Thursday, November 27, 2008

Two Friends and a Leather Jacket

I have two friends of mine who are very dear to me and whom I have known since junior high school; Don and Jason. When we were seniors in high school the three of us decided to go to Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids to buy new leather jackets. Jason and I bought a brown leather bomber jacket and Don bought a black motorcycle jacket. They were a hundred bucks a piece and we spent nearly all our money on them.

Rather than simply being satisfied with our purchase we decided to show them off and celebrate how cool we looked in our new jackets. So we hopped in my old Honda Prelude and drove 3 hours to Chicago on a total whim. It was exhilarating being on the open road with two of my closest friends and ready to hit the town. Unfortunately, as soon as we hit Wacker Street in Chicago my car died. The alternator belt went out and we were stuck in Chicago with very little money and no way to get back home.

We decided to call my Mom because she was most likely to help us out of our predicament. She was not too happy for sure. After the initial shock wore off she wired us enough money to tow the car, find a hotel and buy train tickets back to Michigan. The three of us ended up having a fun evening. We ate at Ed Debevic's and stayed at a posh hotel in the city. The trip had offered us more than we could have hoped for. Our fun however was halted when my parents picked us up at the train station the next day with a look of complete disappointment.

As I was cleaning up my house last week I found that same leather jacket. It was hiding in my basement and doesn't fit anymore. Even so, I have been dragging it from city to city and house to house all these years because I so cherish that first memory with it. Every time I see that jacket I am reminded of my two friends and our youthful indiscretions.

What's intersting is that in the past week I have had the opportunity to visit both Don and Jason. Don flew in from New York last weekend for the closing of Studio 28 and we were able to catch the new James Bond movie. He and I are now famous as we were shown on TV 13 talking about our favorite movie memories. On Tuesday, I flew to Denver to visit Jason and his family for Thanksgiving. We took a hike in the mountains earlier this week and drank out of a mountain river we discovered. It was amazing.

What I am learning is that I don't need an old jacket, no matter how cool it is, to remind me of my friendships. I am so blessed to still have those relationships. And as much as I love that memory of our ill fated Chicago trip, I am making new memories with both Don and Jason. While I outgrew the jacket years ago and it doesn't fit me anymore, my friendships have grown and still fit even better today than back in Chicago. That is why I finally decided it was time to donate the jacket to our church's clothing drive and allow somebody else to make great memories with it. Hopefully, they have as good friends as I do to share it with.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last week's sermon

As many of you know I have the privilege to preach at my church from time to time. It's been a great opportunity to learn about God's word and how to communicate it effectively. This past week I spoke on Romans 12:1-2 and how we are supposed to sacrifice and have our minds renewed in order to test and approve God's will. Here is the link for those that would like to listen to it.

Auto Bailout

In September I was willing to give some slack to the government to help bailout the banking industry. Unfortunately, the first roll out of that bailout has been a complete debacle and there are stories coming out that we don't even know who is receiving the money. This is quickly becoming one of the largest public lootings in our history. Now the big 3 automakers want another bailout. Talk about bad timing.

Living in Michigan I have the unfortunate perspective of watching the decline of the American automakers. Their demise has been a long time coming but laughably they are now arguing that they are "turning things around" and that the reason for their troubles is the bad credit markets. It's ironic because I thought the first bailout was supposed to loosen up those markets.

But let's be honest, the problem isn't solely that the big 3 can't get loans it's that they are poorly run companies who sell products that the public doesn't want to buy and they pay their employees more than they can afford. No amount of government handouts are going to change that. In fact, it will probably only protect that failing culture by insulating them from the consequences of their poor decision making.

The problem is that the bailout floodgates have been opened and once you give one industry money, how can you say with a straight face that another industry doesn't deserve the same thing. Well I guess you can say that if you are Paulson and your only interest was in protecting your fat cat friends on wall street.

To completely understand why there is so much pressure on the Democrats to pass a bailout for the automakers you have to acknowledge the elephant sitting in the room: the unions. If the big 3 go bankrupt all those union contracts will be voided and the democrats will lose their control on a huge sector of voters. If the government bails them out then the unions can continue to go along as they please and the workers will be forever indebted to the Democrats.

But a bailout will not solve the long term economic problems of the big 3. They simply cannot continue to pay the high wages and benefits the unions demand and be competitive in the market place. The built in disadvantage for car makers who have unions vs those who do not have unions is $2000 per car. That's not going to change with a bailout but it might change if they go through bankruptcy court.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk lately about Gov. Granholm leaving Michigan to become part of Obama's administration. Some even speculate that he will name her "auto czar". If he does that he is dumber than Republicans suspected as Granholm has been fiddling for 6 years while Detroit burned. Instead of Granholm, Obama should back up his bipartisan talk by appointing Mitt Romney as the auto czar. He just wrote an excellent column in the NY times and has the business experience that is needed to turn around the automakers. But somehow I doubt the unions will go along with that idea.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Studio 28

I just read in the Grand Rapids Press that Studio 28 is closing. This came as quite a shock. I recall as a kid going there often and at one time it was the largest movie theater in the country. How times change. I have many memories of that place including my first time sneaking into an R rated movie. It was exhilarating getting past the ticket person and into the forbidden theater. The movie was running scared and not all that great but it was fun watching something that we weren't allowed to. One summer my co-workers and I would leave straight form work to catch the matinees. I think we watched The Firm and Jurassic Park that year.

Back then going to the movies was a big event. Now I suppose people just wait for their netflix to come in the mail and watch it at home. One thing I always remember was the parking lot being super crowded but I guess today you could park near the front and that's the problem. I get a little sad when I think of all the changes to my home town. Showcase Cinemas is now a Home Depot or something and the Quad closed years ago. I guess kids have their new hangouts but mine are definitely vanishing.

I read in the article that they are having a special event to close the theater on November 23rd. Anybody from GR want to go with me?

Maybe I should take up walking

I just read this in the Lansing State Journal. It's about a man who, while walking around the world, meets a woman and falls in love and gets married. How incredibly adventuresome and romantic. I think it time to renew my passport.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Liberal Tolerance?

This past weekend a group of gay activists decided to ransack and disrupt a local church service here in Lansing. I guess when the left talks about being tolerant, it only means tolerating those that they agree with. Here is the story that appeared in our local newspaper. I hope that the church is able to forgive the offenders and will pray for them.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why I am not a conservative

This is totally plagiarized from my friend Keith's blog. The only difference is the context. He was writing about conservatives within the church but as I was reading I kept nodding my head thinking that it applies equally to political conservatives. The following were his five reasons he dislikes conservatives:

1) Conservatives specialize in name-calling and labeling.
2) Conservatives get their following through negativity and fear.
3) Conservatives take a single issue approach.
4) Conservatives refuse to compromise.
5) Conservatives will go down with the ship to stay pure.

This just about sums up why Republicans got creamed last Tuesday. A majority of people share his view of conservatives and the ironic thing is that most conservatives can't believe this is how they are perceived. The question to my conservative friends is do you care that this is how you are viewed? If so, how do you change that perception? Or maybe you are fine with simply being "right" and to heck with those who don't agree with you.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Winners and Losers

I thought I would give my post election winners and losers:


1. Obama - He ran a great campaign with very little mistakes. All he has to do know is live up to the lofty expectations that are set for him.

2. Howard Dean - His decision to expand the Democrat party into traditional Republican states was ridiculed but it laid the groundwork for Obama's victories in places like N. Carolina and Indiana.

3. African Americans - They should take great pride in Obama. His election provides hope that anything is possible for them.

4. Young voters - I admit I was skeptical that they would really show up at the polls and vote. But they did come out in force and future campaigns will now court them more vigorously.

5. Bobby Jindal - If McCain had won, Palin would have been the leading candidate in 2012. Now with her less than stellar performance, Jindal emerges as the future star of the party.

6. Liberals - Unlike when Clinton won office, Obama ran as a center left candidate and he has a huge majority in congress to pass his agenda. It will be interesting to see if they overplay their hand but as of right now liberals are in great shape.


1. George Bush - Obviously he was the main player in this election, maybe even more so than Obama, and the voters rejected him enthusiastically.

2. Joe Lieberman - He went out on a limb for his friend McCain. It was a decent thing to do but it definitely cost him with his Democrat colleagues.

3. Talk Radio - They first tried to get a conservative nominated in the primary and failed. then they shifted gears and tried to smear Obama which didn't work either. Their influence is waning.

4. Hillary Clinton - She missed her once chance to be President and with it her chance to be the first woman to break the glass ceiling. I bet she still wonders how she lost the nomination to a one term senator with no experience.

5. Sarah Palin - By being thrust into the spotlight without the proper preparation she lost her chance to make a good first impression. To run in 2012 she will definitely have to remake her image with a lot of voters.

6. Race hustlers - Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like just lost their power grip on the black community. Black youth can honestly say "who needs them to succeed?". Hopefully, we are truly becoming a post racial country.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A few thoughts

1. Who would have ever predicted that France would have a more conservative president than we do?
2. So much for America voting for war heroes. The last three have all lost by wide margins. This is not our Grandpa's country.
3. So much for using the anti tax issue. In Michigan, the House Democrats voted to increase taxes and gained their largest majority in thirty years.
4. Does anybody really think we are still a center right country?
5. Now that Bush is out and they run everything, who will the Democrats blame when things go wrong?
6. How come none of the so called campaign finance groups are complaining about Obama buying the election? After all he did spend more than any candidate in history.
7. Can we now please stop calling America a racist nation?
8. I listened to some conservative talk radio hosts and they are saying the exact same thing they said after 2006: Republicans weren't conservative enough. They obviously still don't get it.
9. How long before Israel decides to take matters into their own hands with regards to Iran's nulcear weapons? A month?
10. Join the bandwagon now: Jindal 2012

Now What?

Well this was a terrible night for Republicans. Quite simply we got our ass kicked. We didn't win any contested races or ballot proposals in Michigan and it looks like all the swing states nationally swung toward Obama. The question now is how do we go about changing our prospects in the next election. Apparently whatever we supposedly changed after 2006's debacle didn't work. Yes we can blame Bush and the poor economy but at some point we have to look in the mirror and take responsibility for ourselves.

Here are some early suggestions:
  1. Target Hispanic voters
  2. Recruit more minority candidates
  3. Welcome the moderates back into the party
  4. Dump the current crop of political consultants
  5. Utilize the Internet more effectively
  6. Find a central theme to the party that is not simply anti-tax and anti-government
  7. Be bold in our policy ideas instead of just tweaking around the edges
  8. Focus our tax policies on the working class instead of the business class
  9. Create more affordable higher education to attract young people and working families
  10. Develop a real plan to address the health care crisis and make it our issue

I welcome any ideas you might have.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My prediction

Since I won't be able to write tomorrow I thought I would share my predictions for the election on Tuesday. I'll be frank, it is going to be a bad year for Republicans. I suspect that Republicans will lose 27 seats in the House and 8 seats in the Senate but thankfully Democrats will not pass the magic number 60 and Republicans will maintain the opportunity to filibuster. In Michigan the scenario is just as bleak. The state house will see Republicans lose 9 seats bringing the total 67 Democrats to 43 Republicans. Fortunately for me, the Michigan Senate is not up for reelection this year.

Now onto the Presidential race: It will be closer than most polls suggest. The national percentage will be Obama 51 - McCain 48. However, the electoral college will not be as close. I predict a final total of 307-231 in favor of Obama. Basically McCain's only hope is to win both Ohio and Pennsylvania and while it could be very close I don't see him winning either one.

The critical voter group that decides this election will not be young voters or religious voters flocking Obama. They might see a modest increase in both totals but the swing group this year will be exurban voters. These are educated, middle to upper class whites who live 20-30 miles outside of the city in newer neighborhoods. I predict they will side with Obama overwhelmingly because of the loss in their home values, the stock market collapse and the high cost of gas.

Here is my state by state breakdown:

Obama states
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
New Mexico

McCain states
New Hampshire
W. Virginia
N. Carolina
S. Carolina
N. Dakota
S. Dakota

Friday, October 24, 2008

A bit overwhelming

This week I have the privilege of being in North Carolina at a conference sponsored by World Relief. My church has been donating money to their efforts in Darfur and they invited our pastor and I down to learn more about World Relief and the opportunities available for us to partner with them as a local church.

The conference started last night and continued this morning. Thankfully we are on a break where I can rest and have my mind catch up on what I am learning. I will be honest, I am quite overwhelmed with the needs of the world at this point. World Relief is involved in 18 countries most of which are in conflict or just emerging from conflict. We have heard stories of poverty, displacement, slavery, violence, health epidemics and the like. When I think about my own life and resources and weigh it against the enormous needs in the world, my first instinct is to ignore the problem and hurriedly get back to my safe, middle class life where I am not confronted with the injustice of the world.

However, there is a biblical principle: To whom much is given, much is expected. I usually apply that to money in that I am wealthier than 95 percent of the world so I am expected to give back more. But today I am thinking that this applies to my knowledge of what is happening around the world. I have been given this knowledge and now I am expected to use this knowledge and not waste it.

The preacher this morning was from Kenya and he shared the story of how his church responded to the thousands of people who were chased from their homes during the political unrest at the beginning of this year. He said that they had no strategy but love and were completely overwhelmed by the need. It was more than they could handle. This may sound strange but this is encouraging to me in that I am not the only one overwhelmed.

My temptation is always to wait and help when I am ready or when I have all the answers or resources or money or time. Yet his church was involved and didn't have any of those things. They were dependent on God to provide the resources and made do with what they had.

There is much, much more that I could write but I am still in the midst of processing everything I am learning. I hope to write again tonight and over the remainder of the weekend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Whole Story

My friend CJ has been laying out the case that the Democrats are mostly responsible for the housing collapse and thus the need to bailout the credit industry. Well finally a journalist is following his lead and written a great article. The article also takes on the all too willingness of the press to misreport the story. It is definitely worth the read.

Why you shouldn't give money to politicians.

This just came across the drudge report. This kind of crap is why politicians are viewed so poorly by the public. Do you really think Joe six pack spends that kind of money on his wardrobe? They should have used the money to buy her an interview coach instead.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Politics and the church

My church is taking on the task of discussing politics. The sermon this week focused on how our political views can get in the way of the gospel. It was a very good reminder of how we tend to get caught up in politics and forget the real reason the church exists. In light of the upcoming election, I would encourage people to listen to the sermon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

As if ACORN wasn't bad enough

I just read this article about a mentally challenged man whose vote was stolen by the Obama campaign. Apparently, some liberal do gooder took him to vote without his family's permission and then had him vote for Obama even though he told them he supported McCain. First ACORN and now this. It's frustrating that there is so much voter fraud going on this year. I bet you won't hear how he was disenfranchised in the media. They are too busy calling the McCain campaign angry and racist.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scoring the candidates

The reasons to vote for someone are hard to quantify. Sometimes it's the issues. Sometimes it's based on the person. Sometimes it is just a gut feeling. I am going to try and break down my top 10 issues and award points to both McCain and Obama and see where they end up compared to each other. The most they can get is 5 points per issue.

1. Abortion - McCain is solidly pro life. Obama is pro choice and even voted to protect infanticide simply because it might undermine Roe V Wade. I'm not fooled by Obama's rhetoric on this issue.
McCain 5
Obama 0

2. Health care - Obama wants to bring the uninsured into the federal system or provide help to low income families to purchase private insurance. McCain wants to tax health benefits and give a tax credit to cover some of the costs for individuals. I like Obama's plan while McCain's plan flat out sucks and will lead to more uninsured.
McCain 0
Obama 5

3. Iraq - McCain was right about the surge and wants to keep our troops there for many years to come. Obama wants to get out as soon as possible. I hate the war as much as the next person but I also want a stabilized Iraq when we leave.
McCain 4
Obama 0

4. Taxes - Obama is promising a tax cut to those making under $250,000. McCain's tax plan helps those making more money while also raising the deduction per child. That doesn't help me at all. I am better off under Obama's plan, assuming that he is serious about his plan. That's a big assumption.
McCain 0
Obama 4

5. Darfur - Both have similar voting records when it comes to Darfur but Obama has been a much more consistent champion of the cause. He also is willing to have the country take a more active role in the peacekeeping missions. McCain on the other hand sees it as another Somalia and is less likely to commit money and or troops.
McCain 1
Obama 5

6. Energy - Both claim to support renewable energy. McCain wants to drill for domestic oil and supports nuclear power but unfortunately doesn't support ethanol. Obama is more committed to wind and solar and less so to drilling. He also wants to raise fuel mileage standards.
McCain 4
Obama 4

7. Economy - Neither one has a whole lot of credibility in fixing the economy. Both voted for the bailout which ended up as nothing but a give away to wall street and other special interests. One good idea from Obama is allowing early withdrawals from 401ks without penalty. McCain wants to cut business and investment taxes while Obama is more likely to infuse the economy with government cash.
McCain 0
Obama 3

8. Terrorism - McCain has a lot more experience in foreign affairs and will be more forceful in combating our enemies. Obama wants to bring other countries together to help our cause. Unfortunately, he also wants to revert back to the old days of treating terrorism as a crime instead of an act of war.
McCain 5
Obama 1

9. School Choice - McCain has been a long time supporter of school vouchers and charter schools. Obama is in bed with the teachers unions which means he wants more money and little reform or accountability.
McCain 5
Obama 0

10. Character and Experience - McCain has built up a lot of good will and trust over the years. However, it appears he is willing to compromise some of his integrity in order to win the race. Nothing that can't be repaired but it does undermine his image of putting principles above politics. McCain also has years of experience fighting the system but few results to show for it. Obama has virtually no track record of accomplishments or reform. None! And I truly don't know if he believes every thing he says or not. What is his moral compass? His association with ACORN and Jeremiah Wright scare the hell out of me.
McCain 4
Obama 0

Total out of possible 50 points:
McCain 28
Obama 22

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mom's Birthday

This weekend my Mom turned 60. I decided a couple months ago to throw her a surprise party. My Mom's friend Brigid, my Stepdad Mike, my Aunt Nancy and I have been exchanging covert phone calls and emails planning the party for over a month. I thought for sure she knew ahead of time but everybody kept the secret. My Grandpa even had to lie to her and tell her that he was going away for the weekend with a lady friend to deter Mom from going to Pittsburgh for her birthday.

Saturday night the party finally occurred and it was a smashing success. We had 35 friends and family at the party including several from out of town. Mom was totally surprised. It was great to see the look on her face when she walked through the door. It was a look of profound appreciation and amazement that so many people were there to celebrate her.

We had several old pictures of her growing up and some of us shared a favorite memory with Mom. I tried give a really moving toast but ended up crying halfway through it instead. Mom received lots of gifts but I think the best gift was having so many of her loved ones gathered in one place.

It was a great night. A night where everything just felt right. A night when family all got along and old friends caught up with each other. A night of showing just how much Mom means to us.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Negative Attacks

Lately there has been an awful lot of attacks on Obama by the McCain team. They are desperately trying to link to him William Ayers who is a former terrorist. The hope is to discredit him by association and when they tested this attack in a poll I am sure it scored quite well. While I think Obama and Ayers do have a relationship I have no faith that this line of attack will actually work.

There are a couple main principles to effectively attacking your political opponent. First, the attacks have to be believable to the average voter. On the surface I would say that people could believe that Obama has allied himself with less than reputable people. After all, he is a product of the Chicago political machine. But the McCain people have made the mistake of pushing this too far by implying that Obama endorses Ayers terrorist acts. Most people are simply not going to believe that. How many people can honestly say that Obama condones acts of violence against the country? Maybe some radical, fringe voters will buy that but to the typical voter it doesn't really pass the smell test.

The second principle is that the attacks have to be relevant. Here is the larger problem for McCain. Quite simply, when the stock market is in free fall nobody cares whether or not Obama knew William Ayers. To be effective the attack has to fit into the overall theme of the campaign. For instance 2004's campaign was predominantly about the war and who would be a better commander in chief. Attacking Kerry for his flip flopping undermined his image as a strong leader and played into fears over whether or not he could be President in a time of war. The 2006 campaign was all about corruption. In that year I think Obama's shady associations might have resonated with voters. But this year the election is all about the economy.

To beat Obama this year, they have to undermine voter confidence in his ability to handle the financial crisis. Ironically, just the opposite has happened as McCain has appeared erratic and reactionary the last few weeks while Obama has been calm and poised. This is why Obama is gaining and McCain is losing ground.

Instead of going after Obama for being friends with Ayers, they should aggressively argue that Obama has no experience dealing with the economy at any level. He has never run a government or private agency and never had to balance a budget or make hard economic decisions. McCain should pin him down on specifics in the bailout package and ask him to explain it in detail at the next debate hoping that he will not be able to explain it. Make the case that if he can't understand what's in the bailout package then how can he understand how to fix our economy.

He should also use Obama's calmness against him by saying that he doesn't really care about the stock market crash because has plenty of money already. Paint him as out of touch with the average voter. Ask this question: If he feels the same unease about the economy as you do, why isn't he much more visibly upset over it?

While this line of attack might not be enough to beat Obama, at least it plays into the campaign narrative and into the minds of the voters.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Problem with Politics

I just read a very interesting article in the NY Times about Congressman Tom Davis and his reason for leaving congress. The article does a great job highlighting the problem with our current system; A system that drives out pragmatic problem solvers and replaces them with power hungry ideologues. No wonder the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Ballot initatives

I just recieved this from the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. It is a non partisan explanation of both ballot proposals facing the Michigan voters this fall. It's a little wonkish, but I thought it might be helpful to provide information to others as they decide how to vote. For what it's worth I am voting no on both proposals.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Lions

The worst thing about living in Michigan is that every week we are compelled to watch the Lions on Sundays. Everybody, I know was ecstatic when the team fired Millen last week but unfortunately they couldn't fire all the coaches and players as well. Today's game was the worst performance I have seen in quite some time and that's saying something considering the Lions' history of getting completely dominated. The team today completely quit and it's embarrassing that people get paid millions a year are so unprofessional and incompetent. The worst thing about today is that I was going up against Chicago's defense in two of my fantasy leagues. Thanks to the Lions I am now trailing both leagues.

So what can the average fan do now that we no longer get to take out our emotions by chanting "fire Millen"? The first thing is to boycott the games. I realize that people have paid good money for the tickets but that is just the point. It's not worth paying 50 bucks to see them give up. I think an empty arena would send a great statement that the fans will only care when the team cares about winning. Another benefit is if the games don't sell out then they have to black out the game in their area sparing the people of Detroit from having to watch this mess.

Another thought is to simply stop buying team merchandise. But a more visceral idea is to organize a demonstration where fans can bring their Lions gear and burn it in a huge pile. The season is already going down in flames, the least fans can do is use that fire to disinfect themselves from the team.

Lastly, instead of calling into the local radio stations to complain about the team, just ignore the Lions all together. Talk about the upcoming Red Wings or Pistons seasons. Heck even bring up the Bears or the Colts. In fact, maybe every fan could adopt another team to cheer for instead of the Lions.

The final word: Since the Lions have given up on the season, it is time for their fans to give up on them.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The debate

My friend Tameshia came down this morning and wanted to talk about the debate. She is a liberal and not surprisingly Palin annoyed her and she thought Biden won handily. I on the other hand, thought Palin gave a folksy, reassuring performance. It's funny how one's political lens really does influence how we see things in real life.

So admitting my bias and the fact that I was rooting for Palin to have a good night here are my initial thoughts. I thought Biden was strong, intelligent, gracious and presidential. But he was also irrelevant as every one watching the debate wanted to see how Palin would handle herself. He could have showed up naked and nobody would have noticed as Sarah Palin was the story. The public wanted to know if it was going to be the Palin from the convention or Palin from the Katie Couric interview. Thankfully for Republicans it was a return to the convention mostly.

Yes she was a little weak on substance sometimes and didn't answer every single question head on but that really wasn't her job. Many pundits thought her goal was to demonstrate again to the public that she is a credible leader who could take over the presidency if McCain dies. In fact, there was a question on that very topic. Instead she saw her goal as connecting to what you might call "middle American voters" with her charm and use of common vernacular. She didn't try to come off as a policy expert but instead ran as an outsider against an unpopular Washington DC culture and I think it worked fairly well.

Scoring debates is always hard because voters are unpredictable. Al Gore bashed Bush in their first debate but lost votes because he sighed a lot. To use a betting term, my gut tells me that Biden may well have scored more points last night but as the underdog she covered the spread. And as those who gamble know, covering the spread is what wins the money.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hail to the Victors

Yesterday I had the privilege of watching the greatest comeback in Michigan stadium. My step dad, stepsister and my friend Ray drove to Ann Arbor yesterday expecting very little. Wisconsin was a top 10 team and Michigan is in a rebuilding year. And the first half Michigan gave us what we were expecting tenfold. Plainly put, they were downright awful. They couldn't run the ball, couldn't throw the ball, couldn't catch the ball and couldn't hold on to the ball. They were so pitiful that they had more turnovers than first downs and passing yards combined. The only saving grace was Wisconsin's ability to continue squandering opportunities and our defense holding them to only 19 points when it could have easily be 28 or 35 points.

At halftime we were joking that the seeing Michael Phelps get honored before the game was probably going to be the highlight. But thankfully, the second half was a completely different game. It took them most of the third quarter but they finally started moving the ball and scored with a couple minutes left in the quarter. I'll admit that I was happy they scored but didn't have any sense for what was coming. All of the sudden Wisconsin's offense was bogged down and we scored again with about 10 minutes left in the game bringing it to 19-14. Suddenly the crowd began to buzz with optimism. The very next play Michigan intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown to take the lead. It was an amazing play and frankly I was so stunned that we actually had the lead. I think I surprised Ray when I gave him a big bear hug to celebrate the score.

Michigan scored one more touchdown thanks to an unlikely 58 yard gallop by our slow white QB. Now clinging to an 8 point lead we gave the ball back to Wisconsin with just over a minute to play. Before we knew it they scored with only 13 seconds left. It was like a big kick to the stomach. The crowd was in shock. But there was still hope because they had to score a two point conversion to tie. They converted the pass and we all were expecting overtime wondering how we blew an 8 point lead like that. But there laying on the ground was a beautiful little yellow flag. Wisconsin had been called for a penalty and they had to do it over again. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. Once the second try failed, it was time to finally celebrate our great comeback. Whew!

It was so much fun to experience the highs and lows of the game in person. It was the second great comeback we've seen as they came back to beat Virginia on a last second catch to win Lloyd Carr's first game. I remember that game fondly as it was my first in the big house. Now I get to say I was there for the greatest comeback in their stadium. It was also Coach Rodriguez's first big win. Let the new era in Michigan football begin.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Today I just reached 400 "friends" on facebook. My list of friends is a real hodgepodge with people from all walks of life. I have high school and college friends, friends from my old church or old jobs, ex girlfriends, potential ex girlfriends, and coworkers. Even my Mom joined recently. I didn't realize how many circles of friends I had until the numbers started adding up.

But I will be the first to admit that many people on my list are not truly friends but more like casual acquaintances. Some relationships are even more distant than that. I have received numerous friend requests from people I have never met or can't remember and I feel bad turning down their requests. Lately, it has been helpful that many women are now including their maiden name so I have some clue who they are.

What's interesting about Facebook is how non committal and shallow these relationships are. To be some one's friend on facebook requires no real effort or commitment except maybe the additional wall post to wish them happy birthday. I like this laissez faire approach to relationships as who has time to invest in 400 people.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Facebook is that you can "de-friend" people. I didn't realize this option originally but once I found it I went through and ended my relationships with several people. With one click of a button I was done with several people with whom I no longer had a particular interest. It was liberating.

I wish real relationships were so easy to end. So long to that woman I dated only a couple times but for some reason keeps stalking me. Good riddance to that crazy relative that does nothing but cause grief and stress in the family. See ya later to the lazy co-worker who doesn't pull their weight at the office. No longer would I have to put up with the annoying person who always wants to talk and considers me their closest friend.

But alas life is not Facebook.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Bailout

I have been asked lately what my take is on the Government bailout. I find it ironic that people want my opinion since my knowledge of finance is severely limited. I don't balance my own checkbook and my personal 4o1k is a complete mess so it is tough for me to say with any real credibility what should be done.

Having said that, here are my initial thoughts. A complete bailout without strong oversight is a bad idea. Simply bailing out wall street is only a temporary measure. It doesn't really address the root causes that lead to the bad loans being made in the first place. Without consequences what incentive is there for firms to change their ways? Why should tax payers bail them out for their mistakes especially when so many people are struggling just to get by themselves? By taking these firms off the hook, I worry that they will not learn from their mistakes.

On the flip side, I realize that many businesses are cash strapped and without a healthy credit industry these companies will basically starve to death and could go out of business due to no fault of their own. I also know that many people are highly invested in the stock market and the one thing market fears most is uncertainty. If nothing is done many people will lose much of their life savings as the stock market takes a dive.

My suggestion to Congress is to provide a portion of the money upfront to keep enough money flowing into the market so as to avoid a complete economic collapse. This will buy some time to design a new regulatory scheme to assure improved lending practices. They should also demand more accountability on behalf of the banks. Only after the people responsible for this mess are removed and the firms agree to certain thresholds in reforming their practices, then give them the rest of the money.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I hate socks. One of my favorite things about summer time is wearing sandals and not having to wear socks. Now that fall is upon us and the Senate is back in session I unfortunately have to wear them again.

This morning I had an early breakfast and I woke up late and as I am rushing to get dressed I realized I had no matching dress socks. I had 12 individual socks laid out on my bed in various shades of blue, grey and black and none of them matched in size or color. After careful deliberation I chose the two darkest colored ones and tried to hide my ankles under my desk all day for fear of somebody noticing.

To think that somewhere there is a lost partner to all my lonely mismatched socks. Yet without that match all my current socks are useless.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Politcal Love

I am amazed at the amount of buzz and attention Sarah Palin continues to receive from both Republicans and Democrats alike. A month ago, she was not on the national radar screen and probably had 3 percent name ID nationally. Now she is either the savior of the Republican Party or an apostate to woman depending on which side of the ideological fence you sit on.

While I admit that I was excited when she was picked and believe her to be a good political choice, the amount of fervor for her among conservatives has me a little worried. Yes she gave a great convention speech and yes I agree with her on many issues but the public still doesn't know much about her. There are some inconsistencies being raised between her statements and her record on both earmarks and her management of Alaska. Her interview with ABC revealed her to have a somewhat shallow knowledge of foreign affairs. Last of all, she lacks the normal experience to be president but isn't willing to even partially admit it. While none of these things are deal breakers or reasons on their own to not support her, it is odd to see every conservative basically ignore these issues completely and get downright offended if someone brings them up.

This situation reminds me of going on a first date with someone. The date goes great and you fall in love at first sight. You share a romantic first kiss and you decide that night that they are the one for you. However, a week later you begin to see that they are not quite as perfect as you thought. They don't always smell as good as that first date. They may have embellished themselves to impress you and they certainly didn't tell you everything about their history and their dysfunctional family. Before you know it your friends and family begin to raise a few concerns about your new relationship.

But instead of seeing the person for who they really are and listening to others, you have already made up your mind and are committed to that idealistic person you met on the first date. I fear this true of my conservative friends with Palin. They were so desperate to fall in love with a true conservative and now they have finally found her. The convention speech was that first kiss and it was a good one. But their infatuation is causing them to close their eyes and avoid seeing any of her flaws. And like teenagers in love, the more anybody objects the more they cling to their relationship.

This is not just a Republican thing as this is exactly how the Obama supporters felt at first sight. Now look at what's happening to them as their romantic feelings are beginning to wear off. They are just now seeing what the rest of us saw several months ago: A deeply flawed candidate who can't possibly meet the lofty expectations place upon him. Do conservatives want to have that same feeling about Palin 9 months from now?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

feckless predictions

Before the season officially gets on the way, I figured I would present my annual predictions on how the NFL season will play out. I am always an optimist for my Steelers but I have deep doubts about their offensive line and they have the toughest schedule in the league. Still I expect them to at least make the playoffs and have more wins than the Eagles. Otherwise I will owe Noah and never hear the end of it. So without further ado:

AFC playoffs

It will be the Chargers over the Jaguars in the championship game

NFC playoffs

The Saints will beat the Giants in the championship game

The Chargers over the Saints in the Superbowl.

League MVP - Drew Brees
Rookie of the year - Darren McFadden

Friday, September 05, 2008

McCain's speech

Ugh! As much as I thought Palin hit a home run on Wednesday, McCain looked liked an aging Gary sheffield who can't get around on a fastball anymore. He had plenty of opportunity to build on the momentum but instead ended the convention with a big thud. I realize that rhetoric is not his specialty but he was even worse than I expected. Frankly the biggest complaint I have about Bush is how poorly he speaks in public. Now I am a little scared that McCain may not be much of an improvement.

My partisan friends all thought he did well but any unbiased person cannot be inspired by the flat delivery and meandering nature of the speech. The problem McCain has is that the most important issue facing the voters is the economy and he really has no plan to reform it. The portion of the speech last night dedicated to the economy was weak, boring and half hearted. There were no innovative ideas, no emotion and no connection to the working class.

It will be interesting to see where the polls go after the conventions. Will McCain get a bounce based on the enthusiasm for Palin or will they stay virtually tied? All things considered, being tied at this time of year is not that bad for Republicans but with a good speech last night McCain could have opened up a lead.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Media and Sarah Palin

I am fascinated by just how overly negative and aggressive the media has been towards Governor Palin. At first I thought it was just because she was a Republican. Lately I think there is more to it.

First, I don't think they like being surprised. They like to be in the know and to plan accordingly. Picking Palin caught them off guard and now all the pre-packaged stories about Romney or whoever have to be thrown out and now they have to learn all about her. This does not sit well with people who think they have great sources and pride themselves for being "in the know". Much of their treatment is a way of taking out their anger for being hoodwinked by the McCain campaign.

Second, the media likes people inside the beltway. They feel more at home with the Washington DC crowd than with middle Americans and in this case a woman who is an entire continent away from them. First of all, they have no frame of reference for people who live different lifestyles than they do. Sure they think being hockey mom is cute but most reporters have no idea how to relate it other than passing it off as a small town quirk. The media like most of us are a little afraid and unsure of people that don't act and think like they do. Thus they are automatically suspicious of just about everything different about her. The problem is, that most of America has more in common with Palin than they do with the establishment media.

Finally, one quick example of just how outrageous the media's treatment of her has been. Compare the number of stories covering her daughter's pregnancy and the negative slant to those stories with the coverage of John Edwards affair and his illegitimate child. The news media couldn't stay far enough away from that story and only mentioned it in passing once it became so obvious that they could no longer ignore it. Unlike Palin's daughter who they couldn't wait to report even though her daughter is not running for any public office. This just highlights the media's double standards once again.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Governor Palin

Well I was wrong. I thought for sure McCain would play it safe and pick Romney. Instead he pulled a rabbit out of his hat and picked Gov. Sarah Palin. While none of us have ever really heard of her, what I do know about her reveals her to be a good choice.

Yes, she is a little thin in her political experience but she makes up for it in life experience. Her story reads like a compelling novel and she has a sort of every day woman appeal to her. She has run a business, managed a city and a state, took on the corrupt party establishment, and is raising a large family. If she can handle all these jobs, I would say she can juggle the responsibilities of the Vice Presidency. Besides being a long time politician doesn't necessarily make you a good Vice President. In fact, this is the perfect time for some outside blood to come and shake things up.

From the harsh response on the left, I get the sense this pick scares the heck out of them. They were ready to run against an all white male ticket but McCain changed the story. No longer does Obama have a monopoly on "change". When I heard Eleanor Clift this weekend say "this wasn't a serious choice for VP" even I was offended by that. Let alone what millions of woman might think who view having a woman on a national ticket as a very serious breakthrough.

If the Democrats continue their attacks they will backfire. Do they really want a debate on experience? First, it will only serve to highlight just how inexperienced Obama is and make them hypocritical overlooking his remarkably shallow list of accomplishments. Second, it will reinforce the idea that sexism is alive and well. When Tim Kaine was being discussed a Obama's VP nobody on the left was critical of his lack of experience yet he and Palin have the same amount of time in office. When they suggest she can't handle raising a family and running for office, do they forget that Obama has children as well? It seems there really is a double standard.

But back to Palin herself, She fits very well on the ticket. She has a background in oil and gas issues which is the most important domestic issue of the day. She will be a big help in crafting energy policy. She also has a history of fighting political corruption. This ties in nicely with McCain's theme of reforming the current system. Who better to help him than someone who has already done that back home? Obama can't say that and neither can Biden. I think that independent, good government streak is what most attracted Palin to McCain.

One final note, this pick has really excited the base of the Republicans. They like her conservative credentials and finally feel they have someone on the ticket they can rally behind. McCain was already making great headway solidifying his base with the Saddleback forum but this seals the deal. Now he can go full throttle after the independents in the final two months.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Repubican prediction

Well since I was dead on picking Joe Biden as Obama's VP, I thought I would quickly go on record and predict McCain's VP.

The story today is that it could be announced as soon as tonight. I am going to play it safe and say it will be Mitt Romney. He does bring a good economic resume to the table and having Michigan ties definitely helps. Personally I am not thrilled with Romney but he will be disciplined and on message.

My guess is that McCain really wanted to pick Lieberman but his advisers will have talked him out of it. And they are probably right. With the race beginning to trend in McCain's favor why take such a risk? We will soon find out if McCain is really a maverick or if he is being forced into a more conventional Bush style campaign of shoring up base.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fantasy football

Fantasy football season is a great time of year. This year I am in four different leagues and I am anxiously awaiting my drafts to begin. I have one with college friends, one with high school friends, one with work friends and one with church friends. There is a little overlap but not too much.

This year will be a year of firsts. I am in my largest league ever with 16 teams. Our teams are going to be pretty thin but I think it will benefit me since the larger the league, the more it helps to have experience and time to commit to the league. Rookies and part timers will have a hard time competing in that league.

I am also participating in my first auction draft which I have wanted to do for a long time. I am nervous because I don't know what to expect. My biggest fear is over spending on a couple players leaving the rest of my team lacking.

As I am preparing for my first draft Monday night I have been reading about the death of the running back, running back strategy. Basically this means that you take running backs with your first two draft picks. The "experts" say that this is the year to draft a WR or QB in the first two rounds but I couldn't disagree more.

In my most competitive league, the first two rounds contain 24 players and typically 20 or more at Running backs. The reason why everybody takes them early is because there is such a lack of depth at that position and it is usually more predictable. I made the mistake of picking Manning one year in round 1 and was left with a huge hole at RB all year. I don't want to be that guy again this year.

Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers are typically a dime a dozen and tough to predict from one year to another. I will go out on a limb and say that Tom Brady does not finish the year as the top QB. And maybe Randy Moss will catch 20 plus touchdowns again but I doubt it. I hope all the rookies in my leagues follow the experts and leave all the good RBs for me while they are drafting Jehuu Caulcrick in the middle rounds trying to fill their second RB spot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My prediction

It looks like Obama is going to pick his VP very shortly. My hunch is that it is Joe Biden. He needs to shore up his foreign policy credentials with stories of Georgia and Pakistan dominating the headlines. Biden fits that role perfectly. Plus the main role for a VP candidate is to attack their opponent and Biden will do very well at that task. All in all, this pick would make sense. I could be wrong but we will be reading all about Joe Biden within the next 24 hours.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I just watched the "debate" at Saddleback Church on CNN. Let me start with saying, I liked the format much better than the type of debates we have seen in recent political elections. It was relaxed, informal and gave both candidates the chance to speak in prose rather than soundbites. I also realize that many of the questions were Republican leaning but not all. Having said all that I was shocked at how well McCain performed and how dreadful Obama was. Anybody watching this debate realized the differences between McCain and Obama both in substance and style. Obama is a talker who lives in shades of grey. McCain is a leader who tells it like it is. It was as simple as that.

Obama went first and was hesitant, uneasy and not surprisingly non committal. I expected much better from him considering he should be refreshed from his vacation. The biggest problem was how long winded he was and how couldn't get around to answering the questions directly. He no doubt realized that he was not in agreement with many in the audience but instead of simply acknowledging that disagreement and staking out his position, he tried to awkwardly find grey areas of agreement with them. This approach did not work and made him look weak, calculating and feckless. I cannot think of one answer that expanded his appeal beyond the democratic base let alone his appeal to evangelicals.

McCain by contrast hit a home run. This is obviously his type of format and he flourished. Every answer was direct, concise, confident. He was even able to tie in stories and anecdotes with a strong since of poignancy and humor. Frankly, he appeared much more secure in himself and his positions than Obama. You might not have liked every answer he gave but you had no doubt where he was coming from and why. He looked like a guy ready to be president.

I hope they have another debate in this format. To be fair, they could host it by a liberal group instead of a church to make it easier on Obama. But I am fairly confident that Obama's handlers are working overtime tonight to try and limit joint appearances and debates after seeing their man's pitiful performance.

Picking Joe Lieberman

This past week McCain floated the idea of picking Tom Ridge as his running mate. Ridge is the former governor of Pa and the first director of homeland security. He is also pro choice. In McCain's interview he states that his being pro choice wouldn't necessarily prohibit him from being Vice President. My guess is that they are using Ridge's name as a Trojan horse trial balloon for Joe Lieberman. If they don't get much kickback from the right on Ridge they can feel emboldened to pick Lieberman. If they get a huge uprising from conservatives against Ridge, who is at least a Republican, then they can all but forget about Lieberman.

I had a friend of mine ask me what I thought about Ridge and suggest that I blog about it. To be honest I could care less about Ridge but picking Lieberman piques my interest. Choosing Ridge would be a somewhat risky choice but the reward is not as high as choosing Lieberman. Having Lieberman on the ticket would daringly break down the political barrier by running as a bi partisan ticket.

The risk of course is that he is not fully in line with most Republicans on a number of important issues including abortion. Republicans want someone who will work to prevent abortions and who will stand up for the innocent babies. Lieberman does not meet that criteria but McCain does. Does choosing a partner who disagrees on such a fundamental issue reveal a lack of commitment on McCain's part to the pro life movement? Does it weaken his opportunity to enact pro life laws as President? One could reasonable argue yes on both questions and that poses a problem for him and a bigger problem for those pro life voters who want to vote for him.

The reward for picking Lieberman would be expanding McCain's appeal to independents and Democrats. But more than that it would put Obama's words of change into action. Instead of talking about being bi-partisan and changing the status quo in Washington, selecting a Democrat to run on the Republican ticket would actually do it. I have often thought that McCain's best chance is to highlight how bipartisan he has been in the past and contrast that with Obama's empty rhetoric on the issue. Picking Lieberman would be effectively doubling down on that strategy.

Finally, and maybe most importantly choosing Lieberman would allow McCain to be McCain. McCain enjoys his maverick persona. He is most comfortable swimming up stream and taking on the status quo. He even enjoys taking on members of his own party that he disagrees with. That's what makes McCain so unpopular with his colleagues but very popular with the American people.

My best guess is that there is an internal battle within the McCain camp between picking Romney and Lieberman. His handlers no doubt want to make the safe choice and pick Romney while he is lobbying to pick his friend Lieberman. It will be interesting to see who wins that argument.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Interfaith Dating

The issue of dating someone who does not share your Christian faith continues to pop up both in my own life and in the lives of my friends.

Just recently I met a woman that lives in Grand Rapids. She is attractive, smart, funny and just the type of woman I am interested in. But she isn't a Christian. We had a couple of dates and I asked about her experiences with the church and they were not positive. (The awful way her church acted needs a post entirely on its own.)

After that discussion it became clear that even though there was chemistry between us, the relationship was not going to work because we had differing world views. She did not feel comfortable dating someone so Christian and I did not feel like I could commit to someone who didn't understand the importance that my faith plays in my life.

This experience makes it both easier and more difficult for me to understand how easily other Christians can date non Christians. I know how hard it is to find someone you click with, someone who is date worthy and that actually finds you date worthy as well. And when you find somebody you enjoy spending time with and who makes you feel good, it is easy to ignore the differences you have.

Having said that, my Christianity defines me and there is no way that a non Christian would ever be able to understand me without sharing a similar frame of reference. It isn't just about not sharing the same religious view but it's more about not being able to share my entire self with that person.

It can also be very tempting to start putting my dating relationship ahead of my faith because that person is real and tangible and sometimes Jesus seems a little distant and mysterious. I don't ever want to walk down that road too far. I have seen way too many friends of mine follow that path and their Christian faith is almost always mired in mediocrity.

Another lesson I am learning from observation is that it is better to get out too quick instead of too late. I only had a couple of dates and therefore didn't really have much invested emotionally. A friend of mine on the other hand has a much harder time. She is a Christian who has been involved with a non christian for a long time. They were even talking about getting married. Instead, they are now in the process of splitting up because of their differing religious views. While I support her decision, it is messy and not easy on either one of them. In fact, her relationship with him will most likely make it that much more difficult for him to accept the truth about Jesus as he will always blame her Christianity for ending their relationship.

The idea of not being in a relationship with someone just because of a different faith can seem restricting. It appears to limit our options as Christians and trust me the options are limited enough already at this age. But the reality is that I think only dating people of similar faiths is a protective measure. It protects our faith from being dragged down and it also protects our heart from having to choose between our romantic interests and the religious core of our identity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Affordable housing

If you want cheap real estate, Detroit is the place to be. I just read a funny story in the Detroit news. Apparently somebody just bought a house for $1. And I thought the houses in Marion IN were cheap. My favorite part of the story is that it still took 19 days to sell.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What a weasel

I have always disliked John Edwards. He always struck me as a sanctimonious phony. Claiming to be a champion for the poor while charging $50,000 to speak about it. Then changing his political persona from moderate southern democrat to fire breathing liberal, it's a wonder even he believed what he was selling. But now we learn he is even sleazier than I thought.

While using his sick, dying wife as a political prop, he was sleeping with a woman hired by the campaign. Does it get any worse than that? And this is the person who said the Bill Clinton "had shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen."

Well he might not have respected his action but he sure did emulate it. In fact he even decided to follow Bill's example to lie and cover it up. When the story first ran he lied right into the camera calling it "tabloid trash". But when finally caught sneaking out of her hotel room visiting her and the baby I guess he finally had to come clean.

But even his so called confession is lacking in honesty. He says he did sleep with her but ended it long ago and isn't the father of the baby, as if that makes it okay. But the question remains if he ended it so long ago why was he still sneaking into her hotel room in the middle of the night just a month ago?

Furthermore, to justify his earlier denial of the story he said the following: "When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it," Edwards said. "Being 99 percent honest is no longer enough." So it's okay because he only lied a little bit. When he denied it he was being honest because they didn't get every detail right, only the fact that he was cheating on his wife. What a jackass!

The only redeeming thing to come from this story is that hopefully the country will be spared having to listen to this vapid man speak at the party convention. But then again it is the Democratic party so maybe they will give him a primetime slot to talk about family values.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kwame Fricken Brown

Are you kidding me? I woke up this morning to learn that the Pistons were interested in Signing Kwame Brown. This is the big move that the Pistons have been waiting to make all summer? This signing makes the Darko draft debacle look almost respectable in comparison.

This summer began with Joe D promising to shake up the roster. To most of us we thought he was referring to trading one of his starting five for a premier player. First their were the Carmello Anthony rumors and then the Baron Davis and Tracy McGrady stuff for a couple days. Heck, even Ron Artest's name had been floated. Now I didn't really like all those potential moves but at least they were getting some talent back.

Now instead they get a 7 foot stiff who wouldn't be in the NBA if he were three inches shorter. The guy cannot score, doesn't rebound very well for his size, is inconsistent at best on defense and yet the Pistons are paying him 4 million a year. This is the kind of move I expect the Clippers to make, not the Pistons.

This move also puts a strain on developing our young big men like Samb, Maxiel and Johnson. There simply won't be enough minutes to go around and I would much rather give one of them a chance to play and develop instead of watching Brown steal money for being big, slow and out of shape.

The very worst part of it is that I have always been able to mock Michael Jordan for drafting Kwame with the first overall pick. Now the Pistons are going to equally share in over reaching on Brown. I do give Joe Dumars credit for turning around the franchise but this one is certainly a head scratcher.

Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain's Veep?

I just read that McCain might name his Vice Presidential selection as early as next week. The idea is to take some of the spotlight away from Obama and give McCain a couple weeks of free publicity before the Summer Olympics.

I am torn on this idea. I like that announcing early is a bit unorthodox as I think McCain is at his best when he is acting against the status quo. However, I am worried that the actual person being selected is going to be Mitt Romney which would be a big mistake.

The Romney people have been pushing hard to get him the position. Their argument is that he is already vetted, has a background in business and can help raise tons of needed money. There is also some thought that he helps put Michigan in play.

Frankly he is a terrible choice. McCain needs to choose an unconventional partner. Romney is hardly unconventional. The biggest problem is Romney doesn't really help with the general electorate. He is a cookie cutter Republican in a year that is not trending Republican. He ran a lackluster campaign despite outspending all his other opponents. Finally, his fund raising prowess doesn't really help because McCain has already stated he is taking the federal campaign money which limits the amount he can spend.

It looks to me like the McCain camp is a little nervous. The see their poll numbers slipping and are desperate to change the tone and course of the campaign. A better approach might be to announce a major economic policy. Furthermore once you make the VP announcement you only get one bounce and it might be a little too early to use it. Especially while not many people are paying attention.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm back

As many of you noticed and commented upon, I have not posted in some time. Too be honest, I haven't really had much to write about and needed a little break I guess. But today I thought I would get back in the saddle again, so to speak.

Tonight I went to a going away party of sorts for my friend Dan. It was his second going away party this week. He is moving to Indiana Monday morning. The party was fun as it usually is, when he and I are together, but it is also very sad to me. I first met Dan two years ago when I started going to Barefoot. He is one of the founding fathers of the church. I remember it vividly as we spoke in the kitchen and talked politics. I knew at that time that he and I would become friends. Then he moved in with me back in January while he was going through some tough times and we bonded even more.

Truthfully, it really sucks that he has to move away just to find a job. I am sick of the crappy economy in Michigan. I am sick of Lansing be such a transient town. I am sick of losing good people in my life. I am sick of having to make new friends. I am sick of having to fill the gap in my life that is left by their absence.

A few days ago I started counting up all the good friends that have moved away since I moved to Lansing 10 years ago. During that time period, I have had to say goodbye to over 20 friends of mine. You'd think I would get better with practice but it never gets easy saying goodbye.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Missing Tim Russert

I was sitting in the hotel bar in Washington DC when I heard the news of Tim Russert's death. It came as a sudden shock. This will sound strange but I felt a sense of loss when I heard the news. Despite having no personal relationship with him, I recognized a unique bond with him simply by watching his show and by sharing his love of politics. I have always respected and admired him for his work on Meet the Press. He was an exceptional interviewer. He was tough but fair and he respected his guests. In fact, I would bet that very few other journalists are thought of as highly among both sides of the political spectrum.

My first and only encounter with Russert occurred several years ago at a breakfast in Washington. My friend CJ and I were attending a political conference and were running late for the breakfast portion. When we arrived, we noticed two empty seats at the front of the room and sat down. A few minutes later Tim Russert and Ted Koppel walk up and inform us that we were sitting in their seats. It was a little embarrassing having to stand back up in front of the packed room and walk to the back of the room. But both Russert and Koppel were very gracious about it and I have liked him ever since.

As the political campaigns continue to drag on, I am sad that Tim Russert will not be a part of it. His wisdom and insight into the elections will be surely missed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saving American Idol

Is anyone else bored with American Idol? This season has been a total snoozefest regardless of which David wins. I have read that overall ratings are down and that the producers are worried about the show's long term future. Here are some suggested changes to improve the show:

Guest Judges: They desperately need some new blood and since the current judges are all under contract they are stuck with them for a while. After several years we all know exactly how each judge is going to respond. The next best thing to replacing them is to bring in guest judges. These could be famous musicians, actors, sports stars or even have a contest to allow a fan to be a judge one week.

Half hour result shows: This is my biggest pet peeve with the show. They drag out the results show and it is insufferable to watch. I usually end up changing the channel intending to get back just in time to see who is voted off but get engrossed in another program and miss it.

Limit the number of votes: They should really limit the number of times someone can vote. Otherwise you end up with a gaggle of 10 year old girls voting 100 times each and the results skewed toward a small targeted audience. If one vote per person is good enough for democracy it should be good enough for American Idol.

Announce voting results: They should reveal the number of votes for each and every contestant every week. This would give more credibility to the results and also allow fans to see how their particular favorite was doing week to week.

Allow voters to pick themes: The worst part of this season was watching back to back Beatles themes. It was a disaster brought on by a lack of imagination when it comes to picking themes. The themes also tend to favor one singer over another and I've always thought this was how they manipulate the results. The public would do a much better job picking fair, creative themes.

Allow voters to pick specific songs instead of producers: I found it strange that the producers picked lousy songs for all three contestants last week. It's like they hadn't listened to any of them sing before. Surely the fans have a favorite song they want their contestant to sing. Have them vote on line for it.

Exemption: Give each of the 12 one exemption to use. They would have to decide to use it before the voting started. This would protect contestants who have one bad week or who struggle with a particular theme. It might also lead to more unexpected results.

These are just some ideas to help keep the show from jumping the shark. Hopefully, the producers read this blog and will take my advice.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Republican Brand, part two

I just read an interesting article by David Brooks, who by the way is becoming my favorite columnist, that discussed how the conservative party is redefining themselves in England. This is a timely article as Republicans here at home are trying to define the "Republican Brand". I am hopeful that we will follow their example and avoid the decades in the political wilderness they had to endure before realizing it was time to make changes.

They are onto something as they are moving away from focusing on the role of government and instead emphasizing community and quality of life issues. This is a brilliant strategic shift as it helps connect the dots between political theory and real life solutions that people want. Let's face it, most people could care less about the size and scope of government so long as it's competent and their community is thriving. We need to reexamine our policies in light of how well they provide services and how they impact people's quality of life.

For instance, it is not enough to say government should stay out of health care simply because we don't like big government. Instead we have to offer actual solutions that make health care more accessible and affordable. Instead of focusing on hot button social issues like gay rights and gun rights, we need to pay more attention to improving government services like transportation, our schools and the corrections system. Now ,there is a lot of room to debate how to improve these services but these areas should be our priorities.

It's not enough to be against government and for free market anymore. In some cases this approach works but not all the time. As a party we need to offer real solutions to improve the quality of life in our communities. These solutions might come from the free market but they also might include more government to fill in the gaps left behind by the market place. Without taking this approach, we will continue to lose elections and more importantly the public's confidence.

The Republican Brand, part one

It is obvious that this year is going to be a bad year for Republicans up and down the ticket. The overwhelming frustration and fatigue with Bush coupled with the war, a faltering economy and high gas prices has led to the perfect storm against Republicans.

The response to this problem from our party leaders is that we have to be true to the "Republican brand". This message was especially strong last year during the budget debate here in Michigan. This argument believes that the voting public wants a clear choice between the parties and that by allowing moderation in the party we are watering down our brand, making it more difficult for voters to understand what we believe in.

Our party leaders could not be more wrong. The fact is that most voters understand the Republican brand too well and they are resoundingly rejecting it. Anybody who doesn't know what Republicans stand for is either an idiot or not interested in politics. The problem isn't that we are ideological impure and therefore confusing to voters but rather that we are too tied to the same tired dogma of blindly cutting taxes and focusing almost exclusively on being against abortion and gay marriage. If that's the brand the party wants to continue selling, good luck because the people are not buying it. In fact, by pushing out the moderate voices of the party we are shrinking instead of expanding the party.

It's not only happening here in Michigan but in Minnesota as well. A group of 6 Republican legislators voted to override a veto of the gas tax increase. The money raised by that gas tax is going to fix Minnesota's infrastructure including roads and bridges. As you may recall, it was a bridge in Minnesota that collapsed last year killing 13 people. One could make a solid policy argument that raising the gas tax is a good idea. Yet, these lawmakers are now being targeted in Republican primaries by anti-tax candidates and the Republican party is supporting the challengers. To quote one Republican from Minnesota "What's even more dangerous than having Democrats is having Republicans that you can't count on." This type of thinking is going to kill the Republicans in November.

I had hoped that the defeat in 2006 would serve as a lesson to the party that we were headed down the wrong track. But apparently it will take additional losses to wake up our party leaders or better yet get new leaders in place.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Audacity of Hopelessness

I don't know about you but I am enjoying watching the Democratic primary continue to unfold. I almost laughed out loud when I read that party insiders are hoping that Clinton will quietly drop out and endorse Obama. These same people must have never met her as they would otherwise realize that she is never going to drop out prematurely. One thing that Republicans learned all too well during the nineties is that the Clintons are anything but quitters. We also learned that they do not care about the greater good of their party but are merely infatuated with their own political agenda. I suspect the Obama people recognize this which is why she will never be the VP nominee.

My guess is that even when all the votes are cast on June 3rd, Clinton will still have a strategy in place to steal the nomination. She will keep changing the bar by which to measure victory until she arrives at some "plausible" scenario that has her winning. She still has Florida and Michigan as a last resort because I don't see how the party cannot seat their delegates without risking alienation in those states. It will be interesting to see just long she can continue before she faces a significant backlash from her own supporters. Only when her supporters and donors say enough is enough will she drop out. And maybe not even then. Regardless, it is fun to watch and I hope it continues all summer long.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More Stupidity

Unfortunately the BCS will be with us for a few more embarrassing years. The conference commissioners had an opportunity to bring respectability and common sense to college football's post season but apparently they are more interested in protecting their conferences and their paychecks. There was an offer on the table to create a "plus 1" game after the bowls that would pit the top two teams together for a true national championship. But they rejected this watered down playoff because it would take away from the regular season. So settling the championship on the field of play instead of in the polls take away from the regular season? What about every other sport? Does this mean we should stop playing the final four or even all the football playoffs in Division 1a? Are they admitting that the regular season means nothing in those sports? And what about the league championship games for the SEC, Big 12 and ACC? Don't they take away from the regular season champion? Oh wait, those games make lots of money for the conferences so they justify taking away from the regular season. I am so sick and tired of the sanctimonious jackasses running college football. All other sports resolve their championship on the field of play but for some reason they still believe they know better. Basically by sticking with the BCS they are saying "screw you" to the 95 percent of us fans that support a playoff. Well right back at you!

Do they think we are stupid?

I just read a humorous article on global warming. The only problem is that it was supposed to be serious. According to some scientists, America is set to experience colder temperatures over the next decade due to ocean currents. But they warn us not to let this dissuade us from believing in global warming. Just how stupid do they think the public is? I am not a scientist but I can see through the tired propaganda of the global warming community. Their logic is if it gets warmer it's global warming and if it gets colder it's still global warming. Give me a break. Finally, by admitting that water currents effect temperature they undercut their arguments that so called "climate change" is determined by human activity.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Early morning thoughts on evangelism

I recently spoke with a good friend of mine who shared her thoughts on evangelism. She is a Christian but doesn't like the idea of sharing her faith with others. At first, I was tempted to rebuke her which is usually my fallback position when people disagree with me. As Christians we are called to share the message of God's desire to restore our relationship with him. Instead of being afraid or considering this a burden we should be thrilled to offer this hope to the many people in our lives who are struggling and hopeless. As Barack Obama might say this is hope you can believe in.

But rather than try to convince my friend I decided to examine my own obstacles to evangelism. My biggest roadblock to sharing my faith is my own walk with the LORD. I often have the same fear, anxiety and addictions that non Christians have. This makes me feel almost guilty telling them I supposedly know the truth that can set them free from these very struggles. My first instinct is to try and get my crap together first as a demonstration of Christ's power to transform lives. This is my desperate attempt to prove to others and to myself that Christianity "works". But frankly, what if that never happens? I am never going to be perfect examples to others.

I used to be worried that people would hold my sins against me if I witnessed to them and think I was a hypocrite. However, If I am honest my deeper concern is that my faith doesn't really seem to be the answer to life's problems. I begin to doubt the power of the gospel because it hasn't completely transformed me yet so how can it change the lives of others. Rectifying this attitude is difficult because my nature is to focus on the negative.

My best is answer to this problem is realizing that the true power of the Christ's message is the change that God has already made in my life and not the lack of progress in other areas. When I think of the person I would be without Christ in my life and how he has refined me in so many ways, that's when I realize the true message of hope I have for others. That realization gives me motivation and confidence to share the gospel with others. The fact, that I still mess up daily only reinforces the fact that I am no different that anybody else. It fact it demonstrates that if God's grace can help me, it can help anybody.

God's message of hope and reconciliation is not dependent on us or how we live. We can never prove to people to accept Jesus based on our example no matter how compelling it is. The power to transform lives rests solely on God's shoulders. Our only duty is to tell others the good things he has done in our lives. Remembering those good things is up to us, the rest is up to him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In the news

The City Pulse has an interesting article on evangelicals and politics. There are some exceptional people quoted in the article. It is well worth the read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Weekend with Grandpa

I wanted to update you on my weekend in Pittsburgh. While I was certainly nervous beforehand, I thoroughly enjoyed taking care of my Grandpa.

He was scheduled to leave the nursing home Saturday morning but was so bored that he convinced them to let him out early Friday night. My cousin and I arrived late because of traffic and we found him sitting in his chair with his bags packed, ready to go. His transition home went very well. The only problem was his mattress. The doctors want him to sleep on a pulsating air mattress but he says it's like sleeping on a bed of rocks. He has another more comfortable bed that he wanted to sleep on. We made a deal that he would sleep on the bed of rocks at night but could take naps on the comfortable bed during the day. This seemed to work for both of us although he still doesn't sleep well at night.

Grandpa is actually still very independent despite his hip surgery. The first day I went out for maybe an hour to pick up his prescription and check my email. When I returned I found him doing the laundry. I laughed out loud when I saw that. He is stubborn as well. My Aunt fought with the insurance company to make sure he received the top of the line walker for when he came home. But wouldn't you know it, he wouldn't touch the thing, instead relying on the borrowed walker he already had.

At first Grandpa was a little uncomfortable having me around. He was so used to being on his own that he didn't know how to respond to having someone else take care of him. Plus, he wants to recover his independence so strongl. Having me around only reinforced the idea that he wasn't quite fully recovered. However, by the end of my visit we had our routine down and he was both proud and appreciative of my help.

One of my favorite moments came Monday morning as we were waiting for the physical therapist. We had spent much our time the previous days either reading or watching the Penguins and Pirates play. Those times were fun but that morning he began to tell about growing up in Friendship and taking the bus across town to visit his cousins. We talked about his memories and our family, many of whom I don't know other than by name. My only connection being Grandpa. I just really enjoyed hearing those stories. Halfway through I began to realize that with his age I can't take these times for granted and so I simply sat and soaked in the moment.

I also realized this weekend that I enjoy serving other people. The feelings I had were similar to when I traveled to Mississippi post Katrina. It's a feeling of contentment and purpose that I very rarely find other times in my life. Having the privilege to take care of my Grandpa after years of receiving his support only added to those feelings. It's an opportunity that I will treasure for a long, long time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Women Masters

So I am watching the Masters this weekend thinking about how unsuccessful Martha Burk was in her attempt to force Augusta National to allow women to join their club. If we were to have believed the media women membership was an inevitability yet here we are several years later and it is still an all boys club. Now I think that eventually they will let a woman join but I am just not sure when or who. And that's the bigger question. Who will be the first female to join the hallowed club? Here are a few potential candidates:

1. Oprah Winfrey. She would definitely bring a lot of positive attention plus she meets their standards for success and income.

2. Sandra Day O'Connor. Her resume as first woman supreme court justice is appealing and I hear she is a golfer.

3. Condaleeza Rice. As one of the highest ranking females in government she has the credentials to fit in with the rest of the members.

4. Annika Sorenstam. Considered by many to be the best woman golfer she would be considered an asset to the club that likes to be among the best.

5. Pat Summit. She is a southerner and very well respected for her accomplishments as a basketball coach.

These are just a few suggestions. I would like to hear if you have other famous, successful women that would fit in at Augusta.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Live from Pittsburgh

I have taken the Fetzer File on the road this week. I am in Pittsburgh to help my Grandpa as he recovers from hip surgery. I am a little nervous about helping and my Mom and Aunt gave me a laundry list of things to do.

I just made it to town and he looks great. I expected him to be a little more frail following the surgery but he seems to get around pretty good with his walker but I can tell he gets worn out easily. He still has his sense of humor and doesn't seem nearly as worried or concerned as my Mom or Aunt Nancy. Funny how others worry about us more than ourselves sometimes.

I am writing this post from a coffee shop near my Grandparents old house. It was a place my Grandma took me to over 10 years ago. I love the fact that is still here for me. And that they have wi-fi. Another thing that hasn't changed is the nursing home he is staying at. It is the same one my Great Grandmother lived in and the last time I went there was in 1991 maybe. They still have the same decorations and everything. I even think I saw the same few lonely women perched in the wheel chairs by the elevators to watch all the action.

My trip this morning was exactly what I needed. As I was surfing through the radio channels I came across a religious station and it reminded me to take the time and pray. It's amazing how cleansing it is to spend 45 miles in prayer. It was great to release some stress and to pray for others and well generally I am in a good mood because of it.

Tonight I am meeting up with my cousin to grab dinner. I haven't seen him since Christmas time so it will be nice to catch up. I'll write more later this week.

Monday, April 07, 2008


This weekend my nephew David came to Lansing to watch the NCAA basketball games. He and I have made it a tradition to watch the final four each year. A couple years ago we went out to some backwoods bar to watch the games with my buddy Jason Feltz. We all three took turns hitting on our poor waitress. As you might have guessed, none of us got her phone number. Then two years ago I was in Las Vegas with David and my brother's entire family for the final four. We all made wagers on the game and David was the only one to win money. Hopefully next year we can get final four tickets since the games are being played in Detroit.

David is turning into a really fine young man. As we spent the weekend together, I was impressed with how grown up he has become and how well he handles all the drama in his life. I warned him ahead of time that this year I had church on Saturday night but he didn't complain about having to go or missing most of the first game. Because he works at a coffee shop, he was put in charge of making coffee for the service. He also haul chairs and speakers to help set up. After church we went to Trippers and watched the second game. Even though the game was a blowout, I still enjoyed spending time with him. We finished the night by heading home and playing cards.

He and I haven't seen each other as often this past year as I would have liked. By sharing March madness as a tradition it was a good excuse to make seeing each other a priority. When he and his brother were younger, we made it a tradition to get root beer floats at A&W when they would come to visit. I remember when my parents would take Vince and I out for root beer floats and it was a great time and I wanted to pass that along to them. As he's gotten older we now have our new basketball tradition. It's really fun to hear his enthusiasm for college basketball. It gives us something to share and I appreciate that. It's nice to know that we have at least one weekend a year set aside regardless of how the rest of the year is going. I look forward to watching many more games with him in the future.