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.