for a job prevent me from doing so. If you want to know the real scoop behind what's happening in Lansing and around the state you will just have to contact me personally.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Yesterday's Terror

My friend CJ called me yesterday as I was on my way to Muskegon and asked me if we had called the national guard up to protect our airports. I was a little confused because I had been out late the night before and I hadn't heard the news on radio yet about the proposed airplane bombings. I quickly told CJ I would call him back and turned on FoxNews to get caught up. It was shocking to learn that the attackers were so advanced in their preparation. I think I had been lulled into sleep by the past 5 years. After yesterday's events, I have several observations about the war.

1. First of all our enemy is deadly determined to defeat us. These operations take years to prepare and they are willing to put their own life at stake in this war. I wish the anti-war crowd in the states would wake up and realize that we are not going to win this war by negotiation and retreat. Radical Islam wants to destroy us and they will patiently fight this war until the very end. They will never accept a peaceful coexistence between us and them. But for some reason many Americans think this is somehow possible. Forget about it.

2. I heard on the radio that some groups are complaining about Bush saying we are at war against Islamic Fascism. Apparently, they are worried that Muslims will get a bad reputation or something. Who do these people think we are fighting against? Church going Catholics? No, our enemy is those who are living out their Muslim faith. We may not like it and many good law abiding Muslims may take offense to it but that doesn't change the facts. Until we are serious about understanding that and I think Bush is, we will not make any real progress in this war. And if Muslims are so upset about ruining their reputation why don't work to defeat that vile faction within their own religion? I seldom hear of condemnation coming from the American Islamic community and usually only hear excuses for the terrorists.

3. This may sound strange in lieu of what I wrote earlier but I wonder if we aren't overestimating our enemies a bit. It seems to me that they are stuck in an old mode of operation. They tried this same plot back in 1995 and it failed then. So why try the same thing again a decade later? And with all the worry about them having chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, why are they still using make shift bombs? Does this reveal that they don't have weapons of mass destruction? Before yesterday I would have assumed they did but now I am not so sure. What I think yesterday's plan reveals is that they do not have strong leadership at the top to carry out their operations. It's mostly low level workers who remembered the plot from 1995 and could not think above that level of operation. If that's the case then we are making a lot of progress in this war.

4. The final observation I have is that even though it was scary to learn about the plot, yesterday was a big success. It was one of the few major operations that we were able to penetrate and stop before it happened. Whether it was electronic monitoring or a spy within their cell, we had very good information. So why are the Democrats continuing to attack Bush's failing policies. I heard one of them say if only we had more money to fight terror instead of the war in Iraq we would have more success. Did he not notice that we were able to stop the terrorists yesterday? It's like they had their talking points ready to go in case of an attack and went ahead with them even though the attack was prevented. I wish the Democrats once and for all would acknowledge that our Islamic enemy is a worse enemy than President Bush. Up to now, you would never know that by their actions.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fun Picture

This was taken a couple weeks ago when my niece and nephew were in town from Kentucky. They are great kids.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Election Day

I love election day. Today is Michigan's primary elections and there are several interesting races across the state. First there is the US Senate race between Keith Butler and Mike Bouchard. Butler is the charismatic preacher from Detroit and Bouchard is the polished county sheriff from Oakland County. Both are good Republicans but both face an uphill battle to beat Debbie Stabenow in the fall. The establishment is solidly behind Bouchard and he is the presumed frontrunner but he has run a rather uninspired campaign. I heard there are still 30 percent undecided which is a big number which tells me that neither one has a lot of strong allegiance yet. Having said that, I really like Butler and he should carry West Michigan. If he doesn't get drubbed in Southeast Michigan, I think it will be a lot closer than people think.

The second race I am following is the 7th congressional primary between the incumbent Joe Schwarz and challenger Tim Walberg. Two years ago, Schwarz won with under 40 percent in a crowded primary because the other conservatives split the vote. This time he is one on one and the conservatives are very energized to take Schwarz out. Money has been flowing in from out of state into this race as part of a nationwide attempt to get rid of moderate Republicans in safe Republican seats. Schwarz's TV and radio ads have been fantastic but Walberg should have more grassroots support to turn out the vote. My gut tells me Walberg will prevail and probably by a healthy margin.

The third race of interest is the 28th senate seat in Grand Rapids between Mark Jansen, Joanne Voorhees and Jim Koetje. All three are former state reps and the winner of the primary will win handily in November. I have been helping Mark out because I watched him work when he served in the House and was always impressed by him. He has a quiet confidence about him that I respect. Initially this race was Voorhees's to lose because she has more money to spend and a lot of endorsements. But Jansen has momentum on his side and a history of getting his voters to the polls. That should be enough for Mark to win in a squeaker.

The last race I am tracking today isn't even in Michigan. It's the Connecticut senate primary between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont. The left is mad at Sen. Lieberman for supporting Bush on the war and targeted him with an aggressive nationwide internet campaign. The polls show Lieberman behind by double digits and I don't know how effective he will be in getting out the vote. If he loses he has already stated he will run as an independent in the general election.

I am torn on this race. Part of me wants Lieberman to lose today and then run as independent and win the general election. If that happens most likely he will side with the Republicans and give them a leg up on keeping the majority. But I also wouldn't mind Lieberman winning today so he and the rest of the country can claim victory against the hardcore anti-war left. The country needs good democrats like Lieberman and I hate to think the left will drive them away. Regardless of what happens today, Lieberman will still win the general election.

These are just some of my thoughts on a couple of key races. There are lots of smaller races on the ballot so don't forget vote in your local elections.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Why I would never use

The other day I heard an advertisement for which is one of those annoying internet dating services. What struck me about the ad was the fact that they were highlighting Dr Phil giving out free dating advice to their members. As if having to resort to internet dating isn't bad enough, now they want to degrade single people by listening to advice from that blowhard.

I read a great column on Teresa Strasser's site about Dr. Phil the other day. Apparently he also wrote a book on dating advice and is now trying to pass himself off as a some kind of dating guru. Doesn't he make enough money from being on Oprah? What's next, him giving advice on haircare products? He probably met his wife at the drive in theater or a at the sock hop so how could he possibly have any incite into today's dating scene?

Worse than him not having any practical dating experience is the complete lack of depth in the advice he dispenses. During the radio ad, a lady explains that she has a hard time finding people to date to which he replies that she shouldn't dream she should do, she shouldn't want she should get. I have no idea what any of that means but I doubt that pithy advice was really helpful to her. Instead of cliches, how about giving her some real advice like say maybe where to meet people or better yet don't waste your time on internet dating sites.

But Dr Phil is not the only shyster out there trying to make a quick buck by selling crappy advice to single people. Just go to Barnes and Noble and you'll see a whole shelf full of books about dating. What's worse is that a lot of dating books are targeted toward single Christians. The author throws in a few verses about sexual purity among the psychobabble and expects people to fall for it. Apparently, though we are an easy mark because somebody is buying this crap. It's probably the person who stays at home reading these books on a Friday night wondering why their alone when they could be out with their friends meeting people.

And it's not just that I don't respect married people giving me advice on dating, it's the fact that there is no one set of rules or advice for dating that works for every person. Just because one person met their true love at the grocery store, doesn't mean everyone else will meet someone there. Believe me, I've tried and all I ever take home is groceries. The problem is you can't advise someone into love. I suppose you can offer ideas on how to meet people, or how to treat one another, but romance is a mysterious mistress that cannot be tamed or captured by reading a book or listening to advice from others. Hopefully, my single compatriots will see through the nonsense and won't fall for the false hope that Dr Phil and are selling.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Winning the Culture War

I mentioned in my last post that there was a good article that I found on Derek's blog that talked about a pastor who began preaching that the church should steer clear of politics. For this message, he lost about 20 percent of his congregation because they disagreed with him.

This brings up several things that I could write on, including why people leave their church when they disagree with pastor and whether that's a good idea or not, but I want to address the main message that he was trying to share with his church. Even though I am active in politics and have very strong opinions on a number of social issues I completely agree with his premise.

I had a great professor in college named Dr. Martin. He was a brilliant man and one of his greatest gifts was teaching young minds to interpret different worldviews. He rightly suggested that the largest problem with liberal politics is that they put their hope in government instead of in God. Their worldview is that the government should feed, protect and provide for all society's needs and that these needs will largely not be met without government intervention. But before we rush to judgment, there is another side of the coin. I fear that conservatives have also begun to place their hope in government. Not to take care of people's physical needs but to win the culture war instead. The right's worldview is that if the right people get elected and the right laws get passed we can restore our nation's Christian heritage. And this goal will not be met without government intervention.

No longer does the church view social issues like homosexuality, abortion and gambling as spiritual problems in need of a spiritual solution but instead as political problems in need of a political solution. The problem with this notion is that government cannot and will not change people's hearts. We could pass every law we want and there will still be social ills in the world. And while I do think that a nation's law represent the values of its people I think we would be better off changing people's values and then have the laws change as a result.

I was just reminded of story that highlights the difference between fighting spiritual and political battles. A few years ago there was an abortion clinic in Kentwood where I grew up. It had been there a long time and was often quite busy. A handful of women who counseled women before and after they went into the clinic decided that they should be intentionally praying for the clinic to close. Within a short time, the women showed up to counsel and they found that the clinic has closed without notice. This was a direct result of prayer and their efforts saved many children's lives. Politics would not have shut down that clinic because it doesn't have the power to win the spiritual war that surrounds these social issues.

I am not advocating that Christians abandon the cultural battles of the day. But rather I propose that we rethink our weapon of choice to fight these battles. Continuing to rely on government and politics to transform the culture is like going to war against a nuclear enemy with only a rifle. The most skilled shooter might be able to knock off a few of his enemies but would have no real chance of winning the war and the same is true in the culture wars. Until the church realizes this we will face setback after setback and wonder why all our efforts are failing.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Quick little update

Wow it is hot outside. It's 8:30 at night and the temperature is still over 90 degrees. I usually prefer warm weather to cold weather but this is ridiculous. It's been especially tough as I go door to door for the campaign. On Saturday I think I lost 10 pounds just from pounding the pavement in this heat. We have another big day planned for Wednesday and I am hoping the temp cools off by then but I doubt it.

Last night we had church and I am really enjoying going to barefoot. I am even learning a few things. Mostly, that being part of a smaller body means there is a lot for each person to do. Not an overwhelming amount but if everyone's not involved not much would get done. I have been helping raise money for a concert we are promoting in August. The money goes to Blood:Water Mission which was started by Jars of Clay and they help build wells in Africa. It's a cool venture to contribute too. Here is their website. This week I begin practicing with the worship band for our Saturday night services. I am eager to start singing again but I hope that I have enough time to commit in light of campaign season heating up.

We also talked last night about reaching out to the kids that live in one of the local apartment complexes. Apparently, they don't have a lot going on and the kids are looking for people to invest in them. Not sure just what the plan is yet but I like the fact that we are preparing to take on a need. Another avenue that we are pursuing is with the Lansing area aids network. Our pastor met with them last week and they are really excited about our church and want to work with us to reach out to the aids community. I was going to volunteer with them last year but could never worki it into my schedule so I am hoping that maybe I can do some work with them now through the church.

What I like most about my church is that the community is so young and they have great expectations and ideas. There are endless possibilities to serve people and even before we are officially launched there is an eagerness to see how our church fits in meeting those needs. The key will be focusing this energy and enthusiasm into the most effective venues.

One final thing, Derek Bethay just posted a link on his blog to an article about a preacher who is trying to keep the church above the political frey. It's a good read and I would suggest checking it out. Maybe when I get a little time, I will share my thoughts on what that pastor is doing.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Some thoughts on the war

Like most people I have been paying close attention to the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hezbollah. I know a lot of my friends are very encouraged by what's happening because they want Israel to win but I am saddened as I watch the news and see all the destruction. This is especially true as I see Lebanon (one of the few democracies in the region) get decimated. As much I hate war though, there is a time and place for it and this is that time.

It seems like there has been a recent call by many in the media for a cease fire. Thus far the Bush team has resisted such talk and I am encouraged by that. Yes, a cease fire would temporarily end the violence but it won't end the war. You don't need to be shooting rockets at each to be at war with each other. Just look at the cold war for example. We had several years where we never fired a single shot against Russia and yet we were in a full scale struggle to determine the fate of the 20th century. Even most recently, radical Islam has been at war with us for decades yet we were not even fully aware of it until September 11th.

This particular war is nothing new. Israel and the Islamic extremists have been at war for a long time even during the so called peaceful times. You see peace is not the absence of conflict but rather when one power has the upper hand as to deter the other from attacking. This is the principle of peace through strength and it has worked for a long time.

If Israel were to now listen to the world and arrange a cease fire they would be quitting before they actually made enough progress to restrain their enemy. All a cease fire would do at this point is allow Hezbollah a chance to regroup and build up their strength to attack at a time when it's more beneficial to them. I think we should pay special attention to this point as it pertains to our own war with Islam and maybe give pause to the growing chorus to withdraw from Iraq even though the work is not yet done. Our withdrawl will not end the war and we should not leave until we are strong enough to deter our enemy from attacking.

The other idea that keeps coming to mind as I examine these events is how Iran has badly overplayed their hand. Much of the war on terror is being facilitated and propped up by Iran. They are fueling a large portion of the resistance in Iraq and of course they are using Hezbollah as a pawn to attack Israel. The whole timing of the war was planned to distract the world from Iran's quest to become a nuclear power. They also wanted to take the our attention away from Iraq and make the US focus on several battle fronts. I think they also thought they could drive a further wedge between the US and certain allies like Russia and France.

The reality is just the opposite. The world and our allies have for the most part been restrained in their condemnation against Israel. Instead the event has opened many sleeping eyes and brought Iran to the forefront as the leading trouble maker in the region. And rather than pitting us against our allies, this war has pitted the moderate Muslim states like Jordan, Egypt and Turkey against Iran. They want no part in stirring the anger and retribution of Israel. What's more, because Iran had to use a surrogate army to attack they revealed their own cowardice to attack directly. Say what you want about the war in Iraq but the US is walking the walk in that war and demonstrated that we are willing to risk our troops and even our reputation to combat Islamic extremism. Iran on the other hand looks like the man behind the curtain who talks tough but has others do their bidding. I think this war will hurt their reputation and will only enhance their wanting to build the bomb so they can claim their role as the Muslim superpower. Without the bomb they are just another third world tyranny.

As the following weeks play out, I hope the world maintains their support for Israel to defend themselves and that Hezbollah is thoroughly destroyed. If that happens, there won't be peace in the middle east but at least there will be a little less fighting.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Ex-girlfriend's Wedding

Saturday night I went to an ex girlfriend's wedding reception. I know it sounds strange that I would go to such an event but Michelle and I have been good friends since before we dated, while we dated and after we dated. It's a good formula to follow and it works well for me. This is actually not the first wedding of an ex girlfriend that I have attended. So I guess I am always an ex-boyfriend, never a groom.

The reception was a mix of people from all walks of life and I actually knew quite a few people. I enjoyed seeing her family again and got a chance to visit with several friends that I used to go to church with. What I find funny is the fallacy that weddings are a good place to pick up women. I have never found this to be the case. Usually, most women come with dates already and secondly, my chances of picking up a woman after she has seen me dance are limited to only the blind or the infirm.

Michelle did try to set me with up her friend Robin at the reception. Apparently she hadn't read my recent blog about fix ups because she chose the wrong person for me. Robin was very nice and sweet but a little quiet and boring. I already have quiet and boring in my life and I am ready for something different. Now her friend Nsombie was anything but quiet and boring but Michelle didn't think I could handle her. Too which I think if I was able to handle Michelle, how much tougher could her friend be?

All in all it was fun to celebrate their wedding. Her husband Aron seems like a pretty decent guy and they are a good fit. Usually I don't like receptions simply because I don't need married people gloating about how happy they are and flaunting their newfound life. But this one wasn't that bad. I wish them both a long and successful relationship.