Sunday, March 27, 2011

The logic flaw no one ever questions

"New" liberals in their embrace of Progressivism over the last 100 years have created an astounding paradox. For some reason, however, no one seems to feel the need to shine any light on it.

They so proudly trumpet themselves as unfailing champions of the individual's right to privacy. And, to listen to them and take them at their word, one would be led to believe that crowd is privacy rights' lone champion in America.

All the while, though, the progressive liberals also believe in and have promoted a broad-reaching public assistance system – more simply, welfare.

But, you cannot have a society with a supposed institutional respect for privacy rights at the same time as a society of vast public entitlements.

Herein lies the contradiction the American Left so desperately wants us all to ignore: have you applied for assistance lately?

If you have, how much of your privacy that you cherish can you honestly say you still have left? After all, when you file for assistance the government expects you to divulge information about yourself and your family most people would not be comfortable sharing with neighbors – and even information that in many instances can get you fired for discussing in one’s workplace.

How much have you made on a week-to-week basis over the last year?
How much has your spouse made on a week-to-week basis over the last year?
What is your current bank balance?
Do you own your home?
If so, how much do you still owe on it?
How much is it worth?
What kind of car(s) do you drive?
What are they worth?
What is your social security number?
What is your driver's license number?
How much do you have in monthly utility bills?
What other monthly expenditures do you have?

But if you wish to qualify for aid, your choice of comfort zones narrows drastically.

And, ultimately, we are expected to handover various personal concerns and documents to complete strangers whom we are supposed to trust because they have signed a piece of paper stating they agree not to misuse knowledge of your personal affairs under any circumstances.

Then again, our presidents and members of Congress have been swearing an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution at each inauguration ceremony. In just looking back over the last 20+ years, how would you say that's worked out for us?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No pre-wedding jitters...

Today marks four years ago Marcy and I exchanged our vows. In a small way to commemorate our anniversary, I have opted to republish this old blog entry I wrote about it. I originally authored this on April 7, 2007: two weeks after our wedding. It initially was written as a MySpace message to an old friend I knew while I was in the Navy and stationed at Newport, RI. When I was almost finished typing it, it occurred to me that this would make a nice item to share with everyone and so here it is, a little revised and with an item or two added.

Also to all who see this and attended our wedding and reception, for being there with us to share in our most special day, THANK YOU! Words cannot express how grateful we still are.

Well, we only got half the crowd we expected (we paid for a minimum attendance of 125 guests). But that's okay. The folks who showed and stayed through the evening had an absolute blast.

Just like everyone said it would be, the day went by much too quickly and it was over before I knew it. In looking back two weeks ago, now it seems like a whirlwind (although I know it didn't have that feel while it was happening).

I have to say, watching her walk down the aisle was the most magical moment of my life.

It was funny, in retrospect, because I remember how glad we were to get out of our formal wear once we got home... and she was saying all the while in the weeks leading up to our wedding that she's waited all her life to don her wedding gown but that was going to mean wearing upwards of 30 pounds of clothing and she knew she would be soooo ready to take the thing off.

She had her gown on by about 2:30-3 p.m. that afternoon, I had on my tux shortly after 3, and we were out of our gear sometime close to midnight. Nine hours in a tux and gown. Yeah, I couldn't wait to get in a T-shirt, sweats, and my worn-out sneakers I use for slippers.

In fact, not long after the ceremony her feet were hurting her so bad in her shoes my brother Todd ran really quickly to the Kmart next door to the Crystal Gardens hall and grabbed her a pair of nice slippers to wear the rest of the day and evening. Our photographer got some photos of me helping her out of and then into footwear out in the lobby area. As soon as we get them from him, I'll be sure to post those on my profile.

Another anecdote that Marcy will never live down to some degree came during the ceremony. Our officiate, Tony, later admitted that ours was only the second wedding he's done this year and so he was a little rusty. Where that came into play is that during the part where we say after him, "I take thee..." he was kinda hesitating a little bit. She was waiting for him to say my name in the process, waiting for his prompts, and it caused just enough of a hiccup in the proceedings that she called me by my middle name since in her mind she'd already said my first name several times: "I take thee (hesitation for a split second) Charles..."

So now, my best man keeps calling me Chuck. And Marcy is "Bride of Chuckie."

That's OK, though, since when we said our own personal words to one another I had a brain fart (which I knew I would; that's why I try to stick to writing instead of public speaking) of my own. What I had intended to say and had rehearsed in my head for during my part was:

Marcy, very simply you are the one.
You are the one I know who loves me unconditionally.
You are the one who brings out the best in me.
You are the one who makes every morning worth waking up to.
And you are the one who makes every evening something to look forward to.
And, you are the one and only one I see spending the rest of my life with.
You are the one.

Well, after the opening line, I had a brain freeze and couldn't remember the second stanza (which, I felt, was the most important to say) and skipped to part 3, then four, and then finally remembered the second part -- and in my sense of relief I believe I ended up omitting the fifth line.

One other thing that is a little amusing is the minor controversy that has taken on a life of its own in my workplace. I teach a teen weight training class where I work at the South Oakland Family YMCA. The weekend before the wedding I called in sick and so there wasn't any class. Well, I could have tried to arrange for someone to be there but felt I owed it to the kids, having missed the week before. During the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, other members of the bridal party convinced me to pursue a sub to teach the next day's class (what if there's a traffic jam, what if you're in an accident, what if your truck breaks down) -- and I earnestly tried to call someone and make those arrangements.

Well, no one was available. So, I went in around 8:30 that next morning (class is at 11) to the "Y" and got in the workout I was hoping to have. And I taught my class, but being the thinking man I am, I cut it short at 11:30 and let no one interfere with my departure. Of course my boss, Michele, marveled at my presence while I was working-out and apologized for not being able to cover the class herself; but she needed to be able to scoot early that morning since she needed the time to get ready so she could attend the wedding herself!

And a number of people remarked about me being there and working out and doing the class the day of my wedding. What I began telling people is I wanted to get the after-workout endorphin rush as a preemptive strike against potential pre-wedding jitters. At least I think it worked.

Anyhow, since then people have been coming up to me saying things such as, "What's this I hear about you having to work on your wedding day?!?" and, "I can't believe they made you come in to work on your wedding day!"

What adds a little to the confusion on the subject is that I used to work Saturday mornings in the Wellness Center. Now, the only time I come in on a Saturday is to teach my class (which is very rewarding).

But, getting back to the subject of avoiding the jitters... Once I got out of the YMCA and hit the road, I had to swing over to Ecorse and pick up Keith, my Best Man, at the truck stop on Ecorse Road. He had to drop-off his rig that morning as he had to deal with some rocket scientists in Ohio at his final point of destination along his run down south.

So, I meet him at the diner there at the truck stop. And I figure he's going to be ready to get going fairly shortly after I get there. No, he's just getting ready to place his breakfast order. Well, I went ahead and had something as well. I was anxious to go, so I had my plate cleaned off well before Keith did. And then he wants to sit there with his boss and shoot the $#1+ and smoke cigarettes for a while -- meanwhile I'm getting antsier... and antsier. Finally I had to blurt out, "Dude, I really, really don't want to be rude, but we really, really got to go."

So, we head over to where his rig is parked, he gets his tux and other needed items out of his truck. As best we can in my well-worn Dakota, I'm flying down I-94 to Southfield Road, I'm cruising the streets as fast as I can without needlessly risking a stop by a cop, and get our nappy asses to the house, where I now need to get groomed (no pun intended) and a shower (another unintended pun). As bald as I am, I just shave my head anymore and for some reason that day, things just seemed to take longer to accomplish than normal.

We got to Crystal Gardens at 3 -- mind you the wedding is at 3:30 p.m. and we had determined that all my groomsmen and I should be there by 2:30. When we get there, Amy (Marcy's Matron of Honor) is standing there in the lobby and says, "I was getting ready to send out a search party for you!"

We race into the area we scouted as a good changing place. My first groomsman, Larry, is helping me get changed and all set up while Keith's wife, Lana (Marcy's Second Bridesmaid), is helping him do the same. I am trying like hell not to work up a sweat and get all grubby as a result. But, we probably got me tuxed-up in near record time.

After that, then I had to help with getting my two absentee fellows (Larry and Keith) up to speed on things since they weren't able to be there the night of the rehearsal (Keith was on the road and Larry lives up by Clare): the order of procession, where we're all standing when we get to the altar, and so on.

Now, for all of you who have known me for some time and have marveled at my sense (or lack thereof) of punctuality, you need only look at my family... At this point in the day, my brother Brian (the second groomsman), has not yet arrived. In fact, since he, my oldest brother Michael, and my mom are all riding together, I'm now starting to wonder whether they will be there at least in time for the ceremony or perhaps sometime before dinner during the reception. Time is ticking away and in the design of entrances for the ceremony Michael is supposed to be escorting Mom to her seat, followed by Marcy's brother Jason with their mom, Brian, Larry, Keith, and then Tony and me, and the bridesmaids one by one before Marcy and her dad make their entrance.

Making the moment even more interesting is that Tony hadn't even arrived yet (although, if memory serves me correct, he did get there before my family). Of course, on our wedding day, there had to be construction on I-75. That caused a lot of people to miss the ceremony but at least be there for the reception. My family, though, was taking the Southfield Freeway, which was flowing quite smoothly when I was on it around noon. They pulled-up at 3:21 by my watch.

Between anxiously awaiting for their arrivals and doing pre-photos in the lobby area with the photographer, and saying "hello" to invitees, I was too busy to even think about being nervous.

But, all in all, I'm inclined to think the day went well. I couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'd like an order of St. Patrick's Day, and please hold the stereotype...

(Originally published on March 18 in the Notes of my personal Facebook profile; but, over the last few days the urge to publicly publish this has taken hold...)

As I get older, I do find the blind association of St. Patrick's Day with excessive libation disquieting. Also troubling for me is the harsh criticism of Christians (Catholics in particular) for "allowing" such a development.

The problem with that observation is it ignores two key points:

First – the entire history of St. Patrick (or Pádhraig if you go with the Gaelic spelling) and how his holiday became a Holy Day of Obligation for observance in Ireland;

Second – the fact it was not Catholics who steadily evolved this holiday into an excuse for alcoholic debauchery but secularists who seem to take bizarre pleasure in ruining Judeo-Christian traditions.

The notion of drinking being associated with St. Patrick’s Day is based in part on the old (very old) tradition of the men in the towns across Ireland coming together for a round of ale at the end of a long day spent commemorating and honoring his bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isle. In olden days (and even in a number of instances back in Ireland today), the holiday was begun with a long mass dedicated to Patrick’s memory and legacy. Families came together in a manner much like how Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be observed many moons ago. The work involved in making the day what it was meant to be left most of the Irish people feeling a bit deserving of a spirit of some sort (usually a pint) at the end of the day.

The other component of alcohol consumption being tied to the holiday is the result of people gradually expanding upon the stereotype of the Irish nationality and its reputation for alcoholism.

But to revisit the subject of secularism wrecking time-honored traditions and holy days of obligation for recognizing certain saints, this is the same process that played-out with St. Valentine’s Day.

The St. Valentine for whom February 14 had been set aside for remembrance (there are several saints named Valentine) was a priest who was martyred in the 3rd century AD for marrying Christian couples – this was before the conversion of Rome, so aiding Christians was a crime punishable either by imprisonment or death. His order for execution was handed-down by Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus after Valentine attempted to convert him during his imprisonment.

This is why the date is associated so inextricably with romance. Observance of February 14 began in England during the late 15th century.

And, of course, there is the obvious manner in which secularists turned Christmas into a near-orgy of commercialism. Enough said on that, basically.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan: condolences and caution

First and foremost, it must be said my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan. I cannot even begin to imagine what their ordeal must be like – and was like for those whose lives have been lost so far.

Justifiably so, the news and images that have streamed out of the West Pacific have been a source of immense anxiety and sorrow for those who have kept-up with them. We need to give – and give generously.

Unfortunately, there must come a time to begin the distasteful portion of the Japanese story: discussing the economic impacts of the string of massive natural disasters which have taken their toll.

In short, the United States either will face great peril or tremendous opportunity. I do not see much potential for middle ground on this.

The peril stems from the fact Japan currently is the second-largest foreign holder of the United States’ national debt. The Japanese nation presently owns just under $890 billion in U.S. Treasury Bonds.

In the very, very near future, the Land of the Rising Sun’s government will be selling those treasuries in significant chunks as a means to afford the enormous rebuilding effort which must begin there. Another viable option for Japan simply doesn’t exist.

Don’t be surprised to read or watch in the coming weeks (or days) about the Japanese selling U.S. debt in chunks of tens-of-billion-of-dollars at a time. When you consider the U.S. federal government now is running monthly deficits in excess of $220 billion , our picture here at home has the potential to look almost as bleak as Japan’s (I reiterate: almost!).

A run like this on the U.S. dollar in the international currency market creates the potential for interest rates on our national debt to rise sharply, further erode the dollar’s value, and spike inflation rates – all placing even greater pressure on our economy.

The worst-case scenario is if Japan struggles to find buyers and its leadership comes knocking on the doors of the U.S. Treasury insisting upon emolument for anywhere from $100 billion to $200 billion. A cash-out demand of that size could very well put the United States on the brink of defaulting on its debt.

If that happens, the next big meltdown to hit the headlines will be in Washington.

Averting this disaster will require urgent but very careful negotiating on the part of the Obama Administration’s top economic minds. When you consider the present crew has demonstrated more economic incompetence than the Carter and Bush 43 administrations combined, all I can think of at this point is God help us… God help us all.

The silver lining?

The operative question – now – centers on what the potential “tremendous opportunity” could possibly be.

While the economic news out of Japan at times seems to be changing on an hourly basis, the latest reports I read as of this time of writing state widespread plant closings for that country’s top manufacturers. Toyota has shut down all 12 of its plants there, Honda, Nissan, and Subaru have suspended operations at multiple locations, and Sony has had to initiate closings as well.

The shutdowns have had to do as much with electrical power concerns due to the multiple nuclear reactor crises as with assessing structural damage and other earthquake-related concerns. Some – but not all – timelines for reopening plants remain unclear.

Any long-term closures by Japanese manufacturers inevitably will lead to immense voids in the respective market shares they control. Toyota alone, shutting-down all 12 domestic plants, represents a massive drop-off in the country’s overall exports. Add to the mix Sony – one of the top electronics and entertainment producers in the world – and the cross-section of industries impacted beyond automotive is tremendous.

While this is not how a civilized mind would anticipate an opportunity for a resurgence in America’s manufacturing sector, the fact remains that the unavoidable shortfall in Japan’s ability to meet its present market share for exports means someone must poise themselves to fill those voids.

Here on our shores, government at all levels can greatly aid our own manufacturers by vastly reducing the red tape required to build either new businesses or new locations for present companies.

Otherwise, I have no doubt China, Russia, and India will be more than happy to fill-in the worldwide gaps for us.