Monday, February 25, 2013


This is a transcript of the speech I gave in accepting my induction onto the Ben Davis High School Alumni Wall of Fame, on February 23, 2013.
I work with words.

I am a writer. A wordsmith. I put together words to form sentences, and sentences to form paragraphs, and paragraphs to create whole narratives.

Now, writing might seem like a lost art in this age of texts and tweets. It's ironic that even though today we're communicating more frequently with more people, our social communication skills are diminishing -- especially among younger people.

That's a shame, because words are important. If you don't know how to write, you can't convince people, or instruct them, or entertain them and tell them stories. That's why words are important.

I know there aren't many -- or any -- students here today, but I do see lots of parents and grandparents. You need to tell your kids and grandkids how important it is to learn proper writing skills. When everyone around them is communicating in short 140-character tweets, the ones who can write and speak well will be successful, will become leaders. Everyone else is destined to be a follower.

I understand that technical training and standardized tests have their place, but they only take you as far as everybody else -- average. Learning how to effectively communicate is what puts you ahead of the rest. When you can write, when you can work with words, then you can convince, instruct, and entertain others. And that's what's important.

That's what we need to tell students today -- to learn how to work with words, how to communicate with others. That's what will make them successful.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Why all the hoo-ha all of a sudden about dealing with long-term national debt -- especially when we're in the middle of a long and devastating recession? Europe is learning that austerity is the completely wrong approach to dealing with recession and job loss; it makes things worse, and quickly. Debt can be dealt with in time, after the immediate economic problems are addressed.

Look at it this way. Say you're laid off or your hours are cut back. You have a lot of credit card debt, you know that's an issue, but you also have to pay the rent and put food on the table. Do you choose to pay extra on your monthly credit card bill to pay down your debt, at the expense of not having enough money to buy food or pay the rent? Of course not. You deal with immediate needs now, and long-term issues when you can.

It's the same thing with the national debt. To continue to cut spending (and government-related jobs) now will only make the recession worse. Fix the economy and create more jobs now, then deal with the long-term debt.

In addition, there's a nice side benefit for fixing the economy first. As the economy improves, increased tax revenues due to greater employment helps to pay down the debt naturally. This is exactly what happened in the 1990s under President Clinton, when we were running surpluses, not deficits.

So deal with the current economy first -- spend whatever needs to be spent to create new jobs and stimulate growth. After we put people back to work and see the economy recover, then we can tackle the long-term debt problem. First things first, is what I say.

But that's just my opinion -- reasonable minds may disagree.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Hobby Lobby

David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby (a retailer that I have frequented in the past) is bitching and moaning because new federal healthcare rules mandate that his firm pay for certain prescription drugs that he, as a Christian, objects to. (Read his position here.) I do not sympathize, or agree with him.

As I see it, the religious or political convictions of owners or management don't matter; if you run a business, you have to follow the laws of the land. All the laws, like 'em or not. What I do or don't believe doesn't put me above the law. Same thing for any business owner.

I look at it this way. Say one's beliefs were such that one didn't want to be associated with black people, found them inferior or whatever, and thus refused to hire them. That's obviously against the law here in the U.S.; religious beliefs or not, one cannot discriminate against any racial group. Should that particular religious belief (and you know some have held that belief and called it religious) trump adherence to the law?

If you're a public business, you have to follow the laws, period. You may not believe in paying taxes to the government, but you have to do it. You may not believe in various types of medical procedures or treatments, but if you offer health insurance, you have to cover those procedures and treatments. That's part of the deal. It has nothing to do with intolerance of any religion; it's about holding all citizens (and businesses) equal under the law. I don't get any exceptions because of my beliefs, and neither does anyone else.

For what it's worth, I don't believe in war or in government-sanctioned killing. Call it a religious belief or a moral one, whatever. But I can't not pay my taxes because those funds go towards the support of behavior I oppose. Why should Hobby Lobby be any different?

It's possible that this is all a scam to avoid paying for newly mandated healthcare benefits, much as the CEO of Papa John's is doing. I'll give Green the benefit of the doubt and say that he has a legitimate religious problem with said contraceptive-like meds. Fine. But that doesn't put him above or outside the law. As the CEO of an American company, he is legally bound to follow the laws that apply to his business -- ALL the laws, not just the ones he agrees with. To do otherwise would result in a lawless society where everyone does only what he or she likes, not what the law dictates. That is not civilization as we know it.

Naturally, reasonable minds may disagree -- but in this instance, the law prevails.

Friday, January 04, 2013


I am tired of all the talk about "entitlement" spending -- Medicare, Social Security, and so forth. These programs are not "entitlements," they are commitments. We as a society (and our government) have committed to pay people from these funds. If we cut these "entitlements," we're really reneging on our commitments -- legal, moral, and otherwise.

As such, I think we all (including the media) need to start using the word "commitment" instead of the misleading e-word. Same goes for talk about company pensions and retirement funds -- all commitments that companies have made to their employees. Leave the "entitlement" word to talk about those truly entitled, chiefly the filthy rich.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The NRA's response to the Sandy Hook tragedy is reprehensible beyond belief. No remorse, no outrage (except at the media who dares to bring up the issue of gun control), no respect for the dead or for how the nation is reacting to this tragedy. They had an opportunity to join an adult discussion of the various issues involved, and instead chose to double down on their goal of putting guns in the hands of every living American, no matter how (in)capable.

My thoughts:

1. If we say that schoolteachers need to be armed or have armed guards, aren't we essentially saying that our system of public laws and law enforcement isn't working? (Wonder how our police officers feel about that...)

2. Putting more guns in the hands of more citizens (whether schoolteacher or armed guards) simply puts more guns out there, and more guns equal more gun violence. (I'm a numbers guy; stats don't lie.) Worse, it puts more guns nearer the hands of school-aged children, and some will gain access to those guns, and more accidents or malice will result.

3. Speaking of guns in the hands of teachers, isn't this the same society that undervalues and underpays teachers? So let's go ahead and arm them and make them responsible for school security, too. Where's the logic in that?

4. Finally, I really don't want my grandkids going to a school that's essentially an armed camp. This isn't the wild west. I want better for my grandkids, and for all kids. It's a horrible message to send that they're in constant danger, and that only guns can protect them. Our country is better than that, or should be.

For anyone who says they really don't want to live in Australia or England or wherever that has stricter gun laws, I say, why not? Fewer guns mean fewer senseless deaths, period. Australia, England, et al have it right and we have it wrong. Second amendment be damned (and the intent of it is certainly open to interpretation), we have to reduce the number of unnecessary guns in this country, do something to tamp down our culture of violence, and ramp up and civilize our treatment of the mentally ill. Gun control isn't the only solution, but it's part of the solution. It's a tough situation, but that shouldn't stop us from attacking it.