Saturday, August 27, 2011

Obama's vacation just bad timing

To be successful, good preparation is often the most important ingredient in any effort we attempt. After all, if we do not put enough work into considering all the angles, then our plans can go dreadfully wrong.

Of course, preparation is not the only aspect to consider. Sometimes we can prepare as much as possible, but if our timing is wrong then we can alienate a whole lot of people.

Bad timing is especially tricky when it comes to our elected officials. When times our good, our politicians often try to exploit the situation by making speeches or making proposals that make them look good. In these situations, they are trying to build momentum for themselves regarding how the public views them.

However, when times our bad, the slightest action or statement can aggravate the public. President Obama recently found this out the hard way when he went on vacation with his family to Martha's Vineyard up in New England.

There is no doubt that our nation's economy is stumbling and bumbling, and many people are suffering. The national unemployment rate remains about nine percent, and the stock market has been erratic.

Because of this, the president has taken a lot of heat for going on vacation while our nation is going through hard times. The media has not done the president any favors with its coverage of his pleasure trip, and this situation has been easily exploited by his opponents.

Despite the problems our nation is facing, there is nothing wrong with the president going on vacation. His only problem has been that his timing is bad.

We all go on vacations, and since the president has the most stressful job in the world, I do not think it is outrageous for him to spend some time away from Washington. His time off is a working vacation. It is not as if he stopped being president while relaxing.

True, the economy stinks right now, but we are kidding ourselves if we believe our problems would be solved if the president stayed in Washington. Times are tough and will continue to be so. Our problems were not caused overnight, and there are no quick solutions.

Since Congress is not in session, I do not see many benefits that can come by him staying in Washington. I think it would be a waste of time. It is ironic that more of our Congressmen are not under the same scrutiny because a lot of them are on vacation right now, too.

On this issue, the solitary nature of the office of the president is hurting Obama. With the presidency, we can always direct our complaints at a specific person when we are frustrated, and an issue like this makes a president especially vulnerable. People rarely complain when their senators go on vacation because a lot of people do not even know who their senators are.

But everyone knows who the president is. And the president will always be a lightning rod even on issues as trivial as going on vacation.

The bottom line is this is nothing new. For those old enough to remember, President Ronald Reagan was criticized a lot when he spent time at his ranch in California when the economy struggled during his first term. The same went for President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s.

This issue is insignificant compared to all the other challenges we face. We need to drop it and get focused on the big changes our nation is facing.

The more we let issues like this distract us, the longer it will take to get our nation back to normal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I'm really liking bacon

I'm going through a phase where I can't get enough bacon. I can't seem to satisfy my longing for the fried, pork substance. This isn't a bad problem to have, but it's still a little frustrating.


I really wish bacon could be sold in vending machines.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quote of the day: Michael Scott of 'The Office'

"Ed Truck, yuck, Ed Truck was the manager before me. Horrible. He hated fun. It was like, oh, Ed Truck is walking toward us, stop having fun. Start pretending to work. What a jerk...I swore to myself that if I ever got to walk around the room as manager people would laugh when they saw me coming and would applaud as I walked away." -- spoken by Michael Scott as portrayed by Steve Carell on 'The Office."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tennessee Volunteers 2011 football schedule

Despite its problems, college football remains the greatest sport in our country. And despite the problems of the Tennessee Volunteers in recent years, the team remains one of the most storied in college football history. Here is this year's schedule for the team:

Sept. 3 -- vs. Montana
Sept. 10 -- vs. Cincinnati
Sept. 17 -- at Florida
Oct. 1 -- vs. Buffalo
Oct. 8 -- vs. Georgia
Oct. 15 -- vs. LSU
Oct. 22 -- at Alabama
Oct. 29 -- vs. South Carolina
Nov. 5 -- vs. Middle Tennessee
Nov. 12 -- at Arkansas
Nov. 19 -- vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 26 -- at Kentucky

Though the Volunteers will be better this year, it will still be a rebuilding year. The is no question coach Derek Dooley has improved the team's talent, but the team remains very inexperienced. There are only eight scholarship players on the roster who are seniors.

The non-conference schedule is easier than in recent years because the team will not be playing a national program from a power conference. Games against Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Middle Tennessee should allow the Volunteers to go 4-0 outside the conference.

However, the conference schedule gets tougher this year. From the Western Division, the team plays Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas. All three of those teams have been ranked in the Top 15 nationally in various preseason publications. The Southeastern Conference remains the toughest conference in the nation so we should expect more struggles as the program rebuilds.

I see the Vols finishing 6-6 this year and going to a lower-tier bowl again. The team is heading in the right direction, but we need one more excellent recruiting class to put us back toward the top. Our wins should come against the four non-conference opponents, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. I hesitate to pick the Vols over Kentucky because we play them on the road, and they have come close to beating us in recent years. However, if they couldn't beat us last year, I don't know when they will.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reconsidering term limits for Congress

Our federal government is a mess, and most people have a dim view of the way our political leaders are performing in Washington.

The frustration people are feeling transcends party politics. Most people hold both Republicans and Democrats in very low regard. The challenges of our country are daunting, and the folks in Washington are clearly clueless on what to do.

Polls show President Obama's approval rating is well below 50 percent, and the feelings are the same for Congress.

So, where do we go from here? Obviously, there is no simple solution for what is going on, and our problems will not be solved overnight. Still, there is one action we can take that will start us in the right direction.

It is time for us to reconsider having term limits for members of Congress both in the House of Representatives and the Senate. After all, the president is limited to only two four-year terms, which means no chief executive can serve more than eight years. Why should not Congress have similar restrictions?

Members of the House are elected to two-year terms while each term in the Senate is six years, but there is no limit regarding how many times people can be re-elected. Is this unlimited ability to be re-elected causing some of the problems we are seeing? I believe so.

No matter how well intentioned some of our leaders are when they are elected, it seems their emphasis changes once they reach Washington. Instead of primarily focusing on the people that elected them, they appear more pre-occupied with becoming a good delegate for the party they belong to.

It is as if they fear upsetting their colleagues in Washington more than they do the public. And that is flat-out wrong.

It might also explain the hardening of the arteries that we are seeing in Congress. The more a person is re-elected, the more power he or she attains. If there is anything we know about power, it is that people will do just about anything to keep it once they have it.

Seniority is often a driving force when it comes to the power an elected official has, but that is not always a good idea. We see that a lot in the workplace. While it is important to have co-workers who have a lot of experience, we also know performance should remain the primary factor when considering who has power and who does not.

Call me crazy, but the same way of thinking should apply in Washington. While this seems like a simple concept, we know that it is not the way it works there. The 'power of incumbency' plays a major role when a leader is up for re-election, and the public knows how the system works up there. Therefore, incumbents have a leg up when trying to remain in office.

With term limits, all of this would be swept out the door. Instead of worrying about getting re-elected and maintaining power, our leaders might be more focused on legislating our country's problems because they know they will eventually have to leave anyway.

The topic of term limits used to come up a lot back in the 1990s. When the Republican Revolution occurred in 1994, one of the planks in their 'Contract with America' was to pass term limits. The 'Contract' had 10 items in it, and nine of them were voted on and passed.

Which one did not? Of course, it was the one regarding term limits.

In the past, I opposed term limits, but now, I believe it is the only way we can clean out Washington. The public will not do it, so we should legislate it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tennessee Titans 2011 football schedule

The start of the National Football League season is less than a month away so here is the schedule the Tennessee Titans face this year.

Sept. 11 -- at Jacksonville
Sept. 18 -- vs. Baltimore
Sept. 25 -- vs. Denver
Oct. 2 -- at Cleveland
Oct. 9 -- at Pittsburgh
Oct. 16 -- BYE
Oct. 23 -- vs. Houston
Oct. 30 -- vs. Indianapolis
Nov. 6 -- vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 13 -- at Carolina
Nov. 20 -- at Atlanta
Nov. 27 -- vs. Tampa Bay
Dec. 4 -- at Buffalo
Dec. 11 -- vs. New Orleans
Dec. 18 -- at Indianapolis
Dec. 24 -- vs. Jacksonville
Jan. 1 -- at Houston

It is tough to know what to expect from the Titans this year. New head coach, new quarterbacks, lots of new players on defense, and running back Chris Johnson is holding out. Other than that, everything is pretty clear (please note sarcasm).

The opening game at Jacksonville is shaping up to be a critical game. It feels weird to write that about an opening game, but there is a lot riding on it. It is a divisional game, and each of those games is big. A loss there means the team could be staring at a 0-2 start because the home opener is a tough one against Baltimore.

Most of the non-divisional games are against the AFC North and the NFC South. Games against Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and New Orleans will be tough but the schedule is balanced out somewhat with games against Carolina, Buffalo, and Denver. The key to the season could be the three-game home stand that follows the bye week. Three wins there could mean a good season.

Good luck predicting what's going to happen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quote of the day

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." -- Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Terroristic rhetoric

During the heat of political debate, it is important not to take some of the rhetoric we hear too seriously. This does not just apply to our politicians, but to media members and other groups involved in the democratic process.

After all, when the sparks are flying, we have all heard examples where people let the words they are speaking get ahead of their brains. This happens on all levels, including here on the local level.

However, we heard some of the dumbest rhetoric I can recall in the aftermath of the debt crisis that occurred earlier this month. Some compared Republican tactics used during this controversy to terrorism.

That's right: terrorism. As we stand on the threshold of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people some actually compared political maneuvering to a horrible event like that.

I would have let this slide if it had been an isolated incident, but pundits on networks like MSNBC and other venues used the analogy many times. Also, it is alleged that Vice President Joe Biden used the term when meeting with Democratic members of Congress.

As a citizen who is fed up with the tactics of both the Democrats and Republicans, the abuse of the term 'terrorism' represents a new low. What is next? Comparisons to the holocaust? To Charles Manson? If mass murder is an appropriate comparison to political controversy, then the word 'terrorism' has been greatly cheapened.

It was not too long ago that President Barack Obama and other leaders called on everybody to cool the inflammatory talk. In the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, some alleged that the shooter could have been spurred on by the hostile rhetoric used by some elements of talk radio.

Of course, this was baloney. Her shooter allegedly suffers from mental problems, and the attack had nothing to do with talk radio. Still, the way words are used was a very hot topic for a few days.

The bottom line is I am kidding myself if I believe our leaders will stop using inflammatory words when it suits their agenda. The manipulation of words is a primary weapon when competing for the attention of the public.

We all manipulate words without even realizing it. When I was a boy, I can remember not wanting to eat spaghetti because I hated it. I did not really 'hate' spaghetti. It just was not a food I liked very much.

'Love' and 'hate' remain the most misused words in our language. If we genuinely loved everything we say we do, then our hearts would be overflowing so much that it would be impossible to say anything bad about anybody.

However, there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. The use of the word 'terrorism' in the recent political debate crossed that line. I know the line can be a subjective one. When the stakes are high, it becomes a lot easier to push the envelope when it comes to the words we use.

As a culture, we have to do a better job at determining when enough is enough. This applies to how words are used, but also to lots of other areas of life.

Frankly, we do not do a good job at defining boundaries in our society. Just about anything goes these days. Not only does this apply to words, but also to what serves as entertainment and other aspects of life.

Because of this lack of discipline, it should not surprise us that we hear the types of words we do. It is just another example of things spinning out of control.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Norway and the U.S.A.

Late last month, Norway experienced its worst case of violence since World War II when a terrorist bombed and shot his way into infamy.

I will not mention the terrorist's name because I get tired of mentioning people who do evil acts and leave the rest of us to pick up the pieces. I am not very familiar with Norway's system of justice, but let us hope justice is done. If this does not happen, we can take heart because we know that will happen in the next life. Nobody truly gets away with anything.

Terrorism impacts just about every place in the world, but I must admit that Norway was one of the last countries in which I expected this to happen. After all, Scandinavia appears to be peaceful and would be a nice place to live if it did not get so cold and snowy.

However, this event shows that no place is safe from random acts of terror. Seventy-seven people are dead there because of one man's decision, and it will be interesting to observe where that country goes from here.

Of course, the United States is coming up on a significant anniversary when it comes to terrorism. Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that changed how our country went about its business.

There has been a seismic change in our country since then. We have fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have also fought intelligence wars in which our government has valiantly sniffed out possible terror attacks.

When considering where we were 10 years ago, it is pretty amazing that we have not had another large-scale terrorist attack on our soil. We have had some smaller attacks like the Fort Hood shooting a couple of years ago, but our government is to be applauded for preventing another 9/11-scale attack.

Recently, our government has gotten a barrage of criticism for its handling of the debt crisis and other issues. Much of that criticism was richly deserved so it is refreshing to point out something positive.

Our daily lives have changed in the last 10 years. A trip to the airport seems like a day-long event because of increased security, and we all have become a little more suspicious of activities that occur around us each day. If something strikes us as unusual, we are more likely to alert law enforcement than we were 10 years ago.

It can be debated as to whether that is actually a good development, and we have seen some cases in which people have gone overboard. Still, it is important to be good stewards of our country's freedom and becoming personally involved is one way to do that.

As for Norway, it is difficult to know what path that country will take. I seriously doubt they will unveil a War on Terror and start fighting abroad. Still, I believe there will be some changes.

When reading and watching the news reports from there, it appears that a whole generation has lost its innocence. When that happens to a person or an entire population, it is tough to know where to go next.

After all, when a person's entire way of life is altered, it can be difficult to know what is normal. My guess is that Norway will grapple with that for a while. There will likely be rhetoric that this event will not change their way of life, but how can it not?

People there will go on the offensive to prevent another attack just as we have here in America.

For their sake, let us hope they handle it well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Popeye's cooks up some good fast-food chicken

Each day when I drive to and from work, I pass a Popeye's chicken restaurant along Interstate 24 in Nashville. For some time now, I have heard their chicken calling me. However, I never stop because I am in a hurry.

That was until a couple of days ago, and I do not regret it. Popeye's cooks up some first-class, fast-food chicken. I was not sure what to get, so I played it safe and got a three-piece chicken finger snack. For only four dollars (not including drink), I got enough chicken to keep me well fed for the rest of the day.

I know Kentucky Fried Chicken has the highest name recognition when it comes to fast-food chicken, but give Popeye's a chance. Lots of quality chicken at a reasonable price.

A man can't beat that.