Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It is the Holiday Season. Really, it is the Christmas season for most of us and I am just going to say Merry Christmas even though that is not really politically correct! So, Merry Christmas!
I guess it is ok to say Happy New Year and you won’t offend anyone.

But that is really not what I am going to comment on. It is the season where people get frustrated with all the holiday fuss and they get stressed out over many things. The rush to get ready for Christmas, find the right gifts, get them wrapped, mailed, get the cards out on time, cook, find time to go to parties and be happy, etcetera, etcetera.

It is also the time to think about those less fortunate than we are. Everyone has someone who is less fortunate than you are unless you are totally homeless and penniless and in ill health. Make sense?

Well, that has been on my mind recently. So, let me tell you about a recent occurrence.

To set the stage for you, I am in McDonalds, my favorite fast food place by the way, getting a cup of coffee one morning. I am standing at the counter, looking to the right at the big screen TV and the eating area. There is a door to the outside and the parking lot at that end of the store.

I just happen to notice an older woman coming in the door with a big McDonald’s cup in her hand. She was wearing a bright blue coat which is what I first noticed. I sort of felt sorry for her as she kind of looked a little down on her luck. Anyway, I turned away and paid for my coffee, got the cup and went to put cream and sugar in at the drink bar.

Lo and behold, the woman was next to me filling up her drink cup. It struck me as odd that I didn’t see her in line with me. And then it hit me, she had just brought in an old cup and was getting her drink “free” so to speak. Well, maybe that is ok if she is really down on her luck? What do you think?

So, I am now outside getting in my car, which happens to be parked next to a big car: Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis. In it is the lady in the blue coat and another similar lady. They both have their McDonald’s cups and are “yukking it up” about something.

I pulled out of the space and notice the license plate: 4GVNESS Like maybe have pity on me, the driver, an old lady? Or forgiveness of our sins is good? Or what? That is when I started to boil a little bit.

In the beginning of this event I was somewhat feeling sorry for her and feeling that it was “ok “for her to rip off McDonalds for a drink. However, once I saw what was going on and the fact that she was motoring around in a Crown Vic or Grand Marq, any empathy or sympathy that I had went away pretty fast. It especially went away when I saw her license plate! Does she want “forgiveness” or is she giving it?

It is easy to get cynical when you see something like this. There are those who really need a break and then there are those who are little better off but just take advantage of things. So, which is it? Is she really destitute and “needs” a free drink? Or, is she just plain dishonest?

You be the judge. I have made up my mind on this one. I think she has cheated the system and needs 4GVNESS. She won’t get it from me however.

What do you think? Agree, or disagree, what are your thoughts?


Monday, December 8, 2008


My interest in writing something on this was piqued by an ad I saw in the newspaper the other day. One of the local gun shops was advertising an assault rifle for just over $1,000 and highlighted the fact that while IDs were required, there was no waiting period!
This was not being sold in a gun show in which there are even less requirements.

A few days later, guess what? The ad for the gun show appeared which highlighted the “get ‘em while they are hot” mentality! No background checks since the sales are from person to person and no dealers are technically involved. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you.

A direct quote from the ad: “New administration will attempt to make changes to firearms regulations! GET YOUR GUNS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!”

Do you or does anyone really believe that the “new administration” is going to eliminate the right to have a gun? Why would they even want to do this? Lets be realistic here people. The Second Amendment does exist and has been supported by the Supreme Court. However, I do believe that some changes need to be made in the purchase process and in what guns might be readily available.

Before I go on, let’s get some of the semantics and technicalities out of the way. Here is what the Second Amendment actually says:
The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights protecting the pre-existing individual right to possess and carry weapons (i.e., "keep and bear arms") in case of confrontation.[1] Codification of the right to keep and bear arms into the Bill of Rights was influenced by a fear that the federal government would disarm the people in order to impose rule through a standing army or select militia,[2] since history had shown taking away the people's arms and making it an offense for people to keep them was the way tyrants eliminated resistance to suppression of political opponents.[3] Self-defense is a central component of the right enumerated in the amendment.[4]
Specifically: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

As you cannot help but know, there is a lot of controversy about people carrying guns. What is a gun versus a rifle versus a handgun versus an automatic weapon versus an assault rifle?
What are concealed weapons and non concealed weapons?

No doubt, everyone has an opinion as to whether people should be carrying guns of any sort around or not. The recent publicity of Plaxico Burress, wide receiver for the New York Giants football team is an example of carrying guns gone bad!

You and I can have our opinions but what does the Supreme Court say about having guns?
The primary U.S. Supreme Court Second Amendment cases are United States v. Cruikshank (1875), Presser v. Illinois (1886), United States v. Miller (1939) and District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).
United States v. Cruikshank
Main article: United States v. Cruikshank
In United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that because "[t]he Second Amendment…has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government…", the federal government may not punish individuals for depriving citizens of their right to bear arms. The courts did not recognize the doctrine of incorporation at this point in the 19th century.[77] Significantly with respect to the meaning of the amendment, the court found that the Second Amendment prohibited the national government from infringing on the right of individuals "to bear arms for a lawful purpose". Though many of the federal rights delineated in the federal Bill of Rights have subsequently been incorporated by the Court as rights against the states, the Court has not done so for the Second Amendment.
Presser v. Illinois
Main article: Presser v. Illinois
In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886), the Court reaffirmed Cruikshank, holding the Second Amendment to limit the authority only of the federal government.
United States v. Miller
Main article: United States v. Miller
In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), the Supreme Court rejected a Second Amendment challenge to the National Firearms Act prohibiting the interstate transportation of unregistered Title II weapons, ruling:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to any preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.
Miller is often cited by gun-rights advocates, because the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protected the right to keep arms that are part of "ordinary military equipment".
District of Columbia v. Heller
Main article: District of Columbia v. Heller
In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___, decided on June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home," and "that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."
The Court held that the amendment's prefatory clause serves to clarify the operative clause, but neither limits nor expands the scope of the operative clause. Justice Stevens, in his dissent, called the majority reading "strained and unpersuasive," and says that the right to possess a firearm exists only in relation to the militia, and that the D.C. laws constitute permissible regulation. Justice Scalia, in the Opinion of the Court, called Justice Stevens' interpretation of the phrase "to keep and bear arms" incoherent and grotesque.[78]
Further, The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 initially provided a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, which expired on November 30, 1998. It was replaced by a mandatory, computerized criminal background checking system to be conducted prior to any firearm purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer.So, you have to have your background checked if the seller of a gun is a federally licensed firearms dealer. Well what about buying a gun in a gun show? Wallah! No background check, just get them while they are hot! (No pun intended!)

So, finally, what do I think? It is an easy decision for me. If any of us want to have a gun or two or three, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is having all kinds of assault rifles that are only good for killing people. What other purpose do these guns have? Not for shooting deer; not for shooting turkeys, and not for shooting any other kind of animal!

The NRA likes to say that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people”. Well, guns do kill people; where do you think the bullets come from? From a gun that’s where.

The subject of a concealed weapon is less clear. If you pass a background check and testing, then maybe that is ok but I don’t think you should, in any circumstances, be able to walk around with any kind rifle on your body; concealed or otherwise.

So, in summary, let’s get the assault rifles off the streets. Let’s also clean up and tighten up the laws around registering and regulating the sale of firearms. There are too many loopholes, especially the gun show/flea market sale of guns.
Finally, in my humble opinion, the NRA needs to recognize that guns do kill people and help with better registration and regulation laws. At the present time, the NRA is more on the side of the criminals and less on the side of law abiding citizens.

What do you think?

Monday, December 1, 2008


I was discussing with my son the other day the subject of my next blog. We talked about the last one, which was on the current plight of the domestic auto manufacturers.
We talked about the response I got from a friend to whom I had sent my last blog and the fact that it was a different opinion. This person is a retired executive from Ford Motor Company and he forwarded to me an opinion that is certainly worth reading and illustrates the other side of the coin from my thoughts.

My son volunteered that I should just include the differing opinion. Well, that makes doing this week’s blog that much easier! So, here it is:

November 23, 2008

If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks

OK. It's a fantasy. But if I had five minutes in front of Congress last week, here's what I would've said:
Good morning. First of all, before you ask, I flew commercial. Northwest Airlines. Had a bag of peanuts for breakfast. Of course, that's Northwest, which just merged with Delta, a merger you, our government, approved -- and one which, inevitably, will lead to big bonuses for their executives and higher costs for us. You seem to be OK with that kind of business.
Which makes me wonder why you're so against our kind of business? The kind we do in Detroit. The kind that gets your fingernails dirty. The kind where people use hammers and drills, not keystrokes. The kind where you get paid for making something, not moving money around a board and skimming a percentage.
You've already given hundreds of billions to banking and finance companies -- and hardly demanded anything. Yet you balk at the very idea of giving $25 billion to the Detroit Three. Heck, you shoveled that exact amount to Citigroup -- $25 billion -- just weeks ago, and that place is about to crumble anyhow.
Does the word "hypocrisy" ring a bell?
Protecting the home turf?
Sen. Shelby. Yes. You. From Alabama. You've been awfully vocal. You called the Detroit Three's leaders "failures." You said loans to them would be "wasted money." You said they should go bankrupt and "let the market work."
Why weren't you equally vocal when your state handed out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda and others to open plants there? Why not "let the market work"? Or is it better for Alabama if the Detroit Three fold so that the foreign companies -- in your state -- can produce more?
Way to think of the nation first, senator.
And you, Sen. Kyl of Arizona. You told reporters: "There's no reason to throw money at a problem that's not going to get solved."
That's funny, coming from such an avid supporter of the Iraq war. You've been gung ho on that for years. So how could you just sit there when, according to the New York Times, an Iraqi former chief investigator told Congress that $13 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds "had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste" by the Iraqi government?
That's 13 billion, senator. More than half of what the auto industry is asking for. Thirteen billion? Gone? Wasted?
Where was your "throwing money at a problem that's not going to get solved" speech then?
Watching over the bankers?
And the rest of you lawmakers. The ones who insist the auto companies show you a plan before you help them. You've already handed over $150 billion of our tax money to AIG. How come you never demanded a plan from it? How come when AIG blew through its first $85 billion, you quickly gave it more? The car companies may be losing money, but they can explain it: They're paying workers too much and selling cars for too little.
AIG lost hundred of billions in credit default swaps -- which no one can explain and which make nothing, produce nothing, employ no one and are essentially bets on failure.
And you don't demand a paragraph from it?
Look. Nobody is saying the auto business is healthy. Its unions need to adjust more. Its models and dealerships need to shrink. Its top executives have to downsize their own importance.
But this is a business that has been around for more than a century. And some of its problems are because of that, because people get used to certain wages, manufacturers get used to certain business models. It's easy to point to foreign carmakers with tax breaks, no union costs and a cleaner slate -- not to mention help from their home countries -- and say "be more like them."
But if you let us die, you let our national spine collapse. America can't be a country of lawyers and financial analysts. We have to manufacture. We need that infrastructure. We need those jobs. We need that security. Have you forgotten who built equipment during the world wars?
Besides, let's be honest. When it comes to blowing budgets, being grossly inefficient and wallowing in debt, who's better than Congress?
So who are you to lecture anyone on how to run a business?
Ask fair questions. Demand accountability. But knock it off with the holier than thou crap, OK? You got us into this mess with greed, a bad Fed policy and too little regulation. Don't kick our tires to make yourselves look better.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

What do you think?