Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Count is On

Today throughout Michigan public school districts are pulling whatever stops they can to draw students into class. It's one of two annual so-called 'count days', which determine what amount of funding each district will receive from the state.

Obviously enough, if states are going to fund public education on a per pupil basis as happens here in the Great Lakes State they need some way of finding out who goes where. But it seems that there ought to be a better way to do it than picking two days (there will be another count day in February) and somehow averaging it out to arrive at a figure.

Especially as the school people know the dates in advance. That policy allows districts to employ all sorts of tricks and cajolery to bring students into school on the prized days. It has not been unusual to hold parties, offer the kiddies various treats, and have prizes available as rewards for attendance, among whatever other incentives that may be created in attempts to ratchet up the numbers. A party atmosphere doesn't seem the most conducive to a good educational environment. Arguably, it cheapens learning.

Perhaps a better way would be to call the count day randomly, with no prior notice. That would appear to offer a more real view of a given school district's effectiveness: let's see who attends when nothing appears to be at stake other than education.

No approach is perfect, and that one surely has its flaws as well. Yet on the surface it seems more fair to the taxpayers who actually foot the bill. Because ultimately there is no public money. There's your cash and my cash pooled together for purposes of the general interest. Deciding who gets what ought not be the result of a carnival atmosphere. We should not send in the clowns in lieu of the accountants.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rain Checks

We were fortunate enough to buy tickets to last night's Detroit Tigers baseball game, yet unfortunate enough to have it rained out. Typical Michigan weather: late September but more like early November as rain and cold and wind lasted throughout the day and promised to carry on into the night, forcing postponement of the game until noon today. But so it goes; everyone knows the chance of a rainout exists when they schedule a trip to the old ballyard.

At one time when this happened you were allowed what was called a rain check. It was printed right on the back of the ticket itself, and basically it allowed you to turn in the ticket for a pass to another game, the reason being that you didn't actually see a game as promised. But no more; or at least, not at this point. We were told that we had to use the tickets for today's rescheduled time. No refunds, no exchanges.

Before going further we must concede that we understand fully that we are not necessarily entitled to a refund or exchange, and as the first 10,000 attendees to last night's scheduled game were given free replica jerseys from the 1984 World Series team it would be unfair to say that we came away empty handed. Further, we understand that we are entitled to a seat in today's midday match just the same. Still, considering that many ticket holders may not be able to make it back to the stadium today due to work or school or various other scheduling conflicts, it leaves a bad taste.

Especially as in days gone by you could turn in a ticket from a rained out game for a ticket to one which better fit your personal schedule. It isn't as though the average fan did something to cause the cancellation of yesterday's match. Things happened beyond anyone's control, and at one time baseball took note of that and made an adjustment.

Why no more? It leads us to believe that perhaps, in some small way, the leftists are right. Corporate America, of which Major League Baseball and the Detroit Tigers are a part, doesn't really care about the little guy. They have our money for our tickets and that's that.

We are not disillusioned but we are disappointed. We like to think that it isn't all about money, and it may not be. Rescheduling on all fronts is difficult at this late point in a baseball season. We will not cry foul. Just the same, the old way of doing business seemed to us to play more fair.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Teacher's Dirty Looks

President Barack Obama thinks that American schoolchildren need a longer school year. The essential reason for this seems to be that many other countries make their kids spend more time in school.

More is better isn't necessarily a good approach to any given thing, Mr. President. Particularly when the more may simply be more of the same: if we extend our school years yet offer no more than the self worth psychobabble which is ultimately responsible for our kids achievement rates dropping, we will see little academic improvement.

Further, it is simply not true that more school leads to better performance. AOL reports that kids in nations where math and science scores are consistently higher than ours have, at least in some cases, more than 100 fewer classroom hours per year than typical American schoolchildren. This includes places such as Japan and Hong Kong, places which are supposed to put more effort, in terms of raw time, into actual education. Why do their progeny learn and ours so often falter?

Could it be that those nations take the time they have more seriously? Could it be that the subjects are treated with respect as subjects rather than forums for self-enhancement exercises? To be sure, there are other factors involved. Poverty and poor home environments surely can't help certain students do better in life in general let alone merely in school. But on the surface, the more is better mantra sounds all too much like the typical liberal solution to so many things. Education is poor? Then we need more of it!

Hey, it's easier than actually getting to the root of a problem.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Laying the Smackdown on DC

Well, I guess Linda McMahon of WWE fame (sort of) is running for Senate in Connecticut. She's a Republican, as her blog touts a GOP comeback, but that may not matter with such a campaign as this.

I find it interesting that she is running at all, and intend to look into the matter more fully as time goes on. Can she separate herself from the over the top showmanship of her wrestling enterprise? Or would that kind of showmanship (showwomanship?) actually market her better? Surely not, and her website ( is short on that and overall more traditionally political from what I have seen thus far.

I'd vote for her over Chris Dodd any way you slice it.

Friday, September 25, 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, September 24, 2009

Time to leave the UN behind?

Yesterday, in a day of speeches which ranged, well, from the sublime to the ridiculous, the United Nations were a world forum of sorts. What long term use such a forum may offer is, or at least should be, a subject of debate.

The purpose of the body, one would think, is to work towards closer relationships among nations. Further, it is to seek long term stability and harmony among peoples, and perhaps overall we are expected to believe that it will lead eventually towards a stability which will insure security for all. But can that really happen when it is used as a sounding board for hatred, a bully pulpit for deranged leaders and rogue nations?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rambled to a half empty chamber about maybe being ready to work with the West while also attacking the those same nations in no uncertain terms. It did not sound as though Tehran actually wants dialogue.

Then the world stage was given over to a rant by Libya's Muammar Gaddafi which was called by at least one human rights activist, Geoffrey Robertson, "arguably the lowest point in that organization’s history." That in itself may be debatable, but it nonetheless demonstrates a real weakness in the whole idea of a United Nations: how can we really expect world peace and cooperation when we also give the insane ramblings of little more than mobsters who happen to be the heads of state the same standing as those of civilized countries?

If that is what the UN stands for, then perhaps we ought to consider something a bit more likely to produce true peace: smaller organizations of like minded, pro-Western nations which act in concert against these dictators. When Iran and Libya are granted equal stature with the United States and our allies, we do not advance our cause one whit. Indeed, we may be harboring long range moral equivalence. It is a road we travel at our peril.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recycling Wednesday

Today is the day that we take our recyclables to the recycling center. As I've mentioned before I'm not particularly a fan of recycling. That does not, however, mean I am diametrically opposed to it.

Unless I miss my guess, I think the conservative position on recycling is akin to the conservative position on almost everything else: if it's necessary, truly useful, advances the safety of human beings or, quite frankly, if it pays without violating any moral norms, we are open to it. This list by no means exhausts the questions we might have about recycling or any other issue. It merely sets the table for discussion.

We are not, no matter what liberals may say about us, obstinately opposed to change. We only ask that the change is genuinely worthwhile or serves a greater purpose than what we were doing before. There's no point being fools about it: if recycling is what we have to do to keep planet Earth habitable for us, then we should do it. I am not convinced that it saves the planet all that much wear and tear. I am merely stating that if it can be reliably demonstrated that without recycling we, or our heirs, will die out due to our lack of proper stewardship, then we ought to recycle heavily.

The trouble is that I don't see that being the case, and the burden of proof must lie on the shoulders of those who think it is rather than on those of us don't. It is fair to ask: why must I change my habits because you think it good? Give me something concrete and we'll talk. Otherwise, I am well within my rights to wonder whether anything projected over a large scale is actually predictable. Telling me that without recycling we'll be piled with trash or run over with landfills within a couple hundred years is nonsense on its own face. Scare tactics merely scare. How about a little rationality, a little perspective? If you're right, the sanity of your cause will come through.

Why shouldn't I ask whether the process will pay me? It strikes me that we give away paper, plastic, glass jars and so on, solely for someone else to benefit from it. If it pays, why can't I get paid for it? The answer, essentially, is that these products don't really pay anyone unless given to them. They must be had in large quantities or they aren't worth handling; the true value of those products are virtually nil. Yet I can and have gotten cold hard cash out of my scrap iron, aluminum, and copper. Why? Because they hold a decent value even after their initial use. Even now I am willing to concede that if there is a greater necessity, something beyond monetary value which I ought to consider, then I should consider it. If we will die out by about 2025, or especially by next Tuesday, without recycling, then let's do it and forget about who gets paid what. Otherwise, it's just scare tactics again.

Is recycling truly useful? Certainly for a few, but for the general society? You're asking that a lot of people go to a significant effort to turn in garbage; again, where is the empirical proof or practical reason for it? I'm not all that interested in how recyclables are used outside of that context. So there are playgrounds where shredded old tires can soften a kid's fall: would there be no other ways of doing this, ways perhaps better, with new materials? I don't know the answer. I'm only asking. But I am within my rights to expect a good answer.

As it stands now, my attitude is live and let live. If you want to recycle, then recycle. Only don't force your preferences upon me without just cause. Your say so, no matter how heartfelt, is not good enough.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Draw a Breath, Tiger Fans

Well, the hometown heroes, the Motor City Kitties as Chris Berman at one time called them, have done the least they needed to do this weekend. They were not swept by the Twins in Minnesota. This keeps them with a three game lead in the American League Central Division heading into the last two weeks of play in what is becoming the only actual race left for the eight total playoff spots between the two Major Leagues.

I know that I drew a breath of relief yesterday when they scored two insurance runs in the eighth inning to create a four run lead. After being up by as much as five and a half games not that long ago, it is nice to wake up this morning with a more bearable cushion than the one game lead we would have if we had lost. Three games in front still isn't enough, but it at least gives us space.

With three games in Cleveland followed by three in Chicago against the White Sox, then a seven game home stand to finish the regular season (four against the Twins then another three against the Sox) the Tigers certainly control their own destiny. At this point in the 2009 campaign, that's about the best you can get. All you have to do is match the teams behind you and you win. No need to worry about getting help from others: you hold the cards.

Play them well, boys, and the splendor of October Baseball awaits.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Religion and Science

No good Christian would have any issue with good science. Indeed Christianity and science go rather well together, as better thinkers than myself have said in better ways than I for years. Yet there is a breed of science which will have no quarter with any ideals save its own. It is the realm of pop science, and its followers are legion.
Pop science is most noticeable in the area of global warming, but exists in many other forms. Environmentalists who see the Earth as better off without human beings and those who insist on evolution as the only acceptable theory on the origin of people and things are two other examples. We should of course be concerned with meteorological cycles and I will admit that we have not always used our resources wisely; further, we must allow that evolution may well be fact. All of this is, to one degree or another, open to reasoned debate. But what is truly galling about pop science is how it so readily dismisses religious belief when it is so nearly a religion itself.
You don’t think so? If not, why the presumption (for that is all it is; who out there has observed a world without US in order to rationally make such a judgment?) the earth would be better without humans? Science is the area of fact and observation; value judgments are beyond its scope. Likewise the assumption that short term warming is bad, or that all the matter in the Universe was once compacted into an object the size of a basketball which just happened to be around (while the possibility of God just being around is deemed fantasy). What do these beliefs sound like? What do they appear based upon?
The answer is obvious: faith. The pop culture, of which pop science is a part, believes what it believes simply on the faith that it's true. They believe because it is what their conclusions lead them to think. Which is not to say that, on a case by case basis, there may be no reason for their faith. It purely illustrates that their ideas emanate from what the religious readily admit about theirs: knowledge is ultimately built upon axioms, starting points which are simply accepted as true. We believe in God because without an uncreated Creator nothing makes sense. They believe in the big bang basketball because, well, matter had to start from somewhere.
So you see, much of today’s science and religion share an approach to their creeds. It is not unfair to say, in a very real sense, that science is religion.
Let’s see if the evolutionists can handle the rebound.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's coming!

It had to come to this. Anyone with an independent mind would see that it had to come to this. No, not just yet, to be entirely fair and accurate, but the writing is on the wall.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom has decided that it would be right for the city to fine stores which sell sugary drinks. Further along in the article, it is reported that Congress is discussing an additional tax on soda pop and high sugar drinks as a means of offsetting proposed health care costs.

And that is, perhaps, the crux of the issue. You see, when the government covers our health care the government will begin to tell us what's healthy, and it will be sold to the taxpayers as protecting their investment as any responsible government should do. We will be told what not to eat and drink and should we exercise our free will option and eat and drink it anyway, we may be punished. Or as in this instance, Big Brother will effectively punish retailers who sell the bad stuff to us in what cannot be anything but an attempt to influence what goes on the shelves of their stores. Have it as you will, it is nothing but another intrusion upon our lifestyles.

Not that we ought not eat and drink healthy, but when health issues are kept private at least it would be on the shoulders of private citizens and private insurers to encourage healthy behaviors, rather than a government behemoth which must be obeyed. Freedom, for well or, ahem, ill, would be respected.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poor Kwame!

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has tried to get his restitution payments, part of his legal settlement with the City in the aftermath of his scandal while in office, lowered to six bucks a month. Luckily, there is some justice in the world: Judge David Groner of the Wayne County Circuit Court has ruled that his payments cannot be adjusted. Kilpatrick's legal team is mulling an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The arrogance of the man throughout this entire ordeal is nothing less than staggering. His attorney claimed that “I don’t think he was ordered to live a more modest lifestyle. ... Is it better Mr. Kilpatrick drives a beat-up Yugo?" Perhaps not; but living in a swanky mansion and driving a Cadillac Escalade when he knows full well that he's expected to ante up $6,000 a month to the City of Detroit hardly seems like appropriate behavior either. It looks far more as though he's yet again snubbing his nose at his old constituents. Basically, he's telling the local taxpayers that he intends to live in however manner he feels and that his obligations to others are at his whim.

Oh, but someone else is leasing the mansion for him, attorney Alan Schwartz tells us. In that case, then, paying what he owes should be easier, shouldn't it?

The whole situation is one absurdity after another. Our belief is that Kilpatrick is simply trying to get out from under his obligations: how much effort is it worth to go after a guy 1500 miles away when county budgets are tight? He may well be gambling that that, along with the apathy which often grows among the public as scandals die, will in the long run allow him to escape justice.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, Detroiters are left with another example of the arrogance which all too often comes with power, privilege, and leverage. Ol' Kwame sure knows how to wield influence, and we're left holding the bag.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Principle of Subsidiarity

One of the most basic axioms a conservative should have in his arsenal is known as the Principle of Subsidiarity. Plainly stated, it says that things should be done on the most local level possible. Why? Because that it the surest way to get necessary things accomplished in the most efficient manner.

The closer we are to a problem the better we ought to be able to understand it. We will see it more clearly, and indeed, particularly with issues and events nearby, we will likely have a greater interest in it. Schools, for example, should by and large be run within the local community because it is the locals who have the greatest interest in the education of their kids. Their kids are the ones who are generally going to hang around and run things when the current generation cannot anymore.

As a rule, the closer to a problem the less money which must be spend alleviating it. This is in part due to localized control, again as issues should be seen more clearly but also as there would be no added layers of bureaucracy which would otherwise have to be paid for by the electorate. Perhaps this is why, try as she might, Washington cannot get a grip on poverty: too much money which is supposed to help the poor in fact keeps bureaucrats at a desk.

There are of course many factors to consider when deciding what job should be done where in a national scheme. A nation as a whole must take up the defense of its people: could Detroit reasonably be expected to ward off an attack by a large foreign power on its own? If we were to leave Detroit to its own devices (a prospect many folks out there may not mind, but let's set aside jokes right now) we would hardly be a nation in the best sense of the word.

As a rule, conservatives would argue that few powers would be nationwide in scope. Military protection, the necessary and proper federal judicial arrangements, coinage, and issues of commerce (to varying degrees) come first to mind. State power would be wider than that of municipalities, perhaps, while communities would see to the bulk of day in and day out tasks: police and fire protection, trash pickup, and to the schools, among other chores.

We could go on all day discussing particulars, but you get the point. Local control is the best remedy for most ills. It is a point which should be discussed, if you'll excuse the irony, on a wider scale.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Charlie Sheen's Inane Bravado

Actor Charlie Sheen thinks that the whole of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks were perpetrated by our own government in an attempt to defraud the people of this country of their rights. Indeed, the basic idea, according to the actor, was to dump our Constitution so that Washington could run roughshod over the populace.

The populace ought to run roughshod over his career. What can such a rant be except a pathetic move to create interest in himself? What could he possibly gain from this except to, perhaps, rev up what has become a disappointing run in Hollywood? We all know that the Left Coast has far more than its share of the lunatic fringe. This kind of allegation is so absurd as to be set alongside the naysayers about the Holocaust. What rational man can actually believe it?

Michael Deacon in the UK Telegraph asks derisively whether Mr. Sheen believes that Osama Bin Laden filmed his missives to the people of the Western World on the same stage where the lunar landings were faked. Aside from the fact that such a humorous reference is indeed funny, it aptly describes the mental attitude which allows inane drivel to become newsworthy. One dose of Hollywood ego, one dose of dumb idea, add eye of newt, and we are left a medical diagnosis of demetia crossed with paranoia.

That's funny, too, but in a more sinister sense. It demonstrates where the anti-American ideal in the film and television industry must ultimately lead: a world of self-satisfied and insipid stars.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Chance at Film Greatness

The movie Little Murder, shot partially on my street, gave me an opportunity to become saved on film again last night. I was invited to be an extra for the second time in my life, and they tell me I have a greater chance of making the cut this time around.

I'm in two scenes, hopefully. In the first, I'm just a doctor walking past a door as two actors talk inside an office. If I make that at all, I'll pass by in a flash, but with stop motion on DVDs I ought to be able to be seen clearly.

But the real excitement is that I'm supposed to be in the last shot of the film. As two actors walk into a building, I'm walking away and up a flight of stairs. Sure, you'll only get back and side views of yours truly, but people have been discovered on less, right?

To top it off, they used my car in a parking lot scene. The car actually made it on camera before I did. But they also paid me an extra ten bucks for that, so it's all good.

We'll see what happens. I've learned to live with disappointment before, but maybe they'll be something more this time. If not, well, third time's a charm.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two for Tea, and Tea for Thousands

Yesterday saw tens of thousands of conservatives march on Washington in a huge tea party event intended to unite the right wing and draw attention to the foibles of the Obama administration in particular and big government in general. It is things such as these, as well as the grass roots resistance to the recent health care initiatives, which the Republican party ought to use as a basis for regaining the Congress in the upcoming 2010 elections.

Why not? The same essential thing worked before, after attempts at Hillarycare galvanized the GOP into putting together the Contract for America and sweeping the Democrats out of power. The masterstroke by then Representative Newt Gingrich is a model for a populist GOP: straightforward, easily understandable, and it more than anything appealed to the individualist streak in Americans which sometimes goes dormant.

From among those speaking to the crowd, Georgia's Tom Price said: "You will not spend the money of our children and our grandchildren to feed an overstuffed government. Our history is decorated by those who endured the burden of defending freedom. Now a new generation of patriots has emerged. You are those patriots."

This is a message which the country wants to hear. In our love of individualism we sometimes become so individual that we fail to take the actions of others enough into account. In our desire to live and let live we at times forget that the way other people live can be a threat to our liberties.

This message will appeal to the great silent majority which has driven our nation so well for most of our two hundred thirty plus years. If someone can say the words or do that actions which will bring the different tea partying and tax protesting groups together, we can make a difference again.

This time, too, we might be able to sustain it for longer than a decade by staying true to our roots afterward. Barack Obama is in power and the Democrats hold the Congress because the GOP strayed. Let us hope they have learned from that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

John Searles

Not many people outside of his circle of friends knew him, but I lost a friend last week. His funeral was last night.

John had his demons, yet he tried to fight them. We don't know yet the exact cause of death, but that isn't necessarily the point. Another person has left us, another friend and father and grandfather, and we must remember that.

Pray for him and his family. God's blessing is all that can help now, and we must ask for it on his behalf.

Godspeed, my friend.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the movie being filmed in and around Detroit, noting that a lot of the action was taking place right on my block. Well, as they say, the plot thickens.

I have been tapped to be an extra in the film. On Monday, I will be a doctor in a psychiatric hospital.

Yes, I know the ground is fertile for jokes: me in a psychiatric hospital? I must be a patient, right? Still, it's an opportunity to be a bit more closely involved than I was in the movie 61*, where although I was an extra I was simply part of a large crowd in a stadium. This time, there's greater chance that I will actually be on camera in shots where there will be no mistake. If the whole segment doesn't end up on the cutting room floor, all of me ought to be in plain sight this time around.

Here's hoping. Now, tell me to break a leg!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obamacare: Not the Answer

President Barack Obama addressed the nation last night in an attempt to sell the public on the presumed need for the federal government to get involved in health care. Yet in a speech lined with rhetoric but short on details, he failed to make the case. Indeed, it is hard to decipher whether he was making a case for anything in particular at all.

Seeking to appear moderate, which is little more than seeming unprincipled, he asked for a government health care plan to compete with private plans in order to give people choice. But who would underwrite this plan, and what choices would the purchasers of it have? That is but one of the many great unanswered questions on the matter, and indeed the very reason debate on overhauling health care has stalled.

Yet in a line which is bound to become famous, and in what may be the most telling aspect of his speech, the President also said: "I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it."

We are left to believe that those who oppose him are simply playing politics. So despite all his fancy rhetoric, despite his plea at Notre Dame several months ago that we need to work things out without "demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side", despite his supposed belief that we must understand that varying points of view are in fact held by different people of nonetheless heartfelt principles who ought to be seen as such, those of us who oppose him on as relatively shallow of an issue as health care are merely playing politics to work and act against him.

Health care is about more than politics, Mr. President, and shame on you for the hypocritical attempt to make Republicans your scapegoats on the issue. Particularly as you make the question so political as to avoid imperative details on the matter, it can only be viewed as the lowly interest of securing your legacy at work. It sounds nothing more than vain.

What we have here is a reprise of that old, two headed liberal idea that they're the inclusive ones who think of everybody while those opposed to them are evil and small minded. That has not, so far, played in Peoria. Let us hope the show closes before it reaches further.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Border Hassles

I have complained before about the troubles we have getting back into our own country from Canada. New regulations such as the enhanced license, which can be gotten with your current driver's license and a birth certificate (the two items, by the way, with which you could get back home before the bureaucratic necessity of a $45 'enhanced' one) are little more than nuisances which line the coffers of the government. But sometimes, and increasingly so, border crossings are becoming nothing less than demeaning.

I have been asked what I do for a living, and how much money I have on me, both Canadian and US please. But the crowning moment came just last night as I returned from a meeting in Windsor. After the usual litany of questions which were none of the guard's business, and after the Canadian guard had allowed me into Canada with a simple swipe of my new license through some kind of machine, I was asked, "When was the last time you were arrested?"

"When did you quit beating your wife, sir?" would have been just as appropriate. And no less insulting. The last time I was arrested? Such a line of questioning is simply wrong. It is an affront to the dignity of any honest citizen merely out and about for his own legitimate entertainment. So what if that evening out happened primarily in a neighboring and friendly nation? No citizen of the United States ought to be subject to that sort of innuendo by an agent of his own government under any circumstances. It serves no purpose but to injure someone's character.

I had my proof, which the government of United States had approved, which supposedly told him all he needed to know about me. Proof which the border guard of another country accepted without malice or delay, it should be added. I went to extra expense and hassles simply to get it, trying to be a good citizen, simply to be able to do what I had freely done for years before with no such extra efforts. Yet I am still subjected to sophomoric insolence.

When we have to put up with insults like these from our own people, the terrorists have won. Treating law abiding citizens this way must stop.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School

In Michigan, due to laws which will not allow public schools to open until after the Labor Day holiday (in the interest of tourism rather than honest education, which is a fascinating insight into what even governments think of modern schooling), today is the first day back in the classroom for thousands of children and teens. Further, President Barack Obama has promised to deliver to the schools a special speech aimed at encouraging them to work hard towards their goals, as education is important. Just what the tykes need after a fun and unstructured summer recess: a nag from the head cheese on a day where many of them have likely heard enough of it already.

Why do so many young people feel so uninspired by school? Why do so many adults view their schooling, according to the very underrated education writer Richard Mitchell, as the wasteland of their youth? Don't they know how important it is to their success, towards their reaching their potential? After all, the schools are telling them how very serious a good education can be for them, and who better than a special interest to know how very special of an interest it holds in your well being?

Perhaps that is it. Perhaps the students realize that it is only important because it has been made important by the powers that be. Not to say that a certain amount of training, for that is really what it is, training, a preparation for the life to come in very basic and admittedly necessary ways, isn't good. But once we've learned to speak well and write well and do basic sums, what more is there which is not of a more specialized nature? Why must everybody try to learn everything?

Yet even that really doesn't hit the mark. It has more to do with the fact that our approach to education is all wrong, in its core philosophy. We don't try to teach: we propagandize. We teach politically correct views rather than ways to determine the good from the bad, the well said and done from the ill conceived and ill advised, or the worthwhile from the steaming pile of nonjudgmental judgment (yes, that is an oxymoron, but the school people attempt to practice it anyway) which passes for clear thinking in K-12 buildings across the land.

People by their nature want to know, as Aristotle said so non-politically correctly eons ago. Youth especially wants to know: it seeks order and direction, and the satisfaction which comes from a real and true understanding of things.

We know all we need to know about what's wrong with our schools when they have to sell the public on their worth. It means they have the same core values as the potions and elixirs of 19th Century hucksters had real medicinal effect. Which is to say, fleeting and useless once their wagon has pulled out of town.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and that means many things to many people. Mostly, it seems, it is meant to be a relaxing time with family and friends. There's nothing with that, of course. But what is Labor Day really, and how does it relate to conservatism?

It is intended, most would say, as a celebration of the labor of the working men and women of our country. Fair enough; labor in all its forms is the backbone of our economy. Further, a fair days' work is something which ought to be prized and seen proudly. The contributions which we make to society when we engage in wholesome work should be satisfying to workers and the beneficiaries of work on about the same plane.

Yet the honor of Labor Day is felt with particular pride in and around Detroit and Wayne County, and why not? As the cradle of the automotive industry and the famed arsenal of democracy during World War II, among other contributions to Americana, we should feel good about our place in history. Then too, with our local economy being so hard hit by the recession, we may well feels the pangs of economic restriction more keenly than many other places in the country.

So where does this leave us with regard to the right wing? Simply that, seen in the, ahem, right light, conservatism is a great friend to the worker. Conservatism respects the rights of all, particularly, believe it or not, those most susceptible to economic strife. Conservatism recognizes the value of work and of the worker, and more, of the rights inherent in work. We respect the right of the individual to seek gainful employment in an open arena of job seekers and employers working freely and respectfully towards everyone's best interest. Conservatism, if allowed to become fully operational, would let the market works its wonders, and everyone would benefit, as they did in the Reagan years and also, truth be told, in the Clinton years under a Republican Congress which did more for the general welfare than our philanderous ex-President.

In short, conservatives are for labor. With the right amount of consideration in return, we could see this current mess ended quickly and spectacularly.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Is Faith a Myth?

I mentioned last Sunday what C. S. Lewis calls, 'that inconsolable longing', which is the feeling many of us discover when we think of how much better things of this world could be. We imagine that there has to be something better because we realize the imperfections of this world and know, simply know, that things aren't always right here, and that even the things which are right could be so much better. Indeed, they are meant to be better, only that we can't find that improved quality here. We are treated only to brief glimpses and hopeful feelings, mere tastes of a true life which almost aggrieves us. Hence, the inconsolable longing.

We have two options at this point. The first is to believe, as many various medical professionals and psychologists and sociologists and social scientists think, that all of that is an illusion. As we need to think positive for the sake of our very survival, we are inclined to think and want the best. Indeed that we are 'hard wired' that way because our psyches require a belief in something beyond ourselves in order to survive our trials. And to be fair, we may be so constructed. But for the people of whom I speak, it is only the survival instinct which causes us to believe there are greater things beyond this form of existence.

A more concrete example of how such folk think may be found in the famous near death experiences which I'm sure most of us have read about. In them, there almost always seems to be a bright comforting light which draws us towards it, and often enough Christ (or even another religious figure) greets the person at the end of the beam. Well, it seems that a scientist has found that he can recreate that sensation in a laboratory setting and, using electrodes on the brain, give a test subject those same experience artificially. Therefore, many conclude, we have proof that the sensation and all similar feelings are simply part of our physical makeup, and merely delusional even if necessary for our well being.

I don't buy it, and that leads to the second option we have in the matter. We can believe, and Mr. Lewis and the great Christian writers have, that the most reasonable explanation for the longing is not wishful thinking inspired by our minds but the actual conception of the idea that things can be better and are in fact better somewhere else, and that we naturally want to be in that place. The only reasonable expectation of that longing is that it will in fact become consoled. The desires inherent within it will become reality for us one day precisely because they are the actual reality, the really real world of which, here on Earth, we can have nothing but fleeting tastes and quick glances.

To the degree that we may be hard wired in order to recognize them, I am not shocked nor shaken. We are physical as well as spiritual creatures; why ought we be dismayed when we perhaps find that our bodies can be tricked into a sensation intended for a certain transformational moment in our existence? Why should our physical selves not be as prepared to greet the next life as our spiritual souls ought to be as well?

It is Faith which keeps us sane, and faith in the next world which illuminates whatever scenes of the final world which we may see. It is Faith which calls us when we cannot quite fathom that next reality which calls out to us. It is Faith which keeps us on track when it offers us those few and rare tastes of the perfect and the beautiful. To the degree that it is part of our physical nature, let us revel and remain hopeful in it. To the degree that it is ethereal, let us trust only that our selves will not deceive the ultimate reality.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Man Called Ernie

Legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Yet like the class act which he embodies, he's taking it in stride. His Faith is his strength, and he is 'ready for a new adventure'.

I'm not sure that I can say anything more about it. His life, his spirit, are the things which speak the loudest now. If ever a man had a right to keep a chip on his shoulder, Ernie does. Yet he does not do that. I'm not talking here about his illness; we all must face that someday and he is handling it just the right way. I mean in the way the Tigers (or WJR as the case may be) have handled him: mercilessly removing him from the radio booth until public sentiment simply forced his return. Yet he handled the situation with grace and, indeed, humility.

He's a song and book writer, columnist, and in every way an active, caring human being. It's long gone; a woman from Sterling Heights caught that ball; he stood there like the house by the side of the road: none of these phrases will ever sound the same. I still hear his voice when I think about Tigers history.

As I have said too many times recently, there will never be another one like him. God Bless, Mr. Harwell, and God be with you.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm Just Sayin'

Pink Floyd says that 'We don't need no education', but I think they do. They're using a double negative.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm Late, I'm Late.

I'm sorry, but I have too much on my plate to write a full blow blog today. So I'll leave you with this, and promise a more engaging entry tomorrow.

"Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jar, nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous."

-Ben Jonson

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cash For Clunkers: Simply Wrong

Today's Detroit Free Press reports that the cash for clunkers auto program resulted in a 15 month high in car sales.

I don't care. Taking money from me in the form of taxes to give to someone else merely and simply to buy a car is wrong. It's downright immoral. How many of these people, and it's the overwhelming majority of them I'll wager, could have afforded a car without the aid of the program?

This is what happens when big government socialism rears its ugly head. Yet when we bankrupt ourselves, the liberal purveyors of this nonsense won't understand why. That too is more than wrong: it's irresponsible and wholly avoidable.

2010 can't come quickly enough.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Senator Kennedy and the Pope

In a letter released recently, a letter apparently so important that it was handed to Pope Benedict XIV personally by President Barack Obama, the late Senator Edward Kennedy attempts to reach out to the leader of the Catholic Church on a wide range of issues, not the least of which is abortion. He also, and I will say quite reasonably enough, asks for prayers for his soul.

That doesn't bother me. As a Catholic myself, I understand that after death we can do nothing for ourselves and must rely on the generosity of those still here to remember us and aid our salvation through prayer. And as I said last week, the right thing to do for Mr. Kennedy now is just that. Yet I cannot help but wonder if that was all he had in mind in penning his missive to the Holy Father.

The late Bostonian speaks as though he was conflicted over the abortion question. I should hope so. I should hope, really, that he was more than that. Further, he points out how he has always stood for the poor and downtrodden and has worked for them, and assures Rome that the Catholic conscience will be protected in any health care reform which may occur through Washington. Perhaps there is where we discover the actual intent of his address.

Legacy is an interesting unfolding of events after our own deaths, presumably beyond our ability to affect. Yet there is an interesting parallel at work here involving, perhaps ironically, Mr. Kennedy's own older brother. I firmly believe that we would not have put a man on the moon if John Kennedy had not been assassinated. It became a tribute to our 35th Chief Executive to accomplish that goal. We had to do it in his memory.

Is that what the late Senator wants with national health care? More than one political pundit has said as much, as Mr. Kennedy had to know that the letter would become public at some point.

All I can say is that I hope there will be no such groundswell of support. It isn't as likely, seeing as he was not as revered as his elder sibling. But as much as we are obliged to remember his soul and ask God's comfort for those he left behind, we cannot allow that to happen. I am tempted to say that he himself should not be so involved anymore with earthly matters. He has greater concerns at this point on his road.