Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bexting - The Next Problem with Texting

Just a few days ago, I was out for a leisurely run around the neighborhood. I am training to run in the Detroit Half-Marathon in October as a fundraiser for a church mission to Malawi, Africa. Well to be honest, as of late it has been more Not training then training, but this day I decided would be great for a nice short run around a couple of the subs by me, I figured around 2 miles or so. Little did I know that a teenage girl on a bike could be such a safety hazard, if only she came equipped with a cell phone.

So I am jogging down Ann Arbor Trail when up ahead of me appears a young woman on a bike. This is not unusual in my area of Plymouth, because we are right by Hines Park and Downtown Plymouth, so we see lots of bike traffic. Usually I will get off the sidewalk and get on the grass so we can pass without a problem, and that is exactly what I did. It was then that I noticed a cell phone in the hand she was not using to steer the bike. As she got closer, I saw that she was TEXTING as she was biking, what I will now call bexting. She had to keep diverting her attention to the phone so she could see what she was typing. I have seen people texting while at a stop light, but never on a bicycle while riding on a sidewalk.

Crazily enough, as she approached me she diverted all of her attention to the phone, and of course started swerving all over the place. I was a good three feet off the sidewalk into the grass, and she honestly came within a foot of nailing me. I had to jump out of the way as she flew past, lost in some message about where to meet her friends for ice cream or something.

Luckily I survived the bexting incident, but I was wondering if anyone out there has experienced a similar phenomenon?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Unchanging Place

Everyone should have an unchanging place. A place where time has no hold, where memories can flourish EXACTLY as you remember them. A place where the laughter of childhood resonates through your veins the very moment you arrive. Some people are lucky in that their parent’s home can be this unchanging place, if they have been in the same home for a long time. Even then, it is hard because rooms get painted and bathrooms get remodeled. It is hard to find your unchanging place, especially with the way that modern society chews up places and spits out “new” all the time.

My unchanging place is Jewell Lake National Forest Campground. My family used to camp there for our yearly vacation when I was younger. I did not know at the time, but it was because it was so cheap that we did it, my family being on the south end of middle class at the time. What mattered to me was going fishing with my father, playing on the beach with my brother, running along the paths making up kingdoms to defend all week and coming back to the campsite and having my smiling mother dish me out a big bowl of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. I thrived at Jewell Lake.

I have returned as an adult twice to this place. My Wife and I have gone camping there a couple of times over the past three years. Every time, I get ridiculously giddy as we approach, and of course I have a personal preference for a particular campsite, it was the one we always camped at when I was a child. Jewell Lake is truly an unchanging place.

When I step out of the car, I feel as if I have a truly intimate relationship with the soil. The paths are still all the same. The same berries the Rich and I use to throw at each other grow along the same path between the beach and the boat launch. The water is still pumped by hand, and the sites still have no electricity. I take a big deep breath, slowly let it out, and know that I feel more at home here then even my own home. A sly smile creeps over my face, and I check to make sure we brought the giant can of Dinty Moore.

(Yes, that beautiful picture is at Jewell Lake, which you can enjoy for $15 a night…amazing the treasures we have all around us)

Where is your unchanging place?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I-75 and 9 Mile: Another One Bites The Dust.

Just what the beleaguered Metro Area needs right now, a major highway shut down for days...possibly weeks. Apparently, last night around 8pm, a tanker carrying approximately 13,000 gallons of fuel was in an accident, and just happened to be under the overpass for 9 mile rd. Of course, it blew up, and burned the overpass for hours. The picture above is from the Detroit News, and shows the damage done to the overpass. Amazingly, no one was killed or even seriously injured in this debacle.

My question is who pays for something like this? We know that the bridge is going to have to be totally replaced. Some estimates I am hearing about are in the neighborhood of 2-3 million dollars. Does this come out of MDOT's rapidly shrinking budget, or is it paid for through the drivers insurance? It would piss me, and I imagine a lot of other people off, if tax dollars have to fund this repair. Given the state of the roads I drive to work every day, especially US-23, northbound from I-96, I know we could definitely use that money elsewhere.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Infidelity Train Rolls On

Man, we must be headed for some sort of infidelity record in the political arena. We have had two major players go down in the past few weeks, each in their own agonizing manner. Gone are the days of illicit meet ups at a hotel, now we have international intrigue, with Governors jetting off to to other countries just to cheat. It is an exciting time to be a scandal watcher in politics.

First was a senator from Nevada, John Ensign, who while being a staunch proponent of "Family Values" and belonging the the Christian Promise Keepers Organization, somehow found time to cheat on his wife. This was an individual who called on everyone to impeach president Clinton for doing the exact same thing he has just admitted to doing. Just to make sure he did not appear partisan in his crusade against adulterers, he was one of the strongest critics of former Senator Larry Craig, the infamous bathroom bandit, calling on him to resign. In fact here is a quote Mr. Ensign gave regarding the incident: “I wouldn’t put myself, hopefully, in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that’s what I would do (resign).” Of course...he is not resigning, but instead is going ahead as a Senator, because the "people's work" must be done.

Just a few days ago, the Governor of South Carolina, Mr. Mark Staford, suddenly reappeared after hiking the Appalachian, oh yeah, he was in Argentina with his lover. Whoops....don't know how that one would ever get out. If only he has not gone to another country for 5 days, he might have kept his secret. He is another one who voted for Clinton's impeachment, but cannot seem to muscle up the guts to resign. Seems righteous morality standards only apply to the OTHER guy.

What I find absolutely appalling is these two's unwillingness to live up to the standards they so readily applied to everyone else. It is easy to sit in your high chair and call on everyone else to resign, suddenly it you and it is a different story. The hypocrisy is amazing.

I know some of you, rightfully so, will point out that I only used Republican references here. You are correct, but that is only because of the fact that both these stories are the most recent. The last high profile Democrat to go down in flames due was Eliot Spitzer.....and HE RESIGNED! I did write a short entry about him, with a great quote...find that here. I think ANYONE who commits adultery should resign from public life. If you cannot keep your marriage vows, how are you supposed to keep your vows to the public.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lost in the Wilderness

A new poll by USA Today/Gallup finds that the majority of respondents, when asked to name a person who speaks for the Republican party, could not. They could not pick a person who leads roughly half the countries population in their political views. So, that begs the question, of the 48% who were able to name names, who came in first place? Maybe Sarah Palin, Michael Steele or Bobby Jindal? Nope, number one, with 13% of respondents votes was Rush Limbaugh. Second place on the list goes to our esteemed ex Vice-President Dick Cheney. The top 5 are all old white guys with McCain, Gingrich and Bush rounding out the top 5. As one conservative activist from the article mentioned "We cannot be the party of balding white guys and hope to win anything."

I look at the political scene right now for the Republicans, and I see a whole lot of old, and a whole lot of the next big thing, but not anyone right here right now. They truly are lost in the wilderness. Now many of my friends are conservative (much to my chagrin), and they should not lose heart. I know in the past I have talked about the "Death Knell of the Conservative Movement," but I know that American politics works like a finely tuned pendulum, and conservatives will one day again have their moment in the sun. Hopefully, it will be a new kind of conservativism, one not so focused on gays and abortion, and one more focused on the historical roots of the movement. Here are three things conservatives can focus on to help swing the pendulum back in their favor.

1. Coming off the drunken sailor spending of the Bush/Obama days, fiscal restraint can be a rallying point for the conservative movement. Push a indefinite law for balanced budgets, with exclusions for time of war or economic crisis. Tell people it is going to be hard, but BE SERIOUS about doing this. Realize that you will HAVE to cut some military spending to do this. You cannot just cut medicaid and call it good. Along with this comes serious reforms of social security and medicare. I swear that whoever grasps this issue and wrestles it to the ground will earn serious votes from Americans for years.

2. Tax cuts do not equate an economic policy (don't worry, I would turn around and tell Democrats that unmitigated spending does not equal an economic policy). We need someone to tackle the long term economic conundrum. Propose long standing reforms to both the tax code (simpler,lower,fairer) and to spending (no earmarks, see remarks above). Also, and this is critical, advocate for ENFORCEABLE free trade. Right now it does no good to allow every country access to our markets when we are not allowed the same in kind. I am NOT advocating trade restrictions be used, just that barriers to free trade and currency manipulations be ended under the threat of returning the favor.

3. Steal the energy independence issue back from the left. Honestly, the Drill Baby Drill thing made you guys look pretty shortsighted. Push an effective agenda including price floor for gasoline, efficiency, development of alternative energy sources and most importantly, nuclear energy. By looking long term, and not pushing an agenda that seems to line right up with oil companies wishes, you can take this issue back from the left. The focus is not cuddly environmentalism, but rather serious national security concerns. The fight over energy/water resources IS the most important area of concern for the future.

Good Luck.....your going to need it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The General Gets Demoted

General Motors, or as some people are calling to nowadays...Government Motors has declared bankruptcy. My new favorite nickname is Major Motors, as the company is literally being demoted. I do not mean for this post to talk about the politics involved in GM declaring bankruptcy, but more the human toll on my home state and the entire country.

Few people completely understand how BIG of a deal this is, literally. The General is so large, so much a part of every part of the economy, that it's bankruptcy is going to have ramifications far beyond it's headquarters here in Detroit. Just in the bankruptcy filing alone GM has detailed 20,000 jobs being cut, and is cutting 2000 dealerships, resulting in about 100,000 job losses there. Lets try to put that in perspective. Cities with equivalent populations include: Ann Arbor, MI, Albuquerque, NM, Stamford, CN and Abilene, TX. It is as if someone came into one of those towns and told everyone that they would no longer have a job. More fun statistics -- 43% of GM's factory jobs in Michigan are being eliminated, 650,000 retirees have no idea what the future will hold for their pensions, the city of Pontiac will lose 20% of its General Fund when Pontiac Assembly closes.

All of this, of course, has very human ramifications; it is not just numbers on a page. A local radio show put together a great example of how these decisions are affecting everyday people by creating a 100ft banner using pictures of people affected by the auto industry. Check out some pictures here as they took it to Washington, DC. So for the time being, the result will be: more unemployment, more crime, more abandoned industrial infrastructure, less American's making things American's buy. I think we will look back on this day in either one of two ways. First, we could look back at this as the jump start the Detroit region, and the country needed to head in a different direction, creating an industrial policy that reclaims America's manufacturing supremacy. This path leads to more jobs, more technical innovation, and of course to a greener transportation system. Secondly, we could look back and say this is the day American manufacturing died. We will make and innovate here no more. We will rely on foreign concerns to engineer and develop what we drive, and if we are lucky enough, they will let us put the cars together when the exchange rate is right.

I personally pray for the first path, and I especially pray for the families of all who are affected by this bankruptcy. This will not be an easy road, but we are a resilient people. Time to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, give a little more to the food bank, and above all, give a helping hand to your neighbor, because chances are someone you know is going to be affected by this.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Specter the Defector

Arlen Specter has bailed on the Republican Party. I want to approach this news from three different directions:

1. Swine Flu made the man go crazy
2. Republican's are battling an increasingly conservative party structure that does not leave room for moderates like Specter.
3. Specter is just out to save his political life, this is just a pragmatic switch to stay a senator.

Ok, so the swine flu probably has nothing to do with this, but you cannot count it out, because apparently every news story in the country must include swine flu to be relevant and important. The real debate here is between the last two choices. The real problem for the republican party is that both are bad. In one case, as has been pointed out by many people smarter then me, they are on their way to becoming a regional party with a VERY conservative bent. In the other case, they are so despised at the moment that people feel they cannot get reelected if they have that (R) after their name.

Personally I think both of those answers are at work here. At the base of the matter is Arlen's desire to keep his job. Basic politics at work here. See next paragraph for me ripping him a new one on this front. Intertwined with that is the sad fact that the party that Sen Specter belongs to has been drifting ever more to the right. Arlen was never a uber-conservative, he was a moderate in the Reagan mold. Here is a quote from him regarding his switch: “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan big tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.” Clearly he is seeing the winds blow more to the Dems favor and wants to keep his job, still the fact that over 200,000 people switched affiliation should indicate where the Republican party is at right now in Industrial Midwest states like PA.

So this is where I slap Sen. Specter around for switching parties. As a Democrat in a vacuum, I applaud this move; as an non-partisan political observer, this is shameful. People who switch parties just to remain elected are the worst kind of politician. The value their own job so far above any policy priorities that they are willing to sacrifice their values just to stay in Washington. At least with Lieberman, he went independent, Specter just wants the (D) after his name. If he was being true to his roots he would have gone independent. Even with the steady right march of the Republican Party, I am sure that Sen Specter's values are more closely aligned with his old party then his new one. Unfortunately for the Republicans, those values are now associated with not getting elected.

So Arlen....welcome aboard, and shame on you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Apparently, Texas IS A Whole Other Country

So, I am reading my usual daily dose of Politico, and I come across a blog article by Glenn Thrush talking about how Ron Paul is backing up the Texas governor in saying that succeeding from the USA is an American thing to do. He talks about how the original 13 colonies succeeded from England and all that jazz. Here is the Paul's direct quote: "it is very American to talk about secession. That's how we came in being. Thirteen colonies seceded from the British and established a new country. So secession is a very much American principle.

While I am not going to go down the road of it being treasonous to talk about succeeding from the Union, I really think this is just political posturing. In the infamous words of George W. Bush, "That is the last time I will be out Texaned." In Texas there has always been a healthy independent spirit, and I don't think either the governor or Mr. Paul have anything to lose by bringing this topic up. Quite simply it scores serious points with the base of the party and everyone else just kind scratches their head and moves on.

What I am truly interested in is the results of Texas succeeding from the Union. It sounds cool and all, but has anyone thought through the actual ramifications of this? From the US side, you would lose a major chuck of your economy, and given that Texas is a donor state, giving more to the federal government then was returned, the US would also take a fiscal hit there. It is often stated that Austin, which is the capital of Texas, is a blue patch in a sea of red, would they just go along? Could the new Republic of Texas face an immediate internal threat from Austin?

From the Texas perspective, you have to think about what would be lost. First and foremost, all military protection would cease. All assets would be pulled out, so there goes Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and the 8 Air Force bases in TX. Several areas of TX would be economically devastated by the closing of these bases. Of course with little homegrown military and scant technology, Texas would make a big, fat, juicy target for Mexico. I imagine it would take them all of a few months to mount a serious attack. Other things that would be lost if Texas succeeded include: all NASA facilities, major funding for the public universities, ANY border protection, transportation funding, social security, medicare and any other government program support. My guess is that to get some semblance of military up and running, even for just basic defense, there would immediately have to be compulsory military service and about 50-60% tax rates. Sounds worth leaving the USA to me.

So, all stupid political rhetoric aside, good luck with that. I won't plan on seeing an independent Texas ANYTIME in my life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Religion in America

I was pointed to this survey by a friend. It is a very detailed survey of religious attitudes in America. The information is very interesting and thought provoking. I give it credence because they have been using the same methodology over many years, so even if they are wrong, they should at least show trends well. The trend, if you are a mainline Christian like myself, is not a good one. The old churches in every town, the Methodist and Presbyterian ones, are basically in a free fall. Catholicism is holding steady, but basically only because of immigration from Central and South America. Evangelical Christianity has continued to explode to now well over 8 million adherents. Overall adherence to any religion is also down. I encourage you to read the survey and respond to my thoughts below.

1. It is interesting that old mainline Protestant churches are in decline. My church is growing, so I really cannot speak to what others in my denomination are going through. My church is First Presbyterian of Plymouth, in MI. I would say that we are probably gaining more members from megachurches now then we are losing to them. I'll talk about that a little in my next point. My guess is a lot of the decline in these mainline churches is in small towns, where there was always a Methodist or Presbyterian church. Now that population is getting older and the church is therefore shrinking.

2. The megachurch phenomenon, in my opinion, is peaking, if not already in decline. I want to make it clear that in no way am I ripping on the megachurch concept, more just an opinion based on my anecdotal observations as head of our new member committee. megachurches will continue to play a vital role in Christian life, but I believe that while VERY good at making new Christians (something us mainliners struggle with sometimes), they are not the best at feeding the soul of someone who is past the introduction stage. Of course there are many exceptions to this, but we gain members from megachurches who say they are looking for more depth in their church experience. Less show and more substance is something along the lines of what they say. Some are also seeking a more intimate experience.

3. As the report points out, over 30% of mainline protestants consider themselves born again. The lines between mainline and evangelical will continue to blur in the future. For some it is more about worship style; we have a full choir and a pipe organ and most evangelical churches have a video screen and a praise band. Nothing wrong with either style, just different for different people. You are also seeing a trend being championed by mainline churches called "emergent worship". This blends traditional elements of worship with intimacy and involvement often seen at evangelical churches. Think the worship service the Disciples had in a room when they gathered together.

4. Overall adherence to any organized religion is also down. Fifteen percent of all Americans claim they have no religious beliefs at all. People have commented to me that this is sad, and that it is a shame that religion is in decline in America. I honestly don't think that religious belief is in decline, I think claiming no religion has just become less taboo. Back in the 1950's, everyone went to church. Even if you did not believe, you probably went to church. Now people have the freedom to choose not to go without losing social status or being stigmatized. There is also the opinion put forth by people like Leonard Pitts, Jr. in his column here. Basically he says religion is corrupt, and if you just look at the headlines, a rational person would not accept the authority religion has claimed over God. I can readily see his point, but the great thing about America is that if you believe that religion is corrupt, you're free to start your own church.

I feel the Christianity will be just fine in the coming decades and centuries. We must remain relevant and vital to the communities we serve. Churches must come to realize that they are no longer the de facto social outlet for their community. I would expect overall levels of religious adherence to fall for a few more years and then stabilize and maybe slightly increase as the children of people who made the conscious choice to not go to church based on Mr. Pitts assessment start searching for something more in their lives. We'll be here waiting with open arms.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stem Cell Mania

Yup, that thing pictured above is what is causing all these divisiveness and argument. It is a human embryonic stem cell. During his eight years in office, President Bush took a hard line on the stem cell issue, eventually banning the use of federal monies in research using these guys. Now President Obama has opened to door for money to flow into this research once again.

This is sure to whip up a frenzy on both sides. The problem that the right has in trying to argue their side is that they somehow try to attach this issue to the abortion one, when it is not really that intertwined. To give you an example, this is a quote from Representative Christopher Smith (R) of New Jersey “I don’t think it will fly, because the movement in the country is in favor of life." He said this right after calling President Obama "The Abortion President."

Now correct me if I am wrong, but the goal of embryonic stem cell research is to save lives. Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes are all within the cross hairs of this research. You cannot use the life argument against something that will save lives, it makes you sound highly hypocritical. Most of the embryonic stem cells that will be used will come from fertility clinics, where they would otherwise be thrown away, literally thrown away. Many states, like my home state of Michigan, have passed laws which restrict the source of embryonic stem cells and also strictly ban any form of human cloning or research into that field. With some common sense legislation like Michigan's, you cannot tell a person with Parkinson's that you are defending life by forbidding research that could save his or her life.

It is my opinion that we can find a middle ground on this issue. Life is worth preserving, both in the womb and when threatened by a debilitating disease. Put into effect some commonsense legislation to restrict the source and guide the research, and there should be NO ethical concerns regarding stem cells. I invite thoughtful comments and criticisms to my thoughts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Democrats in Congress...Step Up or Get Out The Way

So, as a Democrat in this resurgent age of liberalism, I thought it might be a good idea to take stock of how things have gone in the Obama administration so far. In general, I like what I see so far. I think the stimulus is a bit unruly, and could get out of hand, but in general I like the direction the new administration is heading. BTW, all of you who thought that line item for the Coast Guard Ice Breaker was obnoxious... here is an article to the tangible side effects of canceling that out of the stimulus. Crazy idea - replacing almost 40 year old ice breakers on the Great Lakes so 1 billion in freight can be moved around...nutso liberal idea.

My main beef since Obama took office lies not with him, or strangely enough, the opposition party, but with Congressional Democrats. Pelosi, Ried and the like. They have been nothing but a thorn in the side of progress and bipartisanship since Obama took office. They have stuck to their narrow idelogical viewpoints and refused to see the middle road that I believe Obama is trying to go down. I believe that is why he was elected, to move us into a post-partisan age. Ideologies do not matter so much as effectiveness.

To cite an example, I will use the announcement by the President that he will be bringing the troops home from Iraq, and will have combat troops home in 18 months. This is of course 3 months longer then promised during his campaign, but shockingly he talked to the generals on the ground and decided that an extra three months was worth the security. Sounds logical to me. Republicans generally agreed, McCain signed on board, calling the plan "significantly different" the one he saw during the campaign and a responsible way to draw down troop levels. Sounds like this thing is something everyone can agree on. Oh, I forgot about the Congressional Dems, who decided that this plan was just NOT accpetable. Neither fast enough or complete enough to suit them, they wallowed out to the microphones and stated that more was needed. Harry Ried was complaining that the 50,000 troops left over was too many. Can't these people see something that is a good thing, and just get out of the way? Who would have thought a year ago we would have President Obama and Sen McCain and Republican Congressional leadership agreeing on Iraq?

Progress can include the Democrats in Congress, or it can happen without them. Clearly voters are not tied to party affiliation when giving someone a job approval rating. Obama is at 65% and Ried is at 15%. Maybe Harry should take a page out of Obama's book and adapt to the situation on the ground instead of relying on rigid ideology. The President is going to move this country forward, Congressional Dems can come kicking and screaming, and possibly lose their jobs in the process, or they can learn to get along with their wildly popular President, and even, gasp, work with the opposition.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Packzi Obsession

Through the glory of Facebook, I have been following the day of my friends who are Detroit expats, who are looking for their regular paczki (poonch-ki) fix on what around Detroit, is passionately known as Paczki Day, or more colloquially, Fat Tuesday. The idea is to load up on calories before the supposed Lenten fast, but of course, now we just pig out for the purpose of pigging out. We do this by eating VERY LARGE doughnuts ALL DAY LONG. If you think that picture above is the standard Dunkin' Doughnut's affair, rest assured it at least 6 inches in diameter and probably weighs a half pound. If you are unfamiliar with this tradition, read this article about it in the Detroit News.

I was happily steering clear of this until I walked into a bank lobby at 1:30 p.m. There on the table was a huge platter of glistening massively sized heart attack inducing paczki. Yes, the tradition is so ingrained that banks hand them out. I asked the ladies why they would do that, and they just smiled, telling me they had "only" given out 2 dozen. I thoughtfully resisted (Wife should be proud), and went about my day. Then I had an idea...

This sounds like something that Detroit COULD export to the rest of the country. In these poor economic times, Detroit needs something to push on the rest of the country. We should declare this a state holiday, and build tourism around it. We could Hamtramck into the New Orleans of the Midwest. Want to do something fun for Mardi Gras, but don't want to be shot or be exposed to all that debauchery, come to Detroit for Fat Tuesday! Just think of the tourist dollars flowing into the state!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NASA Tries to Remain Relevant

This is a great picture. I almost don't even have to explain it. It looks as if it could come from the Onion, everyone's favorite satirical newspaper. But of course it is a real picture, of an Astronaut named Rex Walheim modeling NASA's next generation space suit for the new President during the inaugural parade. I believe that if you look close at the picture you will see that President Obama has a sly smirk on his face, which means: "I cannot believe they put a guy marching in a spacesuit in the parade just to get a photo op." Of course that is exactly what they did.

So here is my question, is NASA still relevant? Does NASA still produce enough new scientific information to warrant the governments expense? Don't get me wrong, I love space and other planets and all the jazz. I WANT to live on a moonbase, so I do think that it is essential that we continue to explore space. My question is whether NASA is still a relevant organization for doing so.

There are people in the private sector that are pushing the envelope when it comes to manned space flight. You have Virgin Galactic, and you know when Richard Branson and his billions get behind something, it gets dome. About the only thing NASA has gotten right recently were the Mars Rovers, which admittedly were an amazing success. The designer of those things gets an American Life Gold Star. So is this something that we should had off to the private sector? Maybe we should just use NASA to maintain our military hardware in space. Any thoughts?

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Phelpsian Dilema

First, I want to congratulate myself on coming up with the word "Phelpsian." That is a pretty sweet word! Moving on.

So, Mr. Golden Boy himself has a weakness, he likes to smoke down. Apparently if there is a bong anywhere within a 100 foot radius of Mr. Phelps, his innate "bong radar" goes off and he grabs a lighter and heads on over. Like many people, I am disappointed to see a recent Olympic champion, and perhaps the best swimmer of all time do something this stupid. Shame on him.

But here is my dilemma, and I am sure that it is shared by millions of people across the world.... SO WHAT? I find myself mildly amused that they guy thought this would not get out, but really....honestly, if I ask myself, I don't care. I still will root for the guy in the Olympics or elsewhere. If my kid one day grows up with Michael Phelps as an hero, I would not be disappointed. It is not like he was out beating up women or selling meth to kids. He took a hit off a bong. If that disqualifies you from succeeding in life then MANY MANY people in high positions would have to step aside. The current and last two Presidents could not have been President. I know that as a responsible citizen I should be condemning the guy, but I just can't. It was a stupid move, and he is going to pay financially; he has already lost an endorsement deal from Kellogg. There are so many "role-models" out there that do far worse, I just can't bring myself to hate on Michael Phelps.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Recession??

I was pointed by a friend to a CURRENT web page from the National Republican Congressional Committee that states among other things that the "U.S. economy is robust," and that "job creation is strong." Looks like the NRCC might want to check the headlines of recent days. I have heard the following layoffs announced in 2009:

Caterpillar - 20,000
G.M. - 2,000
Texas Instruments 1,800
Sprint/Nextel - 8,000
Phizer/Wyeth - 8,000
Home Depot - 7,000
Circuit City - 30,000
Google - 500
Cessena - 2,000
Motorola - 4,000
Hertz Rentals - 4,000

There is some strong job growth! Click here to read the hilarity at the NRCC.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Someone Smack Around Ty Corporation For Me

Honestly. It has been less then a week into the new administration, when we already have a corporation exploiting the first family for all it's cuteness. It turns out that Ty Corporation, maker of the infamous Beanie Baby line of stuffed toys, has released a "Marvelous Malia" and "Sweet Sasha" set of dolls. Now of course Ty claims that it is just coincidence, but who are they fooling? The timing and names could not make it more clear that this is just a timing gimmick to sell as many dolls as possible. As if that were not enough, just look at the picture above. it is clear to me who they are trying to portray.

Hopefully Americans of all political stripes can see this as a blatant money grab. I hope that this is not a portent of things to come for this family. I know that it is not possible to live a "normal" life and be a daughter of a President, but hopefully we can make sure it is as "normal" as possible.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Leaner, Meaner and Greener Auto Show

The Big 3 are not dead. That seems to be the overriding theme of the Detroit Auto Show this year. In fact, as one reporter put it: "Their collective push is to tell America what a good investment it made." Gone are the glitzy introductions, and movie star introductions. Instead we are treated to a no nonsense GM announcing the Spark, a sub-compact that gets 42 MPG will be available here for 2011. Ford introduced it's 2010 Fusion hybrid that will have best millage in it's class, beating out the Camry and Accord. This on top of the fact that the Fusion already has a better quality rating in Consumer's Report then Camry or Accord.

Hopefully the message that comes out of this show is that the Big Three are still relevant. All those people out there who think the Detroit based automakers just don't get it, should just read any report about the auto show. Check out The Detroit News or the Detroit Free Press for ongoing information. As Bob Lutz, Chief Designer at GM recently stated "You can't look at the array of cars that we've brought up on stage today and say these guys don't get it, these cars are ugly, and these cars don't perform."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weighing in on Gaza

While I was running on the treadmill at the gym on Monday, Fox News was on a TV in front of me. While I was rocking out to my Cascada, a headline kept flashing on the bottom of the screen. It said "Is War in Gaza Only Way for Israel to Gain Peace?" Now I could not hear what they were saying, but it got me thinking about this current conflict, and war as a political device.

My friend Larry recently posted a thought on Facebook. He was referring to an Op-Ed in the Times entitled "The Confidence War" when he quoted Clausewitz as saying "War is politics by other means; and politics is perception."

I think Larry was dead on. This is not a war for resources or even land, as Israel has no intentions of conquering and annexing Gaza. This really is not even about the rocket attacks, which by the way ARE deplorable, and worthy of a response. Maybe not THIS response, but a military response nonetheless. What this is really about is Israel's self perception.

Israel perceives itself as a isolated country that is constantly under threat. There is, of course, historical precedent for this view. After many years, this perception has become institutionalized, and is now seen as simple truth by the people of Israel. I would compare it to the fact that when the United States first entered Iraq, the people in charge of the U.S. efforts were influenced by the Vietnam Conflict, as that was their experience.

As framed by the current Israeli self-perception this incursion into Gaza makes perfect sense. Israel must maintain the upper hard, and must CONSTANTLY remind it's neighbors that is a viable state with a strong military. It is the Bush Doctrine in action taken to it's extreme. The problem is that everyone in the region already knows this. Israel is proving nothing to nobody... except themselves. While that may be abstractly important to the Israeli people, it is not worth the cost in lives and money that we are seeing now. So, Fox News was almost right with it's headline, it should have read "Is War in Gaza Only Way for Israel to Gain Inner Peace?" because that is what this is truly about.