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.