Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

In the law biz, conflict is constant, and unpleasantness abounds.  And yet, I truly appreciate the opportunity to be of service to so many over the last 29 years.  Still, I am most thankful for my beautiful wife, who endures so much, and my two amazing children, who bring us such joy and laughter.

To celebrate the holiday and recall those things that are most important to me, I am re-linking letters to my children.  Please take a look here and here, then embrace your own family in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

Have a wonderful holiday!  God bless you.

The Wiz.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Last Word

Ron Paul gets the last word in the debate.

Why can't anyone get the name of Oakland's mascot right?  It's Golden Grizzlies, not just Grizzlies.

All told, not that much elucidation.  Here's my take on their performances (in stage order, from left to right):

Santorum:  He does well on every question.  They just won't ask him enough of them.  If he was in the middle of the stage and got 10 questions, the dynamics of this race would change instantly.

Bachmann:  Can't seem to find her voice.  She's got the facts and her instincts are good, but she needs polish.  Example:  "The Chinese army is the number one employer of the world," when she really means, "The Chinese army is the largest employer in the world."

Gingrich:  Helped himself tonight, although he needs to stop looking for opportunities to pick fights with the moderators.  He is the most knowledgeable, and he will be more formidable if he can stay in the race long enough to be one of the last 2 or 3 or 4 standing.

Romney:  Had the most questions, handled them well, no major gaffes.  Another plus night for Mitt.

Cain:  He did okay, but he is starting to sound like a broken record.  He relates everything to his 9-9-9 plan and doesn't stretch out beyond it.  We may look back at this night as the night when Cain's candidacy began to recede.

Perry:  Thanks for playing, Governor, we have some lovely parting gifts for you.  We could overlook an uneven performance if it varies within a fairly high range.  Perry fluctuated significantly; at times he was good and seemed to hit his stride, only to falter again.  Then, that enormous gaffe when he couldn't remember the name of the third agency he wanted to get rid of.  For him to recover now would be nothing short of miraculous.

Paul -- The usual stuff.  I don't really see him gaining any traction.

Huntsman -- A thoroughly mediocre performance.  And again, what's with the one raised eyebrow all the time?  He alsways looks half-suprised.

Winners tonight:  Romney, Gingrich

No significant damage:  Santorum, Bachmann, Cain, Paul.

Time to pack it in:  Perry, Huntsman.

My final unofficial question count:

Santorum:  4
Bachmann:  6
Gingrich:  7
Romney:  14
Cain:  8
Perry:  7
Paul:  5
Huntsman:  6

The Homestretch

Cain gets a laugh with his customary opening to his answer on a California bridge question, "That's why I have proposed a bold plan. . . "  I don't think he meant it to be funny.

Romney says he would bring an action "at the WTO level," charging China as a currency manipulator.  Is that a real solution or is it an acceptance of our subservience to the global economy?

Gingrich says we have to "dramatically raise the pain level for the Chinese" for cheating.

Huntsman should avoid any attempts at humor. 

Huntsman accuses Romney of "pandering" by "throwing out applause lines" about tariffs.  But he offers nothing of substance.

Bachmann has a pretty good grasp on the Chinese problem.  "We need to stop enriching China with our money." 

Cain's answers and his style seem repetitive and, at times, condescending.  He always comes back to his 9-9-9 plan, and he is starting to seem like a one-trick pony.

Oh, wait -- great line from Herman Cain:  There are two other big problems with Dodd-Frank -- Dodd and Frank.

It's feast or famine with Rick Perry.  Either he's good or he's not.

Education and Knowledge

Gingrich demonstrates -- again -- his knowledge, this time on higher education.  I think he is the most knowledgeable on the stage, and he would demolish Obama in a debate.  But, can he get the nomination and overcome his personal and political baggage?

Perry says governors and legislatures need to force higher education to lower tuition and increase quality.  Another weak moment for him, as he sidesteps a question on student loans.

At the third break, by my unofficial count, here are the question totals:

Santorum:  4
Bachmann:  5
Gingrich:  6
Romney:  12
Cain:  6
Perry:  6
Paul:  4
Huntsman:  6

Questions on the Budget and a Huge Stumble for Perry

Gingrich looks like he's in pain.  I don't think he has much regard for the intellectual abilities of the other candidates.

After a video from Caterpillar's CEO, Perry deftly points out, "There's a reason Caterpillar moved to Texas, and it doesn't have anything to do with Republicans or Democrats." 

Oh no, Perry can't remember the third agency he'd get rid of -- Energy, Commerce, and ...?  A terrible moment.  (He meant Education, right?)

Romney:  The issue of deficits and spending is a moral imperative.

Bachmann says she opposed reducing payroll taxes because it would "blow a hole" in the social security trust fund."  Pretty gutsy.

Huntsman says he would "clean up the balance sheet."  How?  He doesn't say, just switches to the "trust gap."  Then he goes back to taxes, and says he's the only one who delivered a flat tax while governor. 

Ron Paul needs to see his tailor -- his suit jacket doesn't fit properly, and it makes him look like Irwin Corey with a haircut.  He is right on student loans, however. 

A question

Are they giving Romney additional time to help him or hurt him?

These speakers need to learn to first answer the question, then use that answer as a springboard to talk about what they want to, if necessary.  So often, they seem to sidestep.

After the First Break

Gingrich compliments Bachmann on her idea to repeal Dodd-Frank, and Romney compliments Gingrich.  It's a lovefest!

Romney:  "Markets work."  Well said.  He's scoring points tonight.

Perry kudos to Santorum.  He falters slightly, then seems to get going in an answer on jobs and energy.

Bachmann:  "Freddie and Fannie -- this is the epicenter of crony capitalism."

Gingrich questioned about money from Fannie and Freddie -- "I have never done any lobbying."  "We advised them on things they didn't do." 

Cain:  Fannie and Freddie should be turned into private entities, unwind them so the market can work.

What's with Huntsman's one raised eyebrow?

Huntsman says we should charge banks a fee to set up "some sort of fund."  What's he on?

Maria:  If you repeal Obamacare, what's the answer?

Huntsman:  Sit down with the 50 governors; harmonize medical records; let free market to close the gap on the uninsured.

Paul:  Get government out of the business.  Medical savings accounts.  This is a bipartisan mess.

Perry:  Have to have an insurance program on the Medicare side.  Incentives for well care.  Send Medicaid back to the states.

Cain:  HR 3000, stopped previously by "Princess Nancy."

Romney:  Send it back to the states.  Get health care working like a market (agrees with Ron Paul).  Reform malpractice.

Gingrich:  An absurd question to ask this in 30 seconds.  I want to debate Obama. 

Maria bears down, so Gingrich says:  Go back to doctor/patient relationships.  Medicaid to states.  Focus on brain science.  Fix health, not health bureacracy.

Bachmann:  The issue is cost.  Allow every American to buy any health insurance policy anywhere in the U.S. without any federal mandate.  Let people pay with pre-tax dollars.  Med mal reform.

Santorum:  I introduced HSA legislation, and proposed block grants for Medicaid.  Get government out of the health care business.  I argued for curbs on Fannie and Freddie, harry Reid killed it.  I opposed government bailout -- 5 of 8 people here supported bailouts. 

Romney gets a chance to respond?  Why?

Some Good Lines

Cain:  "Tax rates don't raise taxes, politicians do."

Bachmann:  "Obama continues to go to General Axelrod in Chicago for his orders."

(Frankly, her answers are confusing.  I know what she's saying, and her instincts are good, but it's so jumbled.  She needs some serious coaching.)

Paul:  "I propose in the first year cutting $1 trillion."  (Then gets tripped up arguing the benefits of higher interest rates, before he regains his footing to say he is urging that markets set interest rates instead of the Fed.)

At the first break, here are the question totals:

Santorum:  2
Bachmann:  2
Gingrich:  2
Romney:  5
Cain:  4
Perry:  2 (both 30-second follow-ups to questions to other candidates)
Paul:  2
Huntsman:  2

Early leaders:  Romney, Cain, Gingrich (who needs to stop forcing attacks on the media)

Here We Go

8:22 p.m. -- First question on Cain's sexual harassment allegations.  He's answering directly, but Mitt looks like he smells blood or he feels sorry for Cain, I'm not sure which.

Would Romney keep Cain on if he bought Cain's company?  Romney, who has a couple of hairs out of place(!), says Cain is the man to respond to those questions, and Harwood moves on to Huntsman and the economy.  The crowd cheers.

Whoa -- Huntsman uses the 99% term, and says this nation is divided.  "This country is never again going to bail out corporations."   A smattering of applause.  Huntsman comes out against the auto bailout, suggests a reorganization (hey, that's bankruptcy).

Cramer asks Romney, should corporations create profits or jobs?  Romney answers skillfully, saying they go hand-in-hand.  Romney has good energy tonight.  Perry gets a follow-up, but that's it for him so far -- 2 follow-ups.

Gingrich is impressive, going after the media again.  Maria:  "What is the media reporting inaccurately?"  Gingrich:  Not a single reporter has asked a single occupier a single question about how the economy works, like, who will pay for this park you're in without business?

Round Two

Back to Romney again, for a question about the auto industry.  He's firm on it, but Harwood presses him on whether he's going to stay consistent.  Romney:  "I'm a man of steadiness and constancy."  He uses his marriage, church membership, and his first job as evidence.  Sidestepping the question.

Harwood tosses the flip-flop issue to Perry, who says we need to send a message that "America is gonna be America again," and "If you are too big to fail, you are too big."  What does that mean?

Maria asks Gingrich about tax reform based on Bernanke's statement that unemployment is a national crisis.  Gingrich says Bernanke should be fired asap and that he's glad Bernanke "recognizes the wreckage his policies have caused."  He's strong.

Over to Michele Bachmann, who cites historical statistics to say that the rest of the world is attracting capital with lower taxes and we need to get rid of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.  Also, we need to deal with immigration.  She stumbles a bit, but she stays with it.

Santorum up, regarding his plan for zero taxes on manufacturers -- "Government has made us uncompetitive."  He's purposeful.

The Opening Salvo

As the candidates walk out, a big cheer for Herman Cain, who appears to be wearing Oakland University colors.  All black or blue suits, except for Michele Bachmann, who's resplendent in a black skirt and a white jacket with black trim.  (Welcome to The Wizard of Fashion).

Maria Bartiromo says the debate will focus "almost exclusively" on jobs and the economy.

First question to Herman Cain, about Italy's economic problems.  Cain responds directly, but I'm not crazy about his "stuff in the caboose" reference -- what does that mean anyway?  His response doesn't even mention Italy until the follow-up, when he says there's nothing we can do, let them fail.

Romney next, suggests Europe is big enough to handle their own problems, we shouldn't bail out banks here or in Italy. 

Maria going a little overboard, trying to put words in the candidates' mouths early on.  But Romney doesn't take the bait, and he is very strong in his response.

Jim Cramer?  For cryin' out loud. There goes any shot at a dignified evening.

Ron Paul says to let Italy go down the drain, to do otherwise is "prolonging the agony."  He's right on the necessity to "clear the market." 

Cramer asks whether the possibility of the world banking system failing means anything.  Huntsman says there's a "metastasy" effect.  There's no such word.

Debate Pregame

7:20 p.m. -- Just had the national anthem, beautifully sung without unnecessary embellishment.  Now, Bobby Schostak and Reince Preibus are whipping the crowd into a frenzy. 

Okay, not exactly a frenzy, but there is a tremendous energy in the room.  People are very excited to have this debate at Oakland University, and the University has done a tremendous job.  The arena looks great, everything works in the Media Center, and this should be a fascinating evening.

Dr. Gary Russi, Oakland's president, is speaking now.  He has done a great job here, and the faculty have fought him at every step.  He is a very classy, gentle guy and, but for his devotion to higher education, he would make a great governor or senator.

Uh, oh -- Brooks Patterson is up.  He's playing it pretty straight, talking up Oakland County.  He's got a lot to brag about.  Now he's ripping into the President's record.  Well done.

Now comes our governor -- wearing a tie!  And his hair is parted with a draftsman's precision.  He's talking about his record and goals now, focusing on Michigan-specific ideas.  His enthusiasm and optimism are infectious, and, frankly, I like his approach to problem-solving.  You may disagree with his policies or his legislation, but it's tough to argue with his approach to problems -- "No blame, no credit, focus on solutions."

And there's a pause in the action.

The Debate Ahead

Tonight, eight Republican presidential candidates square off again for two hours of highly structured questions and answers.  This time, the debate takes place on the campus of Oakland University and will be televised by CNBC. 

What to expect?

At a correspondents breakfast this morning, debate moderators Maria Bartiromo and John Harwood forecast that the debate would center primarily around jobs and the economy.  The Michigan setting lends itself to that discussion, since the Enchanted Mitten is home to a reawakening automobile industry and a burgeoning renaissance of its own, courtesy of a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature.

Still, we won't escape more questions on the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations.  Should this be a topic during this precious time?  Good question, but here's why I think these questions will get asked:

1.  This is television, it's about viewers and ratings.  The prurient element is a big ratings-getter.

2.  It's the topic of the day, especially with Cain's press conference yesterday.

3.  The moderators will want to see whether the other seven will rise to the occasion (sorry about that) and try to take advantage of Cain's misfortune.

4.  Voters are certainly interested in whether a candidate can handle a crisis, especially since Obama has demonstrated he cannot.  These unconfirmed allegations may not be worthy of much, it's hard to say, but this is a situation where a nonsubstantive issue bumps up against the need to discern character, composure, and integrity.

We'll see how it goes.

Debate me? Debate you!

As the result of some extraordinary oversight, your faithful Wizard has snagged a media credential and will be blogging the GOP debate tonight.  Stationed in the media center, I may have the opportunity to ask some of the candidates or their surrogates questions during the post-debate spin-o-rama.

Panelists at the Correspondents Breakfast
this morning in Rochester, MI.

Have a question you would like asked?  Post it in the comments on RightMichigan or on The Wizard of Laws, and I'll see what I can do.  Don't want your suggestion public?  Email me at

Here's a few I won't be asking:
To  Michele Bachmann:  If you had your life to live over again, would you live it as a blonde?
Again to MB:  Have you ever been harassed by Herman Cain?
To Mitt Romney (from my son):  So, Mitt, Mormonism -- what's that all about?

To all:  Your hair -- gel or mousse?

To all:  When you were on Oakland University's campus and saw the deer, was your first thought (a) How sweet; (b) Look, it's Bambi; or (c) Mmmm, venison?
As you can see, I could use a little help, so let me hear from you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Letter to My Son

Some time ago, I posted a letter to my daughter, which I wrote for her senior retreat in high school.  Now, my son is a senior, and he is on a retreat.  He attended the same retreat last year, but this year he is one of the seven seniors chosen to lead the four-day journey.   Parents are asked to write letters to their sons, to be read during the retreat.  Here's the one I wrote a few days ago:

Dear Alex:

In the 10 months since I wrote your last retreat letter, much has changed, but the important things are still the same, and the best things have gotten better.
This past January, you were working hard to make the varsity baseball team.  Since then, you have lettered in track and cross-country, become a cross-country co-captain, and gotten into the best shape of your life. 

Ten months ago, you were starting to rehearse a play in which you had a good, but small role.  Today, you are rehearsing for a play in which you have the lead, and getting ready to audition for a play in which you hope to be the lead. 

In January, you were thinking (occasionally) about school and (rarely) your AP exams.  Now, you are thinking about college and even pausing once in a while to reflect on possible careers.

It should be obvious that this is a time of transitions for you.  While you still have unfinished business at De La Salle, you are right to look ahead and plan ahead, because that’s the only way you will move ahead. 

This is an exciting time for you, Alex, and it will get better (although, at times, there will be some moments of anxiety).  Enjoy this time, and keep doing the things you need to do to enhance your life experience – focus on your classes, the play, and getting ready for the next track season – but keep looking forward.

While change swirls about you, the important things have not changed.  What I wrote in January remains true today:  “You are a fantastic person.  You have a wonderful heart and care deeply about your family and friends.  I marvel at your relationship with Tori, and I love hearing you talk to your mother about the events of the day or the latest drama in your life.  I never get tired of talking to you (as you know all too well), and I really never get tired of listening to you.  You have a wisdom and insight beyond your years, and it is endlessly fascinating to me.”

And while so many good things have been constant, the best things have gotten better.  You have a deeper faith and appreciation of what it means to be a Christian in our world.  You have begun to understand the positive impact you can have on others if you utilize the gifts God has given you.

As you move forward, always remember Jeremiah 29:11: 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Prosperity, hope, a future – these are the wonderful things that await you if you remain steadfast in your studies, your virtues, and your heart.

You and I have spoken many times of the need to build a strong foundation.  You are nearing the time when that foundation will be most severely tested, when you go off to college and live, work, succeed or fail, on your own.  I know the kind of man you are, and I see the kind of man you can become.  It makes me smile to think of you reaching your potential.

The great American soldier, General Douglas MacArthur, prayed:

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Alex, you have these qualities and so much more.  I do not like to think about next year,  because when you leave for college, there will be an incredible emptiness in my home and in my heart.  But as painful as that will be, it is the inescapable companion and irrefutable evidence of the extraordinary joy you bring me every day.
You, your sister, and your mother are gifts from God, Alex, and I love you with the depth and emotion that such gifts deserve.  I love you without condition, wholeheartedly.  You are my son and, along with Tori and your mother, you are my life.