Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tiger Stadium off limits

Tiger Stadium is history now; Detroiters know that and have come to accept it, so far as they can. Yet an interesting things has been happening the last couple of years. People have come out and done what they can to maintain the basic integrity of the baseball diamond. They have cut the grass and removed weeds from the infield. They have played pickup games on it, for sentiment's sake, on Detroit's own field of dreams.

But can it last? A police officer was stationed at one of the gates in the fence which now surrounds the site, checking to see if it was locked securely. When asked, he explained that it was not legal to enter the field. Since a building once stood there, a building owned by the city of Detroit, no one could be allowed in, for liability reasons. They might get hurt and sue.

The sad part about that is it is easily imaginable that someone would do just that. A handful, or even just one person, could very well make it bad on everyone else by doing something stupid, or even completely accidental, and effectively deny the ones who simply want to have a catch on a former Major League diamond the opportunity. Detroit may well be protecting herself from frivolous lawsuits by keeping folks off the property.

But is that the case, or is this simply lawyers running amok to prove their validity and earn their city pay? As there are many city owned sites around town not similarly fenced off, it seems a stretch to think that only the Tiger Stadium field would offer hazards no different than those. Granted, more people are likely attracted to Michigan and Trumbull. Yet we have to ask: is that property being subjected to closer scrutiny because it is a greater hazard, or because the city wants us to forget what it means to Detroit baseball fans?

Maybe Detroit wants the psychological distance so that it can offer the property for development. Or to sound really conspiritorial, perhaps the Ilitch family who own the Tigers don't want attention taken from their park? It is even possible that Detroit actually has the best interests of its citizens and taxpayers at stake and truly wants to protect us. Still, it seems fair to ask that, if certain dedicated people want to keep up appearances on a treasured local landmark, to keep it from becoming just another weedy vacant lot in a town overgrown with them, and by their own efforts with their own money, and even playing a game or two on it, why not set aside concerns about liability and let them?

Whatever the reason, the situation rather stinks. We cannot help but think that the City's concerns are overblown. Sadly, common sense takes another blow, and the real baseball fans are the ones hurt the most. Our governments claim to care for history, yet abort work done to preserve it. These days, while hoping for more, we should expect nothing less.

Monday, May 30, 2011


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 29, 2011

Thinking Rightly

The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.
G. K. Chesterton

Ayn Rand, though a very entertaining author, has her philosophical flaws. But if she is right about anything, she is right about this so far as it goes: you must have a philosophy to live by or you will have no bearings for judging your actions. You will have no way of interpreting what to do or when to do it.

Too many people lack this. Set aside for the moment whether any given philosophy is right. That is surely the next question to ask, but it isn't the point just now. The thrust of today's commentary is that a framework is necessary for us to determine the value of our life's, in fact even of our daily, work. Certain frameworks will prove to be wrong; indeed we suggest that there can only be one right set of guidelines when all is said and done. But again, we are veering from the issue at hand.

Rand says, if we remember her correctly, that if you do not discipline yourself towards thinking about things at the least within a context of ideas which you take as a given, you will eventually merely wander from day to day, from idea to idea, and find yourself eternally at the influence of other forces without regard for what you may actually want or need. You will discover, if the thought ever actually develops in your mind, that you have not become an individual of any value. You will be a sheep. The time of slaughter will one day consume you, as you will have no way of defending yourself from it.

Or something worse will happen. You will become a petty little dictator, self assured that all that you do is itself the standard of right and wrong. And why not? You would be at the point where whims and passing fancy will guide you, or, more correctly, you will be the flag proudly fluttering in the wind, too proud to know that it is the air which unfurls you and not your own knowledge or will. As the breeze fades and dies, so do you. And what will be seen of you as you are opened to the world?

So you need a philosophy. You need some way of determining whether the people and events around you are evolving into things useful or things destructive. You need coherency in your life. You need to, in the words of that old saw, stand for something lest you fall for anything. This approach may well leave you standing for the wrong things in the end. Still, your only chance of being found by the just and true lies in the firmness of your stance.

As we discuss issues and political activism whether here in Detroit, in the larger state of Michigan or the larger still United States, indeed even or especially of world affairs, we must see that without a useful framework no ideas can seriously be discussed. It is important that the framework itself be just, of course. Yet without something to bounce thoughts off of, they will only travel onward away from us to sink in the abyss of non-thought. Or be captured by imaginations sinister to what is really right or really wrong.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Should McCotter Run?

Thaddeus McCotter, a five term Congressman from here in Michigan, is considering a run for President. He's waiting to see what might happen in the next couple of weeks, but feels that there isn't very much excitement among Republican voters within the current batch of GOP hopefuls.

He's certainly right about that. No one in the Republican field is generating any decent press, and this when the sitting Democratic President is weak. The last time we were in a similar situation, Ronald Reagan came out and decimated Jimmy Carter, a fate Barack Obama surely merits. No Reagan is on the horizon to this point, though.

Does this mean that a fellow like McCotter, a great conservative to be sure, has any reasonable chance to grab the nomination? The easy and obvious answer is no. If nothing else, history is against him: no one has leapt from the House of Representatives to the Oval Office since James Garfield in 1880, and he's actually the only one who manged the jump. The Lower House simply doesn't serve as a particularly great base for such an effort. It isn't enough of a national platform. That doesn't mean he can't do it (Michelle Bachmann seems to at least be thinking about it herself) but only that it would be an uphill battle on a steep grade.

McCotter definitely is the type of guy who ought to be President. He's a staunch conservative, well read both intellectually and in terms of the current society (well, he likes Led Zeppelin, if that's not terribly passe), and unafraid to take what the liberal media would paint as controversial stands. But can he win a national race? Not that winning isn't everything on a case by case basis; he could well serve merely to insure that conservative values are at least given cursory treatment in 2012, or plants seeds for later, whether for himself of the broader, truer, right wing movement.

It would probably be better for him to stay in the House, though, building seniority within what will hopefully develop into a long term Republican dominance of that body. Still, the idea of a McCotter candidacy is intriguing. A little window shopping by the GOP electorate might not hurt.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Public Education

In the midst of all the the recent grumbling in Michigan about the cuts to education made by Governor Snyder, we wonder whether we might start thinking about the issue on a deeper level. We wonder whether we ought to consider in the most profound way the true nature of public education.

Why should it be such a priority? Isn't it fair to presume that parents ought to hold the primary obligation to educate their children? After all, we rely on parental commitment in many other areas - housing, clothing, feeding; a stable environment - which are at least arguably more important for a child's development than doing sums and learning subject/predicate agreement. Why shouldn't parents bear the brunt, so far as they can, in educating their offspring?

How may they? Through the greater sources of private education which would surely be available if the government did not already take so much of our money to pay for public schooling. By home schooling, perhaps, as there seem to be more resources and desire for that every day. But be all that as it may, the important point here is that maybe we are mistaken in this nation. Maybe we are missing the boat on where the true responsibility for education lies.

The primary responsibility for teaching and/or seeing to the education of children is parental, not societal. Until we remember that and adapt to it, education may be little more than a government sponsored jobs program. When seen that way, we ought not be shocked at the poor product it gives us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Detroit Charter Review

The Common Council of the City of Detroit, in accordance with a recent decision by the Detroit Charter Revision Commission proposal approved Saturday, is suggesting that the number of Council members be reduced from nine to seven. Five would be elected from districts, while two would be elected at large. Currently all nine seats are selected at large.

The arguments for and against the change are really rather simple. The basic one in support of the change is that it will ease the cost of governing. The lead idea against the new proposal is that it will of course lessen representation; fewer people will speak for larger populations.

Each idea can be hemmed and hawed over, well, indefinitely. Any time we have the opportunity to lessen government spending ought should be at least looked over and studied. Yet less effective representation, consolidating power into fewer hands, must be seen as a possible deterrent to better government as well. The trouble is that both feelings are rather easily countered, too. Less government spending, if it leads to less overall efficient government, isn't necessarily all that good. But more representation, if all it is is more of the same old, same old, means little.

Which leads to the crux of the issue: it doesn't matter what exact shape the Detroit city government takes if the folks involved aren't good governors. All the hand wrangling which surely will be done in the coming weeks over what precise form the Council should take will mean nothing if there aren't good people filling the spots. Given Detroit's record of selecting her leadership, and it doesn't seem likely that the numbers will matter.

You can change the form of something all you want. If the function doesn't improve, then the process is simply all for naught.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tornado Season

In the terrible aftermath of the tornado which has killed 116 people in Joplin, Missouri, Michigan has its sights set on the tornado conditions which generally appear later in the upper Midwest than they do in the South. Flint residents in particular remember the savage twister which struck them in the 1950s. It has been the most lethal such storm to date.

Experts cannot pin an exact reason on why so many more tornadoes are striking lately. Interestingly enough, they don't really view global warning as that much of a culprit. There are too many local weather factors at work. But they do seem to be increasing in number and ferocity. In Michigan alone, the number of tornadoes per year averages 17, with wild yearly variations.

Perhaps the real lesson here, one which shall likely become emphacized all the more as the June 1st start of hurricane season looms, is that we very often have little to no say in what happens to us. These vicious storms, the tornadoes, can occur with an almost unpredictable desire. They care not for our security, our safety, or our lives.

It is a sobering thought that, despite so much planning and attempts to make our futures safe, there are factors out there which do not consider human will. This ought to make us more considerate of our true place in the world, more cognizant of our role in a universe which is rather indiscriminate, on the surface, in how it reacts to individuals.

In the meantime, pray for those afflicted in Joplin as with all the tornado victims this spring. Help however you can. And a few moments reflection would not be a bad idea either.

Monday, May 23, 2011

GOP Bashes Detroit

The Republican party is making hay on something of a familiar note: hitting Detroit while its down. Several GOP leaders and conservative commentators, Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck among them, are citing Detroit as exactly what happens when Democratic leadership rules for long periods of time.

Are such criticisms fair? When an area becomes so dependent on a single industry, as Detroit had been relying on the automotive industry for so long, then it is natural that when the one suffers the other must. Further, such things as the Interstate Highway System cut through many viable neighborhoods during the 1960s and led many to leave town. For these and other reasons, it arguably an overstatement to blame all the city's woes on its leadership.

Yet that cannot excuse areas where leadership has failed Detroit and Detroiters. Indeed it is rather simplistic to see an area suffer without consideration of how its politics may have contributed to the decline. Think what you want of him, but Coleman Young did not exactly help the situation. His bluster and confrontational style surely did not attract outside help. Kwame Kilpatrick, well, we know what being Mayor meant to him, and he is paying the price of his own arrogance. As a result, when we get decent Mayors such as Dennis Archer and Dave Bing, we ought not be surprised at the uphill battles they have faced.

Is it coincidental that our Mayors have been Democrats? That our Council has been ruled by Democrats for decades? Does anybody even know who was the last elected Republican to win a Detroit elective office? And would they have been swallowed by their loyal opposition regardless? That Detroit offices are held as nonpartisan matters not one whit. We know to whom they pledge their loyalty.

That the troubles with Detroit may ultimately have sprung from multiple reasons of varying effect is fair to consider. But while we cannot say that some of the city's problems were wholly of her own making, we cannot absolve Detroit leaders of the role they played. That they were overwhelmingly Democrats must mean something. It is pretty obvious that such meaning has not been lost on the rest of the state, nor the nation in general.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Budgeting for Education

Many districts in Michigan are undergoing financial stress. Cuts in state aid are the main culprit, forcing districts to cut programs at various levels. In the coming school year, this fall, the cuts are scheduled to go even deeper. But it seems that one easy area to cut, an area where there should be little fanfare let alone controversy, would be transportation. The school buses ought to be stopped.

There is no inherent reason why schools should have to pay to get students in the classroom. Parents are the ones primarily responsible to get their kids to class. Why the general public must pay extra for what is essentially a middle class perk, and a somewhat limited perk when you consider the number of taxpayers without school age kids, is beyond reason.

Private school parents make the effort, as a rule. Why can't those in the public education sector? Yes, yes, some moms and dads won't get their kids to school, but be honest: if their dedication to the enlightenment of their own kids is so small, those students need a lot more help than a bus ride. Besides, sacrificing true educational goals and programs just to get Johnny to school is asinine. What can eventually be left of the schools in that light?

The needs of the many at times outweigh the needs of the few. This is one of those times. Stop the buses. Make people take responsibility for their own progeny.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Musings

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is in favor of taxing pensions, and why not? What are pensions except monthly incomes? What are jobs except monthly incomes? Is there a real and true moral difference between the two? We're open to discussion on the matter, but on the surface it does not seem that pensions ought to go untaxed.

President Barack Obama wants Israel to revert itself to 1967 borders. It is not an entirely invalid suggestion. Yet it is one which is likely doomed, and one wonders whether it can actually advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Considering Israel's concern over protecting herself, the fact that they have occupied the extra territory for over 40 years now, and that concessions of such a great nature are rarely given, it is difficult to see the idea making any headway. We'll see.

In a statement which must surely resonate in and around a union town as strong as Detroit is presumed to be, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka plans later today to issue a warning to Democrats: fight harder for unions or the will abandon the party in the 2012 election cycle. Infighting within the opposition is almost always welcome, and it appears that even the Democratic lapdogs are willing to bite the hand that feeds. The GOP has the Tea Partiers, the Dems have organized labor. Oh what a tangled web.

Texas has adopted a sonogram law which will require women seeking abortions to have a sonogram gram done before the, ugh, procedure, with the option of listening to the baby's heart. The, ugh, again, doctor involved would still have to describe image before allowing an abortion. But don't worry, folks: we're sure the ACLU and the Democrats will do all they can to stymie this and other Republican attempts to ensure a decent respect for all human life in this country. It's what the left does best: destroy what gets in their way. Even if that means innocent children.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gas Prices Affect Everyone

As Michigan gas prices continue to rise, life has become more difficult for Metro Area drivers. Whether you're simply going to work, doing charity, hitting the town or taking a recreational spin, it hurts the pocketbook when fuel is four bucks a gallon.

The government at all levels, federal, state, and local, love to preach about how budget cuts hurt the entire community. But here is something which the whole community faces every single day, yet no one talks about. When people complain that state parks can't be closed because it hurts the locality, no one talks about how high gas prices may well keep people out of the campgrounds anyway. When government lovers assert that certain air routes losing subsidies hurts the locality, no one talks about how high gas prices make it more difficult for anyone or any supplies to get to the less traveled areas. When Lansing supporters says budget cuts hurt the poor, no one complains about how high gas prices make it harder to help the poor.

Gas prices affect us all, directly and every day. And something could have been done about them long ago. Our leaders could have opened up more areas to oil exploration. But they have not, by and large because the environment is more important than people.

That should be the premier issue in the next election cycle, whether we're talking about elections in Michigan or nationally. Because if we can't move people and things around cheaply, we all hurt. Think about that before you pull a lever next November.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Heaven: Perhaps Stephen Hawking is a Fairy Story.

Stephen Hawking, the eminent theoretical physicist, says that Heaven is a 'fairy story' made up by those who fear death. One wonders where the scientific proof of that may be found, because, seeing as science depends on observation and testing, with empirically measurable results, it is fair to ask for his empirical proof that Heaven does not exist.

But let's take his assertion one step further just the same. What should we do with our lives without Heaven or an afterlife? We should, 'fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives.' Okay, well, how do we, Mr. Scientist, scientifically determine what is good? Why, empirically, of course, because you are a scientist, should we do good? What, solely in terms of empiricism, is good? Good speaks of virtue; it is a statement of value. What value is found by mere scientific observation?

In a word, none. Not one atom of good can be found in the Big Bang theory which itself is brought out by the Big Bang theory. Science, in and by itself, only tells us that things happen, perhaps even how they happen. But science never tells us why they happen, or offers even the least bit of evidence for why even science itself is good. Science as science, though a great and useful tool in our universe, is only that: a tool. Finding the value in what it discovers requires us to take the next step and analyze philosophically what, if any, good there is to it. We must use Reason for that, and the standard of evidence becomes different. It becomes rational rather than empirical.

Hawking and his cohorts will assert that God was not necessary to the creation of the universe, and as such, there is no God. They ignore the simple question: why should we be shocked that a God, in the act or acts of creation, would ensure that the science necessary for creation would be part of the equation from the start?

Hawking may well be the preeminent scientist of his generation. Yet we have come to venerate science so much that we have stopped requiring that scientists remain scientific. What Mr. Hawking has become, to use a term coined by the old newsman Edward Newman, is an anything expert. Because he is so well known as a great scientist, the popular notion is that he must know a great deal about everything.

Would you ask Stephen Hawking for advice on car repairs? The stock market? Dog grooming? Raising emus? Repairing your plumbing? No? Then why ask him what is good? He may well know the answers to all that, but not because he is a scientist. It would be because he would also be a mechanic, stock trader, vet, expert in animal husbandry, plumber, and philosopher.

As it is, he is none of those things. He is only a scientist. He may be very well versed in that. Yet that in itself fails to qualify him to speak on non-scientific matters. His recent statements attest to that very well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Essential Air Services: pure pork

The Sunday Detroit Free Press had an interesting article about the regulation of airports. It involves a stipulation called Essential Air Services, or EAS, in which the federal government will subsidize certain air routes considered, obviously enough, essential. You know, essential, as when the bureaucrats and not the free market think something should be done. In other words, when the government deems the market too stupid to know what's good for it and uses your money to, ahem, correct it.

In this case, Washington is trying to keep open air service to four airports in Michigan where the airline serving them had planned to close the routes because they could not make money on them. To do this, it is ordering the current airline to keep flying the routes while others are allowed to bid on them. If no one antes up, the Feds will. In the cases where this is already happening instate, involving airports in Escanaba and Iron Mountain, the cost to taxpayers is $2.8 million.

That's not much, in itself, in terms of all the other reckless spending Washington does. But you must consider the cost of the entire program rather than the rates for one aspect. In fiscal 2007, the cost of the program was $114 million nationwide.

Multiply this by all the other pork in any given federal budget in any particular fiscal year, and it is easy to see why our spending is so out of whack.

But there are health concerns, supporters will argue. It is difficult to attract doctors to rural, isolated areas, and the drive to such places as Ironwood to work part time in the hospital there would be impossible in bad weather, according to Dr. Walter Beusse. He drives to Milwaukee a couple times a month to catch a plane to Ironwood for his part time job. Hmm...he drives an hour or an hour and a half to Milwaukee, to wait two hours for his flight, which takes about an hour. Granted that weather can be an issue (Though it is a fair to ask how often it would in fact be), it would seem that, generally, he could drive all the way to Ironwood almost as quickly. Besides, it is also fair to ask whether that particular route (Milwaukee to Ironwood) should be kept open for the benefit of a relative handful of people, even doctors.

Free Press travel writer Ellen Creagher says that the lack of air routes to certain areas hurts our state's tourism. Seeing as there aren't enough people paying to get to these places by air anyway, it doesn't sound as though anyone has that great of an interest in touring there. Further, in the instance of certain nonexistent routes she decries that Michiganders "aren't connected enough'. There isn't a route from Traverse City to Grand Rapids, for example. But we've driven between the two cities. In this day of extra vigilance against terrorism, you can get to those places by car about as quickly as by plane anyway. The same with an Alpena to Sault Ste. Marie air route which does in fact exist. For those who really want to get there, they can get there overland ridiculously easily. Why fly?

We know what will be said; Ms. Creager has really already said it in her article, in essence: we must keep these lines open so that people can get to and from there. It isn't fair that people in areas of less demand can't get air service.

Bosh; no one asked them to live there. No one is morally obligated to go there either. That people choose to live in or travel to remote areas is their choice; as such, I am not obliged as a taxpayer to see to their movements in or out of the areas. Not that it applies to all questions, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few as a general rule. In this case, I see no reason why the taxpayers should underwrite the free will choices of those folks in outlying areas. Especially in these days of errant and out of control federal spending, we must rein in every bit of pork that we can. And this is one fatty piece of bacon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Grade They Deserve

A group of teachers from several local school districts are planning what they call a 'grade-in', in which they will occupy tables at a mall to demonstrate how much and what kind of work teachers do outside of the classroom. The event is intended to show how hard they work, making lesson plans, grading papers, and so forth, on their own time. The point is to draw sympathy for educators in light of proposed budget cuts.

What to say, what to say? That teachers have a lot of work to do after hours is obviously undeniable. That they even merit a degree of sympathy is fair enough as well. But beyond that, well, they aren't the only ones who work from home or, as will be the case later today with their pseudo-protest, a mall food court. They are not the only people who find they must work extra hours to get their jobs done.

They surely knew as well when they elected to go into education that this would often be the case. In light of all that, why they feel that they deserve a special kind of sympathy is a question which stands begging for a suitable answer. Again, not they should not receive a decent sympathy for the work they do. But we don't see other people who work just as hard in their off hours calling society to task in such a public manner.

So good teachers work hard; give them their due. Indeed, as actions speak louder than words, the good ones are generally noticed anyway. But this particular action speaks to a different tune, and it is fair to wonder what is really meant by it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Simply Blood Lust

A genre of supposed sports which has been growing in recent years involves, basically, guys beating the devil out of each other inside cages. It goes by several names, such as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and under the umbrella of mixed martial arts. But however your view them, we can be sure of two things: that they are not true sports, and that they are immoral.

I will go a step further and add prize fight boxing into the mix. We cannot call any athletic effort in which the primary aim is to hurt a human being a sport. Intending to harm someone, as fighting until someone can continue no further is surely meant to do nothing save cause injury, is always wrong. Calling it a sport in an attempt at legitimacy is nothing less than an insult to our intelligence. We must see these things for what they are: gory rituals of false bravado.

There's no point defending them on the grounds that no one forces these guys to fight. People at one time regularly agreed to duels and we put a stop to that inane practice for the very reason that it was wrong. Agreement between two or more folks on a plan of action cannot make that action moral. What we do must be moral in and of itself to have any decent bearing at all.

If we are not careful we will devolve into a nation which likes blood and harm for its own sake. We must remember that sports are intended for recreation, for fans and players alike. If all we want is blood, we may as well live in a slaughterhouse. Yet that will be thought insane.

Events which intend to inflict real physical harm are not sports. We need to rise above our animal lusts and see athletics in their best light: ultimately meaningless contests which allow us a respite from the daily grind. Anything more than that and we simply go beyond their scope.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Smoking Gun

It's never over until it's over, and the owner of a bar in Warren doesn't think it's over. Boyd Cottrell, the owner of Sporty O'Toole's, is challenging the constitutionality of Michigan's smoking ban. His basic argument is that, as his place offers the same things the Detroit casinos, which are exempted from the ban, then he ought to have an exemption.

There are all sorts of interesting issues which come to play here. For starters, well, fair play. Why ought casinos get an exemption simply because they're casinos? Indeed, why ought they get an exemption at all if a smoking ban is so all fired good for the populace? This is not to defend smoking, which is of course a noxious habit, but to question how the state applies laws. It seems that where big money for Lansing or Detroit is concerned, niches may be cut.

Then, as always with such arguably feel good legislation, why does the state have the right to tell the owners of private establishments what they may allow in those places? Unless smoking is an activity which should be universally banned, how can we really tell pub owners whether to allow it or not in their place of business?

It is nice to step into a bar, restaurant, or what have you and not be accosted by smoke. On that ground, it is an easy regulation to support. But yet again, if smoking is all that bad then it ought to be banned altogether, and we still ignore the question of the owner's right to regulate, within reason, what is allowed in his business. Are we really acting properly to force onto someone what we like, not necessarily because it's immoral, but perhaps simply because we don't like it?

The quest shall eventually be settled, and almost certainly against Mr. Cottrell. But we do well to not forget that rights are what rights are, and not what we want them to be. In the end, as abhorrent as smoking is, and as we don't have the inherent right to enter private property, anyone's private property, then we must ruefully concede that, outside of a complete ban on smoking, the smoke free laws are off base.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Education is Often Overblown

Former University of Detroit and NBA player Earl Cureton gave his mother what many consider a great gift: the earning of his college diploma, That's all well and good; there certainly is nothing wrong with earning a degree. The action, apparently made to please his mom, hints at something we sweep under the table too often. It points to an overemphasis on formal education.

Are we to assume that Mr. Cureton has not done well for himself despite the lack of diploma? Has he not been able to successfully gain employment? Has he not been able to provide for himself or his family? Has he found walls where he expected doors?

Obviously not. So why is the degree so important? Simply because mom and society think so, even though the man has clearly been able to tread water without it?

Apparently. That he has made good of himself without it seems not to matter. He has a degree and is now somehow complete. This is not to take away from the accomplishment per se but to point out the rather hollow emphasis on something which must be seen objectively as superfluous. Cureton didn't need the degree to make it in the sports world. It is very unlikely that having it will affect his future. There is no reason that it should be seem so positively, as though it were make or break for him.

We put too much meaning into formal education. People should not feel compelled to continue or complete an education which serves no real purpose. All that it does is line the pockets of academia. It's hardly a necessary step forward for the folks who have made it in the world.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Snyder's Education Cuts Strike a Chord

Protesters, around one hundred in number, showed up at Woodward and Nine Mile to call attention to cuts to public education passed by the Michigan House Thursday. They claim to have the best interests of children in mind, yet some of what was said there gives us cause to question their real intent.

One of the protesters held a sign which read, 'Public education and unions made our country strong'. 'Closing schools, that's not healthy. Get the money from the wealthy," a man called out over a bullhorn. As a bit of the cherry on top to this clearly self aggrandizing mix, the event was organized by a local chapter of Jobs with Justice. A quick study of that group's website shows it to be something of a modern day socialist front.

That tells us all we need to know about the nature of the protest. They aren't for the schools, they're for the workers. There's nothing wrong with that so far as it goes. But it is galling that they operate under the pretense of helping the schools when they are really for the teachers and the unions.

Nothing wrong with that, either, only call it what it is. Snyder doesn't support education because he seeks to cut the education budget. Yet how is it that the people who most directly benefit from public education, namely the school employees, are not seen as selfish for wanting to keep funding at a level high enough to keep their wages where they want them to be?

Especially as you consider that education is primarily a parental and not a societal issue, notwithstanding American tradition on the matter, and the protest can be seen for what it really is: people living at the public trough demanding the public continue to pay their wages on their terms, and democracy be damned. Yet they are not called selfish.

It is a matter which speaks for itself. And it indeed speaks volumes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

US Investigates Border Hassles

The US Government has launched an investigation into whether Muslims and other minorities are being systematically harassed at Michigan international border crossings. We would like to add to that list an admittedly rather general, seemingly all encompassing, yet equally harassed group: any and all law abiding American citizens.

This is not to exclude Muslims and other minorities, or anyone else for that matter, from that class of people. A law abiding American citizen is a law abiding American citizen, period. To the degree to which they have been or are subjected to a more intense scrutiny, then they have indeed been more deeply offended. Still, one doesn't have to be part of a more offended group in order to be properly offended.

People at the border, returning to their own country at either one the crossings right here in Detroit, are routinely asked what can only be seen as provocative and insulting questions. Say what you will, to be asked where have you been, what were you doing, and how much money do you have on you (US and Canadian) are ultimately none of the government's business. We understand the reasons for the questions: to try to trip a person up in the search for wrongdoing or ill intent. We simply question whether that justifies the inquiries.

Particularly when we are asked, 'When was the last time you were in prison?'. Does that matter, when you are a US citizen who has presented to the border guard your proper and true credentials? Do you have no less right to re-enter your own country even after you may have paid the price of an indiscretion to it?

If and where Muslim Americans and other loyal yet minority Americans have been unduly and wrongly hassled, then that must be addressed and properly handled, to insure the future respect of all our people. Indeed, the right tone of respect must be addressed to all Americans of any stripe.

It has been said many times and in many ways that when we change our way of doing things solely because of the war on terror, the terrorists have won anyway. We must not allow that to happen. For if we do, we will find ourselves engaging in our own little petty acts of terrorism anyway. We will have made ourselves little different from them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Let the DNR Close Sparsely Used Campgrounds

Free Press outdoors writer Eric Sharp thinks that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources should keep open 23 out of the way state forest campgrounds. The $250,000 dollars saved are a drop in the bucket of government spending, and Mr. Sharp thinks it ought to be spent almost on that ground alone. He ignores many significant questions while harboring that attitude.

To begin with, if every minor aspect of the State budget were to be made immune from cuts simply because in light of the budget as a whole they were small expenditures, how large would such a projected budget loom? For aren't there thousands of tiny bits of spending in any given budget, whether governmental, corporate, or even personal? What Mr. Sharp is saying essentially is that if something is small enough we shouldn't concern ourselves with it. But with that attitude, how might a budget be pared at all?

Yet more is at issue here than an, ahem, mere quarter million dollar expenditure in Lansing's budget. The campgrounds at hand are ones which do not see as much public use as the larger state park campgrounds. Well, we must ask, then who uses them? People such as Eric Sharp, who 'roams the state with a tent and sleeping bag', in his own words, seeking quieter campgrounds. Otherwise, these camps tend to be full during hunting season. That's about it.

What he is saying is that a special interest, notably himself and folks who think like him, and another special interest, hunters, ought to have their activities underwritten by Lansing. Those of us who do not share his or the hunters' interest ought to subsidize his camping and their shooting at game.

People who like to camp and hunt should have to pay for the costs of their hobby, not the taxpaying public. To be sure, they will argue that what they do helps the areas where they camp and hunt. Store owners, restaurant owners, and so forth, would benefit from having hunters and campers around. But if the campground must be state subsidized due to lack of use, what significant benefit is the locality getting anyway? The places in question apparently are not generating a decent amount of revenue. Maintaining them at State cost only drains the state budget that much more, ultimately dipping further into the pockets of the tax paying store owners and so forth who are supposed to benefit.

If you want to camp and hunt, then camp and hunt. But don't do it on our dime. We do not make you participate in or fund our recreational activities. Don't presume you have the right to make us pay for yours.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Repealing Obamacare

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has been asked, by 26 States, or more than half of our Federal union, to over turn what is popularly called Obamacare. They argue that if the law is allowed to stay, it "would imperil individual liberty, render Congress's other enumerated powers superfluous, and allow Congress to usurp the general police power reserved to the states."

Indeed it would. We have been rushing haphazardly to effectively void the Constitution for almost 100 years now. When we reach the point where Washington holds all power, and we are perilously close to that point as it is, then why bother about States at all?

Much of the fault in that lies with the very states who now protest the latest and broadest step by the Beltway folks, mostly Democrats, we should remember, into the personal lives of each individual. For years now states and localities have called on Washington to do more for them. Now they begin to see the Leviathan in it's true colors, and properly fear it. Irony is rather delicious, is it not?

Still, they are fighting back, and therein lies our hope of an America yet free of government excess. It galls the right thinking man or woman here in Michigan that the left cries foul over Lansing's takeover of Benton Harbor while praising Washington's heavy handed incursion against individual rights. We see once more the sheer and ignoble effrontery of the American liberal: a Republican can't take over a city which has wasted State and even federal money, while a Democratic President and Congress can well ignore the basic human rights of the individual. Such itself is not ironic. It is, however, appalling.

The case will eventually go the Supreme Court. But even so, even should that body rule against the People, the People still have recourse. November 2012 is close at hand, and we may elect those who will torpedo Obamacare anyway.

One can only hope.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

TMNT and the Environment

When my second son was seven (say that three times fast) he happened to notice that, as I was shaving, I kept the hot water running. “Dad,” he told me a little sheepishly, “the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles say you shouldn’t keep water running when you wash.” My response would draw the ire of many: “Son, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pay my water bill, they can tell me how much water I can use.”

Consider that story in relation to this next one. I watched a news report about a 19 year old mother of two, apparently (though it was not said definitively, to be fair) by two different fathers, lamenting that she could not afford health care for her babies with the fast food job she held, the only job she could get. The point of the story was that this was why we need national health care.

Now, were I to have told her before she chose to have sex that she should not do that as it may lead to pregnancies she would not be economically able to handle, indeed that she ought to wait until at least the time when she was able to care completely for her own children as one of the risks of sex is pregnancy, I am certain I would have been told that her actions were none of my business. Further, I am also quite sure that the general community would support her assertion. Why? Because I have no right to make comment on her morals.

Several things come to mind as I contrast these items. I would like to point out two. First, I am told I cannot tell that young woman how to act. Yet as a direct consequence of her chosen irresponsibility, I am later being told I need to pay for the results of her free will action.

Second, when I am paying out of my own funds for every drop of water I elect to use, I am told I am irresponsible.

Think about that for a moment. Then you tell me the folly of our approach to right and wrong in America today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mission Accomplished...For Now

Osama Bin Laden is dead, having been killed in a firefight at a compound in Pakistan. No Americans were harmed.

The the capture (such as it is) of such an infernal character in such a way is almost anti-climatic. But that cannot completely reflect the true situation. It has taken ten years to bring justice to the world; hopefully, in cutting of the head of the enemy, the body shall wilt. We cannot and should not rely on that, for extremism in any form is rarely put down so easily.

But it's a start. President Obama deserves commendation for ordering the assault based on the information he had; we have said before that it is in the arena of foreign affairs where it is easiest to for a President to make his mark, especially when opportunity rises. Mr. Obama saw the chance and took full advantage of it, and merits praise for a decisive act.

So too do the members of the US military who conducted the project. The training and dedication which they displayed enabled their success with a surgical strike. Their bravery and the bravery of all the courageous men and women of our Armed Forces are what made yesterday possible.

We bask in the glow of victory. And we should, for this is a significant triumph of good over evil in the war which has been fought since the beginning of time. There is nothing wrong in rejoicing when these things happen. Indeed, it should be seen as a tribute to those who fought and died, even those who died in what ought to have been no-combat venues: the World Trade Center and the Spanish rail victims, indeed all who came face to face with terrorists and terrorism, are the ones whose memory we serve in this moment of triumph. The War isn't over. But we can see the light of day now.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

US Mayors are off base

At a recent event co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Architectural Foundation, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, there were complaints by some of the city leaders that Washington wasn't doing enough for their little corners of the Earth. "Mayors could never get away with the kind of nonsense that goes on in Washington," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said. "In our world, you either picked up the trash or you didn’t. You either moved an abandoned car or you didn’t. You either filled a pothole or you didn’t. That’s what we do every day. And we know how to get this stuff done.”

Well, Mr. Nutter, if you're getting that done, if you're doing your job, then why harp at Washington? Because, they assert, they need Washington cash to get things done. But it's the mayors, Manny Diaz, former mayor of Miami said, who create jobs. But the mayors aren't getting the federal support they need.

Hmmm....you are the guys who get the job done, who create jobs. Yet you also seem to say that you can't get things done without Washington money. If that's the case then, dare we ask, how is it you get the job done in the first place? How is it that you, in your vaunted positions as mayors of whatever cities, get things done?

You speak with forked tongue, mayors of America. You assert that it's all on you, and that you get necessary things done, yet insist on the federal government financing you. When you talk out of both sides of your mouth, can you really blame the taxpayers, or even the lawmakers inside the Beltway, when they look at you with a healthy skepticism? It seems to us that you can't have it both ways: you cannot be doing you jobs well and need federal money to them well too, if you've been doing them well to begin with.