Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michigan's Choice-Update

I guess I wasn't actually done with my rant because I am compelled to return and post this addendum. Has anyone noticed that the one thing Devos hasn't talked about in this campaign, regarding Michigan's economic woes, is the proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room? I'm talking about unions. Michigan is lousy with 'em and they control this economy and the politics of this state like few others.

Jobs are leaving the state by the truckloads-non-union, over-the-road-carriers, to be more specific. All because the unions have made doing business in Michigan a losing proposal. Ask any Democrat what he hates about Devos and he'll say he's a union-busting Right To Work candidate. Well, then. Why doesn't Devos admit it and point out the obvious to Granholm and her Dem/union flunkies when they attack him? It is them and their philosophy which has dragged this state and the auto industry into the poor house.

OK, I feel much better, now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dr. Evil Would be Upset at This!

Even Mini-Me would have a hard time keeping a straight face at this project. The Doomsday Vault is a Norwegian government-backed seed bank that will house meelllyons of...seeds. Yep. In the event of a nuclar holocaust, or the inevitable Global Warming debacle, the earth's vast store of crop seeds will be safely house in a gigantic vault hidden in a concrete bunker (eat your heart out Ms. RightWing) under the permafrost near the North Pole.

Now, never mind the fact that if the situation ever becomes as serious as to need these seeds, we will probably be unable to actually a)travel to the vault or b) get into it or c)be able to plant them in the frozen ground of perpetual nuclear winter. This is a feel-good, "hope for humanity" sort of thing. A very expensive, feel-good, "hope for humanity" sort of thing.

I hope they have seeds for two-row barley and Cascade hops in that thing! Oh, wait a minute, can I add some yeast cultures?

Michigan's Choice

Once again, it's election time and we are forced to choose between the lesser of two weevils. In this particular case it's between Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos. What makes the choice even more frustrating is that DeVos isn't really nearly as bad a choice as he makes himself out to be. But first, to the former weevil.

Granholm, the pretty, blonde Canadian cutie, who made her name as Michigan's Attorney General, has been Governor of our great state for four years, now. She is fond of offering as an excuse for the current state of the State, that she "inherited" an economy in decline and a gazillion dollar deficit (or something like that). Fact is John Engler, the former occupant of the Gubernatorial Mansion, did cut out like a thief in the night, taking a huge salary increase and leaving the dot-com bust in the hands of Ginny. It made it all the more palatable for the legislators in office at the time, that they themselves received about a thirty percent increase in salary at the same time Engler got his, so "no harm, no foul".

When the current Democrat governor came to power, you didn't hear her talking about the fiscal crisis the state faced. She was talking, instead about all the goodies she would be getting for all of us Michiganders. 'Cause that's what gets ya votes, people! After nearly four years, the state's economy is in the dumper. We are the only state not hit by a hurricane last year to lose jobs. There's plenty more bad news about the state's economic condition but I'll leave you to read about it in the papers. What I want to talk about is what frustrates ME!

I don't know what it is about politicians but they totally piss me off! DeVos, by most honest accounts, is an honest man, with good business sense and a "free market" attitude about the economy. He is well-known in Michigan for working tirelessly to approve vouchers for this state over the past few years, though unsuccessfully. He seems largely to be a libertarian-minded, Christian conservative. He has steadfastly maintained his opposition to abortion, especially any federally or state-funded abortions. On this he has not wavered. But that's about the only thing.

I can forgive him the inability to schmooze as well as his opponent. She is a first-class phoney and able to tell anyone what they want to hear, regardless of her beliefs or the truth. In short, she's the consummate politician. DeVos should not be dissed for looking like a "deer-in-the-headlights" at the debates, because he is not a politician and is not used to lying so much. What I fault him for is his centrist moves to make himself more "electable".

In the first couple of debates (I admit I didn't watch the third, it would have been too painful), he played political softball with his challenger, while she raked him over the coals. She accused him of exporting jobs to China, of being responsible for nursing home patient abuse and of being an "extremist" on abortion (implying of course, that he was a religious nut). All the while you could just watch him staring off into the distance, thinking, "I can't believe this Beeyotch"! He could easily have countered these false assertions by stating...wait for's really revolutionary...THE TRUTH! But he didn't. He waffled and wavered and covered and sounded like he had something to hide, when he actually didn't. He was right and she was wrong. Oh, so wrong, in oh so many ways!

The actual simmering point for me was his waffling on the positions that I know he holds, for political purposes. When he was asked about vouchers, which are the simplest and most effective manner of dealing with failing public schools-effective virtually everywhere they've been tried, he waffled. When asked about his opposition for stem cell research and abortions, instead of articulating his positions and qualifying the issues that Granholm confused (on purpose, of course), he waffled. I was literally going to the cupboard to get the Mrs. Butterworth's, I tell ya!

When are these consevrative politicians going to realize that liberals are never going to vote for them? So why pander to them when all it does is dilute your base?

OK, I'm done with my rant. But check out this article from Sikha Dalmia for a short account of what I'm talking about, OK?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Other Anniversary

Twenty-two years ago today I hired in with the Michigan Department of Corrections. What a wierd experience that was! In those days you were interviewed at the institution at which you were being hired to work (now, you interview at a central location like Lansing). I remember that interview well.

I walked into the Administration Building at Huron Valley Men's Facility and saw a number of people in "uniform", walking around the front office lobby. The uniform at the time was very different from what I would have expected for a law enforcement-type government job. In those days corrections officers in Michigan wore white shirts, black pants and a green blazer, similar to a certain well-known realtor. We had black ties, that clipped on, for safety reasons. I remembered wearing a similar tie to church as a child. All the employees were walking around with these clip-on ties hanging from the top button-holes, with their shirt collars open. Bizarre! I really wondered what I was getting into.

In the interview, I was asked alot of questions about why I wanted to work for the MDOC and what made me qualified. I remember thinking, "Obviously, it's because I need a job"! I didn't say this, of course, but gave them the standard response of wanting to work for a respectable government agency that keeps the public safe and ensures that the "bad guys" are kept where they belong. In retrospect-after conducting dozens of similar interviews on others- I'm certainly glad I didn't say anything stupid like, "I want to help people" or "I think I can make a difference in some of those young mens' lives"! Gag! (Yes, I've heard that kind of response many times and those folks are trouble, with a BIG "T"!)

The most interesting and-it seemed at the time- most important question, came near the end of the interview. One of the questioners, a Deputy Warden at the prison, asked me if I could shoot an escaping prisoner. I told him that I could. He explained that he wasn't asking me if I had the ability to hit a target, but if I had the ability to take a life. Pretty heady stuff! Non-plussed, I answered, "Yes". I could shoot-to-kill a prisoner that was trying to escape. I wouldn't be happy about it and I wouldn't think it a badge of honor but I would be fully capable of doing that part of my job. And I would, still.

At the time I applied for the job, the testing process was much different than it is today. I was way overqualified for the job. I had a bachelor's degree in English and had been planning to go to Law School. At that time only a High School diploma was required to work as a corrections officer ("prison guard" is considered a pejorative term by today's "corrections professional", ha!). I had decided I had neither the patience to go to four more years of school nor the money to do so without going deeply into debt. So, I decided to find a career that would supply me with a pension and a secure income.

I had recently washed out of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Academy in Oklahoma City. THAT was a blow to my ego! I wasn't quite able to do the job required of me as an Air Traffic Controller. The fact that several former military Air Traffic Controllers in my class flunked out with me, didn't make me any less ashamed. I was newly married and needed a job that paid more with some benefits.

One of my best friends worked in the state psychiatric hospital that houses the criminally insane and those that are incompetent to stand trial. I heard from him that it was a good job and paid well, with good benefits. He spent most of his day playing ping-pong with the "patients, justified as a part of his job in creating a "therapeutic milieu". Hey, I thought, I can do that and improve my ping-pong skills at the same time!

It turns out that the prison system hires from the same test and when the call came for an interview, it was for a job as a corrections officer and not a professional ping-pong player! I was at my job as a small parts assembler for a automobile supplier, when the call came to set up the interview. Interestingly at about the same time, I was hired by a local shop to program and run CNC machines. This is similar to what my son does now. I often wonder what our lives would have been like had I chosen that job instead. But, I chose the prison and the rest is history.

Twenty-two years later, I've risen through the ranks at my job to that of Inspector at my third institution. The highest ranking security officer at the prison. I thought by now, I'd be a warden somewhere but now realize that certain jobs are reserved for those with political aspirations and connections. In a strongly Democrat-run state with strong and long ties to unionism, I am a little under the radar for this type of promotion. Still I like my job and do it very well.

Three years from today, I can retire with a full pension and benefits. Maybe I will and maybe I won't. Who knows what the future brings. The important thing is that I've provided for my family for all these years and earned a retirement to continue to do so, after my death. For all that I've gone through in this job (and believe me there were many unusual and distasteful moments over the years-some even involved the inmates and not the staff!), the State of Michigan has been very, very good to me! I thank the people of this state for providing me with a good income and meaningful work, while assuring them that they've gotten a good employee and a fine job done for the money.

Who knows, maybe I'll decide to go to law school after all...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Go Get 'em, Tigers!

After the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, which cancelled the post-season and wasn't resolved until the next Spring, I swore off baseball completely. I didn't watch a game or pay attention to MLB for the ensuing 12 years. I guess you could say I hold a grudge...

All that ended this year with the Detroit Tigers and their unlikely successes. After losing a record 119 games in 2004 and another hundred games or so in 2005, the Tigers wowed the country by leading the league in wins for almost all of the regular season, before slipping a bit in the last couple of weeks. With all that success and with a team that was short on superstars, and loaded with young, up-and-coming talent, I returned to the fold.I went to two ballgames at the new stadium, Comerica Park, this year and loved every minute of it!

I have watched several games this season on TV, also. This team is exciting and inspiring! How could you script a post-season better than this one has turned out? Taking on the mighty Bronx Bombers, with a lineup of hitters most experts felt was perhaps the best in MLB history, and whipping them convincingly in three straight, after losing the first game, then sweeping the Left Coast's best Oakland A's, in four makes these Tigers something special!

Right now, the Mets and the Cardinals are fighting it out for the National League title, while the Tigers rest up to meet the winner in the World Series. If St. Louis wins, it would be the rematch of the 1968 World Series contestants. That was the first World Series that was important to me. I was 12 years old and a huge Tiger fan. I used to listen to the Tigers games with my Dad, on the porch in Detroit, on an old transistor radio, as those great players won it all that year. Great memories!

Baseball has weathered the storms of player strikes, "juiced" balls, corked bats, and steroids to once again capture the hearts and minds of the nation as "America's favorite pasttime". Now, this year, with a Tigers team that won in spite of all the odds, Baseball is again magical for me. The 1968 players are retired and many have died. The majestic Tiger Stadium has been replaced with Comerica Park, and will likely be torn down next year. Much like the city in 1968, which was recovering from the riots of the previous year, the 2006 city-with dwindling population and soaring unemployment due to the decline of the auto industry-needs a lift. The roles of Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, Al Kaline and all the others are being filled by Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, "Pudge" Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya. They seem up to the challenge. In 1968, the overweight Mickey Lolich faced down the best pitcher in Baseball (Bob Gibson)in the seventh game and won. He was perhaps symbolic of the regular guy fighting against the odds. This year a bunch of regular guys will do the same thing. I BELIEVE! How about you?

"I guess you could say I'm the redemption of the fat man. A guy will be watching me on TV and see that I don't look in any better shape than he is. 'Hey Maude,' he'll holler, 'Get a load of this guy and he's a twenty-game winner.' " - Mickey Lolich

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

With Friends Like These...

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker pacifist group, says that North Korea's decision to test a nuclear device, recently, is a result of the Bush Administration's "failure" to develop a comprehensive strategy toward the Korean peninsula. This is a group that has worked for more than 60 years "to end the scourge of nuclear weapons", remember.

To refresh everyone's memory, Bush described three nations in the world as an "Axis of Evil" in his first address to Congress. Can anyone remember which three nations he accused of membership in this unholy alliance? Why yes, they were Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Since that time the world's terrorists have literally crawled out of the woodwork to fight the US in Iraq, Iran is threatening Israel and the rest of the world with its nuclear ambitions and North Korea, well is still North Korea. On December 11, 2002, a ship was boarded, while flying no flag, in the Arabian Sea. The ship was a North Korean ship carrying a bunch of SCUD missiles that had been sold to Yemen, according to the Koreans and the Yemenis. So the North Koreans are demonstrably engaged in destabilizing that very unstable region of the world.

To get back to the Quakers, though, what is it about an axis of evil that troubles them so? North Korea has been proven to be a rogue state, engaged in starving its people, selling weaponry to anybody, counterfeiting money (US), and making and selling drugs. Now it says it wants a nuclear arsenal and if you want to stop it, you better give it more aid or else. Simple, really. Clinton bought them out to the tune of about a billion dollars over the course of his administration. What did that get us? Negotiating with terrorists has a habit of making you look silly. That's why Bush won't engage in bilateral talks with NoKo. He's right.

The guy had prescience enough to identify the axis of evil in his first address to congress. He was almost laughed out of office after that speech, as more nuanced politicians discussed how irrelevant these countries really were. How relevant is a nuclear North Korea? How about a nuclear Iran? Kim Jong Il is a madman. He is an evil dictator who doesn't care a whit about the poor, starving population in his country, as long as he is well-fed and able to grow his military stronger. His buddies Saddam and Ahmadinejad were/are evil, too. But that kind of talk isn't politically correct. You're supposed to be more nuanced when dealing with these folks. Don't call a nut a nut.

The Bush administration has been an embarrassement to most conservatives for its lack of attention to reducing the size of government and its total focus on retaining political power, at the expense of doing the conservative thing. In this situation, it has been all over the right thing, right from the beginning. I just hope it's got the stones to walk the walk. The alternative is a troubled world indeed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Concept Albom

I was driving home from Jackson, Michigan today after doing key audits at three of Jackson's prisons (one of which was at what is left of the great Southern Michigan Prison at Jackson, formerly the largest walled prison in the world), when I happened to hear the Mitch Albom program on the radio. Now, Mitch's show is syndicated and it probably does very well in most areas of the country but long-time listeners know Mitch's politics are left-liberal. I frequently end up screaming at his show which causes my wife no end of consternation. "If you hate his show so much, why do you listen to it?" To which my mental answer is that I need to know that there are people who think this way and that my worldview is still intact...but my actual answer is something like, "Sorry, honey."

Anyway, after discussing the Mark Foley affair, he ended the segment with a statement that went something like this (I can't repeat it verbatim because I was driving and couldn't take notes, though all the drivers around me were talking on cell phones and ignoring most lines on the road, but I digress):
"What kills me is that when Bill Clinton got into an affair with a young woman all the Republicans thought that was terrible and he should be impeached but when a Republican Congressman engages in sexually suggestive emails and IMs with a sixteen year old page, they don't think it's a problem at all. Aren't they essentially the same thing?"

Mitch, Mitch, Mitch. First they are not essentially the same thing. Foley's acts were much, much worse than Clinton's. Monica Lewinski was an adult, not a child, and even though he carried out his sexual fantasies with her and Foley (probably) didn't (with any of the pages), the idea of treating a sixteen year old page as a potential sexual partner is much more morally depraved than trysting with a young adult tart. Second, I don't believe I have heard any Republicans saying that they think Foley's actions were anything but outrageous and sick, if not criminal. If Mitch is going to accuse Republicans of thinking this is no big deal, he should have produced a name or a quote from someone who had this thought or made this statement. He can't. They didn't.

Finally, it is this completely bald-faced liberal slant that gets a complete pass in the press or in any news coverage that continues to bend the public to the will of these liberal media mavens. Albom is a best-selling author, writes plays and books, has had some of his books made into movies and has a highly rated radio program. He is frequently on TV as a sportscaster as well as a culture critic. What he says makes a difference. The liberals don't need Air America with Mitch on the airwaves. He does it better, in stealth mode, and does it for a wider audience.

One other thing he said was that if the stock market (the DOW hit an all-time high today) is doing so well, why are the people in Michigan not feeling it? I virtually yelled at the radio, "Because they think like you do, Mitch!" An analogy would be that I hire a band to work a party and I promise them to pay them with a keg of fine homebrew (it's my story and I'll spin it any way I like, thank you). Then after they show up at the party, they bring in another guy (let's call him their agent) and he takes a few gallons of the beer from them as his payment for making sure that they are treated right by mean old me. Then, as the party winds down, he takes some more of that beer and gives it away to people that he thinks might be able to help him find more clients like my band and some to people that might want to hire bands for their parties, you know, to form some networks for his own business-which is ostensibly, just to ensure his clients, the band members get "treated right". At the end of the night, when the band is ready to drink their beer, there's hardly any left but the agent is drunk as a skunk and all his future clients and their future clients are in their cups, as well. That's the nature of Michigan's over-unionized workforce and the reason this state is at the dead bottom in terms of job losses in the country, while the stock market and the economy is booming! The unions are drunk with power and the workers are thirsty for a beer.

And, yes, I did yell at the radio. Sorry, honey.

Fair and Balanced, what a concept.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Citgo rolls Snake Eyes

I've never been the biggest fan of convenience stores, even though they have made everyone's life a little easier. I guess I see them as taking away from the mom-and-pop corner stores of my youth. This is of course a silly reason to dislike a store, especially one that exponentially increased the choices to neighborhood consumers over the past thirty years or so, but I am a silly person, I admit. I have a newfound respect for the Seven Eleven chain, though. Recently the company-an enormous chain with over thirty thousand stores, worldwide- made a nice move. They dropped a partnership held with Citgo which was twenty years old. I don't care why they dropped Chavez's government-owned oil company. The company reports that they dropped it because of the anticipated boycott and the harm it would do to the company and its employees, who don't agree with Chavez's sulfurous comments in the UN recently. That's fine. I'll consider the boycott effective and I'll consider Seven-Eleven as an active member of the boycott, whether they say so or not.

Thank heaven for 7-11! I hope more companies jump on the bandwagon!