Please De-Friend Me! A 12-Step Facebook Litmus Test

I’m often baffled by anyone who want to be friends with me–particularly about lefty agenda items that can’t be shaken out of my brain through a meme or “But Hillary did worse!” argument. Maybe they are on an evangelical Karl Rove mission to let me see my folly–or perhaps they’re just fans of NASCAR crashes and fifth grade choir concerts.  It’s like me saying, “You say you sell Amway?  Let’s hear all about it!” I think the Zuckerbergians in the bowels of Facebook should develop a litmus-test for friends, replacing the holistic score we give folks as we look over our friends “in common” before we let them in our virtual lives of cats, knee injuries and occasional political viewpoints. No one likes unpleasant surprises, such as finding out your house-closing that your new neighbor can’t stand people with consonants in their names.  I’d love a Zillow rating system such as a “Cup of Sugar” score of 9 indicating the likelihood to… Read More…

Empathy Be-Damned, Just Find Your Foxhole and Someone to Blame

When a tragic event happens, we’ve changed from a nation of mourners to a nation of soldiers in foxholes.  We’re stunned by the first noise then dive for cover and peek above the rim and fire away, perhaps taking aim.  Hurry!  Which hole will be yours–the gorilla’s, the parent’s or the zookeeper’s? Gorillas don’t kill people, the zoo does!  Do the same people in favor of shooting the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla support banning AR-15s?  After all, neither is by default a man-killer, but, in the wrong circumstances they can be as deadly as a seven year-old driving your minivan. If you’re in favor of keeping zoo patrons safe from the tigers, why should a semi-automatic weapon be able to be purchased legally by someone investigated by the FBI? Again, pick a foxhole! Sunday morning America woke to the news of the deadliest massacre in US history.  If you took to Facebook like I did and expressed your sorrow… Read More…

McMansions and Boo Radley–Paving the Way for Progress, Right Over a Royal Oak Neighborhood

Featured on May 16 Detroit Channel 7 news (link). I suppose I was guilty, but they were such pretty trees.  The city of Royal Oak sent me my warning that a fine was on its way if I didn’t take care of the maples growing in my garage gutter. Meanwhile, down the block, we’ve got our own version of the Boo Radley home that has sat vacant for nearly four years. My wife doesn’t like to walk too near it because of the rats that have been seen. It looks nice from one side… but that’s only if you’re driving pretty quickly and don’t notice the hole in the door… But apparently my gutters were more important than this little eyesore right off Normandy road. If you turn the corner toward Greenfield Road you’ll see another odd sight, a public park that was turned overnight into a “parking space” for construction equipment…. Read More…

Playpens, Curfews and Trust: Our Responsibility to Children

One of the longer hours you can put a teacher through isn’t monitoring lunch or that final 60 minutes before spring conferences are over–it’s at an in-service, the mandatory training that the state, city, superintendent or your principal inflicts upon educators.  Topics can range from the terrors of airborne pathogens to the correct way to open your laptop.  Michigan teachers are required to attend 30 such hours by law and most fall under the same sad irony found in the half-day seminar on the twenty-minute attention span. But somehow, in 1991, I found myself at a training that stays with me to this day.  Its metaphor was the playpen.  Al Dicken, who would later become my administrator when I changed school districts, was the trainer at a drug-awareness session. Al explained that when our kids are tiny, we place them in the playpen (or its transformer version since the late 80s, the… Read More…

New Podcast: Flooding, Insurance & Ethics – Dialogue with Attorney Judy Herman

This interview follows Kevin’s August 15th, Acts of God? Creative Interpretations During Flooding: Unlike a Good Neighbor… Following the intense rain within a single four-hour period in August, 2014, thousands of metro Detroiters found their basements flooded with sewage and little to no assistance from their insurers “flood” coverage. Attorney, Judy Herman, discusses her 27 year career dealing with insurance companies and offers some advice for consumers and ethical guidelines both companies and customers would be wise to follow.

Labor Day: Created in Six Days from Collective Guilt and a Stubborn Landlord

This weekend, we’re celebrating the end of summer–the bookend to Memorial Day and a great Monday to have off.  Labor Day was created to supposedly honor the American worker but was  passed in record time in 1887 by a Congress and president with a guilty-conscience. It began with a broken promise–probably one that shouldn’t have been made.  But it was made–and believed to be made for all the right reasons on one side and the more logical reason on the other side–the reason of profit. George Pullman, like any great American businessman, found his niche.  He grew up near the Erie Canal and witnessed the importance of creating luxury transportation and adapted it to the newborn railroad system. After transporting Lincoln’s body through 180 cities and seven states demand for Pullman’s cars grew, in spite of the cost being five times traditional railroad transportation.  (Interestingly, not only did Lincoln’s macabre road-tour change rail-travel it also perfected funeral science… Read More…

Acts of God? Creative Interpretations During Flooding: Unlike a Good Neighbor…

For a follow-up discussion on insurance companies and ethics, listen to our 10/7/14 podcast with attorney Judy Herman. I remember the feeling of helplessness all too well.  And this Monday evening it happened again. Our son was three weeks old and we were camping in northern Michigan when we got the call from my brother-in-law, who just lived around the block from us. “We got a ton of rain, the streets are flooded.  I shined the flashlight down into your basement through the window and the light bounced right back up.” Not a good sign since the carpeting had just been installed three months earlier. We bought the Royal Oak house in 1993, a year into our marriage and waited a couple years before we decided to finish the basement.  The inspector said he didn’t see any signs of water-issues but we wanted to be sure.  Two years of thunderstorms later,… Read More…

Botched Executions And the Murderers Exposed

“My planes, My guns. My money, My soldiers, My blood is on my hands…It’s all my fault.” I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, X. “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man.” William Munny (Unforgiven) As a frequent critic of the death penalty, I get one question regularly when I’m asked to explain my position, and it’s a question I wrestle with myself: what about the victim?  I read it again yesterday when I posted on Facebook my outrage at the “botched execution” (already a cliché) of Joseph Wood two days ago.  I pointed out that Wood took two hours to die, and that he was reportedly “gasping and snorting” for a significant portion of that time. A Facebook friend commented on my post, “What did he do to deserve the execution?  Then, I’ll tell you if I have a problem with it.” Joseph Wood What he did was murder his ex-girlfriend and her… Read More…

Perhaps “Compromise” and “Politics” Can Coexist? Candidate Fishman Switches Sides and Hopes So

At first, term limits made sense.  At first, letting the giant wooden horse into the gates of Troy made sense, too.  For many, the possibility of voting for a Democrat who was a Republican nine months ago makes less sense. “We’ve always had term limits; they’re called elections,” joked retiring US Republican Congressman, William S. Broomfield in 1996 to me when he was being inducted into the Royal Oak Dondero High School Hall of Fame.  Michigan had just voted to only allow its state elected officials a few terms under the design that it would eliminate “career politicians.” Instead we have legislative musical chairs with no one staying in one job long enough to make any decisions that have any impact beyond six years.  Like short-lived mayflies, state reps exist just three terms then they move on to the next election—maybe a state senate seat, sheriff, mayoral race or the… Read More…

New Podcast: Not Your Father’s GOP – New Democrat Ryan Fishman, New Try for Michigan State Senate

What does it take to drive someone away from his own party?  Ronald Reagan, after all, left the Democrats in 1962 after being a successful union leader for years.   Ryan Fishman decided last September to run for his term-limited Michigan state senate district after a series of his op-ed articles convinced others to convince Ryan that he should leave the GOP and take a shot at a traditionally right-leaning district. Ryan and Kevin discuss: – Difficulties (or not, really) in switching parties – Reagan Republicans and Reagan Democrats – The bad business logic of Right to Work, removing unions and poor short-sighted infrastructures – Door-Knocking and Lawn Signs – Being under 30 and running for office – Problem with planning for just 7 of 9 innings

The Biggest Story Few of us Heard: British Phone-Tapping & American Media Apathy

Ladies and gentlemen, have I got a story for you. Please, take your seats and listen closely. It’s a story about the fall of the mighty and about personal tragedy. It’s a story that involves one of the most powerful men in the world. It features princes and sexual dalliances. It’s a story that speaks to our paranoia and justifies it, like the Snowden revelations and the US government’s wire-tapping program. And most important, ladies and gentlemen, it has murder. It has desperate parents and missing children. A mighty corporation, 168 years in existence, crumbles at our feet. This story has been out there for years.  The question is, why aren’t we paying attention? The British hacking scandal, which led to the end of The News of the World, has one element which likely saps most of our interest: it’s a British story. It happened far away, to people who speak with… Read More…

Our Sanity Just Out of Rifle Range

Christina Taylor Green In the days after yet another school shooting, this time in Portland, let’s take a moment and reflect on how our attitude towards gun control and ownership has evolved in the past few years. The Sandy Hook tragedy took place on December 14, 2012, about a year and a half ago. Columbine was on April 20, 1999: 15 years ago. The Aurora movie theatre shootings, in which killed 12 people were shot and killed at the opening of the movie Dark Knight Rises, happened on July 20, 2012, almost two years ago. A friend of mine recently told me she was nervous about going to the movies; she was afraid of a gunman opening fire. Before 7/20/12, it probably never occurred to her that going to the movies could get you shot. Now, apparently, we should be afraid to leave our kids at school. It’s hard to… Read More…

Scary Chattanoogan Billboards: Swaying 86 People with Mystery Money & Veiled Threats

The plan was simple.  Just convince under a hundred people that Detroit was once again the bogeyman, just like in Robocop. Yesterday in Tennessee, in a narrow vote swung by just 6%, the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize the Chattanooga Volkswagen workers fell short, 712-626.  The “yes” votes began to fade away in the final two weeks due to a barrage of billboards like the following… Ironically, as seen in the above typoed billboard, there was not only the threat of liberals and Obama, it also mentions the dirty “politicans” who abandon their oaths of office to all their citizens and instead conduct business for the sake of their campaign benefactors. But it’s okay if those non-liberal representatives choose to have “Big Government” step in during a private worker-management vote.  After all, if Volkswagen became unionized guess what might continue to happen all the way down to the Gulf… Read More…

The Facebook Birthday Fix: Evidence for Defending Your Life

Today is my wife’s birthday and, like a true Facebook lurker, I can’t help but drift into her page and see the many greetings coming from all walks of her life. Patrice is one of those rare people whose default setting is funny, matter-of-fact, wise, generous, caring and, somehow, so modest she thinks she isn’t really any of these. Small wonder that she’s had the same girls in her scout troop for over ten years. Reading the posts of all the lives she’s touched, I’ve am impressed by how many agree with her wise husband. Facebook has made it incredibly easy for me to be considerate. It sends me nudges about my friends’ birthdays and has moved their big days to the top-right of my screen. When I first joined, it was late August 2008 and a month later when my birthday hit I was so surprised by not only… Read More…

Kid Rock, Costco and Paying Dues: Keeping First-Class Without Sacrificing Coach

An American buying a Lotto ticket seems a bit redundant. After all, in the millions of years of evolution (or few thousand years–depending on which Texas schoolbook you’ve got approved) what are the odds that you’ll be born in a century with indoor plumbing, electricity and fabric softener? Then factor in that you’ll most likely not be born somewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific, north of the Rio Grande.  Instead you’ll land where 50% of the world is born–a place where you survive on $2.50 per day or less–or nearly three scratch-and-wins. (source) So as you tsk-tsk high gas prices and the lawn-service guy who’s ripping you off (causing you to get so upset you nearly spill that $4 mocha) remember the cost of being in a club. Not far from my house is the prestigious Oakland Hills Country Club–or to golf fans, “The Monster.” It’s been the site of… Read More…

Divorce Court for Your Cable Provider: The Art of the Steal

Wouldn’t it be great if we could negotiate everything like a cable bill?  Try it the next time you’re in your doctor’s waiting room. “That will be $148, Mr. Walsh,” says the cranky person behind the glass slidey-door. “Hmmm…I’m not sure about that.” “Hmmm?” she glances up from her computer. “That’s right.  Hmmm.  You know, I think you might be overcharging me.” “Sir, would you like me to sick a collection agency on you?” “But $148 to have my kids’ acne examined?  And we had to wait an extra hour for that privilege.  Can you knock off twenty bucks because of the wait?” “Sir, the doctor is very busy.” “I’m sure he is.  Anyway, the zit-doc down the hall told me he’d look at my kids’ pimples for only $128, so I thought it might be reasonable…” She begins to dial the collection agency. I find it odd that liquor… Read More…

Gorillas & Government Shutdown: What Would George Bailey Do?

[Updated after the September 30th shut-down.] Last night’s vain countdown to midnight with no expectations for our leaders to avoid a government shutdown seems to be creating a sense of normalcy with these panics–making the bank-scare of George Bailey’s savings and loan look like over-reaction. We’re pretty used to these games of chicken, unfortunately.   There’s the old joke asking where a gorilla sleeps.  The punchline of “Anywhere it wants” always made me chuckle.  It creates a visual of a Warner Brothers gorilla bending his cage bars and thumping Sylvester on the head as he chases the innocent Tweety. But even in those cartoons, the bully gets his due–even if it’s from another bully. All week, there has been plenty of roaring and chest-thumping and it’s going to continue. Some gorillas are going to celebrate today as a victory. Beaten Into Submission My son’s medication arrived via the drive-through window… Read More…

Abilify’s Bathrobe: The Joe Camel of Anti-Depressants

The first time I saw the Abilify ad, I thought Saturday Night Live’s monologue had just finished.  There was no way it was serious… I am fortunate not to suffer from the crippling effects of depression, but when I saw this cartoon, I felt insulted for the millions who do.  It’s tough enough to have to admit that you’re at the mercy of this syndrome but to have a pharmaceutical company display its complexities with an animated bathrobe, like a possessed Linus’s blanket, is wrong. Not only does it perpetuate the “loafer/just get out of the house” stereotype of depressed people remaining in their bathrobe all day it trivializes the nature of the disorder, it dumbs-down the entire disorder. James Heaney wrote a great analysis (link) of the use of pastel colors, the female narrator and other Madison Avenue tactics designed to sidetrack the consumer from the rather terrifying side… Read More…

From Russia With Hate: Not Tuning-In 2014 Winter Olympics

The following was originally posted on Joe’s blog at this link. If you follow my blog you know that I rarely comment on current events and mostly am guilty of reminiscent wool gathering. I have also stated that I am not content just writing about the timeline of our marriage. But, what is going on in Russia needs to be addressed now and regularly until the Winter Games and beyond. The persecution of LGBT people in Russia is horrifyingly similar to the gradual evolution of the Jewish holocaust led by Vladimir Putin an ex-KGB thug.  He knows what he is doing. Find a group of already disenfranchised people and make them the enemy. It starts slowly. Rights are incrementally removed. In this case they are using the old favorite of our own anti gay crowd. ” We must protect the children.” Who will protect the gay children? You are going… Read More…

Jose or Jhonny? A Choice Between Right and Braun

 Let me show you what is probably the only defining baseball moment for Detroiters—surely my generation of Detroiters—to come out of the mid to late 90’s: If you can look past the fact that Frank Beckmann was a part of this, it’s a pretty incredible moment. The scene is the last game ever to be played at historically legendary Tiger Stadium. One of the only bright spots in a dismal baseball future, Robert Fick, steps up to the plate with the bases loaded. With one swing of the bat, Fick immortalizes himself in baseball history, hitting a grand slam off of the roof—the ultimate send off to every Michigander’s favorite sports venue. He’s wearing Norm Cash’s number, and Frank reminds us that Al Kaline said before the game that he’d hit a homerun that day. And he did. This is the kinda crap that provokes lines from screenwriters like Aaron… Read More…