Saturday, April 29, 2006

Political Parties

One thing I have been thinking about lately is how we reform the political system. It seems like the public is becoming less and less satisfied with their leaders and quite frankly our leaders are becoming less and less worth following. Instead of thoughtful debate on the issues we have two parties bashing each other to gain political advantage and people both inside and outside the system are getting sick of it. And while talk of lobbying and election reform sounds nice they don't really address the real problem.

The dirty truth about both politics is that Republicans and Democrats are only concerned with one thing and that is Power. Either they are fighting to maintain power and control or they are working to regain it. The policy implications of what happens in government become just a pawn in this battle. And unfortunately, the start of a third party is not the solution. It would be impossible for a third party to become a major player simply because the two main parties have stacked the system against them. And besides the third parties are usually just one issue parties and lack broad popular support. But even if the green party or libertarian party were to win they would simply become just like the Democrats or Republicans in their quest for power and control. The old axis is right when is says that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So what is the solution? I will get in trouble with several of my friends for suggesting this but the real solution is dissolving the political parties. Let each candidate run on his own merits and ideas without the party infrastructure pulling the strings. We could save a lot of money by eliminating the primary elections and simply have one election where winner takes all.

I am convinced there a lot of really good candidates out there that don't fit neatly in the Republican or Democrat box. They might be conservative in some areas and liberal in others but they will never be able to run for office because they couldn't get the nomination. Instead we get a lot of people who are nothing but idealogues who can't even think for themselves getting elected. And even if someone was able to get elected without being a party line person, they would constantly be pushed by the party to conform and vote a certain way for the sake of the party or because they owed the party their election.

If people could freely run on their own issues and vote their own conscience the quality of government would greatly improve. Instead of partisanship, each legislator would find others that agreed with on a certain issue and work together instead of against them. I know several Democrats that like my boss and agree with him on several issues but will campaign against him simply because he is a Republican. And it goes both ways.

One last problem with the current system is that it pigeonholes people into one group or another. I often get asked what I do and when I tell them I work for a Senator the very next question is what party. When I tell them, I get either a sigh of relief and a grateful smile that my boss is Republican or I get a shrug of disbelief because I work for a Republican. They have no idea who he is or what my boss stands for but they just assume he is either good or evil based on a party label. Political labeling has created such a lazy voting public. A lot of people just vote for Republicans or Democrats regardless of who the person is. So I guess the voters are getting what they deserve.

I realize that my plan has no way in hell of actually coming to fruition because it would shake the roots of power in this country and too many people would lose their positions of influence. But I do think this is the best solution and would have popular support among the voters. Most people are becoming independents and moving away from being a member of either party. Unfortunately, the parties will do everything they can to prevent changing the system that keeps them in power.

NFL Draft

I love the NFL draft and am very excited about this weekend. I have been studying all the different mock drafts and athlete bios for the past several months trying to prepare for the draft. It used to be only Mel Kiper but today there are whole websites dedicated to the draft almost all year round. The past two years I haven't been able to watch the draft because I had a wedding one year and then my nieces birthday last year. Finally I get a free weekend to sit back and enjoy the draft.

The other thing about the draft is that the day is full of hope for every team. We all think if we can only draft such and such a player that our team's fortunes will turn around. Just ask Detroit Lions fans because every year they think they have a great draft and every year the reality on the field does not match the expectations. But at least the Lions have that one hopeful day each April. But sometimes the draft can change a franchise. Two years ago magic happened when Ben Roethlisburger fell into the Steelers lap at pick number 11. Finally Pittsburgh has a quarterback and as expected he did lead us to the wonderland and gave us one for the thumb. Who will be this year's Big Ben? My guess is that AJ Hawk on defense and Reggie Bush on offense will have the most impact on their new teams.

On the flip side who will be this year's Tony Mandarich. For those that don't remember he is the fat excuse for a lineman that the Packers took ahead of Barry Sanders. Nobody wants to be that team having to explain their malfeasance to their fans. This year it looks like that team is Houston for choosing Mario Williams over Reggie Bush. I have no idea what they are thinking. They took a guy who had an okay season but wasn't even the defensive player of the year in his conference over the best player in all football last year. I am sure that Williams has that dreaded thing called potential but why not choose a sure thing in Bush. Mark my words that Houston's general manager will be fired by next year because of this stupid choice.

By taking Williams last night, now all the mock drafts on line are worthless and the draft hasn't even started yet. I also heard several people on TV speculating on trades but it seems like every year the trade talk is mostly hype. I would guess there is less than 3 trades in the first round today.

Here is my wishlist for the Steelers. I am praying that LenDale White falls to them at 32. People are down on him because of his attitude and injuries but whenever I watched him play last year he looked great. He led the nation in touchdowns while sharing the backfield with Bush. I am also hoping that Donte Whitner or Darnell Bing falls to Pitt in the second round because they need help at Saftey.

One final thing, what I don't like about the draft is how overhyped some of the players become. If I hear one more time how Jay Cutler is better than Vince Young or Matt Leinart I am going to scream. How good could Cutler be? Granted I didn't watch him play one down last year but then again neither did all the experts who are hyping him. Production in college counts for something. In fact it is much more important than how tall or how fast the guys are.

I will come back Monday with my draft grades. Until then sit back and cheer on your team's selections.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Politics and the Media

I was a little surprised today when I read that Tony Snow will become the new spokesperson for President Bush. As many of you know, Tony Snow is a news commentator for Fox News and also hosts a political radio show. When I first heard his name floated as a replacement for Scott McClellan I thought it was wishful thinking but apparently Bush wanted him to the be the next voice of his administration.

At first blush I have concerns that taking a reporter and moving him to the other side blurs the lines between those making the news and those reporting the news. There have been other crossovers but usually the spokesperson becomes a reporter. Think George Stephanopolous and we all know how that turned out. David Brinkley must be rolling over in his grave.

Then I realized that there already is a blur between politicians and the news networks and that hiring Tony Snow only confirms what everybody already suspected. Instead of reporting unbiased news stories, today's reporters want to be part of the story. They are activists who want to help shape public opinion and therefore public policy. And so they can either shape it working at Fox news or CNN or in the whitehouse. It's all part of the same game with the same goal just different sides of the field.

The problem with this new type of activists and politically charged media is that the average American doesn't really know who to trust or believe anymore. Most people are not politically motivated and they simply want the truth behind what is really going on in the world. Unfortunately, truth is hard to come by in the new media and that is why you see a decline in viewership and readership among the large networks and newspapers.

My suggestion is to watch more than one station and choose shows that cater to both liberals and conservatives. Don't just watch Fox News or CBS News but watch both. The internet can be helpful but don't just read conservative or just liberal websites. Even the best ones have an agenda and sometimes the truth is not part of that agenda. Reading multiple sites and watching different channels can help you be an informed citizen instead of a sucker in someone else's political game. And of course if all else fails you can always read the fetzer files to get the true scoop.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Liberal Lunacy

There were two recent incidents on college campuses that expose just how out of touch college professors have become. The first episode happened at Ohio St. Mansfield. A librarian at the college name Scott Savage recommended a book for Freshmen to read and apparently one professor thought the book was inappropriate and files a complaint against the librarian. The book that was assigned is called the Marketing of Evil and the subject is how the gay rights community is attempting to advance their agenda. Apparently Professor JF Buckley is a gay man and took great offense to this book and sent Mr. Savage the following email:

"So, I am not shocked, only deeply saddened and THREATENED that such mindless folks are on this great campus. I am ending now, with the hope that I have seriously challenged you Scott, and anyone who thinks as you purport to do. You have made me fearful and uneasy being a gay man on this campus. I am, in fact, notifying the OSU-M campus, and Ohio State University in general, that I no longer feel safe doing my job. I am being harassed."

What a fricken pansy. Since when did recommending a book equate with a making a threat? I thought colleges were supposed to be a discussion place for the great debates of the day. Apparently, this professor only wants his side of the story told. Is he so weak in his convictions as to let a book scare him?

Thankfully the school cleared Mr. Savage but they apparently instructed him not to retaliate and suggested he take diversity training. Guess who instructs the diversity training? If you guessed Professor Buckley you are correct.

The other story revolves around a memorial that a pro life group build on campus. Northern Right to Life built a memorial to honor all the unborn children by placing white crosses into the ground. They receivedeved permission from Northern Kentucky University but apparently professor Sally Jacobson did not get that memo. Instead she instructed several of her students to vandalize and destroy the memorial.

When she was caught encouraging this behavior she attempted to justify her actions by saying "Any violence perpetrated against that silly display was minor compared to how I felt when I saw it." She then went on to compare their actions to citizens taking down Nazi displays. It is hard to believe someone actually thinks this way let alone that they would be in a position to teach young people. Thankfully, Northern Kentucky fired Ms. Jacobson. I am surprised that they had the guts to do the right thing but given her thuggish actions I guess they had no choice.
Both of these examples signify that college campuses are certainly at the front line of the culture wars. And while these professors clearly overstepped their bounds and were caught espousing their radical views, I wonder how many other professors are more cautious in their indoctrination. It's their influence on young minds is what worries me the most.

NBA Playoffs

For some reason I am not as excited about the playoffs beginning as I should be. Maybe it's how long the regular season is. Or maybe it's because I don't like the best of 7 format. Don't get me wrong, I love the Pistons and have cheered for them since the mid 80's but I am not setting my schedule around their playoff games like I have done in the past. Maybe success breeds complacency and their recent performances have lulled me into a false sense of security. I fully expect that they will not have a challenging series until at least the conference championship but even then I doubt it will go 7 games. They are just that much better than all the other teams. The only concern I had was depth and with Delk coming off the bench I feel a lot better about that.

As for the western conference, it looks pretty wide open. I am looking forward to seeing how the Clippers do in the playoffs. My guess is that Dallas wins the conference because I don't trust San Antonio this year. Duncan and Ginobli are both less than 100 percent healthy. Dallas could give the pistons some problems and they beat them during the regular season. So my prediction is Detroit over Dallas in 7 games.

One last thing, I am sick of all the Kobe for MVP hype and hearing how great a job Phil Jackson did coaching this year. Okay Kobe is very good but he does not make his teammates better. That's my criteria for being an MVP. I would much prefer Lebron, Nash, Chauncey or Dirk winning the award. Having said that, how good a coach do you have to be to squeak into the playoffs if you have the MVP on your team. All Jackson did this year was tell Kobe to shoot the ball and cash his paycheck. Heck anybody could have done that.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fun With Words

Over the past several years I have attempted to broaden my vocabulary by learning new words and incorporating them into everyday conversation. It's very satisfying to find just the right opportunity to use a relatively obscure word in the proper context. It is especially fun when the person I am conversing with has no idea what the word means and I get to demonstrate my verbal superiority.

In fact, to show off your intelligence or to hide your lack of it, there is nothing more important than the use of a vibrant and robust vocabulary. That is why I am providing a list of ten fun and often under utilized words that you can use to impress your friends. Just by using new large words you will be amazed at how smart people think you have become .

1. Feckless - Weak and ineffectual
example: The Pittsburgh Pirates are the most feckless team in baseball

2. Ramshackle - A structure that is poorly constructed or in disrepair
example: I currently live in a ramshackle

3. Boondoggle - an unnecessary or wasteful project or activity.
example: Much of the legislation that gets introduced in the Senate is nothing more than a boondoggle

4. Spurious - Similar in appearance but lacking validity
example: The link between high school grades and college achievement is spurious

5. Fastidious- Excessive or meticulous attention to detail
example: My friend Sarah keeps fastidious track of her finances

6. Debacle - A total, often ludicrous failure
example: My attempt at salsa dancing was a complete debacle

7. Esoteric - Confined and understood by a small group of enlightened people
example: If you use these words you're friends will think you are speaking esoterically

8. Precipitous - Extremely steep, rapid, hasty, or abrupt
example: The Republicans majority in Washington is headed towards a precipitous conclusion

9. Rapscallion - A deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
example: Why would anybody vote for that Rapscallion Ted Kennedy

10. Droll - Amusingly odd or whimsically comical
example: I enjoy my friend Don's droll sense of humor

Friday, April 14, 2006


The other night my friend Ryan and I got together to watch the Pistons vs the Cavaliers. The game was a blowout and we were looking for something else to do halfway through the third quarter. Ryan is a big fan of Star Wars and has been collecting the new line of attactkix battle figures. He invited me downstairs to see his collection and it is quite impressive. The new figures are much better than the old one's that we grew up with. What is especially cool, is that they are designed to be used in a game and each piece has a certain number of moves they can make or powers and weapons they can use. So we get out our favorite characters and decide to play against each other. Ryan's wife is happy that I am there so he has someone to play with.

I choose Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett and I go against Anikan Skywalker and the rebel soldiers. It was a well fought battle but in the end Jabba prevailed. Then we tried out other characters including the tuscan raiders, the jedi nights, Darth Vader and his storm troopers and the droid army. All in all it was a fun night considering that I won a few times. Usually I lose when we play xbox.

Afterwards I got to thinking of how funny it is that two thirty-something men who used to play star wars when we were kids still enjoy playing star wars as adults. I guess once a nerd, always a nerd.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lake Mead Poetry

I survey a vast gulf between me and beauty
I see it and want to hike or swim to it
But I know deep down it will not happen
Instead I get to view it from a distance
And if I could get there
Will it be as good as it looks from a far
Will I appreciate it more or less
I will never know the answer to such questions
For even though it in within my sight it is beyond my reach
But at least I know exists
Then I realize that is exists closer than I think
I do not need to travel one more step
Because beauty is sitting just beside me and traveling with me

I'm Back

I just got back and had a great time on my trip. I spent a couple days in Las Vegas which was fun but different from my last trip in that I was with my family this time. I tried my hand at another poker tournament and did awful and so I am re-evaluating my dream of becoming a professional poker player. One thing that I got to do this time that I didn't do last time was visit the stratopshere. The view from up top is fantastic and especially at night with the lights and all. For some reason four of us decided to risk our lives by riding the ride at the top of the tower. The ride's name is insanity and it lived up to it's billing as it spun us around as we dangled parallel 900 Ft above the city. Thankfully we all survived. Looking back it was a rush but not something I would do again.

Better than Las Vegas was Lake Mead. The view from Lake Mead was more beautiful than I anticipated. We took our houseboat toward the grand canyon and made it as far as we could before the water became too shallow. And while the water was freezing cold, the weather was sunny and warm. Each night we would find a cove to dock the boat. We would hike up the mountains and then have a campfire or watch the stars. The best part of the trip was that there were no other people around. It was just us and nature which was very cool. Our last night on the lake we stopped at a place called Mushroom Rock and hiked about two thirds of the way but stopped before darkness fell. As we were dangling our feet over the edge and gazing out over the cliffs, I told my sister in law that the scenery demanded to be captured by a poem. She held me to this task and I will post my poem in a few minutes.

It is good to be home but I could go easily go back. There is something soothing about the mountains and the water and the warm desert air. At least spring is coming this way shortly.