A change to the 4th of July holiday

This Thursday, our country will celebrate it’s 237th birthday with events all over ranging from parades, cookouts, barbeques, family gatherings and of course fireworks. Personally, it is my second favorite holiday of the year behind Christmas. My birthday also happens to fall just a few days before the 4th so the holiday is essentially the summer version of Christmas for me. Despite all of those things, I would like to make a simple proposal to change the 4th of July holiday.

The 4th happens to fall on a Thursday this year which in the business world can create a few hassles. I imagine in the next few days, there will be a number of phone calls being made by many asking the same question, “Are you guys open on Friday?”  After celebrating the 4th on Thursday and staying up late to view the fireworks, how many of you want to get up and go to work on Friday, then get the the weekend off? It does not make a lot of sense to me. I am willing to bet that July 5th might of been the most requested day off of the year for employees across this country. I know it was at my company. The same thing applies to when the 4th falls on a Wednesday like last year.  I have a very simple idea that would solve these workplace dilemmas and make many workers and their families happy during this time of the year.

Why not just scrap the idea of celebrating Independence Day on the 4th of July each year and instead, celebrate it on the first Friday of each July? By doing it that way, every worker  is assured of having a nice long weekend. We could even stretch it further by calling it Independence weekend with huge celebrations on Friday and Saturday night. Many people would not have conflicts with work and could travel on that weekend. It would be a banner weekend for tourism all across this country.

Some day when I become president (yeah right!!) I will propose this change and I guarantee you that I will get bi-partisan support. Of course there will be those who will not want to mess with tradition and will protest the changing. But think about the many benefits of this proposal. To me, it is a no-brainer. Imagine if the Independence day celebrations took place on a Friday every year and stretched into Saturday. It would be the greatest weekend of the year.

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Thoughts on the historic Supreme Court rulings

This past week’s rulings by the Supreme Court justices regarding voting rights, DOMA and Prop 8 illustrates just how much power those 9 men and women in the black robes have. Forget about the will of the people through special elections or laws made by Congress. The buck stops at the highest court of the land. Their decisions are final and we have to live with their rulings whether we like them or not.

I have mixed feelings about the outcomes in these cases. I totally agree with their decision on the voting rights issue. That law should have been thrown out along with the phonograph. It is a law which certainly applied in the 1960’s  when racial discrimination was high but hey, this is 2013 and times are totally different now. Why should this law only apply to a few select states and not the whole country? There certainly can just as easily be voter discrimination in Minnesota as there would be in Texas or Mississippi. I think the whole issue of voter discrimination is way overblown anyways. I think the real issue is actually voter fraud not discrimination. Explain to me how Mitt Romney fails to pick up even a single vote in several Philadelphia precincts or Al Franklin, from my state of Minnesota, all of sudden makes nearly a 1000 votes during a recount.

The rulings of the DOMA and Prop 8 case concern me the most. The voters of California voted not once but twice to ban same-sex marriages in their state. I think the will of the people was clearly spoken. However, a few radical people didn’t like the outcome and decided take the bill to court. The justices did absolutely nothing to honor the vote and therefore we are seeing same-sex marriages being performed now in that state. Why even have a vote then? Why waste a bunch of time, money and resources when it doesn’t matter? That is a bunch of crap and totally goes against the will of the people. It is a sad day in our country when our voices and votes do not mean anything.

The DOMA bill was made to define marriage as between a man and a women for federal benefit sakes. It also protect states that do not have same-sex marriage from being forced to honor those same-sex couples who were married in other states.  I wonder if those genius justices realize what a big can of worms they have opened. Currently, several states have in their constitution laws banning same-sex marriage.  If DOMA is no longer valid, the next state would be to make it a federal law that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. If that is the case, all of these states laws would be totally invalid and same-sex marriage would the law of the land.

The states that have these laws banning same-sex marriage,  did so by elections from their people. So once again, if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, the will of the people will be totally ignored in each of these states. How sad is that!! I can see a whole bunch of lawsuits coming up regarding same-sex marriage in the future. It could get rather ugly. People talk about how polarizing the abortion is. I personally feel the same-sex marriage issue will top it.

I find it very interesting that the federal justices cannot even come to a complete agreement on these issues. If same-sex marriage is such a clear-cut right, why all this disagreement among the justices?

Gay rights activists seem to think that they have the momentum to easily conquer all 50 states.  I have to admit that they do but it will be a very difficult fight and this issue will one of the most divisive issues of all time because it deals with people’s religious and moral beliefs. If people want same-sex marriage, fine. But let’s do it the fair way and let each state decide for themselves whether they want it or not. Having a bunch of federal justices forcing a law down our throats is not a fair way of doing things.  Let the will of the people in each state decide issues such as gay marriage.

 

 

Thoughts on the NBA finals

Even if your not a big NBA fan, you had to enjoy the last few games of the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs series. There was plenty of suspense and drama in both games. As a hoops fan, I was glued to my seat during both games and I can honestly say that I have not seen 10 better NBA games than games 6 and 7. People will be talking about these two games for years to come and I am sure they will be replayed many times on NBA TV or during those NBA classic segments on ESPN.

The Miami Heat flat out deserved to win the championship. They were by far the best team in the league during the regular season and overcame some adversity during the playoffs to win the title. The injury to Dwayne Wade appears to be more serious than what people were lead to believe. His injury made the Heat very vulnerable during the playoffs but they persevered and that is the mark of a championship team. They have a lot of talent but are also a very mentally tough team. Very few teams could have pulled off that dramatic rally in game 6 like the Heat did.

You really have to feel sorry for the San Antonio Spurs and their fans. They had the championship stolen from them in game 6. Anytime a team is up by 5 points with 25 seconds left, they have to feel very good about their chances. Especially a veteran team like the Spurs. I have never seen, in all my years of watching sports, a more heart breaking way to lose a championship. The players will have to live with this series for the rest of their lives. It might be the last time they will make it this far. The Spurs are one of the best run organizations in the history of pro sports and they certainly deserved a better fate.

Superstars quite often come up big in big moments like a game 7 and LeBron James and Wade did not disappoint. I was very impressed by James aggressiveness in the last game especially on the shot that pretty much sealed the deal for the Heat. He could have passed the ball and deferred to another teammate but he stepped up big and knocked down a huge shot. That is what great players do and James is slowly making a case for being the best player in the history of the game. I still think it is way to early to hand him the crown yet, let him finish his career and then we can start comparing him and Mr. Jordan. But he is well on his way to matching Jordan. I never thought it would be possible but James is just one of those special players that only comes around ever so often. His clutch plays in game 6 and 7 only added to his great legacy and I am sure there will be more special moments in the future from King James.

So what is in store for the future for the Heat and how do they rank among other championship teams? I would not rank them even close to Chicago, Boston or LA. teams of the 80’s and 90’s. They are a good championship team but not a great one. They definitely have some holes to fill in the off season. They are not a very good rebounding team and that is one area they will have to address. Somehow, I do not think it will be very hard to attract some good free agent to that city! If they fix the rebounding issue and get Wade to come back healthy for next season, they have a great shot at three peating. But teams will really be gunning for them next year and it will be more difficult than ever to win another title.

In closing, I just want to commend both teams for a great series. Both teams are champions in my book. I really enjoyed watching a couple of great teams battle it out like they did. For someone who appreciates good basketball, this series had plenty of it. Most NBA finals are forgotten by me. This one will not be. I will never forget the images of Ray Allen hitting that big shot in game 6 or LeBron in game 7. Or how about seeing a great superstar like Tim Duncan slap his hand to the ground after missing a crucial shot late in game 7. Those special moments will only add to the great history of the NBA.

 

 

 

A special night with my dad

Most people probably can remember some special moment they have had with their father. It may have been a weekend fishing trip or a golf outing. Perhaps you and pops went on a nice long road trip together or worked on some home improvement project where he gave you some much needed advice. I was very fortunate enough to have a very kind and loving father with whom I spent some special times together. My dad passed away way too young but those memories still are very fresh in my mind. One in particular is a night I will never forget.

My dad was an outstanding baseball player in high school and got me involved in the sport at a very early age. We played catch in the backyard numerous times and watched many baseball games on television together. I developed a very strong passion for the sport at such an early age. One day, my dad announced that we were going to be taking a family trip to the Twin Cities during the summer and along with it, be taking in a few Minnesota Twins games. I was nearly nearly besides myself!! It would be my first major league game in person and it would be against one of the marque teams in the league at the time, the Oakland Athletics. Now I would get a chance to see the guys who I have been watching on television. I could hardly wait for day to arrive when we went on the trip.

The day finally arrived and my dad along with my mom and one of my sisters hopped in the car for the long trip to the Twin Cities. We finally arrived at our destination and stayed at a hotel in Bloomington which just so happened to be within walking distance of the stadium. The Twins used to play at a stadium where the Mall of America now stands. I remember getting out of the car and my eyes were totally fixed on that stadium in the distance. The following night, my dad and I would be attending a game there. While my sister and mom were more interested in finding the nearest shopping mall and swimming pool, my focus was going to the game.

The following night arrived and it was finally game time. My first major league baseball game. The Twins were playing a double header that night for some reason against the A’s. It was a Thursday night after the all star game. We walked over to the stadium and I can remember the excited in my little body was just overwhelming!! I was just fascinated by the inside of the stadium and the nicely cut grass on the playing field. Soon the first game began and it was such a thrill to see the same guys who I have been watching on television play live just in front of me. We had great seats along the first base line. The atmosphere was fantastic! Watching baseball in person is so much better than watching it on television. Hearing the crack of the bat was a wonderful sound. I can remember rising every time a player hit a long fly ball thinking it would leave the park. My dad bought a game program and taught me how to keep score of the game. Those of you hard core baseball people know what keeping score of the game is.

After nearly 3 hours, the first game was over and it was time for a little intermission break. My dad and I were getting hungry so we got some hot dogs, cokes and I got something called a frosty malt. I kept hearing the concession guy, who was walking the stadium aisles, yell out “frosty malts here” and he definitely got a very young buyer hooked! The food was absolutely delicious!

The second game started around 9pm and did not end until about 12:30am. It was well past my bedtime. My dad and I were not the least bit tired. We were having the time of our lives!! Sitting there past midnight on a nice warm July night with my dad while watching a great live baseball game is a moment I will never forget.

The next afternoon, the Twins played an afternoon game and we went again. 3 major league games in the span of 24 hours is a fabulous treat for any young baseball fan. It was my first taste of any major league sport live in person and moments like those will never be erased from my life.

The other day, I happened to look up those games on a major league baseball reference site and found the box scores as well as details of the games. My mind really had an ultimate flashback to a special couple of days with my dad. My dad and I went to several other games together and had other memories as well such as playing golf many times but those two days were probably the best memories I ever had with my late father.

I do not have any children but I often think about how great it would be to take my own son to a ball game and build those special memories together. Many times, small events like going to a ball game together or spending a day fishing are times that seem meaningless but it is funny how they can have a lasting effect on a young life. Maybe some day, I will get that opportunity to give my son the thrill of his lifetime like my father gave me for those few days in July.

 

Thoughts on the NSA controversy

Remember back about 6 years when there was this big controversy over wiretapping by the government? Many people were outraged over what they saw as a blatant overreach of the government. Considering many of these folks are liberals, I find it rather amusing that they would complain about an overreach by the government for crying out loud!! Well fast forward to today and many of these same people are amazingly quiet about today’s controversy involving the NSA. Of course, their beloved president is not at the helm so they how could they possibly criticize their man? Funny how President Obama promised to fix this so called invasion of our privacy’s during many speeches leading up to his first election, yet he has just taken George Bush’s program and made it much bigger. Where are those Bush critics now who wanted to tar and feather him? If there ever was an issue that so wreaks of hypocrisy, this one is it!!

First of all, I have some rather mixed opinions of the guy involved in the center of this controversy, Edward Snowden. I admire him for taking a stand and having courage to come out and criticize the government program, which involves the privacy and rights of everyone in this country. I am looking forward to hearing more from him and further revelations of the program. However, leaking sensitive information is a serious offense and he needs to face charges. Snowden talked in his interview on how he is trying to help the American people by coming out with these secrets. But are you really helping us out when you leak out information that could really help out terrorists? Yeah, just throw our playbook out in the open so everyone in the world can see what methods we used to protect ourselves!! I think that would be putting us even more at risk.

A thought came to my mind when I first heard about this guy. Exactly what length does the CIA go to prevent it’s members for sharing classified info? Suppose another guy like Snowden, with access to sensitive material, is offered a huge chunk of money by another country in exchange for secret info? It is really scary to know that someone with Snowden’s credentials could have access to such important information. All it would take is for one person to completely put our country at a serious risk. Imagine if a terrorist was able to sneak into the CIA and start working?

We live in a very highly sophisticated technology driven country and I find it hard to believe that we need to come up a mega huge database. Obviously, there are people out there who need to have their records monitored but come on!! Do we really need to monitor the phone records of that many people here in this country? Obama has expanded Bush’s policy to include more domestic monitoring and that is a total overreach in my opinion. With our technology, we should be able to raise red flags whenever needed without invading on the privacy of so many people. If I am a foreign national and make several calls per week to some unknown destination overseas, then I should be monitored, absolutely!! But I am willing to bet that most Americans are not even close to falling into that category.

The problem that I find with collecting a massive amount of data on people here in this country is that it may be used for the wrong purposes and used instead to target people who oppose a certain policy of the government. Imagine if some guy is running for the president and the White House is rather nervous that this guy will end up winning the election. They could always leak out information to a reporter such as certain juicy emails so the candidate’s credibility takes a hit. Or they could target certain political groups such as what happened with the IRS scandal.

Politicians are telling us, trust us with all the data. That is a bunch of crap!! I for one will never trust any politician especially at the federal level. Does anyone really trust the current administration after all those apparent lies and cover ups? It is rather scary to think what could happen in the future if certain politicians got their way. It makes me hesitant to ever make another phone call, text message or send another email. If all this data gets in the wrong hands, many people will suffer huge consequences.

I hope people around this country will see how serious of a problem this is. The problem should not be politicized either. I hope we can come up with a good balance between our own safety from terrorists versus our privacy. Mr Snowden opened up a big can of worms with his revelations and I think opened the eyes of many. I don’t think there is an easy solution to this problem. We live in a very dangerous time when terrorists are trying to invade this country. Trusting the government to handle this problem by accumulating large sums of information and records doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to handle this situation. There has to be a better way and I hope our elected officials will come up with a good bi-partisan solution to this problem.

The disturbing trend of domestic violence

If you live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota like myself, you may have noticed a number of domestic violence stories dominating the news. Just the other day, a women was shot and killed while she was moving out of a house she shared with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend then turned the gun on himself. There have been a few high profile cases of women missing and their bodies were eventually found. One woman was brutally murdered by her husband and her naked body was eventually found a few months later near one of the downtowns. In all, there have been at least 7 very high profile domestic murders in the past year around here. I don’t know about other parts of the country but it is certainly a major issue around here. It seems like at least once a week, a story comes on the news about some domestic issue and this growing trend needs to be stopped.

I am by no means a relationship counselor or expert on this issue but it seems to me there are many factors that can explain why we have so many of these domestic issues in our society. I think the poor economy plays a huge role in causing people to snap and commit violence on their partner. People are really stressed out over their jobs or finances and eventually that stress enters into the relationship.

I also believe that social media sites and chat rooms cause couples to stray away from a relationship. In my opinion, it is much easier now than ever to cheat on someone. Even a site like Facebook can be harmful to a relationship. Couples get really jealous when that ex-girlfriend/boyfriend posts something nice about you or they wonder why you spend so much time chatting with people. When someone is caught cheating, it can really add fuel to the fire and lead to domestic violence.

The fact that many relationship problems end up in someone, usually the female, getting physically hurt or sadly killed is totally unjustified. I think it is so cowardly of a guy to physically attack his partner. Most guys are much stronger than their partners and can do much harm to a woman if they wanted to. If your a guy and you have a desire to physically harm your gal, you need to get some help asap!! Suppose that she cheated on you or screwed you over in some way. Get over it and MOVE ON!!! Why let some female control you like that? Live is way too short!! From a personal standpoint, I have had women cheat on me and take advantage on me but I have this don’t care attitude. If they really say they love me and pull that stuff off, then they are not worthy of my time or effort. They are just liars, pure and simple. I will just find someone else. I find no justification in doing any physically harm to them. I find that many of those women eventually have problems in other relationships as well. Getting all upset and striking your mate is a decision you will regret for the rest of your life. Taking the high road is the only way to go. Eventually things will work out for you and you will find someone better.

On the flip side, I know many women who are in abusive relationships and are very fearful of leaving that relationship. If you are one of those women, I think you are making a huge mistake by staying in that relationship. Like I was talking about in the previous paragraph, you need to get help as well. There are many services available to help battered women. It may save your life. I know how hard it is to break away from some guy that you have been seeing for a long time. The good memories of you guys are still there but is it worth it to go along in life fearful that he may attack you again and possibly kill you? The truth is, he will probably not change but you need to. There are plenty of good guys out there who will treat you much better. It is so sad that many women hang onto their abusive boyfriends or husbands for as long as they do. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from an abusive relationship but sometimes that is the best thing for your future.

I wish our society would realize how much as a growing problem this. These very high profile cases around here have really opened my eyes to this problem. These poor young women did not deserve to die. They had their whole lives ahead of them only to have it snuffed out by some cowardly partner. This violence has to stop before more innocent people get killed and their poor families have to deal with it for the rest of their lives.

 

The LeBron vs Jordan comparison

A great way to liven up any dull radio sports talk show is to bring up the topic of comparing players in various sports past and present and who is better. No particular topic garners as much debate and chatter as when  sports fans start comparing different athletes.  Whenever the name LeBron James comes up, people immediately like to compare him to the other greats of the NBA especially Michael Jordan. Some people even feel he is the greatest player of all time or will be after he finishes his career. Having watched a great deal of Jordan and now James, I would like to offer my take on this comparison.

First of all, I often wonder what criteria people use to determine whether Player A from 10,15 or 20 years ago is better than Player B from today. If you are a wise sports fan, you would consider a number of areas both individually and team. Individually, you have to look at the player’s statistics, all-star appearances and all league selections. Team wise, the playoff success and certainly the number of championship teams a player has been on certainly has to be weighed in as well. But the truth is, there have been many players past and present who have achieved great stats and much playoff success so what is it that really separates the really great ones such as Jordan from the rest of the pack?

In addition to the some of the things I threw out, I would like to add a few more things. Having great statistics does not mean jack if a player does not perform when the game is on the line. If a guy averages 30 points a game but only averages 4 points in the 4th quarter when many games are decided, what good is that? The mark of a truly great player is one who is clutch when the game is on the line. The same holds true for the playoffs when there is so much more pressure. The mark of a great player is one who takes his game to another level in the playoffs, see Michael Jordan. I have seen countless superstars in all sports have great regular seasons but wilt during the post season.

It looks great to have all those nice stats and scoring titles but is a player really making his team better? That is a crucial aspect of separating many players. Any superstar can win a championship with other superstars on his team but what about those who take a team of many overachievers and role players and takes them deep into the playoffs.

Now getting back to this comparison. The truth is the jury is still out on where LeBron stands among the greatest players of all time and to compare him to Jordan is still a bit too premature. Currently, James is at the same age as Jordan was when he began his reign of multiple championships. Both players have had their early difficulties in the playoffs. Only after some strong supporting casts where added did they start having success. I doubt Jordan would have won many championships without Scottie Pippen and James might not have ever won a title in Cleveland. Whether you like it or not, his decision to go to Miami was the right one in helping him win a championship.

As far as comparing their individual talents, both have certain advantages over the other. Jordan has been the best two-way player that the game has ever seen. People talk about his big scoring games and how he dominated the games with his offense but he was equally as effective on the defensive end. I don’t think LeBron is as versatile a scorer as Jordan was and probably not as strong of an individual defender. However, I think LeBron because of his size is able to guard more positions than Jordan. I think LeBron is the better passer. His vision to be able to see the floor is amazing for his size. He also is a better rebounder than Jordan. Of course, James is a bigger player than Jordan and Jordan was counted on to score more so that is why James could hold the edge in those categories.

Both players have some of the best individual skills the NBA has ever seen but here is where I give a huge edge to MJ. There has never been a more clutch player in the game than Jordan. If I had to pick one guy to deliver a huge shot for me, it would be Jordan not even close! One the other hand, James is still learning to deliver with the game on the line. The other night with his team needing a big bucket, James drove the lane and instead of going in for a layup or getting fouled, he decided to pass the ball to one of his big guys, who was standing on the 3 point line for a shot, not exactly the highest percentage shot at the time. A great player demands the ball in crunch time and is not afraid to shot the rock. It is not the first time LBJ has done this with the game on the line.  He needs to take more shots and be more aggressive with his offense in the 4th quarter.

The next 5 years will really define where LeBron ranks among the all time greats. He has a big chance to add to his resume in this championship series. Yes, he does have a chance to become the greatest of all time but I need to see more from him to convince me that he will pass Jordan. It was no accident that MJ won 6 championships and probably would have had another if he had not retired and played baseball during his little leave from the game in the mid 90’s. There is no player I would rather have on the court in the playoffs than Jordan. That is what makes him the best player ever. There will be others in the future that will be compared to Jordan as well but do they have what it takes to lead a team to a championship? Until I see a player lead his team to 6 championships and pick up numerous playoff MVP’s, there should be no comparison and talk of someone being better than Jordan. He is the best ever and it will take a special player to top what he has accomplished.