Friday, October 31, 2008

Take This Advice to the Bank

We’ve heard the recent financial crisis blamed on greedy bankers, President Bush and Alan Greenspan, to name some favorite scapegoats.

If you want to find the real culprit, look in the mirror.

For many of us, commonsense was knocked out by ambition.

You could see this coming like a Hollywood divorce. I used to drive my trusty Buick LaSebare through exclusive neighborhoods and wonder who could afford the million dollar homes there.

As it turns out, nobody could.

That didn’t stop people from living in those swanky homes, driving those expensive cars and taking those exotic vacations.

We’ve become a society that isn’t very good at delaying gratification. With apologies to Queen, we want it all and we want it now. If we can’t afford it now, then we’ll just put it on a credit card and worry about it later.

The only problem with that lifestyle is that it’s not sustainable. The collapse was inevitable. Now it’s time to pay the piper.

If we are going to recover, we’ve got to return to the financial principles of our grandparents. Buy only what you can afford. Save instead of spending. Eat at home instead of a restaurant. Buy a car based on reliability, not status.

Remember, when it comes to this mess, bankers, Bush and Greenspan weren’t alone in making bad decisions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life Isn't Always Greener

When I find a good thing, I stick with it.

If I were Katie Couric, for instance, I’d still be hosting The Today Show.

That’s why I watch the careers of football coaches Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) and Rich Rodriguez (Michigan) with such interest. Both coaches left jobs filled with adoration and money for jobs with more adoration and money.

But it hasn’t quite worked out that way – at least not yet.

Petrino left an Orange Bowl champion University of Louisville program for the Atlanta Falcons. He quit before finishing his first NFL season, becoming a punchline in the process. He’s now in his first unremarkable season at the University of Arkansas.

Rodriguez left West Virginia -- his alma mater, of all things -- to become the head coach of the University of Michigan. His new team has become a punching bag, losing to anybody and everybody, including the University of Toledo.

Until this past week, the schools that these two coaches jilted weren’t exactly setting the world on fire either.

It goes to show you that you better think twice before leaving a situation where you're successful, well-liked and well paid. Success is partly about being in the right place with the right people at the right time. The model can’t always be replicated across the country, like a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

But what do I know? If I were Tom Hanks, I would never have won an Oscar. I’d been too busy staring in the stage production of “Bosom Buddies.”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On Bailouts and Negative Ads

Baron Hill won my vote, but now he’s losing it.

Hill is an incumbent Democrat vying to return to Congress in Indiana’s 9th District. He is running against Republican Mike Sodrel, who previously held the seat. It seems like these guys have been fighting it out since the Nixon administration.

It’s always been a tough call for me.

I once met Hill at a Democratic function. He’s a former Indiana basketball star. This Baron seemed down to earth. I liked him.

My brother-in-law once worked for Sodrel’s trucking company. Sodrel is a self-made man who brought a lot of jobs to southern Indiana. My brother-in-law liked him.

I’m so conflicted that I’ve voted for both guys at different times.

So it was again this year, until Hill voted against the bailout. At that point, I figured Hill was my guy.

But I’m starting to waver again, mostly because of the onslaught of negative ads that are being run against Sodrel. In contrast, Sodrel’s ads (at least at the time of this writing) define himself rather than defaming his opponent, which I find refreshing.

I’m sure Hill would point out that the negative ads are being run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and not his campaign. That's a technicality. I think any guy courageous enough to stand up against the bailout should be able to pull the plug on negative campaigning.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Must-See TV -- NOT!

I recently read an article about Rachel Maddow, the shrill host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC.

In the article, Maddow says she doesn't own a television. I guess that's a quaint PR story -- the TV host who doesn't watch TV. But I don't believe it for a minute. You can't tell me Maddow doesn’t own a television. Perhaps it’s tucked in a secret compartment behind one of her opera posters.

Either way, I don’t trust people who make a point of telling you that they don’t watch television. What they’re really trying to say is this: “I’m far too intelligent to pay attention to such boorish things.” In other words, they are letting you know that they are smarter than you.

Of course, the truth is you don’t have to dumb it down to watch television. You can watch Brooke Hogan, if you want. But you can also watch plenty of highbrow stuff on The History Channel, PBS and HBO.

I like to watch both.

But I am going to cutback … at least whenever Maddow’s show is on.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Turning a Weakness into a Strength

So I’m watching the debate last night when I see Joe Biden pull the oldest trick in the book. When asked to identify his weaknesses, Biden says, with a straight face, that he’s excessively passionate.

Come again? Too passionate?

What other weaknesses does Joe have? Too giving? Too caring? Too studious? Too experienced? Too sexy for that suit?

Anyone who has ever prepared for an interview knows this ole parlor trick. When asked about a weakness, you cite strength instead.

Of course, we all have shortcomings and we shouldn’t be too pompous to admit them. It’s humanizing to own up to a few flaws.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy who loves his work too damn much.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Hairy Truth About Politics

The results are in. Barack Obama won in a landslide.

The Illinois senator won't get any delegates, however. This election took place at my son’s elementary school. Just like Puerto Rico, the votes from Mrs. Keeton’s class won’t count in November.

Nevertheless, the kindergarteners could tell us something about the art of impression management.

John McCain's negatives start right at the top – of his head. According to my 6-year-old pundit, the majority of kindergartners in southern Indiana are simply uncomfortable voting for a bald candidate.

This could be a hairy situation. As you know, Indiana is a battleground state.

Once word leaks out, it won’t be long before CNN polls the electorate about the relative positives and negatives of wearing a ball cap.

Of course, I’m just having a little fun. But before you completely dismiss this election’s significance, you should see the latest numbers from Scribner Middle School regarding Sarah Palin’s glasses.