Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sitting at the Border for No Good Reason

I curl. I curl in Canada during the winters. I will continue to curl there if for no other reason than to express one of my American freedoms to go where I want when I want so long as it violates no moral code. Yet I almost have the impression that our own government doesn't particularly want us visiting our northern neighbor and closest friend.

What brings this on is the number of times I have to sit at the border at 1 AM for sometimes 15 or 20 minutes of me trying, simply, to get back into my own country. I cannot imagine what kind of questions which need to be answered, and what kind of truly need to know information, any border guard really has to have about regular visitors to Canada.

I've been going there consistently for about 11 years now. They must know that. My record is virtually clean: not even a traffic ticket since the 1980's. I claim every drop of beer and spirits which I buy at duty free. I am meticulously honest with them, and it's all on record.

So why do I have to be asked, as I was last night for the umpteenth time, what's my occupation? How much Canadian and American currency do I have on me?

None of your damn business, quite frankly. I should be able to ask, 'Do you have anything on me? No? Then let me go home'. The rest is just presumption, and I thought we US nationals were innocent until proven guilty.

I guess not.

We have crossed the border with Canada for years without such unwarranted hassles. When we change how we live because of terrorism, the terrorists have won after all.

Friday, January 30, 2009

What's with these People?

My own former mayor (I really, really like saying that) had to be forced from office despite obvious errant behavior. The Governor Illinois had to be forced from office despite obvious errant behavior. The Mayor of Portland, Oregon won't leave office despite obvious errant behavior. What gives?

Ego and arrogance is undoubtedly at the heart of it. That, sadly, says much about our politics in this day and age. You have to have a certain amount of ego to get into the field, to be sure, but when we reach the point where it seems to openly attract figures who are, shall we say, a bit overly interested in the power and prestige, then perhaps we ought to rethink our system.

If it is the power which brings them in then I have to suggest that to drive them away we need to lessen the impact of our political positions. We need to make government less powerful and government service more truly something of a chore which offers little personal aggrandizement.

Sadly, that ship has long sailed. I guess we just have to deal with what we have and hope for the best. we have only to hope that the safeguards in place, such as they are, eventually work, as they did recently here and in Illinois. It sucks, but it beats being a third world country just the same.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If Money were no Object.

If I had all the money I wanted, what would I do?

I would learn to brew my own beer from scratch. That would be fun.

I would buy a Stradivarius and shock the classical music world by using it exclusively to play Orange Blossom Special.

I would get illegal Canadian satellite TV just to have TSN and watch all the curling.

I would build a dome over my property just so I wouldn't have to shovel the bleedin' snow! Global warming - HA! Seven of the snowiest winters in Detroit history have been in the last thirty years. I say again: global warming - HA!

I would hire a landscaper so that I wouldn't have to mow the bleedin' grass in the spring and summer. I hate outdoor work.

Well, I hate most work, but some work more than other chores.

I'd pay to keep GITMO open just to hack off the rest of the world. I don't want those ne'er do wells in my country any more than anyone else would, and I kind of like it when everyone else crabs about us. Jealousy is such an evil, unbecoming trait.

That does it. I quit. I'm stopping this blog. It has become tiresome.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Enough with the Winter Already!

I'm sick of shoveling snow! I'm sick of cleaning off my car! I'm sick of snow covered boots and clothes and hats! I'm sick of being cold! Make it stop, oh please, make it stop!

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kwame: All Gall

Former Detroit Mayor (I love how that sounds!) Kwame Kilpatrick is asking for early release from prison, where he is serving time for his scandalous role in the text message/perjury affair (no pun intended). He wants to move out of state to seek work.

What's the matter, Kwame? Afraid you can't get a decent job in Detroit? What about the comeback we set you up for? Where's the arrogance now?

Oh, we all know why you want to leave. Sure, you're family lives outside of Michigan now (can you blame them?) but what else might be afoot? Hmm? That little affair with the stripper at the, ahem, alleged wild party at the mayoral residence? The fact that a sludge contractor just implicated you in bribes offered to city officials for a waste hauling contract? Could any of that be a factor in your wish for early release and desire to leave Michigan?

I'm sure that none of that matters. Yeah. Just incidental.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Fight is On

President Barack Obama is considering letting each state set its own emissions and fuel standards for automobiles. As I like the idea of more power being granted to the states I have no essential problem with this move. What will be interesting, though, is how it will influence Washington's relationship with the auto industry.

On its own terms I'm not sure what to make of it; it does seem unfair that any given industry within the same country should have to deal with varying standards. Still, we are a federal union, which of course means the entities which comprise that union must have basic control of their geographical areas. The issue of where to draw the line is often contentious.

The move cannot help an already ailing segment of our economy. Yet even as I try to diagnose the question I find myself with a sense of glee at the implications. All those UAW workers who love the Democrats must be at the least perplexed just now. Those voters here in Michigan have got to feel a bit let down that their savior is showing his true liberal colors. If they've never understood it before, let them have a taste of the environmental extremism which this signals. Let them see what liberal policy really is, and hopefully think a little more deeply about voting for this sort of stuff the next time around. Let experience, the harshest teacher, give them a lesson in life.

And when the auto industry can't rebound, don't come crying to me. You get what you deserve in the end.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Salvos

The Detroit Lions are still worth something like $981 million even after the season they had. That only shows that values for sports franchises are way overinflated.

I have to buy some bottles to bottle the beer I'm brewing later this week. It's my first solo foray into beer making; my family got me a brewing kit for Christmas and I'm trying my hand at an IPA: India Pale Ale. It's based on the style of ale which was widely exported to India by England in the 1800's. They tend to be hoppy (lots of hops used in the process) and I like hoppy brews. Once bottled, they'll have to sit for awhile (one week on the inside, four months on the outside). I'll let you know how it works out.

The Detroit Tigers signed Arizona closer Brandon Lyon to presumably be their closer this year. They've made a lot of moves this year, moves less spectacular than the last off season's, adding a shortstop, catcher, and a couple other relievers, none of whom are superstars. But the conservative (ahem) approach works as well in sports as in all other aspects of life. Get the right pieces in place and all else follows. I am quietly confident that the Tigers will have a good, solid season in 2009.

In his sixth day on the job President Obama has been quietly treading the waters. I think that's a good approach, so far as it goes; understand that I am only speaking contextually here. I don't like the closing of GITMO, but that will prove more difficult that he may think. Notice how all his executive order really did was set up a task force to study how to do it. That translates into, simply, if we can't do it easily, we have reason to back off: the task force, not the President, recommended it. That little bit of insulation can be critically important in the nuanced world of American politics.

To be sure, his ideas about lifting foreign aid which affects abortion, his consideration of lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research, and the idea of re-instituting bans on certain oil drilling are less than thrilling to conservatives. Still, they were expected, so no real surprises there. It's far too early to rail too harshly on his administration.

We'll have plenty of ammo on him pretty soon anyway. That, I cannot doubt.

On the plus side, there's curling on at two this afternoon on the CBC! Hooah!

Hope the Army forgives me for that...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

There's Nothing on Today

There's nothing on today. No baseball, of course, but no football or hockey either, and who cares about basketball? And now that TSN has all the curling I can't even watch that.

This just ain't right.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'm becomning a Curmudgeon - Part Five in an Everlasting Series.

You know, people are stupid. Really, profoundly stupid. I'm learning that more and more with each passing day.

To be sure, there has been ample evidence of it the last thirty years of my life. What does yet should not astound me is how I can still be amazed when it happens.

The latest examples come from my sales job. In directing a potential new customer to my store, I cautioned him not to go beyond Warren Avenue here in Detroit; he would have gone too far if he had. An hour later I get a call from the guy's cell. He was more than a mile beyond our place of business. "I saw Warren and never saw you so I kept on going," he explained to me. You saw the street which I told you was too far and KEPT GOING? It never occurred to you to circle around?

My other phone started ringing, so I hung up on him. Dumb ass.

Another fella called to asked if he could have his snake (slang for the drain cleaning equipment we sell) repaired by us. "Probably, but tell me what you have so that I can tell you if I have access to the parts you might need," I asked.

"A snake," he responds.

"Okay," I said, trying to be patient, "But what type of machine exactly?"

"Uhh, the kind that opens sewers."

I barked, "I need a make and model number."

"Uhhhhhh, y'all worked on it 'bout five years ago..." he began.


Dang. I hung up on my only customer from 2004. That was such a good year too.

I tell you, the Harvard Business School is dead wrong. The customer isn't always right. Often he's the worst part of your business.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roe v. Wade

On this, the anniversary of one of the most heinous Supreme Court decisions in our history (it's right up there with if not more awful than Dred Scott) we must take a moment and consider what our nation has become since then. Do we really support life when we give of our money and time to soup kitchens and homeless shelters yet will not protect people at their most defenseless?

We do not. What the liberals who have approached me over the abortion question always seem to fall back on is that I need to put all 'life' issues on the same plain. I need to find a balance, of which, they assert, abortion is only one issue.

It may well be only one issue, yet if it is it is the issue. It is based on the dignity of human life, which is what drives any respect for humanity in general. Why should the poor be helped? Because of their dignity as human beings. Why should people not be murdered or stolen from or raped or kidnapped? Because of their dignity as human beings. Where does this dignity begin?

It begins in the womb. Simple Reason tell us as much: human beings have human children.

If you won't support life at its beginning, when it can do nothing for itself, how can I trust that you really will support human dignity later? How can I even trust what you call human dignity? If I can't trust you on that, then, quite frankly, your opinion on education and the environment and our role is world affairs must be held suspect as well. If the dignity of the human person isn't first in your thoughts, then I have difficulty believing in your sincerity on lesser causes.

End abortion now. Work for and vote for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Then we might discuss, with some promise, what to do about ancillary questions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Betwixt and Between.

A friend of mine asked me Monday night if I wished President Obama success. I did not know how to answer him; success as to what? seems more appropriate of a question.

He wants to expand abortion rights. How can I really want that to be successful?

He wants a huge new amount of spending with, yes, some tax cuts. The tax cuts I can live with, depending on exactly what their nature may turn out to be. But the federal government is overblown as it is; why would I want it spending more?

I could offer more examples, but instead I'll cut to the chase: why should I want policies which I consider detrimental to the nation to be successful? So that unemployment eases? To end the banking and credit crises? To encourage job production? But I think that my conservative ideals better suited to that end. Every dollar spent by government is a dollar out of the private sector and into the hands of a bureaucrat. How can that kind of control ever be successful in the long run?

I suppose it is fair to ask that perhaps I am afraid of his potential success because it may disprove my beliefs. Yet even that sort of success begs certain questions, not the least of which is 'should the government have that much power over the people?' The more successful, the more calls for greater government investment, the more it runs our lives...eventually that bubble has to burst, and we are faced with an authoritarian dictatorship even if benevolent. Do we want that?

I don't. So while I don't want the human misery with which we are currently faced to run deeper, I have to believe that the expansion of government Obama apparently proposes so harmful over the course of history that the best we can hope for is that things stay lethargic and he gets dumped in 2012 for a better political/economic/philosophical thinker. Someone who sees long term and not only until tomorrow.

That man is not Barack Obama. As a result I am at the best ambivalent about his success.

Take that as you will. We'll talk again in four years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Enough Already! - Or - Get On with It!

All right, all right, all right! Enough fawning and fretting and cloying adoration. Inaugurate the man already. Make Barack Obama the 44th President so that we can move on. Because when all is said and done, outside of being the first African American President he's just another guy taking office. Another guy who will expand abortion rights and allow foreign powers to have a greater say in our foreign policy and close the Guantanamo bay detention facility and allow trillion dollar debts. In short, another liberal with his hands in your pocket and less than your best interests at heart.

Remember that, and then on to 2012!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Circumstantial President.

This blog may be a day early, but I am so moved as to write it today anyway. I still find myself shaking my head at how Barack Obama could have been elected to our nation's highest office.

Certainly, a lot of it was a backlash, fair or not, against George W. Bush. Further, McCain ran a less than inspiring campaign. These things have been discussed ad infinitum almost since the morning after the election. And they are valid speaking points; Obama surely had the advantage there. Nevertheless, I have to say that those who voted for him on those grounds were rather knee jerk. Their votes quite frankly were less than well thought out; they were mere reactions to stimuli.

I believe that more was at work, though. Many people voted for the Illinois Democrat in order to make history. Others, by the evidence of a young conservative friend of mine, supported Obama out of a skewered sense of the relationship he appeared to have with younger voters. To wit, they voted style over substance. Both of these are very shallow reasons to grant anyone your vote for President.

Combined with the fact that Obama's win was no landslide and I should think you see where I'm going. Obama was a recipient of fortunate circumstance; things went in his favor for whatever reason. Oh sure, perhaps some of my rant here is sour grapes. I'm human; I admit to my shortcomings. But there is a definite validity to what I'm saying: Obama was elected to a great degree on quicksand. When simple emotion dictates your support, it can slide from under your feet at any time.

Let's just hope it doesn't slide us into a deeper recession, as it did when that last great believer in government over the individual took office. FDR didn't help the nation: he hurt us more deeply. We must remember that it took a German madman to get us out of that hole.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Now Wait a Minute...

One of the things which George W. Bush was criticized for was the increase in the federal deficit during his tenure. It is an area where I had to criticize him too: no self respecting conservative wants deficit spending. Naturally, it was an issue which the Democrats (and I have to believe the President-elect as well, though I should check that) repeatedly blasted the President over.

Yet what is that we hear now? Barack Obama just about promises us that trillion dollar budget deficits will be the norm for the next little while. Or, basically, indefinitely. And where are all those Democrats who lambasted the outgoing Chief Executive today?

Supporting Obama and keeping their traps shut about the prospective deficits.

Liberal hypocrisy rearing it's ugly head again, my friends, that's all it is. They called Bush a hypocrite on the deficits essentially because deficit spending is bad management and against basic Republican principles, yet they virtually embrace deficits when it's their turn to lead. They turned on a dime on the issue.

But not to worry. They'll just take a few more dimes from your pocket to cover it.

2010 can't come quickly enough, let alone 2012. Especially if we're another $4 trillion in debt by then.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Story of my Grandfather.

Joe Cosgriff, as I said in an entry back in June, was not always an easy man to deal with. Not generally an easy man to deal with, I suppose. Still, he had his strengths, and I believe that one of them was his religion. He never missed Mass, and I could tell from certain talks that we had that religion was an important part of his life.

He swore a bit, usually just an "aw, Hell," at something. But I noticed early on that he never used the Lord's name in vain, to the point that he chewed out a guy in his shop one day for using the exclamation, "O Lord!" I respect that; it's the kind of consideration I think we, even, sadly, me, no longer give to the Almighty.

One story sticks out in my mind more than any other. Joe (for reasons I'll discuss another time, he wanted everyone, even his kids and grandkids, to call him Joe, so I'm going to call him Joe from now on) was telling me about a friend of his from his younger days in Illinois. The man had contracted the cancer, as they often called it back when the tale occurred. It was at that time a death sentence.

Joe went on to say that the guy had decided that with nothing to look forward to, he would kill himself. He was laying in bed one night when he had decided that, Joe said between puffs on a cigarette.

Suddenly there was a bright light outside the window. The light came into the room, Joe explained, and settled at the foot of the man's bed. He couldn't quite make out what it was, but he heard what it said loud and clear. "Don't do it. Live out your life." When the light had gone he, the man had told Joe a few days later, realized that he had been visited by the Virgin Mary. He would not kill himself, but would take what was left of his life as the gift it was.

"You know what I think?" Joe asked me, drawing once more on his Carlton.

"What, Joe?" I replied.

That old man looked me dead in the eye, and with the greatest seriousness I had ever heard in his voice said, "I believe he saw the Virgin Mary."

I do too, Joe.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Farewell, Mr. President.

Yesterday evening, George W. Bush offered his parting words to the nation as his Presidency draws to a close. While his talk was not as compelling as the great Ronald Reagan's back in 1989, it was still good, and offered a glimpse at the real differences between Democrats and Republicans, himself and the President-elect.

The President was positive; Obama as I said here earlier has been negative. He assured us that he acted by following his conscience, which is what we expect of anyone. But what's more, he expressed hope in the our country and in our future. Contrast that with Barack Obama's 'this could be really bad' outlook and ask yourself, "Who would I really rather have leading my country?"

You see, leadership is more than instituting policy. It is inspiring people towards a common goal, assuring them that in themselves lies the power for improvement. It is seeking truth and being decisive about what to do with it. It is about recognizing that there is good and evil in the world which must be dealt with on that level. As the President said, there can be no compromise between the two. Do Barack and the Democrats understand that as well as the American people do? In defining how the world works, I'll take W's view over the liberal psychobabble about just getting along any day.

So as the President leaves office, I proudly say that I still support him. I am proud that I voted for him twice and would have voted for him again ahead of the erstwhile Illinois Senator. What others call arrogance I call certainty of cause: he really believes in what he's attempting to do. I think that that's what most Americans want: clarity. Even if you disagree there's no doubting where he stood. Don't think for a moment that Obama and his ilk don't have that a same confidence. Yet they will never be called arrogant for it.

Farewell, Mr. President. History will treat kinder to you than your peers have been.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Bit of Richard Mitchell for You!

Yesterday I spoke about a great writer on education issues, Richard Mitchell. As he has publicly stated that it is okay to plagiarize him but would appreciate a citation, here's little ditty from him about the inanities of certain role playing games which teachers thrust upon us. He discusses, succinctly and appropriately, The Lifeboat Game. You know, where the boat is too small for everyone, who gets tossed? Enjoy!

It's called the Lifeboat Game, which proves that school has its lighter side. The dull labors of math and grammar are offset by playful interludes of childlike chatter as to who shall live and who shall die.
The game provides a dramatis personae clearly differentiated by "socially significant" attributes: age, sex, ethos, calling, and other such contingencies by virtue of which a person is also a local and temporal manifestation. This is not one of the contexts in which educationists choose to warble paeans to "the uniqueness and absolute worth of the individual." (Inconsistency troubles them not at all; they are at war with the stationary.) In this case, the verdict must be relevant," conducive to "the greatest good for the greatest number," and the exclusive focus on accepted notions of "social usefulness" assures that a decision will be made. Another kind of inquiry--whether it is better to do or to suffer an injustice, for instance, or whether the common good is more to be prized than the good--would preclude decision and spoil the game, sending all the players back to the tedium of math and grammar. Schoolteachers, in any case, are usually kept ignorant even of the possibility of such inquiries, but they have been told all about self-worth and how to enhance it.
The children who "play" the game usually decide to dump an old clergyman, a man who is supposed to be prepared for that sort of thing--being fed to sharks by a committee of children, that is. A busty young country-western singer will be preserved. She has many long years ahead of her in which to maximize her potential and serve the greatest good by entertaining the greatest number. And she is supposed to be prepared for that sort of thing--being elevated to wealth and power by a very large committee of children.
What a pity that Himmler and Goebbels and all that crowd are dead. They'd make really neat resource persons for the Lifeboat Game. Well, there's still Rudy Hess, and we might even find Mengele.

Again, this is by Richard Mitchell, and it appeared in The Underground Grammarian of November 1982. I assure you educationists still think this drivel valuable.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Underground Grammarian

Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian, was a brilliant man. His essay What To Do Till the Undertaker Comes is about the best and most concise vision of why our schools teach so poorly. The only better short writing I can think of is C.S. Lewis' wonderful Screwtape Proposes A Toast, interestingly also aimed at the follies of modern education.

Our best writings and most brilliant minds should be concerned with education. For the teachers, so many of them filled with ideas of facilitation and nonjudgmentalism rather than on actually teaching people, are right about one thing: it is education which molds the man. Which is why it should be propagation: Humanity transmitting humanity to the future, to very roughly paraphrase Mr. Lewis. What we have today is, again to borrow from Lewis, merely propaganda.

Respecting all other cultures and people and histories without judgment of their actions is merely that. I'm not saying we have the right to condemn others, but we can and must judge their actions. It's how we can really get to know them and their ways, which includes of course incorporating their good and positive values into our own. But it must also mean an obligation to charitably instruct them, so far as charity will allow, in where their errors may lie.

So if you want to read Lewis, well, he's all over the place. The Abolition of Man, The Screwtape Letters, and his Chronicles of Narnia are among his great works. We can learn from them. As to Richard Mitchell, go here: . Look for the Undertaker essay, but I also suggest The Teacher of the Year, Sayings Brief and Dark, and whichever essay it is (I think that it's right after Sayings) which lambastes scrambled sentences lesson plans for writing classes. That one's hilarious!

Mitchell wrote: "Seek out the best, wondering minds, and go and sit with them." My advice is to go and sit with him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Humility is one of the oddest of virtues. We should at least strive for it, yet it kind of slips between the fingers when we try to hold it. As one of my old parish priests explained to me, "The difficult thing about it is that once you realize that you feel humble, you're really not humble anymore."

I think he makes a good point. A little bit of pride creeps in: 'Yeah, I'm humble. How about that?' Or it can go the other way: you start to become almost embarrassed and, perhaps, hide. There's no need to shrink from it if it's sincere.

So if you indulge humility, you aren't humble. Yet if you try to ignore it, you aren't giving it its due.

Just another cross we humans must bear, I suppose.

Man, that was a good post. I mean no, no it wasn't.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The Trouble with Football.

I am an overall sports fan, which means that I'll watch just about any sport to pass the time of day. Of course, the biggest sports get the bulk of my attention, which means I watch a pretty good amount of football. Yet I find myself slowly tiring of it. The reason? It's a combination of two factors: certain rules, and the ridiculous amount of grandstanding which has become part of the game.

Sports are supposed to be sportsmanlike. That means respecting your opponent. How can it be said that you're respecting the other team when you trash talk? What is it saying about them when you gesture wildly after every single play? That stuff is particularly galling late in blowout games: it's arrogance if you're winning and quite frankly silly when you're losing. Why not let your actions speak for you, guys? Remember that in the end it's only, and I mean only, a game. You aren't saving lives or tending crops or curing disease. You're merely fortunate to live in a country with enough disposable income to support your playing kid's games. Get perspective, even, or perhaps especially, on the field.

There are rules I don't like either, on the very same grounds of sportsmanship and fair play. Why should a quarterback be allowed to throw a ball away when he's in danger of being sacked, with no penalty? I know what you'll say: to protect him because he's vulnerable. But doesn't he know that he's playing a brutal game? Besides, the NFL doesn't protect other players in the same way: running backs aren't allowed to toss the ball down when a tackle is immanent, and they're often in as vulnerable of a position as the QB. What such a rule does is penalize the defense. It violates one of most basic rules of sportsmanship: if I have the best of you I've earned the benefit of it.

Spiking the ball to stop the clock is another gripe of mine. Many games have been won because a team with no time outs simply spikes the snap into the ground, allowing them to race the kicking team onto the field and win a game. But again, this punishes good defense while rewarding poor clock management. It's unsportsmanlike, and even the rules of a mere game must have integrity. They must, shall I say, play fair. If the quarterback has no intention of running a play then he should at least get the penalty for intentional grounding: 15 yards and a loss of down.

The defense of allowing this action is that it makes the games more exciting. Still, I say the games need integrity ahead of excitement. If we're supposed to learn certain things from sports, like fair play, then the rules must reflect that quality. Period. Otherwise the game can only teach us that winning is all that matters. You can't get more shallow than that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Going to Forest

Yesterday was quite the good day. I went with my daughter and two friends to a bonspiel (curling tournament) in Forest, Ontario and we placed third in our flight even though we didn't win. But...we didn't lose, either! We tied both games.

That's actually a bit of an accomplishment, I think. The others on my team, my daughter Abby and my good friends Ed Hooft and Tim Scheuer, were curling very well for me, and if I could have put up a couple decent guards at key points (that's a bit of curling strategy which I won't go into further detail here) we may have won both matches. Nevertheless, it was a good time.

It was great to see many old friends at Forest. The people I went with have gone with me several times, and I have been attending this particular spiel for about twenty years myself, so I've developed several friendships there. That's one of the nicest things about curlers: they're almost always good sports, and that makes them good friends. Anywhere there's curling, there's friendship.

We had to deal with snow, mostly on the way home, but it did not dampen our spirits (thanks for driving, Ed!). I was even pretty good about keeping my emotions in check, I think (hope?); Abby complains that I get too intense when curling so I had to promise to behave. I only swore once, though it was a bad one. Sorry, guys.

I also scored two litres of Jameson's for $29 bucks at duty free; does it get any better than that?

As always, I'm looking forward to the same tournament next year. There's never a bad time in a curling club!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Sarah Palin

So, Governor Palin doesn't think she was treated fairly by the media, and I'm inclined to agree. Big Media does not like passionate conservatives, and they can seem to be easy targets. Tina Fey's joke that marriage "is between two unwilling teenagers" is a clear throwback to the liberal lie that conservatism means caveman behavior, and was, as the Governor says, more a personal jibe at her family than her views.

I still like Sarah. I know there are folks out there who think her too much of an air head, citing the fact that she couldn't identify newspapers and magazines she read or that famous quip about seeing Russia from Alaska as proof. To be sure, she did appear ill prepared for some of her interviews, and if she wants to go farther in politics that must be addressed. Still, I don't see where reading the papers is necessarily a strong point for anybody. It's not as though the New York Times and Newsweek have a corner on truth (not by any stretch of the imagination!); no less an intellectual than C.S. Lewis never read the papers in great part because he knew you couldn't trust them. That was back in the 1940's and 50's, mind you.

When I look to 2012 I see no one who really excites me other than Sarah Palin. Mitt Romney perhaps, but no one else comes to mind. I think that with a little effort and no loss of the passion the Alaska Governor can make a great run. Who knows? Reagan overcame media bias. Our next best thing might just be coming from the last frontier.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Go, Chiefs, Go!

A local high school band has plans to play at the inaugural of Barack Obama. That's great, of course, as I'm sure it's a treat for the kids. Yet they have one problem: they are the Wyandotte Chiefs, and there's been a bit of a furor about whether they should cover their Chiefs logo on their uniforms. You know, so as not to offend Native Americans.

It looks as though that won't happen, and that's fine: cooler heads appear to be prevailing. Still, it brings up that old issue about what's offensive in names for sports teams and school mascots. Me? I think that generally it's much ado about nothing.

As a Catholic, I am not offended by the San Diego Padres logo of a goofy looking monk swinging a baseball bat. Why should I be? It's all in good fun. As an Irish American, I'm not even bothered by Notre Dame's Fighting Irish and that mean looking two-fisted leprechaun image with which they proudly adorn themselves. Again, it's not meant to provoke the Irish, and I rather like the idea that we descendants of the old sod are seen as rough and tough. If it weren't for Michigan football, I'd root for the Irish on that ground alone. Actually do when they aren't facing the maize and blue.

So why should Native Americans be offended by Chiefs or Hurons or Chippewas or Braves or even Indians? I'll wager that a good many aren't, in fact; they may actually like the references along the lines of myself and the Irish and the Catholics. I will spot them something on Redskins, to be honest, but I'm not saying that all's fair either. Do we really think that a group of citizens are so thin skinned that they can't appreciate a powerful, or even playful, nod towards their culture? If they are, I humbly suggest then that that's their problem.

In short, don't insult or use overtly racist slurs in naming teams and institutions. But don't be a stick in the mud either. It's supposed to be fun, remember?

Or has the left outlawed that too?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

President Jimmy the Second!

President-elect Barack Obama has announced that the economy could get worse before it gets better, and that the recession could "linger for years" without quick action by Congress. Quick action in the form of spending barrels of taxpayers' cash, that is.

Shades of smiling Jimmy Carter. Instead of telling the American people, a la the great Ronald Reagan, to believe in themselves and be hopeful about the future, we're told that at least the foreseeable future is bleak. That's malaise talking, folks, not someone who believes in the American ideal. Further, it strikes me that getting government even more in the way and into our pockets isn't what got us out of the last two recessions. Reagan's tax cuts in the Eighties and a truly Republican Congress in the middle Nineties did that.

What we have here is a typically Democratic administration forming. I thought it appropriate a few weeks ago when I spoke of here of Clinton Redux: Obama naming so many Clintonites to high level jobs. Now we have Carter Redux: don't believe in yourselves, believe in Washington.

Perhaps Obama is simply lining up his excuses, with 2012 surely already on his mind. Well, and I hope you heard Reagan's voice when you read that word, let's hope 2012 isn't a long time coming.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Trust Thyself!

The moral relativist claims that we can know nothing on our own. My question for him, beyond, 'Then how can you know that?', is, 'Why don't you want to trust your senses?'

Why not trust them? Sure, they can be fooled, but can the tomfoolery not be discovered by thought, a presentation of the valid evidence, or exposure of the true villain, among other remedies? By and large, hot is hot, hard is hard, and mathematical progression continues uninterrupted by what we might wish. Why won't you believe your eyes, ears, nose, and touch, your own rational thoughts indeed, as need be?

The only reason I can think of is that any valid thought might interfere with what you might want, and we can't have objectivity ruin a night on the town, can we, brother? For you see, a proven truth in one area necessarily suggests there are provable truths elsewhere, including perhaps those which may affect how you want to behave. That simply destroys any moral chance of, well, doing an awful lot of immoral things.

Such a shame that human beings have to consider the weight of their actions to be fully human.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This Deserves a Post of its Own.

A reader commented on my ditty about libertarians from last Saturday, and it was too good to languish as a comment. So here it is, and thanks, Anonymous!

My problem with Libertarians is their standard.

They measure the goodness of a society by how much freedom there is.

Scholastic thought (as per Aristotle's Nichomachaean Ethics) says that the goodness of a society should be measured by how much justice there is.

Aristotle identified four cardinal virtues: prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice. Justice is called "the social virtue."

Freedom is a means toward achieving the end of Justice. Freedom is not an end in itself. And sometimes Freedom must be restricted or even denied in order to obtain Justice.

The Wonder of it All.

The State of Minnesota has certified that comedian Al Franken holds the vote lead in the race for one of that State's US Senate seats. Yet the legal wrangling is expected to go on for months.

Many people, particularly Democrats, bemoan this situation. Personally, I hope it drags on forever. Granted, I'll never know, and doubtless no one will ever really know, who actually won, given the amount of activity surrounding the race and its aftermath. But quite frankly, Franken deserves whatever troubles will come out of this. It's he and his liberal allies who have created the environment which they now find themselves embroiled in.

In 1960, no less than Richard Nixon would not fight election irregularities. Why? To save the nation an embarrassing and divisive constitutional struggle. Gerald Ford did likewise in 1976. But when Al Gore loses, and he legitimately lost, my friends, in 2008, it goes to the courts. Similarly Franken, after losing the initial tally and first mandated recount, goes to any length to get what he wants, in the name of the people.

What hyperbole. In the end, the people of Minnesota have one less representative in Washington while it all plays out.

You reap what you sow, Al. Too bad about all the weeds.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

Yes, this is. What do you think, a Republican can't put the public interest first?

As a sales representative for Electric Eel drain cleaning equipment for thirty years now, I just want to give my readers a bit of advice. If your drains back up, don't let the service tech who you call put a camera in the line without making a good faith effort to open the line first with a traditional steel cable snake machine. Make them work 30-45 minutes before discussing any other options.

Why? Because an awful lot of unscrupulous companies out there want to camera your lines first in order to sell you on a more costly job of some sort. If what you have is a run of the mill plug, tree roots or a plain old waste overload for example, a competent drain cleaning professional will have that opened in about a half an hour. You likely will not have further troubles for several years after that.

If problems persist, THEN allow them to camera. Sticking a camera in a hole in the floor, well, it's going to look bad. It's a sewer. Using a camera thus is merely a scare tactic. They'll try to sell you a re-pipe based on the line appearing bad when it really only has the remnants of sewage along the way.

Someone may try to tell you it makes more sense to camera initially. Bull-oney. No one in his right mind will put a camera in a line filled with water and sewage first: the debris must be gotten out of the way, either with a pump or by punching a hole in the blockage in the old fashioned manner, with a snake. May as well make them open the line first.

Do as you will, but if you get told you need an unnecessary $5,000 line repair like my unsuspecting sister-in-law did, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Trouble with Libertarians

I have said to many folks, particularly my libertarian friends, that I want to be a libertarian so bad I can taste it. And I mean that. So what keeps me from signing on?

A handful of issues, for starters: as a group, they support abortion; they don't care for an aggressive foreign policy; and I simply can't quite come around on drug questions. Further, and this will sound very odd coming from me, they have too much of a distrust of government. Like it or not, there are things which only a government can do. Keeping order, for one, and keeping potential enemies at bay with the aggressive measures necessary. But I think the root problem with libertarianism as it stands today is the belief that the individual is the final arbiter of morality, the one who sets the standard for right and wrong.

No individual can hold this kind of power. On a practical level, it invites anarchy or worse: a might makes right society. On a philosophic level, it begs one very important question: if I, as an individual, can make up my own mind about people and things, why should I ever listen to you? No progress can be made from such a starting point in ethics, which certainly means nothing can be done in any other area either.

If libertarians were to admit that it is not the individual (or that weak sister, consensus) which dictates what can and cannot be done, that justice and rightness exist outside of those realms having a genuine being of their own, I may reconsider my position. Until then, they are as bad as liberals: they want what they want because they want it. It is a poor substitute for critical thought on critical issues.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The First Real Test

Today I take part in day one of a three day bonspiel (curling tournament). There will be drinking and curling. So right off the bat two of my New Year's resolutions will come under fire. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I Hereby Resolve... not drink as much. work harder and smarter. sell more of my books. keep writing regardless. not get so upset about curling. continue not letting sports be so important to me in general. get more done around the house. publish smarter posts. find a good cause and support it to the hilt. be a better listener, and learn when to shut up. think long term, including about what's beyond this Earth. try and be cheerful to all, under all circumstances. not crab about people, even out of their earshot. follow through on at least three of these resolutions!

God Bless, and Happy New Year!