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