Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Yesterday I went to the Ash Wednesday service at the catholic church in downtown Lansing. It was packed. When I mentioned how crowded it was to my friend he wittingly replied that there are a lot of sinners. The homily was very good. It was about rendering our heart to God and what motivates us during lent. That this was more than just a time to sacrifice something but it was a time to reflect on our sin and to recommit to the Gospel.

As the service wore on I realized that I wasn't really in a penitent mood. I was more interested in trying to keep up with the liturgy or looking around to see who I knew. It was wasn't until a little girl behind me started crying bitterly that it sunk in as to why I was there. Her cry full of anguish seemed like the only fitting response to acknowledging the sin in our lives.

By contrast, I was simply going through the motions not really taking into account how much my sin has angered and disappointed God. If I knew just how offensive it was I would sob uncontrollably just like the girl behind me. Unfortunately, I have learned to make excuses for sin and have justified it to myself and to others and made it seem like no big deal. This lent season I am hoping to recapture just what it cost to have Christ go to the cross for me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The year of jubilee

In the Old Testament the Jews used to observe something called the Year of Jubilee. Every 49 years all the people's debts would be forgiven and their land returned to them. The idea was to keep them from enslaving their own people via huge crushing debt. As I watched how pitiful the stimulus debate played out, I kept hearkening back to this idea of paying off our debts and how it would help spur our economy. I wondered if it was possible for the federal government to pay off the public's credit card debt thus freeing them to spend more money on goods and services, catch up on their mortgage or to buy a new car. I checked and found out that the total amount of U. S. credit card debt is $971 billion which is in the same ball park as what the stimulus plan just cost us.

I know that many people will say that the idea of paying off everyone’s credit cards only helps those who have made bad financial decisions. My reply is that we are a country of second chances but just as importantly it makes economic sense. What would help the working poor and middle class more than freeing up several hundred dollars a month to spend how they please? Families could do what they wish with their money that was once tied up in debt. Some would save it, some would invest it, and many would spend it. The money would flood into the economy directly rather than through some government programs that may or may not create jobs. On top of that, the banks would get a shot of cash to help keep them solvent and allow them to make new credit available.

One added advantage is that it would also help reassure the public and improve the overall mood regarding the economy. Currently, the main drag on the economy is the fear and uncertainty that many people are experiencing. Even those with jobs and money to spend are reigning in their consumption until they are confident that we are headed in the right direction. This lack of spending just adds to the recession and thus leads to more economic anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle and something that the recent stimulus plan failed to address. Eliminating their credit card debt would be a psychological game changer as much as an economic boost.

I realize my plan may never happen and obviously the idea has to be fleshed out. Some checks and balances would need to be in place to deter people from simply running up huge debt again. Maybe there would be a cap on how much each individual gets paid off or a requirement to go without credit cards for certain time period. Regardless of details, the Year of Jubilee makes more sense than the typical big government spending that just passed under the guise of stimulus.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tired of the blame game

This weekend I received updates from both the Republican and Democratic state conventions. One update that particularly grabbed my attention was by Lt. Gov. John Cherry who mentioned in his speech to the Democrats that they didn't get us into this mess but they will get us out of it. Really? I like John Cherry personally but his comment while not surprising was extremely disingenuous.

Michigan's economy is a mess and while a great portion of that is due to the demise of the auto industry, the government has not been effective in addressing the growing turmoil. And who has been in charge during this time? Not the Republicans. No it is Jennifer Granholm and John Cherry. To say that this is not their mess is more of the same blame game they have been playing for years. I fully expect to see on Granholm's tombstone "it was all Bush's fault".

The people of Michigan didn't elect Granholm to blame Engler or Bush or anybody else. They want her to lead and take on the problems facing the state. Instead she and Cherry are good at talking about reform but doing nothing and then blaming Republicans for their lack of results. It's getting very tiresome.

In the state of the state Granholm announced that she was appointing Cherry to study how to reorganize state government. She has been on the job for over 6 years and she has to have him study the problem? The Governor should already know what needs to be done and just do it. We don't need another study or task force, we need leadership. We need a decision maker who will make the tough choices and not blame others. I was hoping that maybe Cherry would be that guy on the Democratic side but I was obviously wrong.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Due to my love of tacos, pisco sours and siestas I have always felt a fondness for Latin American culture. However, tonight's adventure in salsa dancing reminded me of my very white ethnicity.

I went with my friend Gwen and her friends to a salsa club. I took dance lessons a couple years ago so I figured it would be fun to get out of the house. Unfortunately nothing stuck from my lessons. I would have better recalling 10th grade algebra than anything I learned about salsa dancing.

To call me rhythmically challenged is like calling the pope moral. Don't get me wrong, I do like to dance now and then But salsa is a little too structured for me. I prefer a more freestyle approach. Tonight, I realized that my dancing is similar to my life in general. Having a partner does not agree with me for some reason. It is way too hard to keep in sync with someone else so I dance to my own beat.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Change we can believe in?

Yesterday Tom Dashcle withdrew his name for consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services because he hadn't paid several hundred thousand in taxes. His withdraw marks the third person Obama has nominated to have had "trouble" paying their taxes in the past. Nancy Killefer was supposed to be his chief performance officer for the federal government, whatever that is, but she didn't pay her taxes either. The only one to get away with it is the new Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who was inexplicably confirmed despite being a tax cheat himself. I guess this explains why Democrats don't mind raising taxes because they have no intention on actually paying them.

Does anyone else wonder why it takes a Senate investigation to uncover all these unpaid taxes? Isn't that what the IRS is for? Apparently, they aren't worried if you are either rich or politically connected. How much more money is out there in unpaid taxes that could be used to help pay down some of our ballooning budget deficit? Maybe we should have Obama randomly appoint people so the Senate can dig into their past and see how much they owe in taxes.

This is not a good start for the Obama administration. The entire scenario reeks of hypocrisy. Not only has there been a pattern of not paying taxes by his nominees but this is the second well known nominee to withdraw because of ethical concerns. Anyone else remember Bill Richardson? I thought Obama was supposed to usher in an era of good government and restore confidence in our leadership. Instead, we get the same old, same old; attempts to reward political allies with plum government appointments despite their ethical lapses. Obviously, he was full of change we can't believe in.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the media can sweep this under the rug. I guarantee you by next week, there will not be one story printed connecting the dots and pointing out this pattern of appointing unethical people. It just doesn't fit into their make believe Camelot storyline.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What a game!

I realize I am impartial because my Steelers won but that was a great, great game. I watched with a couple fellow Steelers fans and we never relaxed the entire game. We all knew that not getting touchdowns inside the red zone was going to come back and bite us.

I give the Cardinals a ton of credit for coming back in the fourth quarter. Kurt Warner is an amazing QB and I kind of like Fitzgerald as well. But I was happy that they scored so quickly and that Big Ben would have a few minutes left to pull out a miracle. He always does his best when his back is against the wall. And Holmes definitely moved up on the list of great players in Steelers history.

Has there ever been a greater play than James Harrison's interception return just before halftime? What an incredible turn of momentum. How he stayed in bounds and scored is beyond me. I was also impressed they didn't get called for clipping. It might have been the only play that the refs didn't throw a flag on.

It's truly fun to be a Steelers fan. I love that we win but I love that we do things the right way. We have a classy owner, we have good guys that play for us and we play sound football. Now we just have to rebuild the offensive line and we should be back for number 7 next year.