U.S. Will Not Get Back on Track Without Better Leaders

November 28th, 2012 § 491 comments § permalink

I certainly wasn’t surprised when the results came in on the evening of November 6th, but I must say I was a little disappointed at how irreverently anticlima­­­­ctic it all was. Here we had a president with the worst record since Carter, running on empty platform, and he still won reelection. I can still here the Republican pundits’ recriminations ringing in my ears: “He’s the bane of America! Enemy of everything this country stands for! A socialist puppet, intent on leading the U.S. into the oblivion of the welfare state!”

And yet, on election night, Obama’s victory was secured barely an hour after the polls closed. We were told Romney had to sweep Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to win; he lost all of them, and nearly lost North Carolina as well. For the first time in almost 200 years, America will have had three straight two term presidents. That hasn’t happened since the Jefferson/Madison/Monroe triumvirate, predating both political parties themselves.

You’d think that’d be a sign of political stability; of an electorate that knows what it wants and country that knows where it’s going. A quick recap of the past 8 years would tell you the opposite. The Republicans were flying high in ’04, sweeping both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Two years later, Americans decide they don’t like Mesopotamian occupations and give the House and the Senate to the Democrats. By ‘08 the Democrats are on top of the world, taking back the Presidency and gaining a filibuster proof majority in the Senate – another two years go by and Americans have had it with “European socialism” and give the House to the G.O.P. Fast forward to 2012, and the electorate decides that maybe crepes and Bavarian sausage aren’t so bad after all, so perhaps another helping will be okay as long as it comes with a Republican controlled House on the side. Suffice it to say, U.S. voters change their minds like a 13-year old girl changes boy-band posters.

So what’s the deal? Clearly, all these power shifts haven’t been good for the country. But the erratic behavior of the electorate is a symptom of the disease, not the cause. The true problem is a lack of experienced, knowledgeable leaders in our nation’s highest offices. George Bush and Barack Obama are certainly intelligent men, but both made massive miscalculations that led to serious instabilities in the nation’s government. The Iraq war absolutely crushed the Reagan conservative revival, and for what? So that we could confirm the Middle East’s fear that the U.S. is an ungodly imperialistic bully? Meanwhile, Obamacare stands as one of the most inane major pieces of legislation promoted by any incoming president of the past fifty years. Upon taking office, Obama was given a blank check, but instead of carefully building a legislative agenda to heal the nation’s economy, he drew up a stimulus plan on the back of a napkin, and then went for the long ball. Then he has the nerve to claim that it’s all really the fault of Republican obstructionists.

The effect of all this has been to convince both Democrats and Republicans in Congress that they don’t need to work together to get anything done. Both sides seem to be under the impression that in the next election, they’ll just sweep everything, establish a permanent majority, and then have a free hand to fulfill all their wildest hopes and dreams. Pelosi, Reid, and Boehner all live in a world where everything is black and white, and compromise is a sign of weakness.

Unfortunately, for Republicans, the problem is much worse on their end of the spectrum. By default, all western democracies drift inexorably towards the welfare state, and the only thing that can stem the tide of bigger and bigger government is a strong-willed, inspirational conservative leader of the Reagan/Thatcher mold. Twenty-four years after he left office, the Gipper’s influence is still felt; a testament to what a remarkable person he really was. But lately Reagan’s aura has been fading, and as of yet nobody has stepped in to fill his shoes.

2012 was supposed to have been the year. The Republicans had almost everything going for them, but in the end, all the candidates who had any hope of becoming the next Reagan either didn’t step up to the plate (I’m looking at you Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie), or tried to and failed. In the end, the Republicans went with the least awful option available. Clearly the deck was not stacked in Obama’s favor, but lucky for him, the Republicans had nothing but a pair of twos.

Ann Arbor Eats

November 2nd, 2012 § 612 comments § permalink

Although it may not be a particularly large city, nobody can deny that Arbor exhibits wealth of exceptional restaurants and diners guaranteed to satisfy even the most critical foodie. If you’re new to the area, you’ll certainly want to spend a few Friday or Saturday nights venturing beyond the campus in search of the countless gems that dot the cityscape. If you’re unsure of where to start, here’s a short list of some of the local legends you won’t want to miss.

Zingerman’s Deli: Located on the Corner of Detroit and East Kingsley, the original Zingerman’s may well be the most renowned of all the local eateries. The fresh-baked bread is driven in from their bakehouse every morning, and you’d have to look long and hard to find another bakery that could top it. The Deli is best known for the sandwiches, and they don’t disappoint. Unfortunately, Zingerman’s is more than a little pricy, so you’d be better off having your parents take you here.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse: The restaurant companion to the Deli, Zingerman’s roadhouse serves top notch dishes from a variety of classic American cuisines. The fried chicken is probably the best you’ll find this side of the Mason-Dixon line, and the sweet potato fries are also a can’t miss. However, you’ll need a car to get there, seeing as it’s located by the Jackson Road exit of I-94.

Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger: Go to the Food Network’s website and watch the episode of “Diner’s, Drive-In’s, and Dives” featuring Ann Arbor’s best burger joint. I guarantee you won’t be able to resist the temptation for long. If you’re living in South Quad or West Quad, it’s barely a minute walk to the intersection of Division and Packard. Know how to order.

Tio’s Mexican Café: Boasting the best Tex-Mex food in Ann Arbor, Tio’s is located pretty close to campus at the intersection near East Liberty and Thomson. Most famous for their wet burrito, Tio’s also serves a variety of delicious milkshakes. Their 5-lb plate of Nachos, dubbed “Mount Nacheesmo,” was featured on the Food Network show “Man vs. Food.”

Seva’s: Probably Ann Arbor’s best known strictly vegetarian restaurant, Seva’s menu sports an impressive array of animal-friendly dishes that even a meat-lover could come to respect. Don’t miss the butternut squash enchiladas. Buy one of their t-shirts and take a photo of yourself wearing it in a unique place, and Seva’s will give you a free entrée. Located west of campus on East Liberty.

Arbor Brewing Company: If you’re a beer snob, but still appreciate a good dinner, Arbor Brewing Company’s restaurant and bar is the place for you. Located on East Washington near Main, stop in to try the Drunken Chicken Sandwich and then wash it down with any one of their craft beers on tap. Their Sacred Cow IPA can go toe-to-toe with any other craft brew in Michigan.

The Chop House: As Ann Arbor’s premier upscale restaurant, the Chop House is where you go if you’re really looking to impress someone, or if you like to burn sacks of money to keep warm during the winter. That being said, their Cowboy steak is second-to-none, and the wine selection is the best you’ll find in Ann Arbor. Head over to South Main near Liberty if you’d like to enjoy a high class dinner, followed by a trip to La Dolce Vita, the desert shop next door – but brace yourself when they bring the bill.

The GOP is Going Nowhere Until it Finds Itself a Leader

March 14th, 2012 § 68 comments § permalink

If you’ve paid much attention to news regarding the latest Republican primaries, you’ll notice there seems to be a consensus that the race for the G.O.P nomination is about to slow to a crawl. The next few months are projected to entail a long, bitter battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, with neither candidate likely to wrap up the nomination before June. The former governor of Massachusetts is still a clear favorite, but even if Romney does manage to make it out alive, he’ll be wounded and limping as he trudges toward the convention.

Then what? Romney has had to put forth an enormous amount of effort just to maintain a slim lead over a candidate who had been written off by nearly everyone up until the Iowa caucuses – and the Republicans expect him to lead the charge against one of the most charismatic, inspirational leaders of the 21st century? On top of that, the economic recovery may finally be picking up steam, which could certainly leave the G.O.P’s arsenal severely reduced come November. No doubt, U-M students will be resting easier knowing the Hope-Giver-in-Chief looks poised to secure another four years in office.

At this point, the Republican establishment really ought to take a look back at the past 12 months and try to figure out the origins of their current predicament. A year ago, the 44th POTUS looked like chopped liver. The result of the 2010 midterms, widely considered to have been a referendum on the Obama administration, was a sweeping G.O.P victory. If the Republicans don’t take back the White House in 2012, they’ll have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Yet it might not have come to this, had the G.O.P. been able to produce a legitimate presidential candidate – someone able to stand as a representative for conservatism’s core values without simultaneously making a fool of themselves in front of the national media. One by one, each and every candidate for the 2012 nomination revealed themselves to be fatally flawed in one form or another. Pawlenty, Bachmann, Cain, and Perry – all of them rose to the top before crashing back down into a pile of smoking ruins.  At the end of it all, the ones who made it the farthest were the least inspiring of the lot.

Unfortunately for Republicans, this is not a new problem. In fact, it’s one they’ve carried with them ever since the very beginning of the conservative resurgence in the 1960s. That being said, the G.O.P. should remind itself that it doesn’t have to be this way. Ronald Reagan proved that it is possible, in practice, for a charismatic, hard-lined conservative to win the entire country over, and that Republicans need not settle for second-tier candidates like the two Bushes, Bob Dole, and John McCain. After all, in the 1984 presidential election Reagan carried the youth vote by 20 percentage points – which just goes to show that if you can find the right candidate, all bets are off, and any barrier can be broken.

Of course, the 2012 field has already been set, and it’s clear the G.O.P will once again be settling for the best of the worst. Nevertheless, they may still manage to pull off a victory this fall; Obama’s disapproval ratings remain fairly low, despite the current uptick in the economy. Even so, Republicans should note that they won’t be making any real inroads until they find a candidate who truly represents their ideals.

Primary Update

January 24th, 2012 § 445 comments § permalink

GOP Presidential Debate in Myrtle Beach South Carolina

Iowa Caucus

January 3rd: Mitt Romney is declared the uncertified winner of the Iowa caucuses, reportedly edging out Rick Santorum by 8 votes. The results were among the closest in history.

January 4th: After finishing a distant (and disappointing) 6th in Iowa, Michele Bachmann suspends her presidential campaign.

New Hampshire Primary

January 7th: The remaining candidates debate in New Hampshire. Romney manages to avoid conflict and remains above the fray. The night’s biggest loser was moderator George Stephanopoulos who spent several minutes grilling the candidates on whether or not they would support a state’s right to ban the sale of birth control, something that has not been suggested by any of the candidates.

January 8th: Another debate, more of the same. None of the candidates seemed willing to attack Romney, instead going after each other.

January 10th: Romney is declared the runaway winner of the New Hampshire primaries, with Ron Paul coming in a distant second.
South Carolina Primary

January 16th: With a disappointing third place finish in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman ends his campaign and endorses Mitt Romney. That night, the candidates faced off in another debate.

January 18th: Former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin tells Fox News she would vote for Gingrich in South Carolina, if given the chance.January 19th: Certified results from the Iowa caucuses are released giving Rick Santorum the victory by 34 votes.

January 19th: After abysmal debate performances, Rick Perry drops out of the race and endorses Gingrich. Pundits said his campaign was one of the worst-run they’d ever seen.

January 19th: Yet another debate in South Carolina. This time, some punches are pulled against Romney. Pundits called it Romney’s worst debate yet. Both Santorum and Gingrich attacked Romney on his record.

January 21st: In a surprising turnaround, Newt Gingrich upsets Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primaries, with 40% of the vote to Romney’s 28 percent. Romney remains the leader in the overall race, with 33 delegates to Gingrich’s 26.

_

Coming Up

January 26: CNN debate

January 31: Florida primary

February 4: Nevada caucus

February 7: Colorado caucus, Minnestoa caucus, Missouri primary

College Dems, Repubs Gear Up for 2012

November 15th, 2011 § 191 comments § permalink

As 2011 comes to a close, Americans all across the spectrum will begin to prepare for yet another round of the campaigning and electioneering in 2012. U-M is no exception, and no doubt the charge towards Decision 2012 will be led by U-M’s two most prominent and active student political organizations – the College Democrats and College Republicans.

Both groups profess to have seen increased support amongst U-M students over the past few months and believe the upsurge in student voting seen during the 2008 election was not an anomaly. “I think we’re going to see just the same amount of enthusiasm if not more,” says Amanda Caldwell, the College Democrats’ Chair.

Over fall break, the group travelled to Iowa to campaign for Democrat Liz Mathis, who faced Republican Cindy Golding in a special election for the Iowa State Senate on November 8th. Their efforts paid off, as Mathis won the highly contested race, ensuring that Iowa Democrats retain control of the State Senate.

Although the 2010 Midterms proved a significant setback for the Obama administration, the College Democrats say they are confident the President will not lose in 2012. According to Caldwell, Democrats all across the board have been reinvigorated, rather than discouraged, by the recent GOP victory. “If anything, the Republicans taking back the House has encouraged more people to come out and campaign for Democrats,” says Caldwell.

It isn’t exactly a secret that college students tend to lean towards the Democratic side of the political spectrum, and any Republican looking for significant student support will have to find a way to reverse a longstanding historical trend. Joe Sandman, the College Democrats’ Communications Director, says that currently none of the Republican nominees look very appealing to the eyes of the average college student. “[The candidates] range from just promoting bad policy, that is not in the interest of students, to just being irrational and hateful,” says Sandman.

The College Democrats say that in rallying student support, they will in some ways be starting from scratch, but are looking forward to the challenge.  “Pretty much everybody who is an undergraduate this year will not have been a student in 2008,” says Sandman. “Logistically, I think it’s going to require a tremendous grassroots effort.”

The College Republicans, however, present a markedly different view when it comes to whether or not Republicans will end up receiving student support. The College Republicans’ Chair, Anton Dirnberger, says his group has seen an enormous spike in support ever since Obama was elected.

“Our chapter… has been growing exponentially,” says Dirnberger, “Ever since 2008, President Obama and his policies have been our biggest recruiting tool. We [used to see] 20 to 30 kids at every meeting; now we’re seeing closer to 60.”

Last month the College Republicans sent 55 of their members to the Biannual Republican Conference at Mackinac Island, and on November 9th, they attended the GOP Republican Presidential Debate at Oakland University.

According to Dirnberger, Republicans have seen an increase in student support due to concerns over the economy and their own personal job prospects. He said that many students who may have supported Obama in 2008 are now reconsidering whether or not the President’s policies are creating the best economic atmosphere for them as they prepare to enter the workplace.

Dirnberger is also confident that Republicans in D.C. have learned their lesson and now regard student voters as a force worth reckoning. “I think they realize that clearly the youth can have an impact. [Republicans] will be looking for ways to reach out to them and let them know that the GOP isn’t just a bunch of old white-haired guys with a lot of money.”

And so Michigan football will face its biggest test, undefeated again…

October 9th, 2011 § 34 comments § permalink

Here we stand, six weeks into the season, and six victories for the Maize and Blue. Michigan’s first road win of the season had some impressive moments, despite a fairly sloppy start. Brady Hoke and co. found themselves down 24-14 after two quarters, in a first half that seemed all too reminiscent of the first half they had against Notre Dame.

But then just as in that game, it would seem some adjustments were made, and magic filled the air. The Wolverines took Northwestern by storm in the second half with 28 unanswered points en route to a 42-24 victory. After throwing three picks before the break, Denard Robinson was able to keep his composure and finish the game with 290 yards passing and four touchdowns.

Now I have to give credit where credit is due – that was an impressive second half performance. Someway, somehow, Brady Hoke was able to rally his team to victory, just when it looked like they were in hot water. Mattison found a way to put the defense in lockdown mode, and Borges’s offense exploded. Dan Persa is no chump, and it’s safe to say that Michigan’s defense quite simply shut him down for most of the last two quarters.

That being said, I still can’t help but feel a wee bit nervous as the team gets ready to head to East Lansing next Saturday. In case you don’t recall, the past two years we’ve entered the game against Sparty undefeated, and left it with a loss. I’ve been saying for the past six weeks that Michigan football is an enigma, and only once the dust settles after this two-game road trip will I feel like I can make a comprehensive statement as to where this team stands.

After all, Northwestern is still Northwestern, even if they have Dan Persa. Any team planning on winning the Big 10 probably doesn’t envision having too much trouble heading into Evanston. It’s the Big Boys you have to worry about; Wiscy, Iowa, Penn State, Sparty, Ohio, and Nebraska. Yes, I realize Illinois is 6-0, and a good number of those teams are, shall we say, having down years, but that’s hardly the point. Bo Schembechler won 13 championships in 21 years, and not because he was able to beat up on the likes of Purdue and Minnesota.

And so we wait, with baited breath, as next week’s showdown inches ever closer. The first of Brady Hoke’s two countdown clocks will read 00:00 by this time next Saturday. The redemption of the Michigan faithful is up to you Brady Hoke, and your right-hand man Shoelace.

A dominant performance, but the true tests come next…

October 1st, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

The stat line says it all. Michigan: 570 yards of offense, 32 first downs, 8.7 yards per catch, and 7.6 yards per carry in an absolutely commanding performance all around.  Minnesota: 177 yards and 0 points. Let’s put it this way; Vincent Smith became the first college football player since 2009 to run, catch, and throw for a touchdown in a single game.

Posting their first shutout since 2007 (38-0 vs. Notre Dame) and most lopsided win since 2000 (58-0 vs. Indiana), Michigan looked… well, good. For the first time all season, both the offense and the defense put on an impressive show for a full four quarters.  Give them their due for this one.

That being said, the Golden Gophers are just flat out terrible. Michigan fans expected a blowout; perhaps not a 58 point annihilation, but a blowout nonetheless. And this is the second straight year Michigan has begun the Big Ten season with a win against a junior league opponent, and as we’re all well aware, the past two years didn’t exactly end on a positive note. Then again, nail-biting last second victories against Indiana should never have instilled much confidence in the first place, but nevertheless, I think I’ll proceed with caution.

So as with the Night Game, there’s no real harm in enjoying this one. But be wary, because a massive test lies ahead. Back to back road games vs. Northwestern and Sparty. Not an easy task by any means. The Big Ten Gauntlet, not the pre-conference schedule, is where you live and die as a football program. In the end, the season will obviously be judged in its entirety.

Now is not the time for premature celebrations and back patting. March onward Brady Hoke, and respect everyone – but with Shoelace at your side, fear no one.

What 4-0 Really Means

September 28th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

Four weeks into the season and Michigan football is 4-0. For many Wolverines fans, tis’ the season for wild, unsubstantiated analyses and predictions. Oh, joy. I, for one, am going to wait a few more weeks before putting up the lights.

That’s because, if you happen to have been paying attention over the past two years, you’re probably somewhat wary of the “undefeated against a bunch of middle school teams and Notre Dame” high we’ve all gotten three years in a row now. Sure, in the past it’s been nice while it lasted, but a last minute victory over Notre Dame is little consolation after you’ve been curb-stomped by the Big Boys from the Big 10.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be pessimistic here. I know life’s too short not to enjoy a 4-0 start once in a while.  Around this same time in 2007 and 2008, Michigan fans had to endure the utter humiliation that came with losing to Utah, and of course, Appalachian State, at home. Compare that to the Night Game 2011, when 114,000 U-M faithful (minus the Irish fans) witnessed one of the greatest games in the history of Michigan football, and you can’t help but be a little appreciative of the circumstances. I certainly had no qualms when it came to basking in the frenzied paradise of the Big House that night, as all Michigan fans should have.

But the fact remains that at this point, Michigan football is more or less an enigma. There’s really no use  trying to predict how the rest of the season will go, and it’s certainly not a good idea to overestimate our chances for success.

There have been bright spots, no doubt. I hesitate to say it, but the defense looks reasonably competent (granted, it’s never a great idea to hang your hat on shutting down Eastern and San Diego State) As for the offense, there’s clearly a lot of potential, which I guess is not much of a surprise when you have Denard Robinson on your team.

Unfortunately, the team’s overall consistency, especially on offense, has been nothing short of atrocious. Our passing game has been virtually nonexistent for two straight weeks. And if we keep relying primarily on Denard to generate yardage on the ground, it’ll be tough for him to continue to hold up health-wise as the season wears on.

Nevertheless, I do have a tremendous amount of faith in Brady Hoke and his general philosophy, as it appears so far. Although a lot of college football fans are loathe to admit it, The Schembechler Era Dynasty didn’t exactly result from fancy offensive schemes and innovative play-calling. The winningest coach in Michigan history felt it was far more important to stress that his players play the most fundamentally sound football of any team in the Big 10, and that everything else would take care of itself. Based on the defense’s apparent ability to tackle and jump on every loose ball they see, and the fact that our kick returners aren’t constantly fumbling the ball (knock on wood), I’d say the new coaching staff has taken a play or two from Bo’s old playbook.

No pressure, Brady Hoke, but the largest college football fan-base in the country is hanging on your team’s every move – watching, waiting, and hoping. Just remember that with Shoelace, all things are possible.

Stop rooting for your conference, seriously

September 20th, 2011 § 136 comments § permalink

Anyone who follows the college football scene these days knows knows about the potential conference realignment time-bomb that’s been ticking for the past few weeks. At this point, it seems that the changes made to the Big 10 (er… 12?), Big 12 (10?), and Pac-10 (12) over the past few years were only the tip of the iceberg.

From mergers to super-conferences, a tidal wave of change is probably right around the corner. In case you’re not up to date on all this, I’ll fill you in. Discussions over college football conferences are all the rage these days. Turn on ESPN this Saturday and you’ll see what I mean. In all honestly, the whole conference realignment thing isn’t exactly new. Ever since the old Western Conference came onto the scene over a century ago, the tides of conference organization have shifted regularly. So why all the fuss?

The answer is simple; over the past decade, the college football community has been developed an unprecedented obsession with rooting for conferences, not just teams. Viscous debates over whether the Big Ten is better than the Big 12, whether the SEC winner should automatically get a National Championship Game bid, or whether the Big East is actually a high school league in disguise rage continuously throughout the fall. So it isn’t surprising that anything and everything that has to do with how the college football conferences are aligned has nearly everybody on the edge of their seats.

It didn’t used to be that way. Back in Ye Olden Days, on any given week a Michigan fan had three favorite teams; Michigan, whoever is playing Ohio, and whoever is playing Sparty. It was fairly simple.

Now, not just Michigan fans but college football fans all across the country, regularly feel the need to do the unthinkable – root for their arch rivals. The logic is that if the conference your conference looks good, it makes your team look good. What’s good for the Big 10 is good for Michigan, they claim.

I’ll tell you right now, I used to be part of that crowd too, until I realized that rooting for conferences is simply ridiculous. My proof? The whole practice was started by SEC fans. About a decade ago, the folks down south all of a sudden decided that their conference was just so totally awesome, and began bragging about it nonstop. Everybody else got sucked in, and the rest is history.

Honestly, do baseball, football, and hockey fans root for the other teams in their division? No. Bo is surely rolling in his grave at the thought of Michigan fans rooting for Ohio over Miami. “But if OSU loses the Big 10 will

look so bad…” they cry. So what? The focus of Michigan’s football program should be to win Big 10 Championships. That’s what made us the winningest program in college football history, and that’s what we need to set our sights on once again if we hope to get back to where we were. As far as the conference championship goes, it only helps us if every other Big 10 team gets smoked by their non-conference opponents.

Euphoria, albiet ominous

September 11th, 2011 § 210 comments § permalink

Euphoria. Complete and utter jubilation, Maize and Blue style. In the words of David After Dentist, “Is this real life?”

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the first night game in Michigan history started off as a big deal, but will ultimately go down in history as one of the most exhilarating, mind-boggling games in Michigan history.

However, as I eventually reemerged from my near life-ending ecstasy that followed Michigan’s 35-31 victory over Notre Dame, the celebration did begin to seem a little ominous. We’ve been here before, right?

Two years in a row, actually. In both 2009 and 2010, Michigan started the season with a dramatic comeback win over the Irish, in a game that went down to the final seconds. Then reality hit like a twenty ton boulder. In both those years, our second game of the year was the climactic point of the entire season. When November rolled around, the Notre Dame game might as well have been ancient history.

So clearly, there are reasons for Michigan fans to be worried. Our defense just gave up 513 yards, and our offense was pretty much stagnant for three out of four quarters. Granted, it was just the second game for the new coaching regime, so I definitely won’t be trying to make any wild extrapolations.

Only time will tell if Brady Hoke can lead our Wolverines back to the glory days of old, and the final review will have to occur after the season is over. The head coach himself said it best, “The expectations for this program are way too high for us to think we’re where we need to be.”

Nevertheless, for this night, Michigan fans can engage in joyous, unmitigated celebration. Long live Shoelace. Hail UM.