Monday, November 29, 2010

The Team, The Team, The Team

Michigan Taking To The Field At The Big House
With the NFL season winding down and Super Bowl frenzy winding up, I found it interesting (although not surprising) to hear a remark about how the NFL may go on strike for the 2011 season.  I write this only out of a sort of love of sports, after all, for all the sports lovers of the world, most play and watch sporting events for the love and excitement of the game, the love of the Team, the Sport and NOT for individual glory, arrogance, money or providing financial support to a business enterprise. 

It is unfortunate to have to say it, but in recent years the NFL has transitioned from a Sport to a business. The players too are a part of this and have gone from playing a sport they love to being focused on money instead of playing.  Every season we hear about so and so who has not reported to practice yet because of pay. If they did that in college football they’d be off the team.
Vince Lombardi:  When the NFL was Football
Why am I ranting about the NFL? It’s probably frustration with the arrogance, high prices of everything NFL, and lack of heart.  Have you noticed the battle of cable and satellite over NFL rights, or actually lack of a battle?  Most of the cable providers have told the NFL no thanks to their outrageous demands resulting in only a very few providers offering NFL packages, packages that are purchased at a tremendous loss to the providers that give in to the NFL price tag.  These companies that do buy the NFL package do so at a loss and hope to recoup their loss through unseen contract agreement fees and charges.   

This season I have found myself watching college and NFL and amazed at the difference. You would think the roles would be reversed, but no, I see college football players playing the game with HEART, a love for the game and the TEAM they represent. Even with team superstars they still operate as a team. The speed, agility and skills shown on the college fields seem to dwarf the performances by the NFL players as a whole.  Last month a historic game between Michigan and Illinois, a game ending with a Michigan win 67-65, and get this, it was a TRIPPLE over-time game. 

Heart and Team spirit, real Team spirit not motivated by money but for the love of the game and the Team.  With that I will finish and suggest watching the Michigan intro video, not because it’s Michigan or for Michigan, but because the moral of the intro can apply to any Team or Organization.  The very motivational and memorial speech by the Michigan coach Bo Schembechler is one everyone should listen to. The Team, The Team, The Team.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for Thanksgiving

I was doing research for a school project about Nike and some other companies who have been tagged with the negative publicity of using third world “Sweatshops” to produce their products.   As the research I was doing blended with the traditional pre Thanksgiving festivities and media blitz, the North Korean attack on South Korea and the complaining about security by those who want to fly on someone else’s airplane, it occurred to me we have so much to be thankful for.  If you woke up today and have access to the internet on the computer you own to read this blog posting, you have something to be thankful for. 

As I did my research, remembered my own overseas travels and saw the news about Korea I quickly remembered the drastic contrast between our own society and that of other countries.   My sweatshop research was showing two points of view on the issue, with a majority siding against the sweatshops and demanding their closure or making changes that simply would create economic and cultural devastation.  The unintended consequence of sweatshop closings in the past in countries like Honduras, Nepal and other countries was that the sweatshops closed, the workers were saved from their demonized employers, and the tens of thousands of mostly women and children were unemployed.  The affected countries’ economies were damaged and many of the displaced women and children were turned to prostitution, as reported by several investigative reports (John Stossel, Nicholas Kristof , United Nations report State of the World's Children 1997).  

The well intended self absorbed saviors of the oppressed  who organized and campaigned against sweatshops were for the most part misinformed college students and other people who have never stepped foot in any of these other countries, and if they did, it was only to see what was wrong, and in contrast not see what may have been good.  One such opponent to sweatshops was a journalist (Kristof) who moved to Asia and after spending time there changed his view after seeing the positive impact having a sweatshop job had on the quality of life for these people. Yes, believe it not, even though these jobs may have only paid a $1 a day, it was double or triple what they would made anywhere else, it helped the economy, and improved their lives, similar to the early sweatshop days of the United States. 
Now there is no denying that there are issues with conditions and abuses, but to put an estimated 100,000 people or more out of jobs could be considered by some a much harsher abuse.  So, when you woke up today and went to work, was it to a $1 a day sweatshop? If not you have something to be thankful for, and if live in one these other countries where when you got up today and went to work at your $1 a day sweatshop job, you also had something to be thankful for.      
It is interesting how people make judgments about other cultures, even with best intentions, but yet without any firsthand experience. I have been to many countries and feel I understand other cultures.  I also know poverty even though I didn’t know it at the time when I lived in Ireland. It was around 1962-1966 when I was 7-10 years old,  my parents divorced, my mother left the US taking me with her to Ireland. I lived in my grandmother’s house and electricity had just been put in the house, but that was it. There was no pluming, the house was concrete walls and floor and straw roof.  There was a daily walk about a mile to a water pump for the drinking water and a rain water barrel outside the house for everything else, oh yeah, and a hen house full of chickens. I returned to New York in 1966 with my mother and after a few months I had fattened up on hamburgers. I then saw my father who was happy to see me, but I always remember when I gave him a picture of me from when I was in Ireland it made him cry, seeing an image of his son, frail framed, resembling a starving third world child. That memory and the culture shock has instilled in me that I had something to be thankful for.

For all who may be socially displaced from the war in Afghanistan, terrorism and the recent Korean attack, I am also reminded of my past travels to Korea. Since 9/11 many people in the United States express their personal fear of another attack, however hope, pray and want to believe it will not happen.  In South Korea, it’s a little different.  Every day in South Korea since about 1953 the people not only fear an attack and fear an invasion from North Korea, they believe in their heart and live their daily lives believing it is going to happen tomorrow morning. When South Korea goes to sleep every night, their military prepares for the invasion that is going to happen in the next few hours. When they wake up in the morning and it hasn’t happen, they have something to be thankful for. They then get ready again for the invasion that is coming tomorrow.

So, as we enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving and give thanks for waking up today, for our health, our families and the other traditional thankfulness we generally give thanks for, maybe we can also remember and give thanks for those in the past and present who served and sacrificed in service to the country. We can give thanks that our country has grown past the days of the sweatshops and consider the irony of how thankful the sweatshop workers of the world are for what they have, and yes, just try to imagine being thankful for a $1 a day job instead of being thankful for…well, all that material stuff we give thanks for. Be thankful that when we go to bed tonight we have enough confidence and faith to not believe that when we wake up we will have been invaded.  Be thankful that even though we have whiners about stricter security on airplanes, we live in a county where we are allowed to whine and then sit down together at a table and give thanks. 
Let’s be Thankful for Thanksgiving and being allowed and able to dress up a dog in a pilgrim outfit carrying a rifle and pose for an animated picture.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pending 26% Tax Hike on the Middle Class Starts in 40 Days

Tax Tables Don't Lie

Only 40 more days before the end of the very politicized Bush Tax break for the wealthy. Tax break for the wealthy is how it was marketed, publicized and demonized by many in the left versus right, Democrat versus Republican frenzy, and the rise of the Tea party. The same public figures and various other pundits who convinced their followers and voters that the tax increase was only going to impact the wealthy did an excellent job. They not only did an excellent job but even convinced their followers that higher taxes for the wealthy was right, moral and also villianized the wealthy and the corporate America that provides employment for virtually every employed person in the country. What they did not tell everyone in the rhetoric was that the so called Bush tax cut for the wealthy also gave a higher percentage tax cut of 26% for the middle class.


In 40 days the Middle Class, or those married making $50,000 will be thanked for their support of President Obama by receiving a 26% increase in their 2011 federal income tax rate.  I am sure we can all remember many examples of the promises on how only the wealthy would see a tax increase and how the wealthy, or those who make over $200,000 or $250,000, depending on which version we hear, can afford to pay more taxes. 

No matter what a politician may say, there is always one thing that will always be true and trusted, at least for its accuracy, and that is the actual tax tables.  The graph to the right was prepared by the Tax Foundation ( )  and compares Income Taxes under Bill Clinton and George Bush.  

The numbers don’t lie and those of us who are old enough to remember can remember the higher taxes for everyone during the Clinton years, and also remember the very visible decrease in taxes we paid during the Bush years. By us I don’t mean the wealthy, I mean those of us who were making $50,000 and much, much less.

The cruel irony of the new tax rate is that the very people who believed and voted for President Obama are the ones who will end up paying more taxes, and a higher percentage than the wealthy.   The outer right column on the chart shows that every income category will see an increase and married making $50,000 will pay 26% more in taxes.
Finally, for myself it is not as much as a issue of the tax rate for everyone being increased (although it is an issue), after all, President Obama did say he felt that the wealthy could afford to pay more and has voiced his personal views and approval of taxing the rich and redistribution of wealth. The bigger issues is integrity of politicians, telling the people that only the wealthy will see an increase and creating an Us and Them environment in the country. Unless the President proposes to the House and Senate to extend the Bush tax policy, everyone will see an increase, which to some of us translates into, “You Lied to Us.” The word “Lie” is a harsh word for the political world that they don’t like to use, even towards each other in election campaigns, they prefer to call it “Marketing.”   
For more on this topic and other economic related topics you can visit the link below. The CARPE DIEM blog is by Professor Perry from the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oppression Still Thrives in Burma

Myanmar Frees Democracy Leader

Many of you may ask, Myanmar? For those who don’t know, it’s Burma. With focus on everything else in people’s lives, I’m sure there are some who have no idea of what has been happening in Burma for decades and don’t know that Burma is one of those places where “Oppression Still Thrives.”

The release of the Democracy Leader Suu Kyi has tremendous significance for Burma and yet only a blip on the media radar. Knowing a brief history of Burma can help understand the significance for Burma. Burma is located in Southeast Asia between Thailand, India and a part of China.  Burma has a long history, however fast forward to 1824, Britain began a campaign against Burma in its response to Burma’s attempt to invade India. It would take two wars and until 1886 for Britain to arguably gain complete rule over Burma. In 1937 Burma became a self-governing colony and gained independence from Britain in 1948. During World War II Burma was a major battle region in the war with the Japanese and even gained some fork lour fame with the making of the movie the “Bridge on the River Kwai.” 

In 1962 the democratic elected government was overthrown by a military coup and the country began its move toward socialism, which on another topic was just one of the hidden reasons for the concern about the expansion of communism and US involvement in Southeast Asia.  In 1989 the name of the country was changed to Myanmar, although not recognized by many including the United Kingdom, United States and the Burmese democracy movement. It would be almost 30 years until 1990 for Burma to conduct elections, which saw the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Suu Kyi winning the election.  The ruling government refused to accept the election results and has continued to maintain control. 

Elections held last month in Burma have been contested and the ruling party continues to retain control. In what is considered by many a political move to distract from the election protest, this past Saturday, November 13th 2010, Myanmar released from house arrest the 1991 Novel Peace Prize winner and winner of the 1990 election Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 out of the past 21 years in captivity for her pro-democracy political activities.
The rest of the story concerns what has not been given much attention for over 40 years, which is the continued ethnic cleansing efforts carried out by the government and its Army. On the eastern edge of Burma there is an area known as the Karen State. The Karen people and other minority groups have been participating in an insurgency against the oppressive government for decades, resisting forced military slaved labor, confiscation of food and livestock, burning down of homes and villages and murder of civilians. Aid agencies estimates over two million refugees have fled to Thailand. 

All this may sound like one of those stories that no one gives much creditability to, however this story happens to be true. The irony is that there is so much information available and first hand and documented accounts of what have occurred in Burma and yet it is ignored.  As I stated there is so much information, and too much to mention in this posting. The Washington Post, NY Times and other news agencies had done numerous stories on the issue, and even accompanied relief teams of the Free Burma Rangers humanitarian organization ( on relief missions inside Burma. 

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement that was started about around 1997 by a friend and person I served with in the Army and other dedicated individuals. If you check their web site and PDF report you can see that they have an estimated 40 teams that provide a variety of humanitarian relief assistance and can always use support. This is an excellent and worthwhile organization that through peaceful and humanitarian methods helps the oppressed people of Burma.

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) website:

Washington Post Story

NY Times Story

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I would like to thank all of you for your time visiting the blog. I had a short lived blog a few years ago that contained mostly political viewed type post, which I have left in the archive of this blog and may re-post.  I was inspired to start a new blog and rant by a friend who also has a blog that he has been ranting on from time to time ( Woody - ). So I will make an attempt to do some of what I would consider to be ranting on my readers behalf and hopefully voicing a viewpoint that we agree on (or maybe not) and introduce material and issues that may have been unknown

Your Service Is No Longer Appreciated

With Veterans Day upon us I felt it would be fitting to begin a new blog with a mention about Veterans Day, a national holiday that was originally envisioned by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to signify the ending of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany that went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918 was recognized as the inception date for Veterans Day. I could say it is a funny thing, but given the severity and reverence of the issue, I will say instead that it is more like a disgrace how slow sometimes the government works and how politicians have and continue use military actions and service for political gain or convenience. Although the idea of Veterans Day was considered in 1919, and many states would implement local observances, it was not until October 8th 1954 that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the first Veterans Day Proclamation in support of public law issued on June 1st 1954 making November 11th a official legal holiday in honor of all Veterans ( ) There had been previous resolutions in 1926 and 1938, however instead of all Veterans the focus was on the WWI Veterans only and excluded all other Veterans. 

Many of us know that history seems to repeat itself and taking care of Veterans is no different. Since the beginning of 9/11 a renewed interest in Veterans has been brought to the forefront of politics and local communities, all deserving and worthwhile. With the new interest there has also been the tendency for many to focus only on the post 9/11 Veterans and frankly ignore the pre 9/11 Veterans. This includes legislation for Veterans benefits like the GI Bill which many aspects exclude pre 9/11 Veterans. 

While it is commendable that our nation is making efforts to provide for its Veterans, I point out; or rather ask the question why was there not this focus on Veterans prior to 9/11?  Many who are not familiar or associated with the military may come up with a variety of answers, ignoring the fact that a Veteran is a Veteran, regardless of when they served, be it Vietnam or prior, or the countless untold and forgotten military actions since.