Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Reflections

I had vowed that I would, starting today, begin each week with a religious column every Sunday. I hoped that I could come up with something uplifting once every seven days, a reflection on the readings from Church that day or what have you. Instead I find myself starting with a melancholy entry.

My wife and daughter, and me about once a month, have for the last several years been attending the 8AM Mass at a place called Alba House. It is run by the Society of St. Paul, and there are apparently several Alba House locations throughout the country. Unfortunately they learned this morning that our local one is closing.

It is a nice little chapel in an old school building. Quaint would describe it well, and I mean that in a good way. Small, unassuming, and holy in a manner which befits the proper scale of a Church. I have long believed that the best places to pray are either magnificent in scope or simple in beauty. Alba House is that kind of simple.

Our daughter wanted to be married there. My wife liked it for its simplicity; I liked the books and media store situated across the hall as well as the chapel. The store closed yesterday; I always felt Catholic when there.

To everything there is a season, it says in Ecclesiates. Undoubtedly. Still, it can leave a bad taste.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Recap of This Past Week

Sometimes, it is a good idea to look back over recent history to see how things are today, how they have developed in light of our own actions. So, what was last week all about?

I read an article saying that global warming, under its more generic term climate change, is still a very real and dangerous threat unless we are willing to immediately commit hundreds of billions of dollars to stopping it. This is no different from the week before and the week before that. Even Chicken Little ought to be able to get over this fear by now.

The dead opossum from under my front porch is still dead. I take that as a positive finding. We have no need of zombie opossums wreaking havoc on downtown Detroit.

President Barack Obama has disappointed many of his supporters for his flip flopping on terrorist issues. But that's what centrist democracy does: forces people to view things differently when they actually hold the reigns of power. When he was a candidate, he was an outsider. Now, all that military power is his to wield. It's like Churchill bashing socialism but promising that Tory home building was better for the Britons (during his post war term as Prime Minister in the early 1950's) because when conservatives are in charge government control of the economy is more efficient. In short, power seduces.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama hasn't, perhaps, had a genuine change of heart. He may have acquired a more decent understanding of his responsibilities as President now that he actually holds office. I'm simply pointing out that circumstances change outlook. That's not automatically bad or good. It just is, seen outside of the big picture.

Sotomayor is still up for the Supreme Court, but I think things will become rougher for her if congressional Republicans take their opposition role seriously. We'll see.

God still comforts us, something we should be very thankful about, and I stand by what I said about Harvey Milk and our schools. All in all, it was a good week.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Oplaying Opossum

Yesterday I came home to something which one does not care to come home to discover: a bad odor. In this case, a really, truly, magnificently terrible odor. Something had obviously died under the front porch.

It was time to man up and assume the responsibility of the the head of the household. I assured my wife not to worry, that I would take care of things, to go ahead and go to dinner with her cousin and I would have the problem solved well before she returned.

Unfortunately the underside of our front porch is not easily accessible. It is totally closed off outside, which meant I had no option but to open a window from the basement inside our house in order to get at whatever was causing the stink.

I knew as soon as I pulled back the glass that it was bad. "What is it?" my daughter called from upstairs as I savagely gagged.

"A dead opossum," I answered.

"Oh, poor opossum!" she lamented sadly. Then catching herself, she added, "Poor you!"

Nice try at the save there, sweetheart.

That was the most disgusting thing I have ever had to do, removing that two or three day old carcass. I though it was a Siamese cat at first. Then I worried that it was, you know, playing possum. I quickly saw more than enough evidence that that was not the case.

I had four shots of whiskey when I was done, along with a beer chaser. Or was it beer with a whiskey chaser? I don't know, I don't care, I threw out the clothes I was wearing, I took two (three?) showers as hot as I could stand them, I likely as not had a fifth shot. Still, I sit here gagging anew as I write.

I hope no one out there ever has to do what I did last night. Disgusting isn't a strong enough word, but it will have to do. I have to stop thinking about it. Now.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Sotomayor Nomination

President Obama has had the opportunity to nominate his first Supreme Court justice with the recent announcement that Justice David Souter is retiring. That his choice, Sonya Sotomayor, is liberal, should not be a surprise to anyone. Consequently, her view that courts make policy ought to have been expected as well.

Activist courts are about the least democratic aspect, when they occur, of any democracy. If you want to change law then work to change the law. If we are a 'nation of laws, not men', as our Founders asserted, then a judge or justice has nothing less than a moral obligation to rule according to what the law says and not along the lines of what they might like it to be.

Judge Sotomayor is sure to be scrutinized on this point, and well she should. It is not likely to affect her becoming part of the country's highest tribunal, nor will her eventual place on the bench constitute (a bit of irony using that word, I must say) a radical philosophical shift of the Roberts Court. But what I find rather interesting are the vague grumbles coming from a faction on the left. In yesterday's Detroit Free Press, a liberal rag, Stephen Henderson, the paper's editorial page editor, bemoaned the fact that while offering his partisans a reliable liberal vote President Obama missed the chance to find a liberal who might have appeal across political lines. Someone whose jurisprudential reasoning might be respected on all fronts; a consensus builder is who Mr. Henderson would prefer.

I doubt that such a tried and true liberal exists any more than I think a complimentary conservative voice is out there. There is little room to compromise between the diametrically opposed: all that can be expected is tolerance, that poor tasting acceptance that some things are just beyond our control and nothing more. But to hear a liberal knock a liberal for being liberal...well, it was interesting.

Maybe, just maybe, her nomination will offer a bit more of a fight than I expect.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Lately I have been fighting doubts about various things in my life. Nothing too terribly serious, really, but still, I have found myself worrying more than I should. This is natural enough I suppose as we get older and the monsters in the closet begin appearing again. Whatever the case may be, at times it has been difficult not to fret over the future.

Then I had something of an epiphany last Saturday in Church. I was informed, very calmly and certainly, that the worry was not necessary. Everything will be all right in its time.

It was little more than a quiet voice in my head. Yet I was immediately calmed, and I have found that facing this week has been much more relaxing than I had anticipated.

I do not know what triggered it. The priest, with all due respect, didn't seem to be saying anything particularly noteworthy. But I was sitting there in the pew and I was spoken to and I felt better, just that quickly.

I have always been fond of the verses in, I believe, Exodus (I apologize for not looking them up) where Moses finds God in the quiet whisper rather than the strong wind or powerful storm. I wonder if that's where God really is, talking to us so quietly that we can't always hear Him.

Or perhaps we are too loud to hear Him. Either way, I felt better. Things will be okay, that I know. Whenever worry becomes too close and threatens to smother us, it may just be the best thing to draw a breath, take a step back, and simply listen for that voice. I'm sure it speaks to us all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Content of Our Classrooms

A sixth grade girl in California was denied permission to present to her classmates a presentation on the late Harvey Milk. The trouble was, Milk being openly gay, the principal was concerned that her work would touch on that and as such violate the school's rule that sex education cannot be taught without informing parents first.

It is a good rule to work by. Yet none other than the ACLU is investigating the violation of the girl's rights. They claim that it was not sex education in any way, shape, or form. It was just a power point presentation on a prominent - ugh - Californian.

Yet Milk's only real notoriety is in the fact that he was the first openly gay man elected to a public office. How can you possibly talk about him without talking about his sexuality? Once you're talking about that, you're talking about sex. No reasonable person would not see this connection. It is virtually automatic in the given context.

Schools have the right to put reasonable restrictions on student produced content in place. Concern for the rights and desires of parents must be recognized by school officials. Students do not and should not run the institutions where they study and learn. The girl's supposed right to talk about whoever she wants is not compromised: she can do it on her own time whenever she may wish. School time is not her time per se. So long as her basic human rights are observed, the school has the right to regulate her educational activities.

And no, she has no basic human right to present anything in particular to a captive audience on someone else's platform. She has no more automatic right to free speech in a school which she does not own any more than she would have it on my personal property: I would have the right to expel her from my home if I didn't want her talking about Harvey Milk there in front of my kids. The schools, standing under the legal umbrella of in loco parentis, that is, in the stead of the parents, hold the same responsibility.

It's time that the ACLU - ahem - learned that rights must often be prioritized, and that no one has the inherent right to say anything anywhere anytime. That must be balanced against the rights of others. If the ACLU can't see this, then they have no real idea of what rights and obligations entail.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day: the last Monday in May. The day set aside for remembering our fallen heroes and, I'll add, to think about those currently serving in our armed forces. It is fitting and proper that we do this.

Forget for the moment that it like so many other holidays has been been given something of a second class citizen status. It once was held every May 30th, yet in our rush to celebrate special days more on our terms than as an honest retrospective of deserving people and ideals it has been shifted to the last Monday of the month. That is so we may have three day weekends to party over more so than a single, specially set aside day to actually contemplate what the day is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, it is still a great day on our calendar.

Great hardly seems the right word. It is sad that we have to have a day such as this, sadder still that willing souls have given us their all in order to make such times a need. But that is the price we pay for living in a world where evil exists. We must be thankful for those souls who have made it possible for us to be here and reflect on their actions.

So I will stand by the word great. It takes great people for us to have a chance to celebrate their deeds. It takes great people for us to realize that freedom is not free and liberty not a given birthright. It takes great people to give us the chance to grill and hoist a brew and spend time with our families and friends.

It takes great people to lay down their lives for their friends. Remember them, today and every day. They've earned the honor. The very least we can do is acknowledge them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Detroit Woes.

In yet another bizarre and unusual case involving an elected official of the City of Detroit, it came out in today's Detroit Free Press that Councilwoman JoAnn Watson paid a measly $98 in property taxes on her west side home this past year. The parcel of land the home sits on was listed as a vacant lot despite the fact that a house had been there since 1926.

Property taxes in that area are generally well over the $2,000 per year mark. You would think that anyone, particularly a member of the City Council, would have realized that a paltry tax bill ought to indicate that something was amiss. Ms. Watson explained that she thought perhaps the assessment had went down because of a tornado striking the house. Yet she could not herself remember when the twister might have hit it, and besides, how would the City Assessor's office know that it was a victim of mother nature seeing as she filed no claims over her humble abode against her homeowner's insurance nor called the City to report the damage?

I think that the average person would remember quite clearly when a tornado had struck their home. But I will allow that Ms. Watson may have thought little of the tax bill plummeting in this age of declining home prices. It is fair to ask ourselves too whether we would have reported the issue or simply went ahead and paid the tax and thought that it was just too bad for Detroit. Their mistake; I really don't have a problem with that on moral grounds, although it probably would be wiser to request that someone look into the issue.

Which again, to be fair, the Councilwoman is in the process of doing. Nevertheless, and fair or not, elected officials are more under scrutiny than most people. They should realize that things in their personal lives, even such relative trivialities as a property tax assessment, need to be order precisely so no one can accuse them of the slightest taint of malfeasance. With the circus atmosphere that has engulfed Detroit government the last few years, the City does not need yet another sideshow act. Especially one which did not have to go on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Corner Lot Quandry

This morning as I stuck my head out the front door to take in the morning air I was surprised to see a pair of socks with a complimentary pair of Fruit of the Looms on my lawn. The surprise was followed immediately by shock: how could things of that nature possibly find themselves on my grass?

That, my friends, is but the latest example of what can be discovered as the result of living on a corner lot next to something of a major road, a four lane one way street. The direction of the street is towards my house, driving, if you'll forgive the pun I myself could not resist, various articles right onto our property. So I am not surprised to find interesting or unusual items out front.

Many interesting things have appeared here since we bought the house in 1981. We have found a Transformers t-shirt and a cowboy-like suede jacket, the kind with the long tassel fringe down the arms and sides. Boots have found their way under our cars. There have even been cans of food and more than a couple of bucks worth of returnable bottles and cans, though I must imagine they were left after being inadvertently dropped rather than wind driven onto our lot. Some of the bottles were undoubtedly left behind by someone who had drank just a little too much and left because they were forgotten or, perhaps, too much of a nuisance to carry further. This is before we even get to the normal sort of trash, leaves and old lottery tickets and papers and the like, which naturally enough find their way to most any home front yet are particularly fond of street-corner abodes.

Plastic bags seem quite fond of us. They scurry, wind blown, over our fence only to find themselves soon trapped upon the inside, forced to cling against the wooden slats with no hope of ever again gaining the freedom of the outside world. Their harsh snapping sounds as they vainly attempt escape are actually eerily forlorn, especially in the dead of winter.

Mu wife did once find half of a robin's egg. We have since hoped that it meant a young bird was safe in a tree above. As no mourning avian creatures were found, we happily presume that to have been the case.

I took a pair of gloves and an inside out bag and gingerly picked up the clothes items from the lawn this morning, taking them immediately to our dumpster en route to the Detroit incinerator as the fuel for the fire they surely deserve to be. I will watch the front grass all the more closely now for the interesting things she will undoubtedly catch for me in the coming days. I will then wonder what may have brought them to us.

Except for Fruit of the Looms. Sorry, Aristotle, but there are certain bits knowledge not worth holding.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Squirrels: Inconsiderate, Ugly Little Rodents

Tonight, after work, I get to work some more. One of the problems with living in the city is the number of squirrels that need places to live. The large furry rats seem particularly adept at finding the worst possible place to homestead.

Such as the rafters in my house. This evening I will be repairing the fifth hole in my roof line where the obnoxious and definitely not cute little rodents have chewed their way into my humble abode. Obnoxious? That isn't even near to the best word to describe them. When you are woken up at four in the morning because of their skittering around in your walls and ceilings (I do so hope they're only skittering) the thing you want most is a shotgun. Which is probably why it is good that I don't have one, or I would be repairing dozens of holes in my inside walls too.

They make my wonderful daughter say bad things: things that wonderful daughters definitely should never say except, one day, to husbands who deserve it. But as she has a loft type bed which puts her very close to the ceiling, I will cut her slack. The dancing of the rabid furballs is closer to her than me in my more traditional bed, so I assume more startling and maddening. Still, I am mad enough all of five feet farther below them.

Some folks go on and on about animal rights. Animal rights? There is no animal with the right to wake my family in the wee hours of the morning. Well, maybe the dog, if she has to go out. But she's trained to do that and saves me a worse issue later, so she's being considerate. She has a reason.

I am told squirrel tastes like bacon. I like bacon. They might be in worse trouble now than being merely locked out of their living room.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Beer Store is a Rite Aid.

Like Many Americans, I enjoy a beer or two on Friday and Saturday nights, and often on other deserving evenings as well. When my supply is low, I hike down to the local party store and grab a cold six pack and take it right back home for my enjoyment. You would think it would be like that everywhere.

Think again. In places like Ontario, Canada, right across the border from where I now sit, you have to purchase your beer for your at-home use almost without exception from a place called The Beer Store. Even the bars must buy from them.

It is not exactly run by the government of the province, merely being a state sanctioned almost total monopoly conveniently owned to the tune of 98% by the proprietors of Labatt and Molson breweries (a sliver of ownership goes to the Japanese company that owns the Sleeman Canadian brand). Labatt and Molson, I'm sure not without coincidence, are the two largest breweries in Canada.

Why worry about this? For the simple reason that it gives a great example of what's wrong with monopolies, even ersatz 'private' ones such as this. Among other things, what they can do is block small competition from easy distribution by charging shelving fees to the tune of $45,000 per label. This is before we even mention the fact that competition is limited anyway by the force of how long the individual stores stay open (I can buy beer until 2AM here in Detroit, while most Beer Stores are closed by 11 at the latest) as well as, obviously, having no price competition.

I can buy a case of Labatt Blue at a local drug store typically for $14.99. At the Beer Store, it's over $30. Even factoring in monetary differences between US and Canadian currency, the difference is, shall we say, considerable. Beer Store representatives say they're treating everybody equally. I know of no one who likes the idea of equality meaning gouging everyone identically.

Such market limitations are likely contributors to arrogance on the part of the big brewers. Labatt is currently suing a small Ontario beer company for selling a brew whose label is too similar to that of a lesser known Labatt brand. Clearly, they want to keep their control of the market as tightly as they can, and apparently aren't too worried about who knows about it.

Sure, it's just beer. Yet it strikes me that the ones intoxicated are the companies. They hold the power to control the flow. The consumers ought to sober up to the reality that they're the ones forced to drink the swill.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We're The Bad Guys After All!

President Barack Obama offers to ease tensions with Cuba. If they ease up on human rights questions. This after Raul Castro says that he would be open to talking with the United States on many issues.

Fidel Castro says that the President should not misinterpret things. His brother was only saying that he is not afraid to talk about things, but is in no way ready to give up on the people's revolution down there.

I think that Castro doesn't want to ease relations. I think he needs an enemy in the person of the US to hold his people together under his leadership. You think he's not the real leader down there until yet? Notice how Raul has not contradicted his brother's clarification of the 81 year old "former" head of state's remarks?

Fidel still calls our embargo on trade with Cuba a blockade. What's being blockaded? There are no naval vessels outside of Havana keeping products at bay.

Cuba levies a ten percent tax on money sent by Cubans in the USA to relatives on the island nation. Why? Only because he needs the cold hold cash, the Yankee Dollar, to help support the ineffective government.

The bottom line is that it is the Castros who do not want normal relations with Washington. Obama can talk all he wants about normalization. Sadly, there's nothing normal about a dying old dictator being petty in the face of a decrepit system which cannot in the end sustain itself. It is merely selfish and egotistical.

And here I thought that was us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Plight of the Worker.

A friend of my father's was talking to him the other day, and as is often the case in times like these the two of them were discussing the current economy. More to the point, they were thinking out loud about some of the presumed rights and wrongs which people commonly accept as givens. "But why should anyone think they have a right to retire?" my Dad's friend asked, in getting the conversation rolling.

Why indeed. Not that many of us want to work our entire lives (I certainly hope to retire someday) but it is fair to ask who is responsible for that assumed eventuality. Many workers appear to believe that the company which hires them is responsible for it. Despite the way the system, such as it is, has been set up the last several decades, I have to conclude that is the worker himself who ought to see to his old age more than the company which gives him employment.

I realize that there are more issues than that involved: legal questions, perhaps, or contract issues which guarantee retirement plans. I'm not calling any of that wrong on their own merits; but one does wonder if they are ill advised. It depends, eventually, on circumstance. But I am more concerned here on whether it is a good idea to assume that someone else should prepare for your retirement. What happens, as is happening lately, when that someone can't manage it? Who's hurt the most? We ought to be quicker to question what laws and contracts ought and ought not attempt to ensure.

Much of the problem stems from a certain arrogance on the part of many employees. They feel they're owed...something. And again, as contract or law may require, maybe they are. Still, when I hear, as I have heard from many sources over many years, workers saying stuff such as, "I gave the company the best years of my life.", my first thought is: Gave? You mean they didn't pay you?

Many lament companies outsourcing or sending jobs to other states or even overseas, as though the company, I'll say it again, owes them. I think the correct perspective is put against that question by simply asking the worker, 'Would you leave the company for a dollar an hour more?' If you answer yes, and I will suggest that you are not being wholly honest if you do not, then you need to reconsider any complaint about a company seeking a better deal for itself.

I am just scratching the surface here, but my main point is this. We need to learn to depend on ourselves for the important things in life. When we give to others, any others, responsibility for ourselves, we may be giving away more than we can afford. The best way to avoid that is to look to yourself for your well being and dignity. You cannot presume, with any moral certainty, that someone else really has your best interests in hand.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mixing and Matching on a Monday Morning

President Barack Obama spoke at the commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame yesterday. He said that we need greater civility in our public discourse. On that, I agree. But when he asserts that people who favor things such as embryonic stem cell research are on essentially the same moral ground as those who oppose it, I beg to differ. They may support it for what they think moral reasons, yes, but the bottom line is that their moral stance is askew. Charity towards people holding opposing views is generally a good thing, and we should be courteous in dealing with even (and perhaps especially) those in the wrong. Charity also means going to them and trying to talk them out of their ill advised or dangerous beliefs. In short, we must play nice. But we must also remember that the game has rules which we must keep in order to rightly claim moral authority.

He should never have been invited to speak there. Being civil surely doesn't mean granting honors to those who hold repugnant positions, even if they presume to have a moral rightness on their side.

This morning I see a seat belt check lane has been established a few blocks from my house. I am not against seat belt usage, but I cannot help but wonder whether a police officer's time would be better spent tracking more serious offenders of society than those who don't belt up. There simply has to be more pressing concerns for the local government than that.

Joe Biden went out and disclosed the location of a bunker designed to safeguard Vice Presidents in an emergency. This apparently constitutes a breach of security. But I wouldn't worry. Being Vice President is about the safest job in the government. It is the biggest who cares position in Washington. You're safe, Joe.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Get A Life.

While surfing around Wikipedia this morning I decided to look up a few unimportant things which are nonetheless of interest to me. I searched for Napoleon XIV, as I had always liked his novelty song They're Coming to Take Me Away and was curious about the songwriter/performer who came up with it. As it was, the song made the billboard top five in 1966. It likely would have stayed longer except that radio stations stopped playing the catchy little ditty after advocacy groups for the mentally ill alleged that it made fun of people with psychological issues.

I do not know what to think of this. No, wait, I do: such things are simply far too politically correct for their own good. For starters, the song is just an attempt at humor. Why can't it be accepted on that level? Then, too, it isn't making fun of anyone. It's a parody about the overreaction of a guy who's girlfriend dumped him. It does not, that I can see, make fun or light of mentally ill people. I simply can't see anything wrong with it.

Part of the trouble in this world today is that too many people won't lighten up, and that's especially galling where there's no true ill will expressed by a song or a joke. I will grant you that anything done with venom, something done with malice aforethought intended to actually offend a person or group, may well be indefensible on its own merit. But when someone can't use a common reference for the sake of a laugh, I have to conclude that we have too many folks out there who worry too much about stuff which doesn't rate the amount of concern they think it should.

Busybodies, that's what they are. Fortunately those of us with lives know how and when to laugh. Let's start by laughing at them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Many folks watch sports in general and their corollary playoffs in particular for the rise they get as a result of the action. That's okay, of course. Nothing wrong with a little excitement in life. The intensity sure can ratchet up the heartbeat.

Intensity...the older I get the less I like it. It's okay when you end up winning, but I have an increasingly more difficult time handling it when losing. That's on me, I readily concede, and not sports and games per se, but it does have me purposely ignoring many sporting events. I consciously did not watch the late Detroit games from the left coast simply to avoid the effects of it. I was glad I did when I learned of that awful call on Hossa in game three of the Wings-Ducks series.

Yes, that's probably the ninety-sixth time I've mentioned that incident, but that's part of my point. I need to be able to let go of things such as that. Because, in the end, it's just a game.

Yet that, obviously, brings into question any reason why we should watch and promote sports at all. If they're just games, we should not with any justification feel any intensity in any form with regard to them. Even I will allow that if we don't feel anything at all, then it likely isn't worth the effort. So I suppose the best solution is (mark this day, friends, for you'll rarely if ever hear a right winger [hockey pun!] like me say this again) somewhere in the middle

Anyway, I'm increasingly of the opinion that it's not worth the trade-off: intensity for the sake of basking in the glow of victory or misery in the advent of a loss. That won't stop me from watching sports, to be sure, but I find that regular season games are much more enjoyable that postseason matches precisely because less is riding on them. They are more the true diversions we need than the aggravation they can be in the postseason.

That, maybe, is the real bottom line. See our games as timeouts in our lives, to rejuvenate and reflect, to get away from the the daily grind for a moment and infuse a better and more healthy intensity for the things in life which really matter. Perhaps they are best suited as something to help us gain perspective, and allow us to more rightly know and appreciate the best things in life.

Friday, May 15, 2009

NHL Refs Stink. Period.

Sour grapes may seem odd after your team has won, but I'm going to spit a few at you anyway.

As I said before herein and will undoubtedly say again too many times, National Hockey League referees are the absolute worst in professional sports. They tried to give game 7 of the Detroit vs. Anaheim series game to the formerly mighty Ducks, with an extended 5 on 3 but particularly with that weak goalie interference call which set up the Ducks second goal in period two. It was simply a terrible call. This after they disallowed Hossa's game tying goal in game 3.

I do not, however, agree with the Don Cherrys of the world either. I love ya, Grapes, but you're as capable of being wrong as anyone else, and you are in serious error when you say the refs should put away their whistles in the playoffs. That should not happen any more than umpires should stop calling balls and strikes and safe and out during the World Series or NFL officials quit calling holding in the Super Bowl. But they have to call actual penalties, and they surely have to allow real goals to count. They simply have to get better at their jobs.

That said, the upcoming Original Six meeting between the Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks should be fun, and hopefully less stressful. Ask me in about that 10 or 12 days.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Seeing the Light

I note with some great pleasure this morning that President Barack Obama is seeking to block the release of photos taken at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. He is afraid, and rightly so, that the photos may create increased anti-American feeling in the world, and thus put Americans in general and American servicemen and women in more jeopardy than they may currently face.

Well, good for you, Mr. President. I hope this serves as another lesson in thinking before acting. When you become the leader of the United States you need to consider the practical aspects of military policy more than the geopolitical ramifications. While it is true that we ought to consider the feelings of the rest of the world and deal with other nations honestly and reasonably, the bottom line is protection of the United States from aggression. Especially as the sort of threats we face these days are far more hidden and far less obvious than in the past (Nazi Germany didn't have to be found cowering in the mountains of Afghanistan) it is imperative that we take the initiative and combat those threats in the way best suited to save American lives. For like it or not, other countries, we're the primary target, by the virtue of our position in the world. It is the duty of our leaders to put our protection first.

We may well debate the particulars of how we approach that duty, and, again, we need to be open to the input of our allied nations in seeking the best manner in dealing with the terrorists. This mean supporting our troops, even sheltering them as need be.

Everyone else needs to realize certain things too: if all of our actions are put in a storefront window then the enemy knows what we know and can change directions. Some things have to remain our little secrets.

I do hope this is lesson learned, Mr. President. I very much hope so.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wistful Wednesday Mornings.

Last night was a slow teaching night in my adult education class. We are nearing the end of our school year, which means that many students have already completed their coursework and as a natural result we have fewer attending, and those attending are at points where we can't do much for them. They're taking final exams and such, or doing their final lessons in preparation for the upcoming GED test as the case may be. There simply aren't the demands on an instructor's time as is the case the rest of our academic year. Consequently, it was pretty easy for my attention to drift. Especially as there was a group of T-ball players practicing outside my classroom window.

As I am far too sentimental for my own good, it was all too easy to mosey over to the window and check out the action. Action? Six-year-olds coming nowhere near to catching a pop-up or fielding a grounder, or, later, powerfully swinging a bat at a ball sitting stationary on a tee, missing mightily none the less yet looking majestic all the while. Too many adults, parents mostly, I'm sure, mixed in with the coaches, all properly encouraging the youngsters as they should. I could not help but smile.

It has been twenty one years - twenty one years! - since I was first in that position. We put our oldest in the T-ball league at Wish Egan Field (named after the old Detroit sportswriter) in northeast Detroit in 1988. I still see Chuck's first at-bat: a dribbler off the tee. He raced down the first base line, made it safely, then turned about frantically until he saw me and gave me a thumbs up as a huge grin ran across his little blond face.

Frank in his California Angels cap in his first T-ball league at Patton Park in the southwest side... Abby as a Philadelphia Phillie in the St. Thomas Aquinas league a few years later...Chuck with the game winning two run single he lined to left with the bases loaded when he was a Chicago Cub (that team was the undefeated league champion I'll proudly say)...Frank pumping his first as he rounded second base during a kids run the bases event at Tiger Stadium after a 1992 game at the old ballyard...Abby fouling off I believe 7 straight pitches against the fence in front of her own teams' bench at Porath Field, scattering her teammates as each struck despite the protective many memories streaming to the front of my mind that I would bore you to tears if I recited them all, if I haven't already. Good times, though.

Hey: the kid in the green t-shirt just made a neat little catch. There's hope for the next generation of baseball after all.

I hope they're practicing Thursday night too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And the Winner Is...

We are in the first day of the Dave Bing administration in Detroit. The former basketball player was installed as our 62nd mayor yesterday at 3 o'clock in the afternoon amid little fanfare. That, I think, is fitting and proper.

He certainly faces significant hurdles. General Motors hinted at then denied that it might be looking elsehwere for its world headquarters. Vast areas of the city, particularly in the blighted east side, are no more than vacant lots, which along with the long history of flight from the city and the current economic problems means that tax revenues are not likely to rise anytime soon.

The suburbs still don't trust Detroit, and not, quite frankly, without justification. When you have morons along the line of Monica Conyers running the Common Council and a town willing to not only elect but re-elect arrogant B-list politicians such as the disgraced Kwame Kilpatrick, can you honestly blame the rest of the metropolitan area for casting a wary eye towards Woodward and Jefferson?

Ironically, the best thing which may have happened along that line may just be Ken Cockrel's return to the Council. The City Charter is pretty clear that he will now return as Council President, sending Conyers back to plain old council member status. She's said she'll fight that, not surprisingly, but it looks like she can't win that battle.

I supported Cockrell for Mayor but I was more than happy last night to sign a petition to put him on the ballot for Council in the August primary. The petitioner told me that Cockrell will not run again for mayor this election cycle, and I have to wonder whether perhaps a Bing Mayorship and Cockrel Council Presidency may actually be our best bet for any kind of true renaissance to appear in Detroit.

So good luck Mr. Bing and Mr. Cockrell. I am afraid that you will need it; still, I have less trepidation about our city's future now than I had a few days back.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Obamabomb IV

When I'm president, I'm going to issue an executive order banning cars and mandating they be replaced by hovercraft by the end of my first term.

-Charles Martin Cosgriff II

That is a quote, obviously, from my oldest son. He is fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) enough to be stationed at Guantanamo base as he serves in the U. S. Army. You know, the place that President Barack Obama signed an order to close within a year.

It is not coming off without a hitch. A quite severe hitch, I must say. It appears that Mr. Obama promised to do something without actually considering whether it could be done in the manner he proposed. Or as Chuck also said: "Pretty brilliant plan to decide to do something major before deciding *how* to do it."

To follow up, using my son's words again: "Congress is even cutting funding to closing GTMO because, to paraphrase, 'It's just not feasible and there's no plan in place.' And that's coming from Democrat lawmakers!" I'm sure you now understand his comment at the head of this entry.

Apparently there are folks out there who think that all the government has to do to get something done is order it done. If they say it, it must be so. If they say it can be done, then it can be done. It's as simple as that. I'm not sure that that is the worst case of arrogance I have ever heard, but it surely is effrontery. I seem to recall the Dems hating former President Bush on the same grounds.

This is what happens when you play politics with the serious issues. President Obama, in order to show everyone that he is willing to do something, goes out there and does something. Never mind that it is almost wholly knee-jerk, or that it is certainly grandstanding, or that it may not even be possible. We should not ask whether it was designed to actually make a difference or merely to appeal to his supporters. We should instead fawn over his decisiveness.

Never mind, again, that when Bush was that decisive, he needed to take other opinions and attitudes into account. At the least, he surely should have seen that problems would arise. Am I right, American media?

Do you know who really suffers when this type of idiocy plays out? The soldiers caught in the middle, that's who. The ones serving their country in perhaps the most intimate way that it can be served. The ones who are truly the most let down when their Commander in Chief issues rash orders. How do they know what to do when they can't know what's expected of them? What can this possibly do for morale?

A moment's thought would have kept Mr. Obama from doing such a thing. We as a nation get what we deserve when we elect style over substance. All the while, those who suffer the most are those trying the hardest to serve their country.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there. Happy Mother's Day too to all of you whose Mothers had you. They deserve the credit, and you owe them everything. Don't waste the chance they gave you. Start by thanking them.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mowing the Lawn

I do not like cutting the grass. It simply is a chore for me, even though I can mow my lawn in about 45 minutes. Still, there are things about it which I like.

The cold beer afterwards is always nice. I look upon it as a reward for completing the task. It is probably the only reason I ever even get the job done. And I must admit I always have liked the look of a freshly cut lawn. There's something about the nice flat green ground which appeals to me. You can't beat the smell of newly mown grass, either.

There are actually times, too, when I do in fact seek the task with a certain right wing relish. Ozone action days are my personal favorites: I will delay the chore for twenty four hours just so that I can cut grass on an ozone action day. Right afterwards, I will gas up the car too. In my own little way, I enjoy the spirit of rebellion which that allows me. Take that, lefty buttinski do-gooders!

It grates on me that such a thing has become so readily accepted by our society, that we can be told when to gas up and mow lawns. It's that sort of creeping despotism which will get us in the long run, friends. The next Hitler will be a frail little man with his glasses halfway down his nose, and his army will not have guns but pencils.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Decadent Americans

At one time in my life I would bristle at the accusation that we Yanks were decadent. I no longer do, chiefly because, in too many ways, we are.

In these rough economic times that may appear an odd lament, yet I stand by it. What type of luxuries have we demanded in recent years? Things such as seat warmers in our cars. Seat warmers? The seat is the first thing that warms up when you get in your car, in a span of maybe five seconds. This is before we even get to remote starters; how much money do you have that you can burn gasoline simply so that your car is toasty warm the instant you get in it? This at a time when, I'll say it even at the risk of appearing liberal, there are too many people in the world without enough to eat, and even too many in our country without proper access to housing and medical care.

I am not naive. I realize that there is no direct correlation between add-ons to cars and someone in Haiti lacking good food. I will even readily concede that these luxuries do have the positive side benefit of keeping people in jobs. Further, I recognize that the problems elsewhere are not, as a rule, our fault. As P. J. O'Rourke for example explains so very well in his funny and enlightening book All the Trouble in the World, many of those problems are caused by the local government in question and not American selfishness. Still, I have to ask whether this sort of consumerism is what we ought to be promoting when there are folks who lack basic necessities. On their own merit, I have to wonder whether they are worthwhile uses of our time, effort, and cash.

In short, that something is doable doesn't mean that it's worth doing. That we can buy something doesn't mean it's worth the purchase. What we consider basic creature comforts may be little more than modern forms of let them eat cake. I believe we would do our souls well to mull that over when we make certain purchases or demands on our productive forces.

Who knows? We may actually find that what we want isn't what we need.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Don't Hint; Don't Leave Clues: Ask.

I am today intent on venturing into dangerous waters. I am about to offer a little bit of relationship advice. As a rule, I don't care to get into such things. Commenting on the, ah, eccentricities of the male and female mentalities tends to merely leave men cantankerous and women upset, a situation which I find rather uncomfortable. At least, that is, when the women are around. My male counterparts, being of like and sound mind, are fun to be with when lamenting issues involving the fair sex. Yet as my mind is otherwise a blank at this moment, something that my women readers will surely agree with not only for right now but as a general rule once they've read this ill-advised commentary, I am hoping, perhaps (or, as is more likely) foolishly, that will be enough to excuse what is surely poor judgment this morning.

Ladies, do not hint about what you may want in life, for a birthday, or right at the moment. Do not leave clues as to the thing which would really make you happy now or in the coming days. If you want something, ask for it. Point blank and straight up: men do not read clues well. We do not take hints. We are, by and large, willing enough to do the things which will make you happy. But we need to know what they are.

You may say that we men, or people in general, ought to be able to read hints and understand clues. I will venture deeper into the muddy strata of Venus and Mars, I will risk drawing your ire (and much worse than that, I fear) and say, I do not agree. If you want something and you don't ask for it in a straightforward and even bold fashion, and as a result you do not get what you seek, that is your fault. I will not allow that others, any others, mind you, male or female, young or old, single or married, should have to read signals. If you do not get what you want because you did not make your wishes clear, that's on you.

Maybe I am getting too far into the realm of the famous Professor Henry Higgins. Maybe I am asking his admittedly arrogant question: why can't a woman be more like a man? I do not mean it that way. I only mean that if you want your friendships of any kind to blossom you need to establish the boundaries in a clear and understandable fashion. Men understand, 'I want to go to Chez Richard for my birthday'. They do not get 'We haven't been out in awhile', as that could translate into, in his murky brain, 'She wants to go to the sports bar for hot wings and a big screen playoff game'.

So help us out. Throw us a bone; you may be right and we are dense. But would you rather have what you want, or chance that what you'll get is something far less satisfactory? Do you really want to be mad at him for the next two weeks for reasons he can't fathom? I hope that I do not know the real answer to that.

This has been a public service announcement. I will slither back under my rock now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dave Bing and Hockey Pucks

Well, I did not have my wishes granted yesterday. Not at all.

In the first place, former basketball star and current businessman Dave Bing was elected mayor of Detroit. As I mentioned in this space about 24 hours ago, I have nothing against the one time Piston, but I am not sure that business success leads to political progress. Indeed my real fear is that it is little more than egotistical: having never held office before, Mr. Bing's running for mayor isn't much more than trying to add window dressing to his life. Still, there's no reason that he could not become a good leader for our city. The late Jack Kemp came off the gridiron and into a solid political career of no small success. Time, as she always does, shall tell.

At least we get Ken Cockrell back as president of the city council as opposed to that idiot Monica Conyers.

On another front, I am thankful that I did not commit the emotional investment of staying up to watch the Detroit Red Wings in their late night playoff game which ended early this morning. They lost, 2-1, when the referee waved off a goal because he meant to blow the play dead. He didn't actually blow the whistle, but he meant to, which in National Hockey League-speak means that he in fact did it. If you aren't going, huh?, at that, then I would have to question your sanity.

NHL refs are the worst, period. I've believed that for years and I stand by it. They will call the most minor contact as interference yet allow violent cross checks all the time. They stink, and quite frankly are part of the reason hockey cannot and will not make the big time in the United States.

So there's my disappointments of the day gone by. Today being, of course, another day, and with no hockey games or mayor's races to concern me, I expect it to be a better one. So long!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Necessary Waste of Resources

Today we in the grand old city of Detroit, Michigan, are electing a mayor to fill out the properly beleaguered Kwame Kilpatrick's recent term. Our City Charter mandates it, despite the fact that our regular mayoral election is scheduled for this November. What that means in that in the course of just under 14 months we will have seen the City Council President assume the duties of mayor, consequently run in the race to complete the term, and then almost certainly run again for the same office later this year. All of this rigamarole encompasses primaries to trim the field as well as general elections to pick the eventual winner, spending money that the city doesn't really have all the while.

It may be said that the designers of the Charter could not have forseen such events which caused all this hoop jumping. True, they likely did not see the sordid cavalcade of lies and deceit and arrogance in particular. But they surely should have seen in general: people die, sadly, or move into other positions. Or even resign, as in this sorry case. The Charter ought to be amended somehow to see that this doesn't happen again.

All that said, I will tell you that I am voting for Ken Cockrell this morning. It's more than the fact the he lives a block away from me, though I will not deny that I like that and all it entails. He is a genuinely good guy, having lived in the neighborhood for years now. He is down to earth and unassuming; for quite a while now I can remember him taking his kids trick or treating on Halloween, or offering an easy hello on passing each other in the local stores. His not moving into the mayoral mansion upon his ascension to Detroit's highest office was, I thought, a class act, demonstrating his commitment to the city by staying in the area where he had lived for so long and raised his family.

I have nothing really against Dave Bing, to be fair, though I am skeptical that business acumen translates easily into political prowess. You simply can't order people around or resources moved about in government like you can, well, in the real world of direct personal ownership and responsibility. They are, like or not, two different worlds.

So Mayor Cockrell has my support. I will do my civic duty for my hometown with pride and satisfaction today, for the first time in a decade. It feels good.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Twittering Our Lives Away

I have been blogging for about eleven months now. Admittedly, one of the major reasons I do so is as an attempt to promote myself and my writing, not to mention that if a guy wants to write he has to write. By forcing myself into the position of having to produce daily, or at least as close to daily as I can, I am also ideally refining the quality of what I write. I will be able to, hopefully anyway, write better technically as well as for the entertainment of a general readership.

Now I am told that I should Twitter. I ought to get a Twitter account and update that constantly in postings of less than 140 characters. That will, the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, generate interest in me. If I can gain a following of people wanting to hear about the minute and mundane details of my daily life I might get a decent enough following to promote my books and websites.

That's as may be. Yet I cannot understand how or why people should be interested in the smallest events in my life, even though there is ample evidence that that, for many out there in our world, just might be the case. All I can see is that I would not care about me having just dealt with a dumb customer or unwilling student, depending on whether I was at my sales or teaching job at the moment. And I certainly would not want to lament a disagreement with anyone in my family to the world at large; there is still such as thing as decorum and courtesy, isn't there? Besides, do folks really care about that? And if so, why?

Have our lives become so dreary that we must live vicariously through even the most trite details of someone else's life? Someone we may not even know except through droll and banal little descriptions of unimportant details? Do I want people with that sort of outlook interested in me?

Quite frankly, the whole enterprise strikes me as downright creepy. The kindest thing I can think to say is that the whole idea is shallow: what kind of a nation are we when we think it somehow cool to Twitter that the chicken salad we just ate was too spicy or bland? How cool can that possibly be to read?

Sure, perhaps it's just fun. There's nothing wrong with it on that level I suppose. I simply may be behind the curve. Any way you see it, for now, I shall not Twitter. I hope I never do. I'm not sure that I want success so badly that I would become so arrogant as to think it worth belittling my life in that manner. I should like to believe that I, that ever twitterer out there, am/is worth more than that.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Subtle Armageddon

This is what a kind reviewer said about my first book, A Subtle Armageddon:

A Subtle Armageddon
follows in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien in defending traditional values in an increasingly secular culture. It deals with the plight of the last man on Earth, who ought to have had it easy. But he is not the last being on Earth, and the battle for final control of humanity rages around and within him. Inevitably, he learns from rather than controls his environment as intended by his creators. He becomes the opposite of what he was intended to be, as the natural world teaches the lessons it was meant to teach without regard for whatever order humanity attempts to force upon it.

I hope that this blurb may pique your interest enough to follow it up and check out my little effort to place humanity in a proper context. Cheers!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What's In the News on Saturday?

David Souter is apparently going to resign from the Supreme court after this session ends. Was he actually even there? Did he do anything? Justice Souter is exactly what comes of trying to fly under the radar: a veritable nonentity, the tofu of modern politics. At least Obama's first pick won't seriously affect the nation's highest tribunal.

I'm going to my first Detroit Tigers of the season this afternoon. If they quit giving up the big innings they may actually win. It's been their bane lately: a ten run inning Tuesday, seven run inning Wednesday, and a 5 run second last night en route to a 6-5 loss. Bad baseball, guys.

My wife and my mother are having a yard sale today, and I'm going to go help them. Wish me luck as I dive into that raucus atmosphere.

You think I'm joking? Have you ever been between a woman and a bargain? It can get pretty nasty, believe me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chrysler: Not Good News

One of the mainstays of the American automobile industry will declare bankruptcy. Chrysler, in a deal involving the US government, Fiat, and the United Auto Workers, among others, will undergo massive restructuring in the next month or two.

I don't think that that in and of itself is so terrible. Companies, even big companies, are no different than people. They live and they die. No doubt the transition will be difficult for many, particularly the workers who will be out of jobs soon. In the meantime they won't be in too bad of a situation, most of them getting about 80% of their pay, and they at least have some lead time in finding something else to do.

What I don't like is the socialization of the auto industry. The federal government will come out of this owning, I believe, 8% of the company which is left. Don't think that that is something which will not grow over time, especially if the bureaucrats involved feel they have to prove themselves capable if the company falters all the more. The United Auto Workers (a union) will own a significant chuck too. Government and unions are a combination such as does not promise for sound decision making, and we may be witnessing the advent of a pattern which can only harm our economy in the long run. We may be viewing the creeping incrementalism which is the only way socialism can take over the American republic.

I can't entirely blame President Barack Obama about it, either. He didn't get this ball rolling: his successor, Mr. Bush, did. If everything goes south he can readily claim he was sucked into it by precedent.

I never thought a Republican would turn us leftward. I guess it's right after all when they say keep your friends closer.