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January 18, 2010

The Race To The Bottom in Michigan Public Education

 “To Be or Not To Be”:

The Race to the Bottom

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) -- nee public school teachers’ union -- continues its track record of resisting change in the classroom and ignoring the fact that not only can’t Billy read, many Michigan teachers can’t read or write at the 12th grade level, lack basic computation skills, and ought to be working in a car wash or Wally Mart, rather than collecting an average salary of $ 54,739 a year, for about 9 months work.  (Michigan ranks about 4th in teacher salaries, nationally; but 23rd in high school graduation rates.)

The MEA is urging its local affiliates to publicly resist and criticize the State of Michigan’s application for “federal stimulus funds” under the Obama Administration’s “Race To The Top” competitive grants program.  The feds are giving major grants to a limited number of states willing to address public school improvements in a comprehensive way.

Street talk sez Michigan has as much chance of getting one of the $100 million-plus federal grants, in round-one, as the City of Detroit has of hosting the  2020 summer Olympics.

But we can’t blame the MEA for everything wrong with public education in Michigan.

After months of feverish activity and grantwriting, Governor Jennifer Granholm and her minions at the Department of Education are reportedly printing up covers for their “Race To the Top” grant application to the Feds.  They’re calling Michigan’s application “BE THE CHANGE.”

No wonder we be not getting the federal dollars.

January 14, 2010

Larry The Barber

Larry The Barber


I’d lost track of Larry Gregg.  He’d cut my hair at the downtown Hair Shed for nearly 25 years or so, whenever circumstances found me back in Battle Creek for awhile.  He also cut the hair of my two sons, from near toddler age to adulthood.

Larry was a lot of fun and good for a laugh.  He was irreverent, and  always had the latest downtown gossip and tidbits…..what businesses were on the brink, who was sleeping with whom at the companies and major NGOs downtown, what BCU was working on larrygreg.jpgin Ft. Custer, who was odds on favorite in City Commission races.

He last cut my hair in August, 2009….the tab was $20 plus tip.  My salad days were drawing to a close, at that point.  So I started getting my haircut at a place off SW Capital that had a $8 special for old people and vets.

I ran into Larry and a friend of his in the Horrocks check out line one evening last Oct. 

Then, I opened the BC Shopper-NEWS last week…and found this little display ad notice.

Larry would have made a great CIA agent.

January 13, 2010

Pulling The Plug On China

Pulling the Plug on China

So, Google may pack up and leave China, after finding out the Chinese have been cyber attacking the Google  Internet system.

Surprise.  Surprise.

More than Google might buy a ticket on the 14-hour Beijing/Newark shuttle out of China.

Americans could quit buying most things made in China.  No more $15 made-in-China dress shoes at WallyMart.  No more $300 big screens from Beijing.  No more silk shirts from Shenzhen. No more rip-off Gucci bags from Guangxi.

Imagine the U.S. Main Street response to such a boycott:  the tearing of hair, the screaming and moaning by liberals and conservatives alike; charges of punishing America’s poor while protecting Wall Street fat cats!

Now, before Internet or Facebook trolls start labeling me an isolationist, a racist, sexist, elitist and bigot, let me note I was married to a Chinese woman.  (A lovely, engaging woman.) 

I lived in China three years.  (Culturally, an awesome country.)  Traveled from Hong Kong to Dalian, lots of time in Shanghai and Beijing, and in remote rural areas, eating farm meals  of fish head soup and rice with Chinese peasant family members, sitting on dirt floors, around stone fireplaces, in huts with no windows and pigs in the bedrooms.

But most urban Chinese – especially those under 40 – have nothing but distain for the United States and Americans.  They see us as a gluttonous glob of overweight, self absorbed people.   Our kids don’t learn, our economy doesn’t work;  lazy round-eyes that scream “Gimmme Mine! ME! ME! ME!” about everything from food stamps to health care. 

Young Chinese consider America the trash bin of history.  And they’d love to help  close the lid.

Wallymart1.jpgSo, maybe it’s time we take out our own trash in America. Have a housecleaning and a work bee; start on a new diet, get some backbone and kahoones.

I’d start by putting China and Chinese consumer products on my high calorie, junk food, take-out-the-trash  list. 


Right behind Wall Street. The banks.  Entitlement programs.  And War in Wackastan.

Think we could coax Dirty Harry out of retirement?wallymart2.jpg



January 10, 2010

Payback Time


Payback Time.


A few weeks  ago, my car died.  A tiny, ’91 Geo Metro. Two-seater.  Convertible. 4 (yes, four) cylinders.  Stick shift.  With a bent front frame that made the front tires toe-in, and the lil’ sweetie drive like a drunken sailor.


I’d had the car for about 4 months; bought from A Comedy King who left me less than chuckling, with all the things wrong with the car. 


But that’s not what this blog is all about.


See,  I got this friend who’s in the used car business – a shrewed guy and businessman, with a big heart --  and, he travels to Lansing, Grand Rapids and Northern  Indiana several times a week for car auctions.


So I got a great deal from him on a ’99 Ford Crown Victoria.  Now this is not your everyday run-of-the-mill-used -ford. 




This car has balls to the wall: “POLICE INTERCEPTOR” reads the chrome on the trunk grillwork.  Heavy duty shocks, brakes, tires.  And a 4.6 fuel-injected V-8 under the hood.


It’s a “retired” light blue Michigan State Police Cruiser.  You know the kind --  black trim and, best of all, those HUGE front and back, extended bumpers – as righteous phallic symbols as a police 38 special or a stun gun.



So, I’ve gone from having NO road respect; to almost having too much.



Cars slow down behind me and give PLENTY of room.  Those in front suddenly start using their turn signals and stopping at yellow lights.



Maybe I should get a pair of those mirror-like  sunglasses.  And start practicin sayin things like: “Feeling lucky punk?  Now do ya?”



Gosh, It’s nice to suddenly have status.  And feel respected.  Isn’t it?  J


Author's Note:  For those of you who live in southwest Michigan, USofA....and are looking for a QUALITY used car at the RIGHT price...from a dealer you can TRUST, send me an email at: jmadisonrichmond@gmail.com.  And I'll share the name of my car dealer-friend.  You won't go wrong!