Thursday, October 31, 2013

Packard Plant issues Run Deep

The purchase of the old Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit is down to the second bidder, and it seems that the opportunity to buy the old building will in fact fall to bidder number three. But why should we even care?

It hasn't been seriously used in half a decade; we do not count self styled artists, quite frankly. They're simply interlopers. So for something that has sat around deteriorating they seems little reason why it should be such a huge public worry these days.

Yes, it's a blight as it is, and a potential danger. We get that. But we're aren't saying that nothing should be done about the former auto assembly plant. We are saying that the solution is as simple as it is obvious: tear it down.

That that hasn't happened is a reflection of many things, and we admit we don't know all the factors involved. Absentee ownership may enter into it, and incompetence on the part of Detroit officials almost surely does as well. There may be a decent way to salvage it which we do not know, for that matter, but given its location we doubt that. Any way you slice it, all the hand wringing over the issue just strikes us as absurd. We suspect that the most likely culprit is a general dereliction of duty all the way around, and that someone ought to have taken the bull by the horns decades ago yet have not. The only real public interest question is why nothing has happened in so very long. And that will never be properly addressed yet alone answered satisfactorily.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wither Isle Royale?

Republican Senator Tom Coburn has opened up a hornet's nest among the Michigan Congressional delegation and Michigan outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen. He has said that spending federal money on Isle Royale National Park and the Keweenaw National Historic Park are wasteful.

Let's cut straight to the chase here: why should the federal government be involved in parks services at all? To keep certain areas pristine and free from development? But why? What true national interest is there when attempting to 'maintain' an island which is rather inaccessible and scarcely 16,000 folks per year see it? Why, in the case of the Keweenaw holdings, are we trying to keep up mining sites?

One could argue, for recreation. But isn't that just another code word for special interest? After all, when a scant 16,000 people care to visit Isle Royale, we are most certainly speaking of a narrow interest. Yet even beyond that, whether or not we have national parks should not be about numbers. They should be about a truly general interest.

Or they ought to be held privately by people who actually care about them. Remember the Obama Administration trying to close Mount Vernon, only to find out that it's privately and reasonably maintained? Why should imagine that an government which can't build a decent website but can increase health care costs under the thin veil of helping the people be able to keep parks clean and available?

We aren't sure that any national parks truly serve a general interest. But to the degree that they might, the standards should certainly be higher than they are. As it is, we're spending an awful lot of money on pork. Senator Coburn is right to draw attention to this. The oinks from the sties of the likes of our own Senator Carl Levin or Representative Dan Benishek are are we really need to hear to know that the Oklahoman is on target.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Education and the Nation

A player on his high school football was booted from both the team and his school for writing a poem, which was labelled 'bullying and intimidating'. You can read it here, if you like: . He has since been reinstated, and has himself called the poem 'stupid'. But before we get into any discussion of whether the poem was either stupid or bullying, let's ask the one question which will not, we promise, get asked by anyone. Why was a high class given an assignment to write a poem about what made them angry in the first place?

Wouldn't you expect that such a piece of writing could very easily become intimidating? Yet even that isn't really the problem. We cannot help but wonder why a high school English class ought to be writing what amounts to free verse poetry to begin with. We wonder whether they had studied poetry at all before dreaming up such assignments.

Read the poem. It clearly isn't particularly good (nor particularly bad, to be fair). It's just an expression of thoughts. But our real question has nothing to do with self expression as such. It has all to do with why the class wasn't studying actual poets and poetry rather than merely having students express their contempt about something and calling it education?

Perhaps they did study poetry and were expected to apply that knowledge, but we doubt it. American education hasn't been about actually learning something for quite some time. It has, however, become self indulgent under the guise of education. The results are knee jerk assessments of how a young man is treated by his football team and his school, and how knee jerk the results. It is not thought but a lack of thought all the way across the board which allowed this seed to become an issue played up on CNN over issues which have nothing to do with education but all to do with sensationalism.

This is not education. But it is American in the 21st Century. And it is not pretty.

Friday, October 25, 2013

True Historic Preservation

A University of Detroit Communications professor has made a documentary about a dedicated group of Tiger Stadium fans who call themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew. They have voluntarily kept up the basic integrity of the baseball diamond on the site where the stadium once stood. Jason Roche, the aforementioned professor, followed them about their labors and his film will debut tonight at the Detroit Historical Museum. Above all else, what does this about historic preservation?

It tells us that the best way to preserve anything is not to go around asking others to do it, but to get your hands dirty and do it yourself.

In this case, the Navin Field group have seen to themselves that a cherished piece of Detroit history is somehow kept alive. Sure, we know that Senator Carl Levin has some few million bucks pigeonholed in federal coffers for use in redeveloping the site somehow. But as that hasn't happened yet as it is increasingly unlikely that it will, regular citizens, the ones interested in baseball and baseball history, have gotten out to do what they can on their own.

They're doing a good job of it too. A drive past Michigan and Trumbull will show all that a nice green field, well kept, is in place for the enjoyment of all. There are impromptu ball games, and just friends and families having a catch, all the time there. Out of towners drop by just to see what remains of the history of the Corner. Even Lions fans coming downtown for football have been spotted checking out the grounds, remembering that football was once played there too.

It would seem that the people can be trusted to understand and respect history even when millionaires and Detroit politicians spit on it. That is, however, a tale for another day. We have seen real historic preservation, a real concern for our collective past, at work. It is a much more inspiring thing than what any government could do. And it hasn't cost the taxpayers a dime.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Death of Adrian Peterson's Son Speaks Ill of Society

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson recently lost a son; that is unquestionably tragic, and Peterson has received many condolences over it. That's a good thing so far as it goes, and perhaps in that light it's too soon to reflect negatively upon the crisis. Still, there are certain things about the death which reflect ill of our society, and unfortunately Peterson is among the guilty for at least part of the neglect involved.

To be sure, he had nothing to do with the actual killing. And he has, since he found out about the child being his about three months ago, been trying to arrange a meeting with the young man. But has this raised any questions about personal responsibility for our own children to the degree that it should?

If he had not found out that the child was his son, there would have been no condolences. There would have been no talk from Peterson himself about being ready for his next big football game and playing through the pain, no trips to South Dakota for the funeral of a son he didn't really know. In short, the support he has gotten through the NFL and its fans was predicated on a rather tenuous connection: the slain toddler happened to have been found out as the child of a football star pretty much immediately before his death. Peterson had not even met him yet.

What we are getting at is simply that a certain irresponsibility has led to both the birth and death of this child. He was born of a mother and father who by all surface indications weren't properly committed to the child in the first place. That is the hidden tragedy of the whole situation, the part of the equation which will receive little public comment. If mom and dad had been in a committed relationship before the child had been conceived he might well be alive today.

That is the one sad part of the case which will not be considered properly. And beyond the child's biological parents, perhaps we as a society are guilty of something too: tolerating behaviors which lead to such terrible losses of life.

This was more than a murder. It was evidence of a general relaxation of personal morals tolerated by an increasingly hedonistic society. Its makes us wonder how many other innocent young men and women have paid the ultimate price for our sins.

Almost any football player will talk about how important discipline is when trying to win a game. How many of them, how many of us, truly consider how important discipline is to living a good life for ourselves and, indeed, for our children? Obviously not enough of us.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Big Brother in Washington

Why do people hate the GOP right now? The Republicans were only trying to undermine Obamacare with their recent escapades, something a majority of Americans agree with them about, yet the approval rating of Congress is lower than the President's (which itself is pretty low right now; low enough that if it were Bush Jr the media would be crowing about it but are strangely silent, things as they are). But it ultimately means little. 'People' may not like Republicans yet like their local representative. Wither consistency?

Ah, consistency. It is a trait sadly missing in this world. Don't bother about it being the 'hobgoblin' of small minds. As with so many other phrases, that is a misquote the same as another famous misquote, the one about money. Money isn't root of all evil: the love of it is. Likewise, not consistency as such but a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Are sports worth the effort? Are they worth the emotional investment? Sure, they're fun to watch, and more fun to play. But intellectually, what do we really get out of them? Our old grandpappy used to say, 'So drop the ball; what does it matter anyway?', and he was right to say so. Athletics are distinctly overrated.

If we had our way with the world, and that is a thought which troubles us too, there would be a decided de-emphasis on sports. Sports are a useful sideline so far as recreation goes, and recreation is a good thing. Yet we can't get around our grandpappy's point; if an athlete drops a fly ball or a forward pass, yea even if he catches it, what real value is added to the world? None that we can see; nor is any value lost. Either way, it is high time we re-evaluated our attitude towards what are really only games.

On Obamacare again, why is it that our government believes that it has solved a great problem by merely ordering folks around? The logic behind it is asinine: many Americans don't have health insurance, so we'll order them to get it, and this is seen as 'problem solved'. Yet all it really means is that those who didn't have health insurance before because they couldn't afford it will still not be able to afford it and will now be taxed by the government for not having it. Does anyone else think this is profoundly stupid?

Ah, well. Life goes on...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Insulted at the Border

Border delays have become part of our lives since that infamous September day now sadly immoratlized as 9/11. We are also seeing a lot of analysis of the long term effect the wait times have upon ourselves and Canada, our nearest neighbor.

Border delays, while they seem to be lessening on the whole, are being both praised and despised. Many criminals are being caught, thanks to an increase in border guards and an increase in the technology which allows for more criminal activity to be caught. Yet American travel to Canada has dropped, as it is becoming more difficult for Americans to get back into their own country from our neighbor to the north.

This should be expected when law abiding American citizens are treated as criminals when all they are trying to do is get back home after visiting friends or taking what ought to be a simple day excursion into Windsor. They should not be subjected to the insulting types of questions they are asked, such as, "When was the last time you were in prison?" If the record shows no evidence of any given person's presumed incarceration, then Homeland Security has no right to ask it. If it has the right at all; aren't American citizens entitled to be in America regardless?

Even question such as, "How much money do you have on you?", are inherently insulting. "None of your business", which is the best and correct answer to that, would only delay a US citizen's return all the more. We have been told of a person who belonged to a Canadian curling club being asked, 'Why do you curl in Canada?' Because he wants to and is violating no laws or norms in so doing? The fact is that any questions beyond 'How long were you in Canada?' or 'Do you have anything to declare?' are out of bounds, unless the border guard has good reason to believe otherwise that you aren't who you say you are.

We have said it before, yet it remains true: if we have to change the way we live because of the terrorist threat, then the terrorists have won anyway and 9/11 has simply made us into a boot camp. Until law abiding Detroiters can cross reasonably freely into Canada, then maybe it's time to stop the War on Terror, because we've clearly lost it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Obamacare Kills

What's this? Today's Detroit Free Press reports that 146,000 Michigan residents - and probably more, the article ominously states - will lose their cheap health care premiums due to Obamacare.

But, but, government sponsored health care is supposed to be good for everyone and make health care less expensive.

Well, that's health care based on what type of coverage you want. You know, you, the individual, the one who the government knows better how to care for than himself? Why should you not be penalized for being more willing to take care of yourself? Why should not be penalized because you are a low risk for serious illness? Why should you not be penalized for the mere willingness to see for yourself and your family?

Do you liberals really want to know why Republicans are trying to stop the ACA? It's imply because Obamacare is nothing save paternalistic, nanny care demagoguery. If you don't understand that now, well, perhaps you will on your deathbed.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Guilty Conscience

A McDonald's cashier, Nancy Salgado, has had the wherewithal to chastise McDonald's CEO Jeff Stratton about the conditions of her employment. The single mother of two claims she can't feed her kids on the $8.25 an hour she makes at McDonald's after working there more than ten years.

We do not doubt that that is a struggle. But we are also going to admittedly be a bit snide and ask of her and her peers questions. We don't know her particular position but we believe that, if it is fair to chastise the morals of a big corporate honcho it is fair to question the morals of the accuser as well.

Under what conditions is she a single mother of two? Oh, that's none of our business? So, basically, she can live however she wants but the rest of us, all of us mean spirited CEOs and conservative Republicans, must help her help her kids? We aren't against that, of course, although we have and will be accused of it. But isn't it at least possible that there are people out there living any way they want and don't you dare tell us how to live our lives...but when how they live their life has become a struggle, and a struggle at least in part due to their own free will actions, we, the rest of society, must ante up. And we had not dare question them or their lifestyle choices.

Yes, we as a society must help her kids the best we can. Yet has anyone every considered that those kids might be hostages to a sublime form of blackmail? Has anyone ever considered that, while there is certainly a responsibility of the haves for the have nots, that the have nots still have responsibilities themselves?

We're just asking. But if corporate CEOs must defend themselves in the public arena, then surely all of our sins are subject to similar public debate. But trust us, that debate won't happen, at least within the mainstream media or among fast food union organizers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why Our Schools Don't Teach

Sixth graders in a school in Arkansas were given an assignment to revise the Bill of Rights as they have become outdated. You can read about the task here: if you like.

We chose not to read it, and for very good reasons. First and foremost, we can't possibly see how any such drivel could really pass for education. The typical sixth grader simply isn't going to have the wherewithal to discuss anything as important as human rights with any useful insight. This isn't to dismiss them as dumb. But it is to point out that they simply are not likely to have the academic background or real world experience to contribute anything significant to such debates. They're sixth graders, for crying out loud. They cannot as a group be taken as seriously as the actual authors of the Constitution could be.

Secondly, and we know this from experience with serious schoolteachers and not from the facilitators graduating from many teacher academies, assignments like this are not education. They're open ended bull sessions which are easy to grade. They make the job of the teacher and student easier. The former's job becomes less difficult while the latter receives an artificially good grade. After all, you might have to tell a student who misidentifies the Fourth Amendment that he's wrong and hurt his GPA and self esteem. How can you call his view (and almost assuredly a knee jerk and shallow view it will be) of a revised Bill of Rights wrong, especially once you've established that the current one is broke and needs his special expertise to fix? All you will get from such assignments will be arrogant and self satisfied students. And teachers.

We feel, or, better, we hope, that most adults would get this. Most adults, again, hopefully, will see it for the tripe it is. Yet even as we say that we fear we are wrong, because too many American adults these days came through similar schools and did similar work. It is small wonder Americans are behind many other nations in math and science and real knowledge. America doesn't respect such areas and it can through American teaching.

You'll notice we haven't even gotten into the philosophy behind such an assignment yet, either. We don't have to. There isn't a serious philosophy behind it. There is only the promotion of ego. Yet folks wonder why there is increasing disrespect for others in the United States today. It all begins with sixth graders who know how to run a country.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Month for Everyone

October is breast cancer awareness month. It is also anti-bullying month. It is as well Hispanic Heritage month and Italian Heritage month. It's even Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage in the Carolinas and Georgia. There isn't a thing wrong with any of these things, of course. They're simply trying to draw attention to very important things. Yet as we strangle our calendars with months of this and months of that all in the name of calling attention to things, how long before everything becomes lost in an ever larger shuffle?

A cursory internet search will find that every month is a month for somebody, and the list offers everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. We find everything from National Fish Month to Political Correctness Awareness month. Thanks to our friends among the Wikipedia crowd, a quite certainly incomplete list can be found here: .

There are some interesting ideas shared within given months; October further houses both National Work and Family and LGBT History month within its dates. We could go on and quibble about all this emphasis on all these things and about which do and do not merit accolades or jeers; perhaps another time. The main point here is that very soon no one may pay any heed to these causes.

Remember the yellow ribbon faze? It launched ribbon after ribbon in myriad color and design schemes, all meant to make folks sit up and take notice of whatever the promoters had in mind. Does anyone notice those ribbons anymore? Surely not. The market gets saturated and even the most noble ideas become lost in the assault of metallic car emblems in ribbon shapes.

Will anything matter once everything matters? That's the worry we should have should we continue in the direction we tread. When we attach importance to all things great and small, don't we risk minimizing the really critical issues? Short of that, at the very least we ought to agree that we can live without Smart Irrigation Month.

That's July, by the way, if we can trust Wikipedia's editors.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Culture and the Poor and the Socialists

Some things make you laugh out loud the instant you read or hear them. One simply can't help the eruption of rowdy and uncontrolled guffaws which come from wherever deep inside of you. We had that experience this morning when reading online about protestors railing against the Detroit Institute of Arts possibly having to sell off some of its memorabilia in order to satisfy Detroit's debts. The protest was organized by the Socialist Equality Party.

You laughing uproariously too, aren't you? We're still giggling as we type this. We may be wrong, yes, we'll admit, as we never really delved that far into socialist theology (yes, we use the word theology purposely). But the idea that socialism would actually care about art objects which have generally been created for the haves rather than the have nots of society, well, if these aren't folks simply playing to what they perceive to be the grandstand solely for the sake of generating publicity for see the joke.

Culture is a social right, they say. Yes, we're quite sure that younger workers on ramen noodle diets think deeply of culture as they are trying to move up the economic ladder. We're sure the poor single mother trying to nurse her sick child feels that trip to the DIA would cure him. Quite frankly, if socialists think at all about art and culture then Vonnegut is likely more right than the Socialist Equality Party. Bring on Harrison Bergeron!

We're not mocking struggling young people or single parents or anyone whom socialism has traditionally sought to defend. We're just pointing out that they almost certainly care more about their immediate needs far more than about bourgeois banalities such as artifacts stored away from the public anyway (as are the bulk of the DIA's collections). Yet even beyond that, even before we consider as a body politic whether we should maintain large collections of what other people call art (for much of what passes for art these days is not), to see socialists defending what has generally been seen as an upper class fancy is, well...

Sorry, we couldn't finish that last paragraph because we're snickering again.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

South Carolina right to criminalize Obamacare

You've all heard of South Carolina, haven't you? It's that quaint little state jigsaw pieced between Georgia and North Carolina, home of Myrtle Beach, Parris Island, and some great golf. It also has an interesting history within the sphere of state and federal relations in our nation.

In 1832 South Carolina threatened to secede because of the so-called Tariff of Abominations which the Congress had passed. The tariff was liked by many northern states because it was designed to protect its industry but hated in the south because it increased the prices of goods it wanted. This led to the Nullification Crisis, where South Carolina went so far as to declare the tariff null and void, as it was unconstitutional. Under the threat of military action against her because of this, South Carolina backed down.

Fast forward to 1860. Abraham Lincoln is elected President, and the south expects that he will do all he can to stop the practice of slavery. Many southern states left the Union, of course. The first to go was South Carolina.

This is not to defend South Carolina in these cases. Slavery was wrong and should have been illegal; arguably it is not wise to go to war against your own government simply over a tax, the American Revolution notwithstanding (and which was about much more than forms of taxation anyway). But it is to point out that when Washington has overextended itself South Carolina has been at the forefront of those challenging federal authority at least twice in our history.

Now the South Carolina House has passed a bill which would outlaw the implementation of Obamacare. The proposed law, the Freedom of Health Care Protection Act, declares Obamacare 'null and void' and would criminally prosecute anyone who attempts to enforce the measure there. Yet unlike the other two instances in which the Palmetto State, South Carolina is quite correct on this one. Obamacare is an offensive intrusion into the lives of the American people, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that only the will of the American people can force President Barack Obama and the behemoth that Washington has become to back down. We must force a Constitutional crisis on the issue.

To that point, what is there to say to South Carolina today?

Third time's a charm.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Pope Should Measure His Words more Carefully

We are trying very sincerely to understand and appreciate Pope Francis. He has said many things which have caused conservatives to wince. That's really okay; once you begin to think that you're 'all that' you might also fail to fully adhere to God's will and God's call. You may find yourself not being merciful and compassionate. Even when mercy and compassion may not seem, on the surface, to be merited, well, is that the point? We ought to be merciful and compassionate anyway, even when the objects of those noble virtues by their own actions reject them. Further, we ought to be humble even within what is right and just, for such are not right and just by our decree but by the will of God. The truth is what the truth is; we are not lords of the truth, only guardians of it.

We can accept also that God loves everyone, and so too we should love everyone. We must love even those who willfully and arrogantly do wrong yet assert it is right. We do ourselves at times. Maybe ours are not, indeed they certainly are not, their sins. But we must take care that we are not even inadvertently substituting the shame of our sins with any inordinate disdain for the sins of others. At some point we must realize that St. Peter will not be asking us about what others did in their lives but about what we did with ours. This is most certainly not to say that we ought not work against the ills of the broader society despite our own illness. Love, mercy, and compassion do not and cannot mean that we should not speak and act against a recognition of gay marriage in our nation. They simply mean that we should not demonize the person when condemning the action. It is a tightrope; it is, as the old philosophy teacher said, splitting hairs. Sometimes we must split them, and very finely.

But this latest interview, between the Holy Father and Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica, an atheist writer and editor, has us wondering whether Pope Francis needs to be more considerate of his words than he has been. It runs from the sublime to the ridiculous, and seems to us somewhat disjointed and, perhaps, confused.

The Pope says that 'The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.' With all due respect to His Holiness, and we hold the Chair if St. Peter and Francis himself in high esteem, we have a difficult time accepting these as the most serious issues we face today. To be sure, we want young people to have hope in tomorrow and we ought to venerate senior citizens. But the worst? Even arguing, and we are extrapolating here and not meaning to put words in anyone's mouths (especially the Holy Father's) that evils such as abortion and euthanasia arise from such issues, surely an actual abortion and the culture of abortion do not come solely from youth unemployment, do they? It just sounds as though the Holy Father was being flippant, a little too off the cuff; we hate to say it, but such blithe comments seem shallow. They seem to relegate the great issues of our times, indeed of all times, to the level of the catchphrase. Make people happy and evil will go away. We're not convinced that saving the world is all that easily done.

Pope Francis later asserts, “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us." To the latter point, yes, we need to listen. But we need to listen so that we can understand people and help them, not because their view may be right. To cut to the chase, if we as Catholics don't want to convert others to our Faith, what does it say of our faith? If he means that we ought not hit people over the head about it but prayerfully explain and cajole folks towards the truth of the Church, okay. But he should say that. As it is, he sounded very relativistic even as he explained his point (the interview can be found here: ), and relativism works against everything the Church supports.

This is especially disconcerting when the Holy Father says “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good. … Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” Will it? There is simply no way to ask that question except boldly and bluntly: will it? We hope to find out that the Holy Father was taken out of context. We will let you know if we do.

We are only addressing certain parts of the interview. There are points where the Holy Father says very important things very well, and we encourage everyone to read the entire article for the sake of that. Not everyone, and especially not those who only want to hear what they want to hear of Pope Francis, will do that. The trouble is, it is those people who will make of the Pope's words more than there is to make, and for their own selfish purposes.

This is a man we must respect. This is a man chosen by God to be where he is because we need him right now, for whatever reasons God wills. Yet we have the right to question even the Pope so long as we do so charitably and in search of explanation and guidance rather than to chastise him. On the surface, we feel that the Holy Father must learn to choose his words more carefully. The world will not be so considerate of the big picture as he is apparently attempting to be. That will only work against him, and his work, in the long run.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Obamacre's Shocking Debut

The Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace, Michigan's first step in the Obamacare revolution, fizzled yesterday. There were all sorts of problems with error messages and glitches. People simply could not access the site, nor could they in most every other state in the Union. The program had a rather inauspicious start, to say the least. One wonders if it is little more than a sign of things to come.

Yes, there was a lot of demand, and heavy traffic flow affects websites. But if government is supposed to be the answer, being made up of all those experts who know what's best for us, wouldn't they have anticipated such an obvious potential problem? Doesn't everyone know that high volume affects serves and such? And high volume should have been expected, seeing as everyone who relies on government wants to have their piece of the pie.

Yet the government wasn't ready for it.

And you think it will be able to give you access to quality healthcare at good prices? Let's say we're skeptical.