Thursday, February 26, 2009


I suppose, seeing as Lent is a season of renewal and forgiveness, that I should start by asking forgiveness for yesterday's blog. Not that the content was offensive, of course, but that I found myself so wrapped up in baseball that I did not comment on what actually merited the space. And no, Bruce, I do not mean President Obama's speech. I mean that it was Ash Wednesday, and an ideal time for reflection on the beginning of Lent.

For many, Lent means fish on Fridays and two lonely days of fasting and perhaps even some of that old Catholic guilt, where we mentally flog ourselves for our smallest transgressions. I fear that, while it may be easy to take such an attitude too far, we do not have enough of that sense about us these days. Let's face it: we are sinful, we do commit evil, we choose to do wrong. Without that recognition, would we truly appreciate the lengths to which God has pursued us? Why should He go to so much trouble for such pathetic creatures? Could it be that He really loves us, despite us?

When you open your mind up to that idea, I think that it tells us more about Him than we may have imagined. He'll be there for us even at our lowest ebb, whether it's when we've done something truly heinous or simply barked something unfair at those around us. He knows we're flawed and understands that, well, better than we might. All he asks is that we acknowledge as much, ask Him His pardon, and try to do better in the future.

Think about that. If we simply admit our guilt and ask for the chance (through His Holy Spirit) and the power to do better, he's okay with that. He'll send His Spirit to us for that purpose.

So I guess what I'm saying is: use Lent for that end. Sacrifice is a good thing, for self discipline purposes. It can be large, or it can be small. I remember one old priest who told me that even something such as putting off a glass of water for ten minutes when you're thirsty counts as sacrifice if done in the right light. But further, use Lent for the self discipline of doing better too: make a Lenten promise to be nicer to that guy at work that you really don't care for, or to say hi to that surly neighbor.

Make yourself do the right thing because it's the right thing, while denying yourself something you like simply to show that you don't have to have it, that you can master your surroundings. When you see that you can make the world better by being better, what does that say about what He expects of us here, and how He will help us here? Yet, conversely, and somewhat paradoxically, when you see that you don't need what's in the world, what's left?

A relationship with He who is not of this world. When you have that, all else falls into place. I think you would be surprised at how much of what you want you'll get as a result.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Baseball Starts Today!

I know that it's only the Grapefruit League, but baseball begins today for 2009! The Atlanta Braves against the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland, Florida. Wooo-hoo!

For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the Earth:
The time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Thanks, Ernie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Civic Duty

I did my duty today and voted. We are electing a new Mayor for the City of Detroit as per City Charter requirement. Today is the primary; the top two vote getters face off in a general election in May. This is for filling out the ousted Mayor Kilpatrick's second term. Then we have another primary in August followed by a general election to select a mayor for a full four year term.

Stupid? Yep, but in the world of government, stupid is nothing new.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I Annoy My Wife

My wife, Gail, puts up a with a lot from me. With my, shall I say, unusual, sense of humor, she has to. Or she'd just kill me.

How do I annoy thee? Let me count two ways.

We were driving up north to our place in Michigan's glorious Upper Peninsula when I began singing Johnny Horton's classic Sink the Bismarck, which he wrote for the movie about the Allied pursuit of that famous German battleship from World War II. I sang the first two verses along with the refrain and then stopped, the third verse having slipped my mind.

After a couple of miles Gail asked, "Well?"

I, having no idea what she was asking about by then, answered, "Well what?"

"Aren't you going to finish the song?"

"Um, I can't. I forgot the third verse," I replied apologetically.

"But I want to know what happened!" she demanded.

"They sank the Bismarck!" I responded incredulously.

My cheek still hurts from the smack it received.

On another occasion, we were at home at the dinner table eating fish patties. For some reason Gail had the box in her hand, and she read to me, "Do you know that one of these patties has 150 calories?"

"Really?" I asked. "Which one?"

So now you why Groton's is tattoed on my forehead.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part Seven

I'll think I'll wrap this up today by limiting my comments and just shooting through whoever is left. I can always write more later if the spirit moves me.

26. Calvin Coolidge. I like Silent Cal. He kept the government out of our way. Didn't do much and some allege that that precipitated the Great Depression. My jury is still out on that one.

27. Rutherford B. Hayes. He ended Reconstruction after what may have been the most bitterly contested Presidential race in our history. Yet such an abrupt end may have hurt the cause of civil rights. I think 27 is about right for him.

28. Zachary Taylor. The perfect argument for why soldiers often don't make good civilian leaders. Argued against the spread of slavery but, in typical Whig fashion, wasn't very compelling about it.

29. Benjamin Harrison. He barely became President, having won the electoral but losing the popular vote. He was responsible for high tariffs, yet his administration did see to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. It was legislation of questionable value, but it played in Peoria at the time.

30. William Howard Taft. TR's hand picked successor, he immediately offended virtually everyone as he waffled on every issue. Lost badly in 1912 in great part, no doubt, to his friend Teddy's muddling things up with the Bull Moose party. Should be in the bottom five. But to be fair, he really didn't want the Presidency: he wanted a Supreme Court seat. Harding made him Chief Justice in 1921, and most believe that was a better institutional place for him.

31. John Tyler. He became the first Vice President to assume the highest office in our land upon the Death of William Henry Harrison. Not respected by his peers (Henry Clay often referred to him as 'His Accidency") he held no esteem and consequently could manage little of note. He did survive an impeachment attempt, though.

32. Jimmy Carter. If you needed something done wrong, he was the man for the job. The Panama Canal, The Iranian Hostage Crisis, double digit inflation; and those are merely starting points. He sure knew how to schedule the White House Tennis courts, though.

33. Millard Fillmore. His leadership gave us the Compromise of 1850, a convoluted attempt to settle the slavery crisis. It only delayed the Civil War, and he since has become as much of an oddity as his name.

34. James Garfield. He was President for too short of a time to merit any useful rank.

35. Warren Harding. Scandal after scandal after scandal ripped his incompetent administration. 'Nuff said.

36. Herbert Hoover. He deserves better. Many think he worsened the Great Depression, turning it into a world-wide catastrophe through mismanagement. Then why had Wall Street already rebounded beyond pre-crash levels by June 1930? Why did the markets worsen so much after FDR came around? Why did unemployment increase in the late 30's all the while FDR's policies were in full force? Sorry, folks, Hoover was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the Democrats who took Congress in the 1930 midterm elections and the 1932 Presidential race effectively nailed his coffin shut.

37. George W. Bush. No comment, as I explained last week.

38. Richard Nixon. He would have been remembered more fondly if it weren't for that one thing: Watergate. How much he knew and how much was paranoia or a misplaced attempt to protect his friends I cannot fathom. He is a sad, pathetic man, and that's really too bad.

39. William Henry Harrison. He, like Garfield, wasn't around long enough to effect analyze.

40. Martin Van Buren. Continued, in harsh fashion to say the least, Andrew Jackson's Indian removal. Had to deal with the Panic of 1837, often cited as the second worst depression in our history. Not exactly a model chief executive.

41. Franklin Pierce. Another sad creature. An alcoholic who lost his son tragically right before assuming the Presidency, he got by on charm and looks in his political career. That wasn't enough to deal effectively with things like the Kansas-Nebraska Act, keeping the nation reeling towards Civil War.

42. James Buchanan. How much does he deserve to be ranked last? I'm not sure. He definitely ought to be towards the bottom; his unwillingness to take any serious, solid action to avert war plunged us more certainly towards it. Buchanan claimed that though States had no right to leave the Union, the federal government had no authority to stop them. Huh?

We could argue particulars, and I will allow that as the Declaration of Independence properly asserts that it is the right of the people to alter old or establish new government as necessary, in this case the Union clearly should have been preserved. Buchanan would not even try. Yes, I suppose after all that he should be last.

That's it, that's my take on our Chief Executives. It's been fun for me, and we'll revisit our list from time to time. But for now, tomorrow is another day, and we'll wait for what inspiration she brings.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Break in the Action

I'm already running late today. I have a curling tournament and had every intention of being up at six AM. Knowing me as I do, I should have known that wouldn't happen. So, as I'm trying to do at least a bit of research before I comment on the Presidents , and as I really don't have time to do that this morning, we'll have to continue tomorrow.

Sorry about that. The last thing I want to do is offend my reader...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part Six

As we move merrily along, I find that ranked twenty-first is James Monroe.

Really? Twenty-First? I mean, this about the author of the Monroe Doctrine? The President who has be heralded (by luck of by mannerisms) for bringing us the Era of Good Feelings, the only true era of one party rule (Washington doesn't really count, as the Jeffersonians had real differences with his administration) in our history? To be fair, on that basis alone one of the panel who created the list made Monroe number one. I suppose that sometimes simply sitting back and letting things happen are enough to let one be forgotten. I certainly would have put Monroe higher than this, though not, as I've explained, first.

Chester Alan Arthur is next. This was a man who could be taught. After years of loyally towing the party line and consequently having his political fortunes rise steadily as a result, he watched as James Garfield was assassinated by a disappointed government job seeker, elevating the then Vice President to the Oval Office. He promptly saw to the passage of Pendleton Civil Service Act, a law which made civil service jobs independent of presidential appointments. It cost him a second term, as Republicans who used the so called 'spoils system' as a means of rewarding political allies (don't be too critical, for the Democrats did too: the system was begun by Andrew Jackson) did not care for such action by one of their own. But he had made his mark.

Number 23 was Bill Clinton. I want very, very much to comment on this, yet I will not, as promised. Suffice it to say that it makes today's blog entry easier to keep mum about someone.

Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor, was voted twenty-fourth. He likely never stood a significant chance to become a decent President. That was partly a combination of his own doing, and unfortunate historical accident: he was a Southerner (from Tennessee), vain about his upbringing and ability, and in fact a Democrat. He probably was too lenient on the South, and he was averse to virtually all civil rights legislation. Combine this with the fact that the Radical Republicans in Congress wanted to punish the former Confederacy, and we have the ideal formula for governmental head butting. The only Chief Executive impeached besides Clinton (hey, just pointing out a historical fact, not commenting on you-know-who) he should be in the bottom ten.

Twenty-Fifth was Gerald Ford. He was another President behind the eight ball almost from the word go. Watergate was still simmering in the nation's mind, then he goes and pardons Nixon. True, even Ted Kennedy has since allowed that it was the right thing to do at the time in order to help the country get past the scandal, it nevertheless hurt the longtime Congressman. He tried to keep spending in check, and famously told New York City that Washington would not help her economic troubles. He may have even won in 1976 if it weren't for that ill-advised remark that Eastern Europe did not considering itself dominated by the Soviets. So close, Jerry, so close, but in the end you were your own worst enemy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part Five

John Quincy Adams comes in at number 16. Sadly, though he was the most brilliant man to ever occupy the Oval Office, his administration wasn't particularly successful. I find it hard to rank him this high, yet through no fault of his own. Accused of a deal with Henry Clay in order to secure the presidency, an angry Andrew Jackson made it his life's work to unseat Adams, and a Congress essentially on Jackson's side made Adams' administration ineffectual. I like the man, but I do not understand this selection.

William McKinley comes next at 17. A robust economy, an easy victory in a war with Spain, and the coming of the twentieth century all made the sun shine bright on the Ohioan. Until his assassination, that is. What more can you say?

Number 18 is Ulysses Simpson Grant. I absolutely cannot fathom this choice; it must be another one based on overall reputation than any merit his administration deserved. Sure, he did a lot to save the Union as the only truly active Northern general in the conflict between the states. But his Presidency? 18 cabinet members and close advisers forced to resign due to scandal? The whole Credit Mobilier fiasco? Sure, he was innocent of any personal wrongdoing, but he still selected these folks. I would have expected him to be at least in the bottom half of the list, if not in thirties.

Grover Cleveland, the only two term, split term President (his terms being interrupted by Benjamin Harrison) comes next. He was the only Democratic President between the Civil War and Wooodrow Wilson in 1913, so I suppose that grants him some merit. The Pullman strike, the gold standard, and his overall honesty and integrity served him well. The panic of 1893 didn't. He actually won the popular vote each time he ran: 1884, 1888, and 1892. He probably deserves to be here, but he's a President who doesn't seem to inspire much, is he?

The top twenty ends with what to me is a surprise: George H. W. Bush. Giving the general liberal bent of, well, the people who make these lists, to have the elder Bush in the top half of the list is intriguing. I like him, though he was a squishy Republican. That hurt him in terms of getting reelected: when the Democrats needled him for a 'bi-partisan' tax increase despite his 'No new taxes' campaign pledge and he relented an accepted them, they immediately made it a campaign talking point in 1992. You can't trust liberals, George. They call for working together when it suits them, and backstab when it helps their aims. True, the Perot candidacy probably hurt him more than Clinton in the election, but was not Perot also running for the 'integrity' needed in government in light of a President' untrustworthiness on promises? But as he was able to rally the world in the Persian Gulf War, let's let the man keep his ranking.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part Four

I'm going to take a small break from ranking of chief executives, but only for long enough to explain about the ones I'm not going to rank. There are four, and possibly five, but I wonder if the list should be longer.

I've mentioned I think twice that we only become truly objective about our leaders when time has given us enough opportunity to see them in the right light. So it follows that we may be too close to the eras of our more recent Presidents to give them their full due or greater ire. Recent events, though part of history in the sense that they are in the past, are often too new to us for us to fully understand their ramifications. Time creates perspective.

As a result, I will not rank George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton. Perhaps I won't even consider George H. W. Bush, and I've thought that maybe I should not go back as far as Carter of Ford. I worry that we're just too close to any of them to judge fairly their actions.

On another note, although the Times does rank them, I will not rank William Henry Harrison or James Garfield. They weren't in office long enough to properly evaluate, though I will mention their rankings as they show up on the list.

We resume the order, outside of a significant issue arising later today, on the morrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part Three

Continuing from yesterday, we find that the Times have put John F. Kennedy at number 11. I'm sorry, but this is simply a sentimental ranking. Kennedy did not do all that much, had at least one major fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, and had a low approval rating (44%) on the morning of his assassination. Let's face it, too: we would have never gotten to the Moon except that the project was made into something of a dedication to JFK's memory. I'm really not all that down on him, mind you, I simply believe that his being killed in office lionized him. It has skewered history's perspective.

Lyndon Johnson pulls in at twelfth. This also, I believe, has more to do with Kennedy's afterglow than what an objective analysis of LBJ's Presidency would allow. Sure, he made great strides in civil rights, but he also expanded the federal government with his Great Society politics. It ushered in the age of entitlement, whereby people began expecting that the government would help them rather than they learning to help themselves. Yes, I know that I may be accused of merely viewing these and many other issues of many other Presidents in a biased conservative light. But isn't it required of an honest appraisal of history that we judge the events on their merit? Simply being innovative isn't enough: we must consider whether the things these men did or tried to do were truly what was best for the United States in the long run. Innovation ultimately is like change: not good in itself but merely the doing of things differently today than yesterday. We must ask about the nature and morality of the innovation. Besides, you don't think that the judgment that the Great Society was good for the country isn't at the heart of it a result of a liberal bias, do you? Johnson ranks higher than he should.

Not so with lucky number 13. He is another who should definitely rank higher, and I imagine he will creep up the list into greatness eventually. John Adams deserves better than history has given him, and he has in the last 30 or so years began getting it. Sure, the Alien and Sedition Acts were bad law, but he kept us out of war with France and England at a time when war would have been disastrous for the young republic. This was especially tough considering the XYZ Affair for awhile made Americans particularly contemptuous of the French. He would have won another term if not for the behind the scenes plotting of Alexander Hamilton against him. Midnight judges? Bah. He gave us John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, arguably the greatest Justice ever. Outside of Washington, John Adams was the greatest of the founders, and a worthy successor to the First President.

Andrew Jackson comes next. He 'invented populism' as the Times said, and as such has a lot to answer for. A war hero, a frontiersman, and a strong chief executive, to be sure. He hated the Bank of the United States and the monied interests, which gave him a great public boost. But did it also introduce jealousy into the political process, thereby encouraging class enmity?

He had the rare guts to stand up to the Supreme Court. When the aforementioned Chief Justice Marshall ruled in favor of the Cherokee nation in the Indian Removal cases, Jackson famously replied, "Mr. Marshall has made his ruling. Let Mr. Marshall enforce it." Jackson showed us that the greatest check on the power of the Court was in a president simply ignoring it. Sadly, he was in the moral wrong when he did it. He should rank lower.

Rounding out the top fifteen we have James Madison. Here we also have another leader given a certain priority not because of his actions as President but his for reputation outside of the office. He led us into the War of 1812, or the Second American Revolution as many refer to it. It was, I believe, a just war, though tragic circumstances lend it a poignancy war rarely attains: the whole reason for the War was ended by the British the day before war was declared, but slow news meant a delay which would not stop the conflict. He supposedly even took direct command of troops at Bladensburg, Maryland, the only Commander in Chief to actually command an Army in the field. It makes for an interesting historical sidebar, and seeing as the War likely brought America closer together as a nation, I suppose I can accept this middle high ranking he's been given.

This is fun, eh? Five more tomorrow...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part Two

As we continue looking over a recent assessment of our chief executives, the list which I'm using as a basis (it turns out that it's courtesy of the New York Times, which may explain the issues I have with it) placed Dwight Eisenhower sixth.

I have never given Eisenhower much thought. I have nothing against him, and I originally thought that this placement was, sort of like Jefferson's, more a reflection of his war hero status than for his job as president. Yet he was responsible for at least the beginning of the end of segregation in the South, and his administration saw the Civil Rights Act of 1957 as well. He saw to the development of the Interstate Highway System which bears his name, and I dare say that it is one of the handful of big government undertakings both constitutional and worth the effort. I'm sure that it's enough to merit a ranking this high, but it does remind me that perhaps I should give Ike more consideration as a president.

Harry Truman is granted seventh place, and I have to say I think he deserves it. Unpopular at the time he left office, his prestige has grown as the years have passed. This is not unusual, and I will remark on it later with other former leaders. Suffice it to say that as a man becomes more a part of history it is easier to judge him more objectively: the embers of dislike and/or partisanship cool and rationality take over. He ordered the use of atomic weapons, and I for one applaud that difficult decision. It saved more lives and hardship that it cost. But I think what I admire the most about him was firing MacArthur during the Korean War. He knew it would cost him his job yet he did it anyway, simply because it was the right thing to do. We rarely see that kind of guts in Washington, and it should not go unrewarded when it happens. The man, aptly enough from Independence, merits a spot in the top ten.

As does number eight, Ronald Reagan. We may be still too close to his administration to consider it in full objectivity, and I will allow that my personal bias in his favor may cloud my viewpoint, but I expect that he'll rise farther up over time. Indeed I rather believe he could well merit being thought of as high as third. He lowered taxes, slowed the growth of government, forced a radically new arms control initiative on the Soviets while keeping our Star Wars technology moving forward, and was a major force in the fall of Russian communism. Notice, too, how he changed the political debate so much that Obama and the Democrats see the value of tax breaks themselves. I wish he would have done more about abortion, or played his hand better and gotten Robert Bork on the Supreme Court, but, then, nobody's perfect. He accomplished much more than most pundits thought he could. Ronald Reagan is, at the least, the greatest President of the twentieth century.

Coming in ninth is James Knox Polk. This surprises me. Granted, he saw to the treaty which secured the Oregon Country for us. And yes, he put the finishing touches on what is now the continental United Sates. Yet he engaged Mexico in what has to be regarded as a war of conquest in order to do it. Consequently, I would have never imagined the Times' staff placing him in the top ten. I'm not sure I would have either, if I had put together the list myself. Top twenty, I think, or maybe even top fifteen, but a top ten finish strikes me as too far up the list.

Woodrow Wilson rounds out the top ten. Maybe he deserves it, but I am inclined to say no. His idea for the League of Nations inspires some; I am not in those ranks. His Fourteen Points are seen in some circles as great innovations in world politics, and they aren't all bad. He oversaw the creation of the Federal Reserve, which is at best a ho-hum proposition, and the direct election of Senators, an amendment to our Constitution which significantly cut the power of the States as States. World War I came along almost as an afterthought, and his trip to Versailles for the peace conference was almost pointless, though that wasn't really his fault. Many want him to be remembered as a visionary, and perhaps he should. But I can't help but think of him a boring bookworm. Sorry, Woody.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ranking the Presidents, Part One

I noticed on AOL this morning that a group of 8 presumed experts on the Presidency have issued a compilation of the best and worst of our chief executives. This is not unusual, and from what I've seen of the list it isn't too far off the mark. Yet with things like this there is always room to quibble.

Abraham Lincoln is ranked first with George Washington second. This may reflect the particular attention the Sixteenth President has garnered recently, given the new President's admiration of Honest Abe. However that may be, I must offer two comments. First, any ranking of US Presidents must have Lincoln and Washington first and second to have any objective value at all. Second, any such list should always have Washington first.

While Lincoln did much to save our nation as a nation and deserves every iota of respect which he has earned because of that, it was the great Virginian who got us off on the right foot. Washington was not labeled the Indispensable Man by one of his biographers for no reason. The people would follow his lead and respect it, while he in turn respected the people and their rights. Take him out of the equation and I have to say there would be no United States as we have it today; ergo, no Union to save. General Washington must always be seen as our greatest President.

Lincoln, meanwhile, and until someone better should come along, must be number two. He did preserve our country and the result has generated far more good than ill. We can argue about how far beyond the scope of presidential and constitutional authority he may have reached. Certainly, there have been expansions of Federal authority which I also would like to see, at least amended, if not obliterated. Yet with all due respect to the libertarians and Ron Paul fans out there, there is a doctrine which I believe every rational person must accept as part of a sane basis for good government: the doctrine of inherent powers, powers a governing body has simply because it is a governing body. As the people have certain rights which are inalienable, so do, as moral persons, governments. When the cause is just, the government has every right to reach beyond the written word in order to form a more perfect union. If folks can leave a scheme willy-nilly on their own authority, particularly when their wills are errant and self aggrandizing, what kind of a stable nation can you ever hope to advance?

FDR was third on the list. This shows that even the best people (presuming the good will of those who put this list together) need to get beyond the veneer any given individual has accumulated through the years and offer an analysis objective to that coating. Franklin Delano Roosevelt unnecessarily expanded government powers simply to ensure that he would stay in power. He was vain; he was a backstabber and a conniver; he tried to change the constitutional system simply to fit his ideas. That kind of selfishness should never be rewarded by posterity. Further, he never lifted us from the Great Depression, as so many of his admirers claim: a German madman did. Some rank him high because he led us through World War II. He sure did: right into the Cold War as he capitulated to the demands of Josef Stalin, or 'Uncle Joe' as Roosevelt so benignly labeled the Soviet dictator. FDR should be somewhere further down the list, no higher than the middle. At best.

Thomas Jefferson was listed fourth. Yet though he did significantly reduce our national debt and add Louisiana to our territory, we need to look at his other big presidential accomplishment: a depression which rivals anything we've seen recently, to say the least. His Embargo Act, which shoved the depression upon our country, had to be one of the stupidest acts rammed through Congress. Even Jefferson himself didn't think much of his presidency, to the degree that he didn't want it listed as one of his accomplishments on his grave marker. This is simply a sympathy vote granted him as the author of the Declaration of Independence. It is a marvelous document, without doubt, and significant not only in our own but in world history. But it did not make for a great administrator.

The other Roosevelt, Teddy, comes in fifth. I cannot think much of this choice, either. He was a blowhard and a braggart, his resume was far beyond what he truly accomplished, and in his own way he helped oversize government too. We don't need national parks, TR, sorry, and picking on Spain for your own vainglory is merely shallow. I will admit I liked some of his bravado: the Great White Fleet was impressive, and he would push the initiative on important projects like the Panama Canal, though there are some questions there which cannot be ignored. It was at least arguably imperial, and below the status of American presidents.

I had no intention of writing so much, but I'm beginning to like this. It must be the history teacher in me kicking in. I'm having more fun with this than I had though I might. So, I'll break this up into two or more blogs. Tomorrow, the next five of the top ten.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Landing on His Feet

It seems that former Detroit Mayor (I still love saying that) Kwame Kilpatrick is going to be all right after all. His apparent buddy, Peter Karmanos of Compuware, has seen it in his heart to give the former Detroit mayor (all right, that one was simply gratuitous) a job. What a guy.

What hold Mr. Kilpatrick has on Mr. Karmanos is beyond me. He had been one of the the staunchest supporters of the Kilpatrick administration, and had also contributed a lot to the revitalization of downtown Detroit. Perhaps he merely has sympathy for the man, though if he does he's the about the only one outside of Kilpatrick's closest friends and family. I'm not even sure why his wife sticks to him; it must be the Clinton syndrome, where Hil-larry stayed with Bill because he was her meal ticket.

Ah well. If every answer was obvious what would we have to talk about?

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Carbon Footprint

I have written several times about how unimpressed I am with the recycling fad which increasingly permeates our society. Today, I feel like writing a bit more.

Many of my conservative friends have latched onto the R-Train. "Conservative means conserve, right?" one asked me the other day. Another, holding out his plastic water bottle in demonstration, remarked that he "...didn't want to see this end up in a landfill." I fought the to urge to ask, why not? We were at a party to cheer up a sick friend, and I felt that good taste recommended not pursuing what can become a highly charged topic in such a setting.

But now I ask, why not? At our current rate we will have, in about 300 years, a total landfill area only about the size of Yellowstone Park. I see no landfills producing zombies or adversely affecting the water tables or local agriculture or industry or home life. Why not keep burying the trash?

A large part of conservatism certainly involves conserving various things and ideals. But that cannot mean that there isn't a necessary prioritizing of what we do. Fighting abortion, big government (which is, let's face it, greatly responsible for forcing recycling around our necks, which I think in itself makes the policy suspect), and the myriad factors of liberalism which threaten to tear our social fabric apart. To wit, the critical part of what we conserve must be our well being as a people along traditional lines. What we do with our garbage, while important, pales beside that.

So I say, screw my carbon footprint. There are more important things to worry about than whether we incinerate our debris or put it in a hole in the ground. Unless and until you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that those things are substantially harmful to the human condition, I can live with them. That's conservative environmental policy in a nutshell.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Demise of the Daily Newspaper

The Detroit News and her sister paper, The Detroit Free Press, have announced that they are cutting back on home delivery. Beginning in March, they will only deliver on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

There are folks who lament that decision. For many, they simply like their morning paper; that's understandable enough. It's been apart of their lives for, well, likely all their lives. I'll miss it myself in that regard. A cup of joe while looking over the headlines was always a treat.

Others fear the loss of a major part of the mass media. That concern I do not share. With cable and satellite TV with all those news channels, and the Internet making access to information almost immediate, where, really, is the need to hold a paper in your hands? Considering, too, the lack of objectivity on most newspaper staffs, it seems that getting fair and objective reporting is more likely to stem from the flow of the Web than to arrive at your front door. Besides, I have to wonder if this is more liberal hypocrisy at work. We're supposed to save the environment and use less paper; this is a perfect opportunity. Yet as the media is one of those oxen they hate to gore, well, trees be damned on this front. When they want something done, such as private jets for Pelosi, the environment somehow becomes a lesser issue.

In the end, we'll merely get along with the morning news. No great upheaval there, my friends, no matter what may get said about it. As the old saw goes, no one misses whale oil since the invention of the electric light. Don't cry for the print media; rejoice in your liberation from it. You may just find that you can actually think better for yourself without it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This and That

So Alex Rodriguez used steroids. Miguel Tejada is about to cop a plea for lying to Congress about his knowledge of and/or use of steroids. Roger Clemons is putting his head on the legal chopping block for roughly the same reasons. While all of this is a shame on baseball players (not the game, mind you, for the game and the atmosphere which currently surround it are two separate points) I have one simple question about the whole mess: what business is it of the Congress anyway?

Pope Benedict XIV has reinstated an excommunicated priest who, it turns out, is a Holocaust denier. Now the mass media want His Holiness to do more than merely distance himself from the ev. Richard Williamson; they want him excommunicated again. That he should receive some censure I will not deny. Yet I have a simple question on the matter: why doesn't the media support the Church when she speaks of excommunicating those pro-abortion advocates elected to political office?

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman has finished his degree in sociology from UCLA because he promised his mother he would finish school. That's all well and good, of course, in the sense that a dutiful son should respect his mother's wishes. But there is one question I would like to raise: why should a man who has made his mark on the world, even the sports world, and who has the world at his feet anyway as a well paid sports analyst, feel any pressure to complete school?

The answers?


Because they are liberal hypocrites who only believe in separation of Church and State when it suits them.

He shouldn't. It simply shows how secular society often puts too much stock in formal education.

I hope this settles those questions for you. At the least, I hope it puts them in a more fitting light.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bucket Lists

I had an interesting conversation with a few friends yesterday concerning what we would do before we die. You know, what was on our so-called 'bucket lists'. It turns out that mine is rather short.

I am not a thrill seeker, so hang gliding and parachuting and mountain climbing and the like are out. I do not care to travel, so that's out too. Thrills are overrated, folks, and so is travel. You aren't living any better by making your heart race, nor is seeing the world certain to make you appreciate it more. It may, as Chesterton says, make you appreciate it less, for if you've been raised well you know there's no place like home anyway.

Not that there's anything wrong with the things I mention. If that's what you want to do, fine. But for me, stuff such as enjoying a conversation with my friends over bucket lists suits me well. A curling match, a day at the ballpark, a good book, being with people; that's what I look forward to.

Call it the Bilbo Baggins outlook. If adventure finds me I might just run a risk and go along with it. Generally, though, as the dear Hobbit believes, adventures only make you late for dinner. If there's something better than food and friendship I can't imagine what it is.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Things that Reek.

Democracy is the worst political system...except for all the other political systems.

Capitalism is the lousiest economic system...outside of all the other economic systems.

Why are they the best, yet the worst? Because they are based on human freedom and dignity. People have a great capacity for good, but a terrible propensity to do ill. Freedom unfortunately feeds both these notions.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It Happens Every Spring.

Oh, to look at my Sunday paper and find a major sports story on baseball! What a glorious way to start the day.

Pitchers and catchers report to Tigertown in Lakeland, Florida this Friday as the Detroit Tigers begin spring training. Between Arizona and the Cactus League and Florida with the Grapefruit League, all major league teams will have their camps running within the week. Spring is here! Or, at least, so near that we can taste it.

Nothing says America like baseball: take that, football fans! We took the framework of a game, that incredibly dull cricket or rounders or whatever the ancients called it and, like so many things we Yanks have done (alert: tongue and cheek pro-US commentary; take it as the joke I intend it to be) made it perfect. Baseball: the ideal blend of individual prowess and team play.

Football? George Will said it best. It harbors the worst of Americana: violence broken up by committee meetings. Basketball? David Brenner is still right. Give each side 100 points and play two minutes. Hockey? Very exciting, to be sure, but all too often a game of chance: shoot the puck and hope it finds the net.

Baseball. Where skill can't be overridden by brute force. Where each individual gets a chance to show his prowess while still cooperating with his teammates. A game so special and so pervasive in our society it has no competition; it owns the summer rather than having to share the stage in season as those other games do.

Ernie Harwell, speak! Speak those immortal lines of the Song of Solomon. Mr. Umpire, say them! Say those wonderful words, those two most glorious words, the greatest words in the English, the American, language:


Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's About Time!

Finally! A warm Saturday in Detroit! I never did hear what the groundhog saw, but I hope this is a sign of things to come. Winter reeks!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The President and Faith Based Initiatives

President Barack Obama has expanded upon former president Bush's faith based agenda, creating a White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to help aid in healing the nation's ills. While I do wonder where the hue and cry about the effort is, considering the flack that Bush took for the original idea, I must concede that I am heartened to hear of the plan and even more impressed by the new President's words.

"...there is a force for good greater than government," Mr. Obama said. Well said, Mr. President. While I'm skeptical of his opinion that, "...there is no religion whose central tenet is hate," or that I at the least believe that such a statement requires clarification, I do agree with his essential point. There is no reason for government and religion not working together on issues which necessarily involve the spirit. There is no reason to believe that government is the sole answer, or even the best answer for our problems. And at the least, the overwhelming majority of religions do in fact agree on the basic tenets of morality and civil responsibility.

How deeply he means his words I do not know. But at the risk of drawing the ire of many of my conservative friends, there is a part of me who believes the new President sincere. He may not always act on whatever exact faith he holds, but he does appear to respect faith and have some understanding of the critical role it plays in the general governance of our society and our wills.

Yes, maybe it is a sop; time will tell. Yet for now, I'll cut him slack, and presume his good will. Until the opposite happens, I think he merits it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Leonard and Limbaugh

Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald thinks that Rush Limbaugh is unpatriotic for wishing that President Barack Obama's policies fail. I am not so sure that the columnist is playing fair with the radio personality.

As a history teacher I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson resigning from George Washington's cabinet because he could not support the plans of the administration. Indeed, he called supporting policies which he found objectionable 'immoral'.

I have to agree with Mr. Jefferson. Can we reasonably expect anyone who does not support certain movements to wish those efforts success? Or are we willing to call no less of an icon than the Author of the Declaration of Independence unpatriotic?

Loving you country is one thing. Supporting everything she does is another. Can you be unpatriotic simply in wishing better for your nation than what may currently be offered?

Think about that at your next Jeff-Jack dinner, Mr. Pitts.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Uninformed Talk

My brother Phil tells me that he once looked up the definition of BS in a dictionary, and that it means 'uniformed talk'. Seems like there's a lot of that going around.

If you think that a fetus is not human, that's uninformed talk.

If you believe that Barack Obama is the guy who knows what ails ya, that's uniformed talk.

If you think that high taxes are good, government over-regulation of the economy is a positive value, and that Washington knows all, that's uniformed talk.

If you believe that any drain cleaner is better than an Electric Eel, that's uninformed talk.

If you think that liberalism is better than conservatism, that people should not have the most possible human freedom, that individuals don't know what's best for themselves as a rule, or that the government shouldn't by and large stay out of our way, that's uninformed talk.

If you don't think the Irish saved civilization, that's uninformed talk.

And if you think I'm wrong about any of this, that's simply a heaping, steaming pile of uninformed talk.

Oh come on, that was funny!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The First Obamabomb?

It seems that the new President has found it not so easy to keep certain campaign promises. He has eased up on his exceptions to political appointees doing lobbying work apparently because it's too difficult to find people with political experience who have not lobbied at one time or other.

That may well be, given the state of things in the Capitol. Influence peddling has, is, and always will play some part in government activities. Personally, I really could care less about someone's lobbying. I am concerned, though, with the amount of slack that many seem willing to offer Mr. Obama. Almost everyone seems to be taking the approach that it isn't that big of a deal to back off from what was called for in the campaign.

Would they have given former President Bush such a grace period? Methinks not. But as that shall always be nothing more than conjecture I will content myself with the thought that, along with Tom Daschle's tax problems, we may have seen the first dropping of an Obamabomb. I highly expect it will not be the last.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nobody does it Better

Rush Limbaugh has said, as one of his undeniable truths of life, that the Pittsburgh Steelers of 1975-1980 were the greatest football team ever. I hate to disagree with Rush, so I'll say that he may have to amend that if the current batch of Steelers continue their ways.

They did what they had to do when it had to be done yesterday. That in itself is a mark of greatness. And while the Arizona Cardinals played well and made it competitive, in the end they couldn't match up. Big Ben and Santonio Holmes made sure of that.

So that makes six titles for one of the most venerable programs in the National Football League. I can remember each one, being a Steelers fan since I was 12 and with no local team to root for except the Lions (which means no local team to root for). I feel as good today as I did when they won their first Super Bowl back in 1975. Very good in fact.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

I Wish I Owned the Roads - Or - I'm Becoming A Curmudgeon: Part Six in an Everlasting Series

I wish I owned the roads as much as a lot of pedestrians seem to think they do. I am sick and tired of folks walking in the middle of the road, only begrudgingly giving way to vehicular traffic as it approaches. Approaches slowly, mind you, because if Heaven forbid you hit them it's on you, despite the fact that they're where they should not be.

The lack of consideration for drivers as well as their own safety is appalling. This morning two people were blocking the farthest right driving lane walking towards me on a main artery six lanes wide, while the sidewalks alongside were completely cleared of snow and ice. I could cut them slack if they were in the curb lane and the walks overrun with snow or debris or what have you, but they were clear and easy to step along. Why are you two idiots in the street?

It's actually worse on side streets. I've come along high school age morons walking five abreast in the middle of the road, blocking it completely. Before you dismiss this as simply younger folks not thinking, I've seen it with adults all too often. Then, as I said, they'll only grudgingly part enough for your car, and I mean only enough for your car, to pass by, sneering at you as you do. They act as though you're the one intruding on their space.

I've been offered explanations but, quick frankly, none pan out. A guy told me it was to keep off the walks for safety: someone might run out from between houses and grab or rob them. Sorry, my friends, that's just, if you'll excuse me, grasping for justification. Why couldn't someone run from a crouch between cars and get you? Perhaps the walks aren't clear? But we've addressed that: it doesn't wash, either.

The short story is that it's arrogance. They walk in the street because they can, and it's a way of showing they own you. If you have a better explanation, I'm all ears. Until then, I hold that they ought to smacked upside the head and told to be considerate of how the road was intended to be used.