Friday, December 26, 2014

2015....Just Keep On Running

"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
-The Red Queen (Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)

Time to revisit my predictions for 2014. How did I do? And what lies ahead in 2015?

Here are the 2014 predictions (published December 26, 2013) and my official grades.

Prediction Number 1:
This one is a layup…Tiger Woods does not win a major.

Result: Nailed it. A+

Prediction Number 2:
Denver and Seattle meet in the Super Bowl. Weather plays a major factor in the game in favor of Seattle, but Peyton Manning throws a game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds.

Result: Denver and Seattle did meet up in the Super Bowl, but it was one-sided in favor of Seattle. C grade at best.

Prediction Number 3:
The Administration will keep moving the goalposts on Obamacare and the costs of the program will become unsustainable. Our healthcare system will get a lot worse, so you better take care of yourself.

Result: Depends on who you believe, but from what I see costs are going up and few are pleased with the program. I’d give myself a B+ on this one.

Prediction Number 4:
We’ll make significant progress on immigration reform. It’s a mid-term election year and this is an issue that politicians from both sides can get behind. And with an improving economy the business community needs workers.

Result: Our politicians are even dumber than I thought they were (and I think they are pretty dumb). Really nothing happened this year but a lot of rhetoric, as usual. This one feels like an F.

Prediction Number 5:
The unemployment rate drops below 6.5%. The economy is improving and long-term unemployment benefits are drying up. GDP growth will be in the 2.5-2.7% range in 2014.

Result: Solid on the unemployment and the economy did even better than expected. Grade A-

Prediction Number 6:
Anyone born after 1980 will cease using the words “twerking” or “swagger”.

Result: Twerking seems to have run its course. Still some swagger hanging on in football. B+

Prediction Number 7:
Matthew McConaughey will win the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.

Result: Well alright, alright, alright....A+

Prediction Number 8:
St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series.

Result: Cards didn’t make it. F

Prediction Number 9:
Another year will pass with no significant movement toward addressing our federal deficit problem. The stock market will peak in Q3 and begin a downward slide into 2015.

Result: Correct on the federal deficit. Missed the stock market peak. It’s still rolling. C+

Prediction Number 10:
Hope I’m wrong, but something really bad is going to happen during the Winter Olympics.

Result: Glad that I missed this one. Grade F


Predictions for 2015

Prediction Number 1:
Green Bay and New England meet up in the Super Bowl. I’ll be rooting for the Packers, but they will end up losing to the Pats.

Prediction Number 2:
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers go to the World Series. Dodgers win in six.

Prediction Number 3:
I'm going out on limb here and predicting that oil prices do not drop below $50 barrel. We'll find out soon enough if I'm right. And I do not see it going above $70 in 2015.

Prediction Number 4:
Cheaper energy will keep the economy going. Even two months ago I didn’t see this steep of a drop in the price of oil. Put this much money in American consumer pockets and the economy will do just fine in the short run.

Prediction Number 5:
We commit more troops and resources in the battle vs ISIS.

Prediction Number 6:
There will be progress on immigration reform. I said it would happen in 2014 and was wrong. It has to happen in 2015.

Prediction Number 7:
A top ten truckload carrier will be purchased by a top five logistics (brokerage) company.

Prediction Number 8:
Someone other than Hillary Clinton will emerge as the Democratic front runner for 2016

Prediction Number 9:
A major hail storm is going to hit my place this year and I get a new roof. It’s just long overdue and that’s what happens every few years in Texas.

Prediction Number 10:
I will get my first hole in one. This is also long overdue and now that my shoulder is fixed I plan on playing a lot of golf. The odds are in my favor. Every "No" is one step closer to "Yes"…that sort of thing.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Advent

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”- Charlie Brown

Over the years, my wife has inspired me (…ok, forced me…) into daily readings during the Christmas Advent season. She usually buys a book with readings and a bible verse for every day of Advent. I tend to be cynical and grumpy by nature, more so during the “Holiday Season”. To me most of the Advent readings are like bad Hallmark cards, mind-numbingly banal with extra cheese. So I suffer through the process, trying to appreciate the occasional scripture readings and ignoring the puppies and snowflakes. But this year has been different. When she offered up the reading options, the list included Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger”. Having read some of his works and knowing his story, I said let’s do this one.

Bonhoeffer was a German and a Lutheran minister who resisted Hitler and the Nazis. He was eventually arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, ended up in a concentration camp and was hung in April 1945, only a few weeks before Allied forces liberated the camp. He was 39 years old. Included in this advent book are excerpts from letters he wrote while in prison. Bonhoeffer was a devout Christian who spoke out against evil when most of his countrymen and even fellow Christians remained silent. What he has to say about this world and the meaning of the Incarnation are worth reading.

If you want to know what Christmas is about, read Bonhoeffer.

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Saturday, December 6, 2014

We Can't Breathe

My wife said that my comments last week about the Ferguson riots were too one-sided. Actually, I thought they were rather “fair and balanced”. She criticized me for saying that Michael Brown’s shooting was “legal” and a “necessity” as far as Officer Wilson was concerned. I stand by my comments, but for the sake of peace in the household will note that it is possible that Officer Wilson might have considered taking a different approach and not letting the situation get to the point where he emptied his gun at Michael Brown. And with regard to legality, perhaps the way the case was presented to the grand jury was somewhat flawed. But, the grand jury got it right. Michael Brown’s actions on that day in Ferguson, Missouri are the primary reason that Michael Brown is dead.

But, in the spirit of being “fair and balanced” let’s turn the page and consider the Eric Garner incident. I have no idea why the grand jury in this case did not come down with some sort of indictment and send it to trial. This one is bad, really bad. Overly aggressive police, using a choke-hold on a guy who was being busted for a misdemeanor. C’mon man. And now those who want to protest police brutality, especially as directed toward “people of color”, have their martyr and their slogan.

You know it may be time that we rethink the process for handling cases where law enforcement officers are charged with using excessive force. Perhaps local prosecutors should recuse themselves from presenting such cases. The perception is that they are just too close to the police. And when the grand jury no bills one of these cases, we see the result. People are losing confidence in the system and “people of color” are more than convinced that the system will not grant them their day in court. They believe that the police can do whatever they want and get away with it. I do not think that is the way it works most of the time. But it does work that way often enough that it is not unreasonable for some people to believe that’s how it works all of the time. And if it happens to you or someone you love, that is one time too many.

And then there are the larger issues of race and profiling. Most of us, regardless of our race, age or ethnicity; are biased. We buy into the stereotypes. I’m an old white guy and when someone sees me going down the road in my four-wheel drive pickup, wearing a dirty ball cap and having not shaved in three days; they are likely to assume that I am listening to country music (or Rush Limbaugh) and probably have a gun in the truck. None of those are true. I don’t dip snuff or drink cheap beer either. And, even though I go to church most every Sunday, I don’t believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and the devil himself planted those fossils just to deceive us. I tend to lean to the left on issues of immigration, gay marriage and assisted suicide. I lean right on economic issues, abortion, capital punishment, global warming and dropping bombs on our enemies. I think protesters have the right to protest, but not shutdown traffic and negatively impact honest business people who are just trying to make a living. I think police have the right to use force to protect and serve. But I don’t think they have the right to use excessive force or not be judged in a court of law when it is reasonable to think they did.

So I don’t want assumptions made about me based on my age, my race, where I live, how I dress, what I drive and how I talk. And I have to continually remind myself not to do that with others. But it’s hard to be open-minded when observation and experience are telling you that doing so is dangerous, maybe even deadly. And so it goes with the police and people of color. Yes, it’s hard to be open-minded, but it’s not impossible.