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…

Taking Back Boston

I made a commitment immediately after I experienced the terrorist attacks in Boston last year that I would be back this year.  It was so important for me to take back Boston after running 4 marathons for Dana Farber.  In addition, it was the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge’s 25th anniversary and my 5th consecutive Boston Marathon.  Hell yes I was going back! For those of you who know me, I don’t run for me. I run because I can and I run for the greater cause of eradicating cancer.  Ok…maybe selfishly I run so I can have the occasional beer or Oreo and not feel so bad about it. Every year the day before the marathon, DFMC has a pasta dinner for its runners, families and friends.  This year was an especially emotional event due to the 25th anniversary and the bombings in Boston.  Darby Stott who ran in the… Read More…

$100 by Tuesday and You Could Be a State Senator: Great Pay, Hours and Benefits!

  Do you hate those knocks on the door with people holding clipboards?  Have you thought of running for office but don’t want to be the next Avon lady? Well, you can skip those pesky 500 petitions needed to run for state office in Michigan.  The state’s website recommends getting 1,000 signatures–just to be on the safe side in case you’ve got some bogus citizens or someone’s going to challenge you on using a #3 pencil or a hanging chad. That’s right!  For the low, low price of only $100 and a notarized form by 4 PM Tuesday, April 22nd, you too can be on the primary ballot for the Michigan State Senate. Did you see the best part? If that doesn’t appeal to the laziest in all of us, I don’t know what would.  That’s less than one month’s basic cable–and you’re eligible for some pretty good pay and… Read More…

I Knew It Was a Bomb: The Boston Marathon a Year Later

A year ago I was 1,000 feet from a terrorist attack.  I wrote this at 3AM that night and when I read it, I still get chills.  Join me in remembering the 3 killed and hundreds injured in this senseless crime.  Next Monday, I return to Boston to run again.   ————————————————————- I knew it was a bomb…. Riding the bus to Hopkinton we were all smiles, as it was the beginning of our celebration. 27,000 of us with our own stories and our own individual ways of getting there. Some were running their first Boston – the pinnacle of their running success and a dream come true. Others were running their 19th, 20th. And yet others, like me, were in wave 3, running for charities like Dana Farber. Much like 9/11, it was a beautiful crisp sunny New England day. You could feel the electricity in the air in… Read More…

The Quarter Million Dollar Student Athlete

College is fun.   It’s a time of liberation and discovery.  It’s a time to develop self-awareness, accountability, empowerment.  What any of us wouldn’t give to go back to college? Watching March Madness always reminds me of that liberation, joy and jubilation.  It propels me back twenty plus years to a time when we were students and the Fab Five were rocking at Michigan. We jammed into Crisler Arena bouncing up and down, partying at our friends’ houses and storming South U at our victories or near victories.  What pride we had in watching our fellow students represent our great University in the hunt for a title. The debate as to whether or not to pay college athletes has been ongoing for years.  At its core it’s a simple argument.  Student athletes bring so much revenue from the two big sports of basketball and football and they deserve to share in… Read More…

Bad Ads and Worse Puns for Rick Snyder: Inside the Koch Brothers’ War-Room

Always a fan of strange ads, I thought I’d deconstruct the possible creation of this beauty–a close second to Rick Snyder’s scuba-diving Super Bowl ad (link). Needless Disclaimer:  The following transcript could have been secretly recorded in a war-room–detailing the plan for the first wave of ads to re-elect Michigan’s Governor Snyder.  You never know… [Sound of door opening and bowing and scraping.] Koch 1:  “Okay boys, lay it on me.  Whaddaya got?” Slappy:  “Pardon sir?” Koch 2:  “In Michigan, son, in Michigan.” Slappy 1:  “Oh.  Well we own most of the senate and a lot of house members.” Slappy 2:  “And we’re taking over most of the public schools and are funneling tax dollars to Pearson Publishing for the cyber-school scam.” Koch 1:  “No no no.  I mean tell us the big plan for Ricky boy.” Slappy 1:  “Who?” Koch 2:  “Snyder.  Rick Snyder!  You know the governor.  The… Read More…

You’re Pregnant, You’re Fired – Why Teachers Have Unions…For Now

Dr. Ken Noble followed his Depression-era parents into the teaching profession in Royal Oak, Michigan four years before Governor Romney (R) signed a law permitting collective bargaining for public workers.  In 2010, Ken shared his perspective with teachers struggling with the need for a teachers union in a district that would eventually impose an historically severe retroactive pay-cut on its teachers. I have been out of the classroom and away from the negotiating table for so long I do not know how much my thoughts will help you, but since you asked . . .The evolution of teacher duties and compensation is actually quite interesting. Promising Obedience Before collective bargaining each teacher had an individual contract and served “at the will” of the school board.  In the late 1930’s my parents had contracts about the size of a current postcard.  In each contract the teacher acknowledged that the “right to… Read More…

Saturday Morning Marriage-Rush: Families Racing Against Their Government

* Non-Surprising Update After 7 Hours since this original post:  “The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after first signaling it would not intervene in Michigan’s gay marriage case until Tuesday, posted a new order late Saturday imposing a stay in the case until Wednesday.’ (link) The Oklahoma land-rush scene from Far and Away, best illustrates what’s happening this morning in many county clerk’s offices in Michigan.  Desperate families given a brief window of opportunity to give their children the same rights and opportunities as other American kids–fully expecting the window to be slammed shut at any moment. Free land–if you can out-run or out-wit your opponents.  Unfortunately, families in line right now are finding their opponent their own state leadership.  You need to move fast and be ready to deal with cheaters. Sadly, too few people trust the State of Michigan to do what is right.  My cousin Jenny… Read More…

“Mr. Lincoln, All the Ladies Like Whiskers…” Long Beards, Nostalgia & Entrepreneurship

Listen to our podcast with beard-entrepreneur, Doug Geiger, founder of the beard-care and philosophy website canyouhandlebar.com… It’s hard to find many statues honoring a fashion expert, but in Westfield, New York you’ll find one dedicated to an eleven year old adviser to the president. Abraham Lincoln, in addition to his many accomplishments as a statesman, orator and joke-teller was also a bit of a trendsetter.  Grace Bedell, an 11 year-old fan during his presidential run, wrote to him and famously recommended the candidate grow some facial hair, “All the ladies like whiskers.” And while women wouldn’t have the vote for another 55 years, Lincoln made the shrewd decision to court the nation’s wives. In honor of Presidents Day, let’s look over the 20% our commanders-in-chief who have sported facial hair, and you’ll see a pattern at 16 through 27. Aside from the sideburns of John Quincy Adams and Martin Van… 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…

Then Along Came a Snyder: Super Bowl Scuba-Governor & Four Great Lake Shipwrecks to Explore Before Drowning in $30 Million in Ads

It’s not every Super Bowl you see a snorkeling governor rising dramatically from the depths of a swimming pool. Toss in the Phil Hartman-like cheesy narrator and you’ve got a $400,000 bid for amnesia. And while Super Bowl ads often have strange, engaging openings, they often aren’t know for their literary depth Even the press secretary of former Michigan GOP governor John Engler admitted he was a bit baffled: “Truscott initially was confused by the snorkeling scene too, but upon further reflection, he thought it worked as a metaphor.” (link) Most Super Bowl ads don’t require “further reflection.” There’s not a lot of metaphors either, unless you count cute dogs, groin-injuries and trucks hauling cattle. This strange spot produced by Strategic Perception Inc. of Hollywood oddly blends two famous 1960s Hollywood images that have never before co-existed: Benjamin Braddock and James Bond… It’s not too far of a leap, actually,… Read More…

Public Education Going the Way of Netscape Navigator? Common Core, Bill Gates and BATs

Listen to our podcast with two leaders of the Badass Teacher’s Association, Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson… “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” It was a typical tenth grade essay question.  I can still see the red ink circling my first wish on my returned paper; I had written “health.” “Good health or bad health?” “Well, duh?”  I remember my brilliant 16 year-old sarcasm so clearly.  “Who would wish for bad health?” And as my revenge on this injustice, I used the same technique grading papers for 25 years.  I lectured that it was a lesson in being specific.  Students need to pay attention to those details where the devil hangs out.  The kids loved me for that one, you can imagine. I’ve had some of those same students, neighbors and a few friends ask me my opinion about the Common Core Standards.  Do I… Read More…

Mad Magazine’s 1976 Christmas Issue: Still Relevant, Still Memorized–Years Later

*Per a few requests, another omitted ditty was added below.  –Kevin 12/24/14 It was a Christmas party when my wife first called me “The King of Useless Information.” I fell into the trap and correctly answered the question, probably too quickly, “Who played Gopher on Love Boat?” Fred Grandy. Who didn’t know that?? But the title really had its roots in 1976, the year I began collecting Mad magazines as a fifth grader while waiting for my mom in the checkout at the A&P. Like my son’s favorite episodes of South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons, each issue is a time capsule of current events and a cross-section of American culture and attitudes. Just skimming the cover of the January 1977 issue that came out in late November of 1976, the clever artwork depicting Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers exchanging D-cells was worth it enough. But then to glance… Read More…

Newsflash! Michigan Company Moves to Michigan – “Right-to-Work” Righteousness by Gov. Snyder

I received an email today from the governor.  Rick Snyder proudly announced that a Michigan-based company has decided to move to–Michigan, of all paces.  There it was, right there in my in-box, under the double-meaning title:  “This is what it’s all about.” subject heading… This is what it’s all about.  Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the Michigan’s governor signing into law “Right to Work” under the promises that it would make Michigan more competitive, attract new companies and give employees more options. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, that all of the RTW states’ employees have a lower standard of living without unions, despite the governor himself stating that the issue was divisive, despite the doors being locked from the public during the lame-duck push by legislators who had just lost their seats in the election, the law was passed. Yesterday, the AFL-CIO sent out an email reminding… 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…

Why Not a Charter Government–If 80% Raises for Everyone Doesn’t Make Sense?

Click here to read… 80-90% Pay Raises! Come and Get ‘Em! On a quiet Sunday, the Detroit Free Press has reported that the State of Michigan, under Governor Snyder, has decided it’s time to start paying people what they’re worth. “The State of Michigan quietly increased the salaries of its top investment officials in the Treasury Department by more than 80% this year, saying it was too difficult to attract and keep qualified people under the former pay rates.”  (Source:  Detroit Free Press) This is the same governor who agreed that Right to Work was not a good idea for Michigan and that he would not sign such a bill–then quickly signed this bill during last December’s lame-duck New Year’s Eve party. This is the same governor who has captained over a hundred laws crippling labor unions, raising health care costs and taxing retirees’ pensions. Charter schools are on the… Read More…

November 22, 1963: A Seventh Grader’s Loss of Innocence

  Saturday was to be the day that my Mom and I would move out of the house my family had lived in for eight of my 12 years. The large three-story home which had held within its walls a family of eight and all that that entails had grown too large.   Dad was gone and gradually the family had dispersed as families do. Now it was just me and my Mom. She had rented the bottom of a house across from the University of Detroit. She worked there managing the bookstore so the location made sense. The local Catholic school was Gesu and run by the Jesuits who also ran the University of Detroit. I had been attending school since the first grade at Precious Blood, a  middle class parish with several thousand families within its boundaries.  I was in the 7th grade when mom decided to move. … 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…

Jimmy Kimmel’s Flaming Yoga Pants or Syria: What Climbs Your Firewall?

Thanks to my teenage son and a gaming site, I spent five hours last Saturday removing a virus from our computer.  “Conduit,” was a crazy search-engine device that refused to leave, breezing past my security software.  The kid had let the intruder in disguised as an update of Adobe Flash that was “required” on my computer. A good friend was startled to see a scary warning of a virus on his computer–so he clicked the large red “Remove Virus” button and thus began infecting his hard drive. With “tears in my eyes” and begging for money from a US Embassy in London,  a modern Odysseus, disguised as me, wrote to hundreds of my contacts.  Most didn’t fall for the scam but a few did write back asking for more details where to send the cashier’s check.  It started two weeks earlier as a fake Yahoo informed me that I needed… Read More…