Archive for December, 2009

Practical Holiday Gifts for Parents…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Family magazine, December 2009

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Michigan’s Ghost of Christmas Future…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, December 21, 2009

Sure was a fun year here in Michigan, huh? Weeeeeee!


Merry Christmas!…

Hmmm… reviewing my past few posts it’s clear I’m filled with that annoying indignation that fills so many blogs (and radio waves and comment boards and…). So before I have to be visited by Christmas ghosts, let me reset and sincerely wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!


On the Van Andel Institute Tour…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, December 14, 2009

In case I haven’t already made this obvious in previous efforts, I think the notion that all government is bad and ruins everything it touches is, for lack of more articulate word, dumb. Yes, many things government touches do not go well, and it is good to think through what should and should not come under its control. But it is just plain counterproductive to argue that anything “government” — especially in a constitutional republic like ours with its checks and balance and disfunctional but free press — is fundamentally bad. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the National Institutes of Health and how it is helping to fund our Van Andel Institute.


Government: of the People, by the People, for the People…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, December 7, 2009

A few years ago I was in Washington DC in July. For those of you who don’t know, DC is a swamp. Or rather, it was built in what was formerly (and, some would argue, is currently) a sweaty, steaming, thick, suffocating swamp. So if you are fool enough to go out for a run (and I was), it’s best to do it in the early morning before all the oxygen goes away. It is also a safer time to wind yourself through the city before it becomes packed with people and cars.

This particular morning I ran from the Elliot Spitzer Hotel (that’s not the real name; I can’t seem to recall it. I could Google it. It’s the hotel where Spitzer hooked up when he was in town. I tell you this because I think it’s really sad that this is what I do remember. Wow. Will future stories of Florida be relatable only through Tiger Woods references?) But I digress. I ran from the hotel, down past the White House, on to the Mall, and eventually made my way to the Lincoln Memorial just as the park workers started to allow people on to the grounds. And I was the only people.

I ran up the steps and stood dripping with sweat before the great man, just me and him. A look one side to read the Gettysburg Address chiseled into the wall. A look to the other side to read his second inauguration address. A turn to see the sun rising over the Washington Monument and the Capitol beyond. And then back to the run. I have never felt so “one” with my country. Not necessarily patriotic (which I think is best exemplified by Mel Brooks’s 2000 year-old man’s national anthem for his cave) — but a feeling that I am the United States and the United States is me.

“…and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”

So we can argue and discuss the necessary roles of our government and its optimal size, but we should not forget that it, our government, is us. Trying to disassociate ourselves with a “the dern government screws up everything” won’t work. It’s weak and cowardly. If something is screwed up, it’s because we all screwed it up. And we all better get serious about fixing it. It won’t be nice, and it won’t be easy. You can ask Abraham Lincoln about that.

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Banashed to the Kids’ Table…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 30, 2009

Yeah, me grousing again. Nothing wrong with that in an editorial cartoon, I suppose. But now that I look at it again, it makes me happy — that’s a young Atticus and a young Natalina with a penguin shirt in frame 4. Good heavens they were sweet. (I’m drawing Ellie in a Family comic right now, so she’ll be showing up soon.)


To Be More Like Sarah Palin…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 23, 2009

I’m sure you’re familiar with the term, “the power of positive thinking.” You know, the idea that if you really want something — to achieve success, to gain a position, to win a contest, whatever — that it’s just a matter of believing in yourself. It pushes you to accomplish goals you could not if you were paralyzed with self-doubt. I think positive thinking is great. Well,… mostly. Because I also think there’s a “danger of positive thinking.” Sometimes, positive thinking can lead one to willfully disregard obvious signals that perhaps the goal itself is not the best choice. It can lead to a certain delusion with strengths and weaknesses and how they apply to accomplishing the goal (and what might happen it if were actually achieved). Ah, but you read the comic, so I’m guessing you know where I’m going with this.

My big problem with Sarah Palin is that she is the very poster child for the danger of positive thinking. Look, she is saavy. She is bright enough to know how to play the game. She seems to have convictions. But honestly, when the McCain camp got it in their heads to offer her the position of running mate, she should have said what she supposedly said about that “Road to Nowhere” money: Thanks, but no thanks. Why did she say yes? Well, from what I can gather, it had something to do with duty and honor with a bit of self-destiny sprinkled in. But what actually got her to pull the trigger was convincing herself she could do the job. And for me, she has done nothing since that point but prove that she absolutely could not do the job. Clearly when you find yourself a year later blaming Katie Couric for ambushing you with legitimate questions there is a deeper problem. Which is, I don’t believe she has the intellectual capacity to be president, and there’s no amount of positive thinking that will ever get her there.

Now, is intellectual capacity the only determinant for what makes a good president? No. If that were true, we’d be reminiscing about the good times of Jimmy Carter’s second term. (Bright person, less than stellar president.) But c’mon now, no matter your political persuasion, don’t you like the idea of your President being up to the challenge of thinking through problems? Somebody who can give you an articulate answer to semi-expected questions? And don’t give me that “the liberal media set her up” nonsense. She is trying to hide a weakness. Much in the same way the Clintons tried to throw the focus from their weaknesses with their “vast right-wing conspiracy” nonsense. And the weakness is — no matter her beliefs, her politics, her sex — she is not that bright.

So you might have heard that Ms. Palin wrote a book. <insert snarky comment about what she actually wrote here> And you might have heard she kicked off her book tour in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That was enough to allow me to express my feelings toward Ms. Palin (a self-serving, ambitious but empty quitter who blessed her home state by leaving) with our own train-wreck of a governor, Jennifer Granholm. I guess props to Gov. Granholm for sticking it out here in Michigan when she probably could have snagged a job in the incoming Obama administration. But it truly has been a horrible year of governing for her. As a lame-duck in a state everybody acknowledges has been bleeding primarily from auto industry wounds, she had more than enough political cover to put forth some bold plans and make game-changing decisions. She has done neither. In fact, her strategy turned out to be allowing a budget to pass that she didn’t much like and then begging people to amend it afterward. (Trying to rally college students to demand the return of scholarship money she allowed to slip away — that was really special.)

Next week: Perhaps something with a bit more holiday cheer.

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