Archive for January, 2008

Choosing Candidates Like Coffee…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 14, 2008

We aren’t so much American citizens anymore as we are American consumers. Our role in the world is to select and compare and eventually buy stuff. (Witness the frenzied panic last week in the world’s stock markets — huge plunges on the news that Americans might just have to slow down buying everybody else’s crap for a bit.) It’s how the world sees us — it’s how we see ourselves.

Citizens vote; consumers select. And I think it drives us a bit crazy that this presidential caucus and primary system doesn’t allow us to select exactly what we want. Why can’t we mix and match? We can at the grocery store. We can with our cell phone plan. We can at Starbucks. What gives?! Well, electing a president simply doesn’t work that way and taking the “shopping for president” approach is only going to end in disappointment. That’s depressing. Perhaps we should all head to the mall to cheer ourselves up. (Actually, the other 6 billion people on the planet are pretty much counting on it.)


Surefire Way to Win Michigan Votes…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 7, 2008

Whenever I play a pickup game like, say, football with my kids and their cousins, it’s pretty much inevitable that somebody is going to get hurt. Not seriously injured, just hurt — charley horse, scraped knee, fat lip, that sort of thing. And when this happens, as an adult, I think it’s important for me to stop and take control of the situation.

Here’s what I like to do. I’ll sooth the kid who got hurt, assure her that she’s going to be all right. Let everybody know that these things happen. And then when everything has calmed down, I use my best “this is a teaching moment” voice to remind the kids what is most important: That we should forgive and move on? No. That somebody needs to apologize first? Hardly. That we all need to get old mister frowny-frown off our faces? Not remotely. No, the most important thing in these sorts of situations is to find somebody to blame.

That’s right. There’s no point in moving on till you can find a scapegoat and agree as a mob that it’s all his fault. Not that it actually needs to be that person’s fault. Actual fault is beside the point. What I’m trying to do is fulfill the basic human need to find a focal point to cast derision. I like to suggest that the fault lies with an adult who isn’t even there — perhaps an unwitting uncle who we can all go punch later. Then, satisfied by either the blaming or the sarcasm (I’m never sure which), we can go back to the game.

In Michigan, Matt Millen, the general manager for the Detroit Lions has become something of our state’s scapegoat. And while he has certainly had a huge hand in the horrific, pathetic, abysmal state of the Lions, it’s also hugely popular to blame him for other troubles (and Michigan has plenty). None of the candidates in this week’s Michigan primary picked up on this. Maybe by the November election somebody will figure it out….


A Year-end Cartoon for a Business Journal…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, December 31, 2007

Did ya ever have that nightmare where you’re enjoying Christmas vacation and you suddenly realize there was an assignment you forgot to turn in so you have to come up with something really, really quick and send it in? And you aren’t wearing any pants? Me, too! 


The Seldom Told Story of the Fourth Magi…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, December 24, 2007

Quick! I need an idea that will play well when in runs in the paper on Christmas week and near Epiphany when I make the blog post…. The lost wise man from the east? Genius!