Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Change is Easy; Living Well is Hard

Embracing change is easy. Embracing Orthodoxy is the real challenge.

-a paraphrase of Mr. G. K. Chesterton

We hear it all the time, don't we, fellow conservatives? We hear the importance of embracing change, of being willing to change, of the need to alter our beliefs and desires to the will and whim of the current society. That's all we need to do is embrace the change which the modern society wishes us to do.

If they meant for us to change in the sense of becoming truly better persons, of changing from bad habit to good, of learning to like what we ought and dislike what we ought as well, of becoming more truly and usefully charitable and kind, there would be no problem. But they don't mean that. They mean, 'accept our ways of thinking and acting'. Or, more precisely, accept the change we want imposed on you.

But the trouble with accepting change merely as it is change, merely because it is what modern society may want rather than what may really help both the individual and the world at large, is that it will leave us we know not where. For accepting it is simple. Do nothing, reflect on nothing, question nothing, and change will occur. There's no effort involved.

Yet embracing Orthodoxy, and we capitalize it on purpose, accepting and living by proper traditions, now that's the challenge. That's where we grow and nurture our selves and our souls. That's how we create better people and a better world. By living right according to the just precepts which have been with us since the dawn of time. Change is all right, yes, if done to that purpose.

Otherwise, it will happen anyway. But would you rather do what you can to control change, or merely be stuck in its tight and unwieldy (and worldly) groove, as Mr. Chesterton also suggests? For you will lose control of yourself by merely agreeing to eternally change. Yet tradition works. That's how it became traditional in the first place.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lucky Us

It appears that few if any areas of federal spending will be spared the ax, as Congress tries to come to grips with the full impact of the cuts made necessary by the budget deal which raised our debt ceiling a few weeks ago. That is how it should be; we spend too much at virtually all levels, and Washington is the worst offender. Even the Defense Department should not be saved from trauma.

Yet in that, Michigan is very lucky. Our own Senator Carl Levin is the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, so it's a safe bet that our state's fortunes will be protected. That's not to defend any sort of pork barrel spending, but only acknowledging a fact of life with government spending. When you ox might be gored, it helps to have a powerful, long term congressional leader in such an important, shall we say, tactical position.

But more than that: Michigan's defense contracts are mostly in the area of research and development, which will be the last area touched by spending cuts. Yet that is as it should be: with the nature of war changing dramatically in light of global terrorism, the one area we where we must stay ahead of the curve is R&D. Southeast Michigan it seems is a research hot spot. It's one of the few good things in Michigan business these days. Throw in our proximity to the Canadian border as it, for well or for ill, involves Homeland Security issues, and it doesn't appear as though our state will suffer too much in defense cuts.

It may only be good fortune, or the advantageous lining up of the proverbial planets, but at least Michigan won't be hurt much in one segment of our economy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Michigan's new 14th: Who gets it?

The fight over redistricting Michigan's congressional districts wasn't terribly exciting or eventful. It's a bit of a surprise, then, to find that the really interesting gyrations are coming in now.

Current Congressman Hansen Clarke has announced that he will run for the House again, but in what will be the new 14th District. Meanwhile, State Senator Bert Johnson has changed his mind about running in that district. He will instead run in the new 13th. Congressman John Conyers doesn't appear to know what he's doing next. He might run in the 14th, or he might run in the 13th.

Senator Johnson, we're sure, would like to see him run in the 14th, as Conyers will almost certainly win wherever he goes. But that isn't the most interesting point about the situation. What is fascinating is that when the new districts were drawn, they were drawn to protect Michigan's minority seats, as held by Conyers and Clarke. Now there's a chance that one of them will lose their job anyway.

Who'd a thought that the more interesting details about redistricting would come from the very congressmen they were drawn to protect? The scenario may not play ought. In fact, it probably will not. But the local 2012 elections are already interesting indeed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friendly Advice

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

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

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

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

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

Do as you will, but if you get told you need an unnecessary $5,000 line repair don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Even the Pagans knew Morality wasn't up to Consensus

True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.

- Cicero

Right wingers and Christians are two groups of folk who are almost universally derided for daring to suggest that there is something such as the Natural Law. They are scorned when asserting that some things are congruent with nature and others less so, if at all. They are mocked because of the idea they espouse which says that certain acts are really right, and others really wrong. In the end, they are scolded for the presumably arrogant belief that our laws must reflect this, because, of course, nothing is right on its own terms and how dare anyone try to force their morality on another. Simple and stupid consensus will take care of that.

So imagine the joy which one put upon by society in such a manner might have when they discover an old pagan who says exactly what they do. A pagan who speaks of virtue and discipline as though they were ideals to strive for rather than ancient old abstractions of which some people simply will not let go. A pagan who insists there is a God who is the source of all of our law, and that we must adhere to the commands of that being. In the end, Cicero teaches, our laws must reflect that eternal and unchanging law on which any and all good laws are based.

Right Reason is that which is in league with nature and nature's God. All that we do which is to be of any good use must reflect that sense. When we do that, we create justice on Earth. When we do not, when we do as we please with no regard for ultimate and final right and wrong, we invite chaos and anarchy. To quote Cicero once more:

...if the principle of justice were founded on the decrees of peoples, the edicts of princes, or the decision of judges, then justice would sanction robbery and adultery and the forging of wills, in case these acts were approved by the votes or decrees of the populace. (For if a human law)...can make Justice out of injustice, can it not also make good out of bad?

Indeed it can. It is good to hear such a question voiced by someone not, ahem, tainted by modern religion. Those who dismiss religious sentiment and insist that it cannot be applied to lawmaking need a good dose of the old Roman orator if they are to see things in the right light. For Christianity has no hold on the eternal. The truth and beauty of that belongs to all who are willing to seek it. Our laws would be truer and more beautiful as well, should we create them justly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Michigan gas prices hurt 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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not a Laughing Matter

Democratic state Rep. Jim Ananich intends to introduce today a bill which would mandate that employers give employees up to eight hours of unpaid leave per year in order to help them attend academic activities, such as parent teacher conferences, at their child or children's school. Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, who chairs the House Education Committee, apparently has no intention of putting it on the fall agenda of his committee.

That is how it should be. This is nothing more than grandstanding by a lawmaker trying to bring attention to himself. It is feel good legislation of the worst kind, and it cannot come at a worse time for the state of Michigan. Michigan faces problems far more important; this is a non-issue not worth the time of day.

Have legislators been swamped with complaints from parents who cannot find or get the time to attend legitimate school functions? Are the editorial pages or the blogosphere overrun with allegations of mean old employers viciously forcing their workers to miss important school events, cracking the whip and laughing as they sit on their piles of cash earned by sweat of the employees for them?

No. This is exactly why so many citizens think of politics as a joke. Indeed, it is what make politics a joke. Only the people actually being laughed at don't get it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack Layton

We write today with a certain trepidation. We fear that we will end up sounding patronizing, and that is precisely what we do not want. Hopefully we will find the right chord and strike it as intended, true and well intentioned.

We, in Michigan in particular and the United States in general, do not pay enough attention to our friends in Canada. That is something we must work on, if our long friendship is to deepen further and flower all the more as the future unfolds. What brings this up right now is the death of Canadian politician Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the head of the current opposition in the Canadian Parliament. He died of cancer yesterday at the age of 51, following a significant victory in the most recent Canadian elections which propelled him to what status he had at his death.

But we do not want to make this about his or anybody's politics. Politics pale next to the reality which must be dealt with: a man has died, a fellow human being, who loved and was loved, and cared for by many of his fellow citizens. A man who captured the imagination of many Canadians yet seems destined to a lost legacy.

Lost? Our Canadian Facebook friends repeated many times this wonderful and inspiring quote from Mr. Layton: "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

If we, all and every one of us, cannot learn from that, cannot glean a very real lesson which if taken to heart would really change the world for the better, then we are cold indeed.

Rest in Peace, Jack Layton, and solace to our Canadian friends.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Schools of Choice

We may be on the verge of a rather unusual political event. It seems that the makings of a what might otherwise seem an unholy union may be in store. Grosse Pointe Republicans and Detroit Democrats appear in agreement on the upcoming mandatory Schools of Choice proposal soon to be introduced in the State Legislature. They don't like it.

Not surprisingly, they are coming at it from different viewpoints. The Grosse Pointers do not want their schools tampered with by being made to accept out of district students. Democratic lawmakers from Detroit, Sen. Bert Johnson of Highland Park, Sen. Coleman A. Young II of Detroit, and State Rep. Lisa Howze, D-Detroit, all have spoken against it. They fear that the Detroit Public Schools would be further drained (the DPS has been losing students for years) without any chance to stabilize.

The idea, then, would appear to facing a sharp uphill climb. Even the Michigan Association of School Boards is against it, believing that any such choice should be left to the existing schools districts. Meanwhile, a group called the Michigan Communities for Local Control has been formed to direct efforts against the legislation. The MCLC argues that local officials locally elected van make the best choices for their schools.

However this all plays out, it isn't likely that we will see such hands across the aisle agreement with many other issues. But who knows? Maybe we can all just get along. So long as the right buttons are pushed.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grosse Pointe Schools One (Last?) TIme

We realize that we are running the risk of kicking the proverbial dead horse in returning to one subject for the third time in five days, but feel that we must just the same. As clarity can only help the understanding of a point, we sincerely hope to bring some clarity to the picture today.

Our original intention way back last Thursday, August 17th, was not to criticize or lambaste the citizens of Grosse Pointe Woods or those who live in the district of and participate in the Grosse Pointe Public Schools. That it came out that way is our fault; the headline was certainly inflammatory and we confess we meant it that way. We are trying to attract readers and sensationalism tends to accomplish that. It was a shoot from the lip headline, done in the heat of the moment, and we regret it. It was unfair to the people of the Grosse Pointes, and of Grosse Pointe Woods in particular. We hope that they will accept our sincere apology.

Who we were after last week were the people whom our favorite education writer, Dr. Richard Mitchell, called 'educationists'. Our favorite quote of his is that, in order to really educate yourself, you should: "Seek out the best, wondering minds, and go and sit with them. Remember while you do that, our children sit with facilitators." If with that you understand what he means, then you understand what is wrong with modern American education (generally).

Educationists are, if we understand Mitchell correctly, those who deal in propaganda rather than propagation. The difference is important. Another of our favorite writers, Mr. C. S. Lewis, explains that the difference is that propagation involves instilling within the next generation the understanding of and respect for the truths of the past, while propaganda is merely the conditioning of the pupil for he knows not what, for whatever purposes the propagandist deems important.

It has been our experience that public educators in general (yes, we know there are exceptions) are great propagandists. A great part of their propaganda lies in their supposed care for the pupil. They are for the children; education is all about the children; the children are the focus of education. It all sounds very good...until we come top realize that, again quite often but admittedly not entirely, that what they really want to do with the children they claim to love so much is not to teach them to think for themselves but to convince them to accept certain presuppositions about what society ought to be like, according to their agenda.

Consequently, when we read quotes about property values going down under Schools of Choice legislation we immediately thought of how the educationists always, always, claim to put the child first (for the purposes of what they consider good rather than for what is truly good for the child) and thought we had a chance to make a point about their hypocrisy. We made a hasty generalization in not knowing for sure whether the Grosse Pointe Schools were educators or educationists. Once again, we apologize and regret the presumption.

We still stand by our general thoughts about public education. We still prefer private to public education, in part so that parents can indeed see more directly what happens in the schools where their children are. But we do not want to besmirch anyone wrongly. We hope this explanation helps to clear the air.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Postal Service Re-invents Itself.

The US Postal Service, bleeding red ink, has announced plans to close many Detroit area post office branches in the coming months. Indeed, throughout Michigan there will be many closings. There will be community meetings first to hear citizen concerns, but in the end about 1 in 10 post offices will be closed. The Postal Service intends to replace them with mini-centers inside drug stores and the like, where stamps and packets and various other mailing needs will be sold.

The folks we feel the most compassion for are the senior citizens who, perhaps, have never become comfortable in the computer age and prefer direct personal service with their mail. Hopefully they will be comfortable enough with the new setups, which presumably will be in neighborhood business and as accessible as the soon to close post offices. Those who live in more rural areas, the elderly and other postal patrons alike, may face greater difficulties than here in the Detroit Metro area. And, of course, those postal workers losing their jobs will no doubt face trying times. It is right to feel sympathy for all involved.

But for well or for ill, and we believe mostly for well, Postal service is simply waning. With e-mail and online bill paying and the like, there simply isn't the need for paper letters and bills that there once was. That has to seen as a positive, especially by the left, as we use less paper and cardboard. The whole effort is merely a reflection of a society always changing in its practical approach to problems. On the whole, most such changes in our history have been improvements.

Still, we will miss the local post office, the direct personal attention. So it goes; it is a storm we all must weather.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Personal Responsibility for Daily Needs

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.

It goes without saying that the most localized control we can have is to go right down to the individual. The more that an individual can do for himself, to pay for and nurture by himself, the better quality product he will generally have. What was the first part of the famous Milton Friedman quote? When a person is paying for something directly and for himself, he will demand the best price and the best quality. This goes for nearly all the everyday things human beings require: food, clothes, shelter, and education.

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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grosse Pointe Woods Redux

Well, it certainly seems as though we found an audience. The people of Grosse Pointe Woods have spoken loudly in response to our missive of yesterday, and not without making some valid points. We will not be able to address them all, but we do thank those who took the time to pen them.

First off, we referred to a Grosse POinte Woods School District which does not exist. It was a silly mistake which should have been easily overcome, and we apologize for it. But the real issue here is that of local control. So in an attempt to cut to the quick, we'll address that item today.

There is no actual local control of the local schools. We gave up on that when we bought into the whole idea of 'free' public education. As every political unit in the state of Michigan is a subset of the state and therefore subject to it, so too are public schools subject to it. Lansing will have its hand in our public schools, as things are, and that's that. We can debate whether Michigan should do this or that, but we cannot act as thought the state can't, at the end of the day, do what it wants with our schools.

The only real way to effect almost complete local control of the schools (and we say almost because there is a legitimate state oversight function within education) would be to make schools private so far as we can. Education should be overwhelmingly private anyway seeing as education is primarily a parental responsibility, and only secondarily a concern of the broader society. Society has no more business being the primary educator of our children than it has in feeding, clothing, and housing them.

Consider this: if we were to propose that the general society were to present to the taxpaying public a plan to feed, clothe, and house our children; indeed, to, ahem, force upon them national health care, without consideration of parental rights and responsibilities, the plan would be derided as socialist. Yet for some reason we do not apply that point with regard to public education.

If you want to have real and direct control of your children's education, fellow citizens of Grosse Pointe Woods, then take it and send your kids to private schools. Anything short of that is simply divvying up money at the public trough alongside our liberal Democratic friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grosse Pointe Woods puts Property Values over Education

The Grosse Pointe Woods City Council has voted to ask that local educational institutions be allowed to opt out of any Schools of Choice legislation which may be introduced into the Michigan Legislature this fall. The intent of such a law, while allowing that local schools take care to fill their seats with pupils from within their respective districts first, would be to make local schools with available space take students from other districts to fill them.

Grosse Pointe Woods doesn't like the idea, It would ruin property values and the quality of life in their community, asserts Mayor Robert Novitke. A group calling itself Michigan Communities for Local Control has been formed, to insist that local communities keep control of their schools local.

Well, the Grosse Pointe Woods Schools certainly seem to like taking state funds for their operating costs. In that light, it becomes fair to ask exactly how local their schools actually are. If you take money from Lansing, then you are in fact under Lansing's umbrella and are subject to Lansing's demands. It's as simple as that.

While we appreciate and support the concept of local control for a quite a few things, it strikes us as inconsistent (to say the least) to claim the right of local control when you take non-local cash. At the end of the day, if local control doesn't mean wholly local support, then your argument, quite frankly, is hollow. When Grosse Pointe Woods Schools begin to support themselves entirely, then Grosse Pointe Woods Schools can legitimately argue for local control. But so long as they take from the coffers of the taxpayers from a broader geographical area, they are subjecting themselves to the will of those persons. If those persons insist on schools of choice, then you gotta take the bitter with the sweet.

Or go your own way completely. As it is, Grosse Pointe Woods Schools and any and all districts who side with them are acting from selfishness rather than in the interests of educating all who are willing. If that strikes you as contrary to the purpose of education as espoused by all those who insist on free public schools, your are struck right and true. GPWS wants the cake. Yet they are unwilling to eat it. Their hypocrisy is glaring, and we do indeed learn a valuable lesson from that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Conservatives aren't Against Everything

A writer on AOL, Jill Lawrence, asks the question of whether the 'compassionate conservatism' of George W. Bush is dead. In supporting her point, she offers a laundry list of things which various Republicans and Tea Party favorites espouse: getting the federal government out of the education, unemployment, and even social security markets, to cite a few. The obvious insinuation is that anyone who supports such ideas are callous.

It is an unfair and irrational perception. Why is it that if someone is against, say, the federal Department of Education, it is assumed that they are against education as education? We have yet to hear a Tea Party maverick assert that children should not be taught to read, write, and cipher. Likewise on health care: no one is saying that the folks who need a doctor's care or hospitalization should not get it if it can be had. No one in the GOP asserts that we should not put in place in our nation the mechanisms which will allow anyone and everyone truly seeking gainful employment to have a decent shot at it.

What it all boils down to, again, is philosophy. If you're a big government tax and spend liberal, then any opposition to Washington being involved in our day to day affairs is immoral. Period. Yet if you believe in the sanctity of the individual then you believe that his freedom to choose what he wants out of life, among his legitimate options, is what will in the long run best promote decent education, affordable heath care, and an environment where jobs can be created and maintained through human ingenuity and industry rather than by government command.

In short, conservatism and conservatives aren't ogres. Indeed, they give more charitably than any other political group, of their time and money. Sure, the liberals give: but that's the practice of giving your money to other people. It is not true charity. Indeed, it is patronization on the one hand, and to a degree (because not all government spending is wrong of course) organized theft on the other. That does not promote goodwill or compassion. It creates jealousy of the worst kind: that because person A has something and person B does not, then there must be something wrong with the system. That is not charitable. It is, however, in the long run a recipe for dictatorship.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Parties Should Select their Candidates

The Michigan Republican party has decided to go with a closed primary next February. The move is a bit silly, seeing as all you have to do in order to vote in the primary is declare yourself Republican. It's an open primary with a qualifier, and that's about it. If the state GOP really wanted to make a statement, it would eliminate the primary completely and allow only active Republicans to choose the party's candidates. Yes, it would return to the old system of smoke filled rooms.

Don't be bothered by the quaint idea that the electorate has the right to choose their preferred candidates. It doesn't. The voting public gas the right to choose from among whomever the parties select, or from among whoever runs as a candidate on their own. But the voters do not have the right to tell the political parties who to nominate.

Political parties are essentially private entities. They should not be public toys. Such a situation only lends itself to mischief. The parties will have forced upon themselves the occasional extremist who ends up 'representing' the GOP or the Democrats them Party itself doesn't want them. Or, as is more prevalent, crossover voters who are actually either a Democrat or Republican voting in the wrong primary (so to speak) trying to get a poor nominee for their true party's candidates to run against.

Further, it weakens the ideology of the parties and thus is less likely to give voters a real choice at the general elections. We would be better off to have purely Republican candidates facing wholly Democratic candidates in general elections as party bonds would be tighter. As it is, we get watered down political philosophy in lieu of real and decided choices, real differences between among those running for office. We would get political parties with real teeth, because candidates would have to tow party lines rather than simply be individuals who don't really need to prove loyal to the cause of the group they purport to represent.

Voters have the right to select from among the candidates offered in a general election. They do not have the right to tell private organizations who should represent them. We need the parties working out details in smoke filled rooms.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

DPS Emergency Manager Should Drive a Smaller Car

Roy Roberts, the emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools, drives around in a $40,000 SUV paid for out of district funds. His old car, a 2005 Dodge Durango, had over 100,000 miles on it and recently needed about a thousand dollars worth of repairs. It was 'in total disrepair' according to Roberts. Meanwhile, the Detroit Federation of Teachers called the purchase wasteful, especially in light of the hardships the district is facing.

We have to go with the DFT on this one. It isn't that it's wrong for someone in Mr. Roberts' position to have a vehicle furnished for his use. When you need to travel frequently by the nature of your job, to have the employer providing a car is not an outlandish idea.

But an SUV? There are at least three reasons why that is unacceptable in these times. For starters, as cash strapped as the DPS is, it would seem that a perfectly good car comparable to the standing of an emergency manager could be had for much less. Secondly, in light of the fact that he is an emergency manager and that the emergency manager law is so relatively controversial, he ought to set a tone of austerity starting right in his own office. Thirdly, with gas prices what they are, it simply makes economic sense to find something with better mileage than an SUV. And we may as well add that in this day and age, a vehicle only six years old which only needed a thousand bucks of repairs, the type of vehicle many of us in fact drive, doesn't sound that bad. 111,000 miles on today's cars really isn't all that many.

To be sure, perhaps there are reasons to have a larger vehicle. Yet off the top of the head, the only one we can come up with is safety. A larger vehicle is undoubtedly safer than a smaller one. But we aren't saying that he should get an Aveo, either, and we cannot imagine any bold direct attacks on Mr. Roberts where an SUV would offer significant extra protection on such a front.

The whole thing smells too much like a matter of prestige. Indeed in today's DPS, on a job which already pays a quarter million dollars a year, it borders on comedic. Even we will admit that in an environment where you're asking your employees to take pay cuts, it is at least vaguely insulting. If our leaders want to set the right tone for their actions, they must begin with a hard look in the mirror.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

They're Simply Poor Losers

Well, we here at the Wayne County Conservative Examiner's Office really do hate to belabor a point. We really do. But with that said, we're about. If you would be so kind as to indulge us, we'll promise to drop the issue for, well, a day or two.

Yesterday we spoke of the selfishness of the recall movement currently being waged against Michigan's elected officials. It won't work, and, indeed, it reeks of self interest on the part of the parties involved. But we have pointed that much out already. Maybe it's time to point out the unmitigated arrogance of it all.

The recallers want what they want because they want it, and taxpayers be damned if it costs more in the extra elections and extra work for the Secretary of State's office. Never mind that it reeks of self interest, of the special interests demanding that the taxpaying public ante up because those interests want them to. Never mind that the recall movement threatens to gum the work of the democracy by calling for elections between elections, even though we have elections frequently enough to satisfy any rational person's philosophy. We can almost foresee recall effort after recall effort well into the future anytime the liberals don't get their way, because that's how they operate. They're going to to force their will on us, somehow, because they don't care what the people said in 2010.

The current recall fever in Michigan is little more than a temper tantrum. The liberals are acting like the kid who owns the football: government is their sport, thank you very much, and we are to play by their rules. It is nothing more than sour grapes, and nothing less than being poor losers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Michigan Recall Efforts Selfish

Like the Little Engine That Could, they're still trying. You have to give them a certain respect for that: against the odds they keep fighting, even pushing their goals farther into the future in the hopes of ultimate victory. They are even heartened by the sort-of victory by recall advocates in Wisconsin. They are those here in Michigan who advocate the recall of Governor Rick Snyder and some members of the Michigan Legislature.

Recall proponents feel they have enough signatures to put a recall vote against Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, on the November ballot. Steeled by that presumed victory (the signatures have not been validated yet), they are refocusing on recalling more Michigan lawmakers through the February 2012 primary. Yet that isn't a particularly good option for them: only the Republican side of the primary will offer a real contest (President Barack Obama will surely win the Democratic primary) which means February voters will most likely be solid Republicans who will vote against recalls of their own.

In short, the news is vaguely positive for recall. But only vaguely. For all the gyrations in Wisconsin, the Republicans there still hold the Governor's mansion, as well as the state Senate and House both, albeit by a slim 17-16 margin in Madison's upper chamber. All that really means is that the GOP there will have to keep its ducks in line, and little more.

Meanwhile here at home, even should the recall of Mr. Scott succeed, it will hardly change the balance of power in Lansing. The majority the GOP holds in the Michigan Senate is still overwhelming, and one seat won't alter the balance of power in the House as the GOP is up 63-47 there. So all that is really happening in Michigan politics is that an active, vocal, yet decided minority is operating the recall drive. Most Michigan citizens aren't giving it the time of day.

The recall effort in Michigan then is ultimately much ado about nothing. With the state House up for reelection next November anyway, most voters are willing to hold out changes, if any are to be, until then. That it how, outside of a true calamity, things should be. Because the Michigan recall isn't really about right and wrong, but over who's ox is being gored. The left doesn't like the results of 2010 and are too impatient with the voters to wait for a regular turn to turn Lansing back towards its wants. It is nothing more than petty politics of the worst, most selfish kind.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Science and Religion

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. It is true because it is true; interesting how the seriously religious are accused of circular argument when they assert such things. Anyway, 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 merely 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, truths so obvious as to be Reason Itself. 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, or that something simply had to be. It's no different that believing in a Creator.

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 and environmentalists can handle the rebound.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Detroit Suffers Another Hit to the Head

Government waste is nothing new to the world. Indeed, even egregious government spending hardly raises an eyebrow anymore, so common is the, uh, practice. Still, that doesn't mean that we should not make ourselves aware of it, and fight it the best we can. Just the same, it does become tiresome. Especially when yet another instance of glaring stupidity is discovered in Detroit, a city which really doesn't need any more adverse piling on to its poor reputation.

Detroit's Department of Human Services over the last few years has spend money meant to help the poor, some of them dead, by giving them gift cards. The trouble with gift cards is that they can be, and often are, used to purchase things not allowed under the block grant which funds the program. Things you would not think of when giving to the poor, such as big screen TVs.

What it goes to prove is that government workers, the keepers of our tax money, think little about when and how to spend it. It shows too that the poor aren't necessarily a group of well intentioned and virtuous people merely down on their luck. It appears as though many of them took the money and ran, to buy luxuries which most any rational man would agree should not be the main concern of the truly impoverished. It would be interesting to know how many if any of them returned the cards with an explanation something like, 'Well, thanks, but I'd really like job help or to have my prescriptions paid for.'

Mayor Bing has promised an immediate investigation. In the meantime, Detroit suffers another blow to her reputation. Only now, it is not only the slacking government workers who have delivered it. The uppercut came from that segment of society which is supposed to need the greatest help.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kwame's Third Chance?

It seems, perhaps, that former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick might land on his feet after all. He has been released from prison, having served his sentence for not being entirely honest about his ability to repay the City of Detroit what he owes it in the wake of the text message scandal. He has a book in print, Surrendered: The Rise, Fall & Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick, sales of which are, by court order, to go towards his restitution payments (which the former mayor insists he intends to repay anyway). And now he has a paying gig, meeting with students and speaking to them about his life and its pitfalls. He will speak at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas on August 27th.

The school's motto, Think Justice, indeed seems appropriate to the nature of Mr. Kilpatrick's visit. Further, school officials assure the public that Kilpatrick will be properly challenged by their students.

Let's hope so. It would be nice to think that, as Mr. Kilpatrick somehow still seems to view himself as a role model, he might actually take on the mantle and instruct those college students on proper behavior and how to live rightly. There's no good scoffing at this prospect: if he isn't recalcitrant, it doesn't matter, and folks will see through him. If he is, well, his crimes certainly weren't beyond forgiveness, and hopefully the students will learn a lesson in that.

Mr. Kilpatrick does have to earn his daily bread as well. It is unfair to expect that every dollar he earns should go towards restitution no matter how fair and, ahem, just the payments may be. And to give him his due, he could certainly inspire the young at one time in his life. If he can find a way to inspire them properly as he gets his own affairs back in order, there's no harm giving him the chance.

True, his past actions do not offer much reason to believe that possible. Yet as the future is unwritten, there's no harm giving him the benefit of the doubt. As only time will tell, as time is all he or we have got, we just as well let it play out its course. If nothing else, maybe the upcoming Federal case against him will help keep his actions in check.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What Pro Abortion Means

It is high time that we took control of the debate about abortion by defining our terms in a way which better illustrates the matter. We must start by asserting the very obvious yet oft denied truth that Pro-Choice means Pro-Abortion.

There is a simple test to prove this point. I am not a fan of basketball. I am not impressed by the athleticism of the game nor do I find it particularly entertaining. Yet I am in favor of those wanting to play it being allowed to do so. I am, with no embarrassment, willing to proclaim that I am pro-basketball. I am not merely in favor of individual choice on the question. I wholly support that those who want to play it must be allowed to play it.

Yet abortion supporters will not make a similar allowance. Indeed they are nearly rabid in their denunciations: pro-choice, they claim, does not mean pro-abortion.

Why do they want to hide the true nature of their views? That they most certainly wish as much is found not merely through the above example but in the fact that so many of them, when discussing the question, are quick to add that they themselves would never have one.

I do not go around proclaiming that, while I support those playing basketball in their right to play, I personally would never play it. I never say, "You'll never see me shooting hoops." I don't have to; as playing it is not wrong, I see no reason to assert that I wouldn't do it. Unless they know in their own hearts that abortion is wrong, the pro-abortion activists have no need of trying to imply a difference of viewpoint which does not exist.

It all boils down to one simple point: a guilty conscience needs no accuser. They convict themselves by their actions.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Republicans and Civil Rights

The minority vote is taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That's a shame, when you consider how badly that group has played minorities over the years.

Democrats want to take credit for all the advancements in civil rights in recent times, indeed for any and all forward movements on civil rights in our entire history. Yet at the least, the GOP deserves more consideration in what it has done in that area over time.

It was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, who sent federal troops to insure that minorities were allowed in public high schools. Going back much further, a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, did the most to free the slaves. Say what you want about what he said at the time, his actions were what ended slavery.

How quickly too we forget the Dixiecrats, Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation. You know, the guys such as the late Robert Byrd, whose past the Democratic party has gone to great pains recently to ignore if not outright, ahem, whitewash? Not that it isn't good that he may have recanted later on in life, there is nonetheless his history of at least initially working against minorities.

It is interesting also to note that Republican support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was actually stronger than Democratic support. As a Party, the GOP voted for the Act by about an 80% - 20% margin; Democrats, while overall in favor of it, voted at about a 62% - 38% figure. Indeed, not enough Democrats in the Senate voted for the measure to have passed it on their power: only 46 Democratic senators voted aye. That means that it would not have passed the Senate without Republican support at a time the Democrats were the majority party by a tremendous number in that chamber, 67-33.

Why don't we hear about this in schools and the media? Because it's not history that they like. It makes conservatives in general and Republicans in particular look too good. So much for the objectivity of the journalists and educators.

When you throw in the fact that many minorities are social conservatives, one cannot help but conclude they need to rethink their ties to the Democratic Party. But when the race card gets played, well, we'll see who's actually played.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Does Islam Mean?

How we handle the Muslim world is obviously one of the trickiest tasks we face in the coming years. There is an awful lot of distrust of Islam and no real idea of how to allay the fears of it which many seem to harbor. Yet how we view and work with the Islamic world is nevertheless critical to our future. This is especially true in the Metro Detroit area, where we have many Muslim friends, who participate freely in our local society. They are good, outstanding members of our community, They merit our attempting to understand their creed.

So, how do we view Islam? That is a question which doesn't have an easy answer. The most logical point would be to look towards Muslim teachings for guidance. Yet that brings on a few difficult questions, not the least of which is: who exactly do we go to for answers?

There are many more sects within Islam than most folks imagine. A brief internet search reveals that there at at least five branches of the religion, dominated by the Sunni and the Shi'a with several smaller groups. Within Islam are four schools of thought, any of which are deemed valid to follow.

This rudimentary understanding of Islam really only heightens the problem. When there are many sects of a religion, coupled with the lack of any real hierarchical structure within it, then who actually speaks for Islam? The ones who preach peace or the ones who cry war?

Compare this to he Catholic Church, were we find a highly structured organization which can be approached as to the Catholic stance on such and such a question. We may not like what it says to us, but we cannot doubt what it means to say.

Unless we can find a source of Islam which speaks for all of Islam, can we actually ever know whether it as a movement can be trusted or not? This isn't to say that individual Muslims are bad people. As likely as not, the overwhelming majority of them are fine and outstanding members of their communities struggling with day to day life as most everyone else does. Yet do those folks speak for all of Islam when they speak, or simply for themselves?

Without a final source on what Islam means it will be difficult to understand it more fully. And without such understanding, can the other hurdles ever be overcome?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bike Lanes Waste Money

They're everywhere. They can be found all over Detroit, and more are appearing all the time. Our old road markers are being erased and new solid white lines are taking their place, narrowing lanes for vehicular traffic as they are marked. We are seeing in Detroit the installation of dedicated bike lanes on our city streets.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that on its own terms, so far as it goes. Bicyclists have as much right to the road as cars and trucks. Oh, there are reasons which we find shallow for encouraging riding bikes over using our cars: all the environmental overstatements or the hue and cry over burning fossil fuels come to mind immediately. Even the idea of the government encouraging bike riding for the sake of exercise we find to be beyond the province of our elected and bureaucratic officials, though we will concede such as better for any given human being than the other claptrap. Still, isn't it fair to ask, exactly why is this being done?

There simply are few bikes on Detroit streets as it is. Perhaps they mean to encourage bike riding by having the visible lanes installed. But, again, bikes could use the roads anyway, and we can't see where such antics would particularly tempt more folks to get out the old two wheeler. Especially on routes such as 14th Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard, where there are simply few riders. Yet each have bike lanes now.

There certainly doesn't appear to be an increase in cyclists on Michigan Avenue, where the lanes first came to our notice several months ago. We should, maybe, point out here that we at the Wayne County Conservative Examiner's Office are avid bike riders. We are on the byways of Detroit frequently. But we rarely see other such enthusiasts as we bandy about town.

What we are taking a very roundabout way of saying is that, with all the difficulties governments at all levels are having with cash flow, why all this splurging on bike lanes which almost certainly will not result in more bike riding? To increase awareness of those who do ride? To, once more, increase ridership? That hardly seems likely or necessary. It would seem that we are seeing money spent pointlessly, and at a time when money is tight and existing cyclists don't seem to care to use bike lanes anyway.

Yet our friends wonder why conservatives are so against government spending.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Faith Works

Metro Detroit doctor Earlexia Norwood prays. She prays for guidance while diagnosing illnesses, and sometimes prays with her patients. It's because she believes that faith helps the healing process, and that medicine can't do everything.

There has been much research on the connection between faith and healing. Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of Duke University's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, says that there have been many studies into the issue of religious belief and curing the sick, and that around two-thirds of them find a healthy correlation between the two.

It is fascinating to hear Detroit physicians and surgeons so accepting of the role faith plays when treating their patients. True doctors, those open to the fact that they can't do it all medically, are more than willing to give the higher powers of religion their due. After all, they became doctors to help people. The desire to help is naturally unselfish and welcomes any aid which it may get. It makes you wonder how much healing we might receive in any and all walks of life if we were self effacing enough to put faith at the center of curing all societal ills and not only the physical.