Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cold Showers

The last day of the year is typically supposed to be a year in review kind of thing for all of us political and social commentators, right? Well, then, perhaps the most significant Detroit area event, if one can reasonably call something spread out over an entire year an event, is all that rain we endured. Yes, friends, Detroit's wettest year ever was 2011, with a chance to add a little more to that record before the year expires in about 16 hours as we write.

Weather, generally, is only a significant news story when it is extreme, such as hurricanes, massive floods, or droughts. But this surely qualifies, doesn't it? Detroit streets and homes were frequently flooded. All that precipitation had its effect on business too: plumbers report a better business climate this year as a direct result of the rain. Flooded basements mean clogged drains, a sure shot in the arm for local plumbers hit as hard by Michigan's poor economic climate (notice the bit of a pun there? rain...economic climate?) as everyone else.

Who do we blame? We have to blame someone, you know; nothing ever just happens. It must somehow be a result of all that global warming hullabaloo which we hear about incessantly. Or not. When asked why all the rain this year, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, David Kook, said, "I haven't a clue." Take that, all you who seek climate Armageddon under every rock.

It just happened. Things just happen sometimes, folks. And that's what the Detroit area faced this year. One big, wet weather fluke.

Stay tuned for 2012. The weather almost certainly will not be such big news in the new year. But just case, perhaps check rowboat prices during today's year end sales.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Height of Hypocrisy

All too often, when we find ourselves in disagreement with our political and philosophical fellows (which seems, indeed, all too often) it is suggested, why can't we all just get along?, and further, why can't we just agree to disagree? Well, because that's just talk, and talk is cheap.

We should, of course, strive to get along with everyone we meet no matter where we find ourselves on the issues. We can get along even when significant differences are involved, so long as the debate is kept civil. But as to agreeing to disagree? That is simply a tool which the left uses in an attempt to shut the right up, because on the issues with which we disagree, quite often the laws and society are already on their side. It is easy to say let's just agree to disagree when you have what you want in place.

So, how about we change the law and make abortion illegal and then agree to disagree? Why not enact a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman and then agree to disagree? Ahem, my dear conservatives, that's because we really don't want to agree to disagree. We want you to accept our judgment, and check yours at the voting booth curtain or courthouse door.

They look down their noses from such tall pedestals that they will not even consider that maybe, just maybe, what they ask for is selfish and inane. Such is the height of liberal hypocrisy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wasteful Spending

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, December 26, 2011

OWS and Arrogance

I appreciate that you took the time to post. But, with all due respect, almost all of what you say is hyperbole. All this ranting against the rich...yet no mention of all the philanthropic endeavors of the wealthy. In Detroit alone, we have many things named after those wealthy patrons who donated much of their time and money to doing good works for the poor and middle class. The names Ford, Karmanos, Taubman, Ilitch, and many more grace our city because of the deep generosity of those families. This is true in all major cities of our nation, and I wouldn't be surprised one bit if it were true of most of the cities of the world.

While I also do not doubt that there are selfish rich people (just as there are selfish folks of every stripe) it seems that a great many of them, at least, do use what they have for the betterment of the greater society. To dismiss them all as evil, as the Occupy adherents appear to do, reeks of something worse than whatever evils it is the rich supposedly do. It reeks of jealousy, whose stench is in many ways more foul than the presumed arrogance and greed of the rich.

We are reminded too of a comment we overheard from a plumbing contractor: 'I ain't never been hired by a poor man.' We need people of accumulated wealth, capital, who are able to give working men and women gainful employment through investment and philanthropy.

Besides, if we went all out into a command economy, which is exactly what we would have should the government steal (yes, steal) the money from the rich, well, we've seen how that works out. We've seen Soviet five year plans stretched to seven in the hopes of achieving certain goals. We've seen people lined up for hours on the mere rumor of bread or shoes coming to the local store. How does that help the poor?

We haven't even gotten to your 99% yet. Why do you think they all support Occupy? We don't; most of our friends don't, and none of us are wealthy. Quite frankly, what the Occupy Movement is most guilty of is hubris. That, dear friend, is about as selfish as you can get.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Tonight is the night. God, who loved the world so much, sends his Son into the world as the weakest thing possible: a child, an infant, a mere baby. He could have sent hordes of angels or simply taken the just to Heaven and obliterated the evildoers. Yet He didn't...because all human life is sacred and He wanted all to have a shot at salvation.

Stop shopping. If you don't have what you need by now, everything will still be alright. Stop putting up decorations. The house looks fine. Stop trying to save the world: you won't. Don't worry about the food: there's plenty in the larder, undoubtedly enough that you ought to give some to the needy. And not just the old can of asparagus at the back of the shelf. Something instead which the poor and hungry would appreciate as you would.

Don't fret if you don't see everyone, each family member and friend dear to you, at Christmas or at all during the holidays. If they don't appreciate you by now, or you them, it doesn't matter anyway. They know this about you as well.

Stop saving the economy and start saving yourself from all which ails the world. Do what you can, and none of it in excess, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Air Jordan Explodes on the scene

A young man was arrested for inciting a riot at the Southland Mall early today. A crowd of about 300 had broke into the Mall well before it opened, but at least the situation didn't spin out of control. In Seattle, police need pepper spray to disperse a crowd there. What is the connection between these two incident?

The people involved wanted to buy the very newest Air Jordan sneakers.

This is exactly the type of absurd and insane behavior which is the direct result of the sin of consumerism. They're Air Jordans, for crying out loud. The Nike Air Jordan XI Concord! We have to have them! Now!

Ahem. No, you don't. They're shoes, and that's all. Mere things which have reached the point of status symbol simply because a famous athlete's name is attached to them. You don't need them, especially when your friends and neighbors and several local police departments are necessary to step in to quell a disturbance. In that case, you've merely a selfish and stupid oaf.

People worry all the time about the plight of the United States. The President is too strong, the Congress is too strong, the courts are too strong; so is the military and the corporate giants. Yet we never seem to worry that our country is more likely to fall because of loose or nonexistent morals, the type of which lead us to break into private property to be first in line for a pair of stupid gym shoes. The breakdown of the body politic will be the result of the unbridled passion of the individual concerned with getting things before somebody else does. It's the kind of thing which has taken over Christmas season, to the happiness of only those who make and sell stuff.

Apparently he who dies with the most toys wins after all. In the United States of America anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bill James and Society

It is fascinating where certain interesting ideas may be found. The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is must reading for any baseball wonk, almost entirely (surprise, surprise) for its in depth analysis of the game and its players. Still, that doesn't mean that every scrap of value found within it is restricted to interpretations of the true American National Pastime.

Mr. James at one point laments the rise of professionalism in our nation over the last fifty years or so, indeed comparing it to the many other -isms which have infected our body politic. Sportswriters and reporters have become journalists, whereas at one time they had the simpler jobs of reporting the news or sports, with someone to answer to if they didn't stick to those specific jobs. But James takes it further: teachers have become educators who teach to tests rather than teach the subject at hand. Cops have become police officers, garbage collectors sanitation workers, and so on.

The result is that we now have self aggrandized professionals in all fields, but to what point? James opines rather well that legal professionals delivered us the O. J. Simpson verdict, but not justice. On other fronts, he says, journalism has made reporting on news and athletic events adversarial rather than benign. Doctors evolving into physicians and nurses into health care professionals have driven the cost of an aspirin in a hospital to $35 while doctors used to make house calls. You get the point.

While we cannot agree with him on every particular (health care costs have went up for reasons beyond and better than a simple change of attitude, even if you believe they have gone father than reason might allow, and reporters are almost naturally adversarial) his general point is well founded. Why do we see teachers so differently lately? At one point, they had the rather straightforward job of making kids sit down, shut up, and pay attention, while expecting and getting the general support of the community. Now, we demand results from them, codified and quantified based on all kinds of data which the general public doesn't understand yet supports in the cause of education. Why can't we be happy that the kids end up with a high school diploma? Surely most of those earned over the course of American history have been reasonably granted?

Why can't cops catch the bad guys and lawyers by turn prosecute or defend them? What are we really seeking when we make things into more than they are? The net result seems to be displayed through that incident with Barbara Boxer awhile back. You know, the one where she asked to be called "Senator" rather than "Ma'am" because she earned it? Instead of becoming the professionals we claim we are, we instead begin to be arrogant about what we in fact perceive ourselves to be.

We do not mean herein to pick on Senator Boxer in particular. Really, we don't; nor do we wish to disparage the jobs which are done every day and well by all the good teachers and cops and doctors and nurses out there in our land. But the sanctification of what, in the final analysis, we as individuals do for a living cannot help us to truly appreciate the necessary jobs being done for us and by us each and every day. It seems that we've lost something of our innocence, indeed of our humility, when we demand a certain grovelling before us as we earn our daily bread.

We hate to say that all a teacher is is a teacher, or that all a doctor is is a doctor. Yet we cannot escape the feeling that a real teacher or a real doctor should feel that way. It is one thing for the general society to venerate any given individual's very good and very much needed work, indeed up to and including that of, say, trash collector (Would you do that? Pick up others' garbage? Then respect the ones who do). But for the professional to demand that treatment, quite frankly, reeks of a lack of professionalism.

By and large, true professionals command the respect they deserve. They command it precisely because they stick to their jobs rather than trumpet about them. They tend to know their place, and to know that they are not irreplaceable. They know their jobs are bigger than they ever will be. They do them in that light: as best they can without ever thinking they are better than anyone else because of it.

Be appreciative of all the things others done for you. Be humble about what you do for them. If there is a better prescription for a better world, we do not know what it is.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Troy Done Well

Troy, Michigan, has declined to accept funding from the US Government to build a mass transit center within its boundaries. Led by Mayor Janice Daniels, the city government decided that the project would be a waste of federal dollars.

The counter argument, that someone else is just going to get the funding anyway, is exactly the kind of argument which has helped federal spending jump by the billions and trillions of dollars which is has in the last 70 years, and particularly in the last ten. That the Mayor and City Council of Troy are not accepting the cash shows the foresight necessary to reign in Washington: it doesn't matter that the money might be given to someone else. Someone has to stand up and say, no thanks.

It's time to call such projects what they are: pork barrel ideas intending to buy votes by appearing to shore up the economy. This isn't about mass transit except by a very small margin. It's about buying elections with taxpayer money. Especially as the kinds of workers who would almost surely vote for the Democrats currently in our nation's Capitol, it becomes fair to ask whose votes are being bought? Why spread the wealth anyway to folks who are already knee Democrats?

This is an attempt to garb the elusive middle vote, those relatively few who sometimes sway elections. Also, to shore up the President's chances of reelection in what promises to be a swing state. It's a political move which has been met with principled opposition.

Americans don't want mass transit anyway, as a group. They want to drive their cars. So let them, and indeed encourage them by not spending their money so readily for self purposes. The city of Troy has done a courageous thing, and deserves credit for it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Occupiers Grow Desperate

Do we need any more proof that the Occupy Wall Street group (if they can truly be called that) is little more than a se3lf-indulgent rabble? The attitude recently displayed in New York shows their true colors as nothing before had done.

The crowd essentially demanded that it be allowed to occupy a piece of private property, a vacant lot owned by Trinity Episcopal Church, as a new place to, well, occupy. The authorities and the Church leaders rightly rejected it. The Church did it more out of an odd kind of respect, saying that there spot wasn't good as there were not sufficient facilities available to a bunch of people. The police saw it as trespassing and acted that way.

The Occupiers are clearly not interested in anything other than themselves. Taking over private property without the consent of the owners cannot be viewed as a legitimate form of protest but, rather, as a desperate attempt to get back in the limelight. Such actions do not help the poor, the repressed, or the 99% they arrogantly claim to represent. But it does give them just a little more screen, print, and Internet time.

So be it. As long as they pay the fine on their out of jail. We're sure that cash strapped municipalities can use the shot in the arm.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rogue Canadians?

We would have never expected a day on which Canada would been snarled at on the world scene. But as our northern neighbours have rejected the Kyoto Protocols on climate change, well, one would then suppose that the environmentalist left would not take it gracefully.

Canada has been regarded as an 'international climate scofflaw' and is now an 'insignificant' player over climate change. Thus speaketh one Alden Meyer of an allegedly scientific group, bemoaning Canada's rejection of Kyoto.

The first question which comes to mind is, if Canada is all that you say, Mr. Meyer, why is its reversal on Kyoto an issue? It would seem that criticism is not relevant if Canadian actions so unimportant. Still, Meyer further disparaged Canada's action by saying it is an aberration, implying that the international fight against global warming (for that's what it's really about anyway; climate change is merely a sanitized call as its advocates try to sound less shrill) is advancing just fine.

Perhaps that point will help us to understand the true issue at hand. In speaking as a demagogue, Meyer might be actually be demonstrating his fear over the question. He may fear, the whole radical environmentalist left indeed may secretly be panicking, that it is not an aberration. What Canada has done in pulling out of the Kyoto agreements may in truth signal that the world is slowing awakening to the idea that global warming and climate change, outside of natural rhythms in our weather, is a non-issue.

If that is the case, then we commend Canada for the move. It would then strike us as Canadian world leadership rather than any shirking of responsibility. To be sure, there may be political issues within that country which have powered Ottawa to alter its stance. We are not expert enough on Canadian politics to address that point. But as climate change questions are ultimately political anyways, we are not concerned over what exactly led to Canada's decision.

We must look with skepticism upon any call for any worldwide laws and ordinances on any issue. Especially when it comes to any given nation handing over some its powers to anyone else. Particularly when the evidence is scant (there is no radical climate change happening, folks) a calm ear needs to hear questions on the issue and a calm mind consider them. Anytime someone says that something must be done NOW, as the rabid environmentalists do, we cannot take their position seriously. If as such Canada has gone rogue, she deserves nothing but praise.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, the self proclaimed antitheist, has died of cancer. Outspoken and prolific, he never spared anyone his thoughts, to the point of attacking Mother Teresa on the grounds her work encouraged rather than assuaged poverty. What do you do about a man like that on the news of his death?

Exactly what Mother Teresa's own Missionaries of Charity announced from India that they would do. You pray for him.

It doesn't matter whether he or his family would want it. We, as Christians, have to presume that he and they need it, and that it will help Hitchens and his family and friends. There is no other charitable and loving option.

We do not mull over his writings. There is always the temptation to do that after the passing of such a admittedly colorful personage, but what he said as he lived here no matter how we might not care for it doesn't matter today. A human being has left us: a human being who needs us more now that he may have ever imagined.

What he said and did has been and will be debated for a very long time. But the time now is to pause, put our heads on straight, and be right by his soul. The same God who created us created him, and we cannot disparage God's creation at such important points in their lives as when they are moving onto the next stage.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon him. We must say it, pray it, and mean it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Michigan and Charter Schools

The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a bill which would take the cap off of charter schools in the state. Passage is expected in the State Senate, perhaps as early as today. Governor Rick Snyder is likely to sign it when presented to him.

This is precisely the sort of special interest breaking law which Michigan needs. For after all, public education, no matter how its supporters wish to paint it, is a special interest, and an arrogant one at that. Why is it that parents with no option except the local public school must be forced into it? The is a question which must be asked of even the well performing, richer districts. Why ought the Grosse Pointes and Bloomfield Hills regions be able to make those who do not wish to, attend their schools?

It is a particularly galling that so many conservative citizens have bought into the perceived right to a public education. They forget, or, worse, ignore, that all public education funding ultimately means is that the bare majority can make everyone pay taxes for what they happen to want. If that leaves the unwilling unable to send their kids to a different school, then that's just their bad luck. We're the majority: we rule.

Such irrational sentiment can only be seen as blatant hypocrisy when the same conservatives argue for less government intrusion in other areas of their lives. If the government can control something as important as education, it seems there are few other areas where it can have no say.

Public education should be seen for what it is: no different than necessary social welfare programs. It should be paid for from the public coffers only for the families who could not otherwise afford it. Everyone else, like they do for their childrens' food and clothing and housing, should pay even for their education directly and completely by themselves. Any other approach to education is socialism, plain and simple.

One would think conservatives could recognize that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Open the Longest International Border in the World

We live next to a neighbor who cannot be seen as anything less than the greatest friend and ally that a nation such as the United States can have. Canada as a nation and Canadians as a people have been very good to us for the better part of our joint history. We trade more between the two of us than with anyone else. Yet how do we treat our friends in return?

By making them wait unduly long in coming over to say hello, and maybe spend a few bucks while here.

This is an issue which is generally not seen or understood by most of the US. But there is a very real question of courtesy and common sense at stake, both with regard to individuals and businesses. It simply makes sense that we expedite travel between our countries. It is time that we seriously considered a complete opening of the longest border in the world.

Why shouldn't US and Canadian citizens pass freely between each other? We are surely as close as any given European Union country, and likely as not more friendly than a good number of them. Such an idea would free up resources on both sides for better use (we surely have more grief coming from our southern border) while allowing an easier flow of goods, both personal and commercial. An initiative such as this would surely aid free trade, particularly between major crossings such as we have here in Detroit. More than that, it would serve as a powerful sign that we trust each other in the manner which close friends ought.

The terrorism question will certainly come in up in any discussion about this problem. Yet how many suspected terrorists have been caught moving between or border? Or do we, and we should admit this only shamefully if it is true, believe that we don't really trust that Canada's other points of entry are not secure enough for the both of us? All that we really accomplish in thickening the border looking for sneaky evildoers is cause unwarranted trouble for ourselves and our neighbours.

That's hardly a welcome signal. If we are to be at all true to our deepest principles, then we need to show our Canadian brethren that we understand friendship and invite it. At some point, we simply must quit worrying about cloak and dagger threats and live up to our highest callings. Anything less than that and we are but quivering beneath the sheets.

Open the International Border. Let's begin living up to our principles rather than down to the despotism of the world's lowest thugs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poverty and Jealousy

The comedian and talk show host Bill Maher commented recently that he does not think it is the rich who create jobs. Indeed, the rich are the one who cut them: they close plants and move them out of the country. Yet this knee jerk approach begs certain questions.

It ignores the demands made by workers. Workers are every bit as capable as employers of selfishness and self centered behavior and, truth be told, money grubbing. It ignores the hypocrisy of the liberal rich: how far do you go, Mr. Maher, to insure that you get the most bang for your buck with your spending? A good guess is that you try to get the best prices you can, too.

It ignores the bold reality of the entire rich/poor dichotomy. As I was told once by one of the contractors I supply, "I ain't never been hired by a poor man".

Job creation by its nature comes from wealth. Jealousy of the wealthy is simply that: demands that they give more of themselves without a fair payback for their capital investments merely reflects that jealousy. Playing to public selfishness will not create a single job. It will only continue to add pressure to the wealthy to go elsewhere.

Wealth is not a vice, and poverty is no virtue. Until we realize as much, we will simply fail to serve society well.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shop Somerset Anyway

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels is keeping a low profile these days. A few weeks after making a crude comment about homosexuals on her Facebook page, her city is facing a shopping boycott. It seems certain groups don't want people shopping in Troy, as they presume the town is against gays.

Maybe so, maybe no. That is more than we or Troy's detractors know. But it seems an overreaction to hold an entire city and its businesses suspect because of an offhand remark by one official. True, the voters of Troy elected her. Yet that cannot mean they are 100 percent behind her. It is at least possible, and we feel we can safely suppose it was indeed as much, that she was elected over taxation and government services issues rather than the social ones. On that note, attempting to punish everyone associated with Troy, and the question surely goes beyond Troy seeing as not all employees in the town are Troy residents, must be seen an overreach. We doubt it can be successful anyway. Will the consumerist American society actually not shop at the trendy locales which Troy offers?

So why do it? Especially as the types of groups and kinds of people who support gays rights cry shrilly over even the vaguest presumptions about their causes should the slightest whiff of discrimination be directed at them or the actions they defend, why do they feel it acceptable to generalize about Troy? Why hold it against particularly those not associated with the city except that it's where they work?

We are tempted to make our own suggestions as to the underlying reasons, yet will refrain from so doing. Some attitudes and ideas speak well enough on their own. This seems to be one of them. When a group which despises generalization and supposition directed towards itself supports it should it suit their purpose, well, that seems to say it all. You may make of it what you will.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hawking is Simply Wrong

To deny the existence of a transcendental creator is just as much an act of faith as to affirm it.

- Ervin Laszlo

Stephen Hawking believes that God wasn't necessary to the creation of the universe. That's his prerogative, of course; he can believe what he wants. The only trouble we have with it is that, as great of a scientist as he may be, he tends to speak philosophically under the guise of science. That is a significant and telling mistake on his part.

He basically asserts that, as all things necessary for life were present at the dawn of time, a creator was not necessary for life and the expanding universe to occur. It all was bound to happen, or was the product of stupid chance.

The trouble is, that's not science: it's presumption. Imagine entering a room and seeing a pile of boards, screws, brackets, nails, and handles; screwdrivers, saws, hammers, and a measuring tape piled also to the side. You see everything, then turn around and leave.

Upon returning hours later, it's all gone as you remembered it. But a desk stands in the center of room. Did it simply materialize, or was it made with intent?

The simple fact is that nothing happens of its own volition. Such is a very basic philosophic axiom. If all the components of life, the universe, and everything were present before the big bang, it's because they were put there. It should then be no surprise that whatever big ball of matter (or whatever else might have been there) existed before time held all the necessary things which our universe and our lives require. Why wouldn't it? Life would be impossible without them.

The best Mr. Hawking can assert is that the needed materials were just there. And that's all science can say about the, hee, hee, matter. Anything beyond that is his own wishful thinking, his own fairy story. Indeed, his own non-scientific fairy story, for his position is not scientific but philosophical and speculative. Even holding out that he may be right, he must prove his allegations against God and man through purely rational rather than by infertile scientific means. Maintaining that's it's all science restricts, not expands, his point. It shows delusion, not intellect.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Moderates

New polling suggests pretty heavily that the Democrats and President Barack Obama need the so-called moderate vote in order to win elections, while the GOP can rely on the conservative vote quite readily. This can be interpreted in several ways, but perhaps the most insightful is this: moderates aren't really moderates, as a group, but, rather, lean towards more traditional and familiar thoughts whenever in doubt.

That makes sense, in the end. For when there is a crisis, don't most people act based on what they know? When President Reagan was elected back in 1980 to stem the tide of Democratic and hence more liberal leadership, what was his appeal? To make America great again, based on the traditional American values of individualism and hard work. When the GOP ran the tide last November, what was the big question: nothing less than obtrusive, interfering government trampling the rights of the people.

The moderates responded as they knew how, by throwing out those who did not support real American values. That's why conservatives don't have to appeal too overtly to the presumed middle: they aren't actually in the center after all. They are in fact more moderate to conservative rather than being between the left and the right as they are generally portrayed.

Given the fact that so few people, about 20 percent or one in five, call themselves liberal, and it seems that what we truly have in our nation today is an overall aversion to liberalism. Even the presumed center appears to harbor similar doubts about the left, seeing as the Democrats need to get about 60% of the middle of the road vote to win major elections. It is a telling statistic, and does not bode well for any long term success for the party of Jefferson and Jackson.

Of course, the Democratic Party left the beliefs of those American stalwarts behind eons ago. But that is a tale for another time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

End School Bussing

Many districts in Michigan are undergoing continuing financial stress. Reductions in state aid are the main culprit, forcing districts to cut programs at various levels. The hue and cry is always loud and shrill. 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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Brown Has the Right Idea on Detroit Budget Woes

Detroit City council President Pro Tem Gary Brown has offered to have his Council expenditures cut by one-third. He believes that his colleagues and the Mayor's office could stand to do the same. If his numbers are right, and so far his numbers appear to have been better than even the Mayor's, then Detroit would be looking at a savings of around $6 million. That's not something which in itself will keep the City from bankruptcy. But it is an interesting first step.

Detroit Council members get perks beyond what many similarly placed officials do in the country. They can get a city car or a stipend of $600 per month if they don't take one. The Detroit Council's budget takes more financing than those of most other major cities. To be fair, most of the members are willing to take a 10% hit to their budgets. Mr. Brown believes that that's not enough.

His will certainly be an uphill battle. Other Council members are balking, one, Andre Spivey, asserts that a strong local legislative branch of government will save more money6 in the long run. But if that really were the case it is fair to ask why don't we have savings now? Bickering, on the part of every part of Detroit City Government, is perhaps the biggest reason why the City is facing a state takeover. It's the content of the institutions of government and not the institutions themselves which are the problem.

It's a bold move for Councilman Brown, and an easy one too, seeing as he ought to be pretty well of considering his victorious whistle blower lawsuit with the City. Still, it has merit, and should be supported. You can't ask thousands of others to bite the bullet if you won't either.

Given the nature of Detroit politicians, and emergency manager is probably in our future. Yet if a few more people thought like Gary Brown, it might just be avoidable.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas and John Lennon

During the Christmas season we hear ad infinitum all and every Christmas song imaginable. That's okay, of course. They are part of the holidays and many are well worth hearing, containing sentiments expressed well and to a good point.

Not all of them quite make that standard, however; even some of the better ones. John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War is Over) is one of those. It is a neat little tune, at times ethereal and perhaps even angelic. But the trouble with it is that it preaches to the choir just a bit too much, while more or less undermining the very sentiments it pretends to address.

War is over...if you want it. Well, of course the bulk of the Western world wants it. Indeed, most individuals in the world want it. Yet the problem with calling for the end of war is that it falls on too many deaf ears. So long as that's the case, so long as there are those who do in fact want it on some level, then we have little more than something too idealistic to be practical.

Especially when you attempt to combine Lennon's general philosophy with the apparent point of the song. One need only recall the words of another famous song of his to get that irony: Imagine there's no heaven...no religion. In short, he usually in his life appealed to sentiments contrary to Christmas. Without Heaven or Religion there would be no Christmas. Indeed, with nothing universal and eternal, the sentiments he expresses in his work are rendered meaningless. There can be no brotherhood of man worth salt without forever.

And Forever is precisely what the greatest Christmas songs call us towards. Family, friends, fellowship; these are eternal values. John Lennon ultimately only speaks in support of earthly ones. Values of the type he could not safely proclaim even or especially in the Gulag, or modern China or North Korea. Places, it must be noted, without heaven or religion. Places mired in earthly concerns.

In the end, what he preaches must be hollow. Or, and we should truly and fully hope and pray for this, the song shows he was in fact a better man than his professed creed. Because as it is, what he calls for is little more than comfort and self indulgence. Those feelings are not in the Christmas spirit.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Latest from Iowa

Herman Cain is out of the race, and Newt Gingrich is moving up. Ron Paul finished second in the most recent Iowa Republican public opinion tally, while presumed man to beat Mitt Romney wound up third in the field. What does it all mean?

It means that you shouldn't put your money on someone named after a piece of baseball equipment.

Seriously, what does it mean? Really, especially when we are talking about something only two-ninths of the players use? Catchers and first basemen wear mitts; everyone else has a glove.

Okay, enough of the silly banter. Everyone knows that a glove has fingers while mitts have a spot for the thumb while everything else is extra padding.

Really, seriously now, what does it mean?

It means that Herman Cain had a message which resonated among the Republican field, yet he had too much baggage, fairly or unfairly, to continue his run. It also means that Ron Paul has followers who will go to the end of the Earth for him, but probably not enough for him to actually become the GOP standard bearer. It means that Newt Gingrich has been able to take advantage of his Johnny come lately status and has sprung to the top before Republicans, reporters, poll watchers, debate aficianados and plain old voters have had a chance to re-examine his views and his person. It means that Mitt Romney is still considered a player but folks are checking out other options while there seems to be time to do it.

And that's all it means. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else until the actual Iowa caucus. Until then, we got nuthin' except a mitt.

First base or catcher?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Live Orthodoxly!

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, it 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.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Should Suh Face Criminal Prosecution?

The great Ndamukong Suh debate is on. Well, it really hasn't ended since Thanksgiving, and it really didn't begin then anyway. NFL players think he's a dirty player, no one has rushed to defend his actions during the third quarter of the Lions 27-15 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Packers don't think his punishment was harsh enough, and Suh has appealed the suspension. But we wonder whether it should end anyway with mere sanction by the National Football League and its fans and pundits?

What he did on the fields would be considered assault if it happened on the streets or at a neighborhood bar or business. Why should the civil authorities not be able to charge an athlete with a crime even when the act occurs in the arena?

No one buys Suh's it happened in the heat of the moment defense. No one accepts that he might have been goaded into his stomp. But as most assaults happen in the heat of the moment as well, and most assaulters are prone to argue they had reason to attack, well, the guy who acted from his bar stool would not be safe from criminal prosecution under similar circumstances, would he? Why should an NFL lineman on a football field?

Does the law end at the sidelines? Should it? We believe that it is time to consider those questions, and to perhaps use the long arm of the law to reign in on field atrocities. The athletic arena cannot be a shield for actions which would get anyone arrested.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Science and Goodness

One of the great debates between the Christian and the scientist is the degree to which we are animal or spiritual. Many scientists wish us to be wholly scientific in our approach to humanity and understanding of ourselves. It is really a rather shallow outlook on human nature or, even, the necessary consequences of a purely scientific view of who we are.

Science has apparently discovered the part of our brain which helps us to recognize justice. It asserts, at least in some quarters, that goodness is innate within us physically. Yet it ignores the very real point that whether good occurs in us naturally is an entirely different question from the judgment of 'what is good?' or the expectation that people will do good.

How do we know what is good except to be able to judge it in our individual and societal actions? Or are our scientifically minded friends suggesting that we just 'do things' and they happen to be good? Either way, any judgment about good, any assertion that 'this is good' cannot come wholly or entirely from within ourselves; there are too many of us with too many of our own nuanced ideas of good and bad.

Or are you saying that everyone from childhood, without guidance of any kind (parental, societal, or spiritual) will necessarily elect to do good? No Lord of the Flies scenarios possible? It begs the question of why people (and it should be obvious that all people do bad things sometimes regardless of physical construction) do bad things. Why does the thief steal, if he knows in his heart and head that it's wrong? Further, what's free will, if we are born with, say, no choice but to do good?

It should surprise no one that we are hard wired to recognize justice; we are, at the end of the day, physical as well as spiritual creatures. It should not be shocking news that a just and all knowing God in the very act of creation would make our physical selves able to recognize spiritual, eternal, and absolute truths, truths outside our own will, thus enabling us to see (so to speak) justice. That science has discovered as much enhances rather than detracts from our knowledge of God. It strengthens, not weakens, our relationship with Him. It makes our spiritual side and our physical side properly complimentary. It raises us from the mere animal into a higher plane of existence.

Science does not tell us who we are in our entirety. It only sets us on that road. How far we trail along that path is ultimately up to us. And the questions we discover along that way will not be empirical.