Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

401 K free money?

I like listening to and watching Matt Lauer on 'The Today Show' but
I've heard him twice refer to 401K payments to employee accounts as
'free money.' He's not the only one, but he's one I've noticed.

Everytime I hear that, I'm troubled because it is not really free
money. It is money that a company agrees to pay employees as part of
a retirement plan, much like they used to give in benefits for a

It's money that is earned by one's employment.

Now, I understand what they are saying, by when you refuse that
money, it is like throwing away part of your paycheck. It's a small
point, but it's not leaving free money on the table; it's dropping
earned income into the gutter -- when one decides not to let an
employer contribute to one's 401K.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Joe the funeral home director?

So it may not be totally accurate, but one comment on what may be the saddest story of the day — Pontiac funeral home being evicted from its facility — did bring a smile.
It came from Former Resident Now in Florida, and it's overtly political and one-sided, things I don't like. But when you take something being tossed about so much and turn it into something else, I have to give the person their due for providing a nice chuckle.
Here's the comment:
" This is the result of mismanagement, deregulation, and corruption of the government by the Republicans, and their "trickle down" economics. They try to blame it all on Democrats, but they've been in charge of the congress for 20 years plus. If this isn't a sign that change is needed in Washington, and soon, we are all lost!! What's next police precints and fire departments being evicted? McCain what can you do for "Joe the funeral home director"? "
So I don't know if we are able to blame national policies on this particular incident, but a failing funeral home is very indicative of what is happening to Pontiac's economy (as well as Michigan's and even the typically strong Oakland County). We've gotten reports of problems maintaining the North Oakland Medical Centers' deal with physicians. Chrysler and General Motors are laying off people in Auburn Hills and Pontiac.
About the former resident's comments about the firefighters and police, well, that's long been true. The Pontiac Police Department is farther down that I ever imagined it could be, cut by more than half from where it was in 2003. Back then they had about 2 or 3 homicides a year. This year, they're up to 20 already -- I believe, because there are fewer cops on the streets and more unemployment.
The firefighters, of course, have been spared because of a well-placed charter provision mandating staffing levels — the main reason the police department has been so decimated. 
However, with all of these problems, I still chuckle at the Joe the Funeral Home director crack. 
Of course, sometimes the best time you to laugh is when you're at a funeral.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lions don't help the No Fun League

I've long loved football, particularly the NFL. However, the league
makes it so hard to be a loyal and dedicated fan.
My love of football started the first time I watched a game as a boy
in Tennessee, completely clueless to the rules but trying to figure
them out. It was a Jets-Bengals game, when Cincinnati was in their
new helmets.
Since then, I've come to Detroit and I've liked watching the Lions. I
rooted for rookie Barry Sanders and became a believer in the optimism
Wayne Fontes tried to bring to the Silverdome.
My first game was the playoff victory against the Cowboys during that
glorious 1991 season. We were about four rows from the top and it was
a joyful experience.
But in moving to Oakland County shortly before the hiring of Matt
Millen and then the arrival of Marty Mornhinweg, I came to enjoy
watching the Lions lose, figuring a 10-game losing streak would bring
in new management and an improved product. (That was a fruitless hope.)
Living here, I learned a terrible truth about the NFL. If the Lions
are blacked out, as they will be this weekend, it is against the
rules for the TV network to show another game. So this Sunday, there
will be no football on when the Lions should be shown.
That is a shame, because while I like watching the Lions, I really
just want to watch football. And these TV rules (they're confusing,
but they also prevent the opposing network from showing a game when
the Lions have a home game on TV) make it so easy to hate the NFL.
Going to the games is expensive (tickets, parking, $10 beers, $50
jerseys) so if I can't see the Lions on TV, I'm not rushing out for a
Instead, I'll work on the lawn and leaf removal. Or, if it's raining,
I'll clear out an hour off the DVR and catch up on some of my network
prime time while folding laundry.
I'm surprised that the networks — CBS and Fox, especially — who pony
up hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to show the NFL
would be frustrated. Fans who are unfortunate enough to live near a
team must suffer with less TV coverage.

Texas-style ethics

An inventive and determined editor for a Texas state government
watchdog group, appropriately named Texas Watchdog, beat the state's
tricky rules that prevented online publishing of politicians'
disclosures of financial information, according to a recent
Associated Press story.
The rule had been that anyone requesting the information from state
offices had to provide a name and address to the state lawmaker. So
the watchdog group requested them and an editor scanned them and
posted them. Good job, as information such as this should be
available to all and for free.
But the AP notes that potential conflicts of interest could be hidden
as state law does not demand individual relationships or business
interests to be named.
So some have questioned the Texas House Speaker about a relationship
with an unidentified lobbyist or the Lieutenant Governor about
significant business interests. While they have to deny wrongdoing,
it is fair to assume the worst and to let suspicion about
relationships turn into considered guilt.
That is why things like this should be in the open. Don't just deny
wrongdoing; show all and show that there is no conflict of interest
in decisions or votes being made.
If details are hidden, then it is natural to assume they hidden for a
Like a police chief once told me, he didn't think he had a problem
with racial profiling with his officers. But, he said, if members of
the community perceived there was profiling, then it was a problem
for him to address. The perception of wrongdoing can, and should be,
just as damaging as proof of wrongdoing when a public agency fails to
provide transparency.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sex in the news

Twice today, sex made an appearance in the international wires,
leaping out of the bedroom and into the beach and grocery aisle.
OK, sex wasn't at the grocery store, but it did lead to a British
food regulator to suspend sales of a "chocolate body spread found to
contain small quantities of the industrial chemical melamine,"
according to The Associated Press.
Is nothing sacred anymore?
First dog food, then baby formula, and now sex chocolate.
The British agency did note on its Web site that this was the first
alert issued for body spread.
The British made it again into the sex news when a couple visiting
the United Arab Emirates ran afoul of local sensibilities and customs
-- as well as the law -- when they had sex on a beach after meeting
one day at an all-you-can-drink champagne brunch, The Associated
Press reported.
The couple, in their 30s, denied the sex but admitted being drunk.
They were convicted -- but have appealed -- and were sentenced to
three months incarceration and fined $272. They also were to be
The woman lost her job with a publishing agency and the man had to
extend his vacation after their July arrest, as they were barred from
leaving the country. (Funny, first you can't leave, then they toss
you out -- kind of like a bouncer enjoying the fun of tossing you on
your ear).
Of course, these stories were still not as odd as the man with the
vacuum cleaner (see the cops and courts section for that one).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Let's hear it for Disney in its DVD releases, working with people who
may be interested in new technologies but not ready to spring for them.
I bought the newly released DVD of "Sleeping Beauty" for my daughter
and I selected the double disc Blu-ray version because it included a
standard disc for those -- like me -- without a Blu-ray player.
Now Disney has not always been a popular DVD producer in my family,
and from what I've read, there's a substantial debate over their
"Fast Play" format.
Some like it because you can pop the DVD into the player, walk away
and let the movie start without searching or roaming through the
menu. However, the drawback is right there, because you have to wait
through all of the previews before you get the movie and you have to
get to the menu in time to stop the Fast Play.
I don't like the Fast Play, personally, but it's nothing I'm going to
write to Disney about. I deal with it, even if I have to scramble to
find the menu button as I'm putting the movie on the Town and Country
for the ride up north.
But kudos to Disney for recognizing that their limited edition DVD
was a tempting treat for those of us who will eventually buy a Blu-
ray player, perhaps next year when I upgrade my television (depending
on how this financial meltdown bailout works out for us).
Flexibility for consumers is the key to a successful relationship
with the people who keep you in business, and perhaps more companies
can learn from this.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No Cubs, no White Sox; sick of the Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox were a great story when they were struggling under
the weight of the curse. They trailed New York, their hated rivals,
3-0 in the A.L. Championship and I was rooting for them to come back.
They did, in what may be the greatest sports comeback story ever.
Then they won the series, and we finally got to rid ourselves of the
curse story.
Now, I find the Red Sox either boring or annoying. In the World
Series, they've rolled to two championships, neither entertaining to
And we've had the Cubs, now the ultimate in a lovable loser story.
How I had hoped for a Cubs-White Sox story, not for the chance to
watch history being made.
No, I was hoping for the fun of a media coverage of fans, not the
playing field, as the two teams' supporters had to mingle with one
another inside and outside of stadiums. Today, with everyone
seemingly capable of capturing and posting video, there should have
been some exciting, funny, interesting and likely scary incidents
throughout the Chicago area, especially after the game.
There's nothing like hated rivals getting together for a championship
So now we have Tampa Bay.
No hates them. You kind of have to feel sorry for them, and now they
are in the underdog status, but knowing what happened to Florida —
post-championship fan indifference and a selloff of Marlin talent —
it's nothing to get too excited about.
Of course, the Phillies are making yet another run for a championship
and that could be entertaining, or else watching Joe Torre and Manny
Ramirez work together to mock the Yankees and Red Sox.
But a chance for a delightful October series ended without a Bartman,
just a pitiful sweep.
Well, there's the Lions....D'oh!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Finally, I can watch TV

I'm not talking about the Lions' possible black out. I'm not talking about the new fall season.
I'm talking about the announcement, reported on Politico and then by The Associated Press, that John McCain was pulling out of Michigan, focusing instead on other major battleground states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida.
Pulling out means no more visits, which is too bad because those make for decent news events and give us a chance to see the candidate mingling with the media and some selected party leaders. Oh, and some voters get into the frame as well.
What I'm most pleased is the other part of pulling out, yanking the TV ads. Now this will not be good news for local television stations and their news departments, but for those of us who get sick of all the ads during the news, sporting events and prime time network TV, this is great news.
Fabulous news, I believe, for both Democrats and Republicans. Now Barack Obama will keep some kind of presence in the state, most likely on TV, to avoid losing a state he should now win; however, he will undoubtedly move money out of this state and into those closer battleground states.
But, for me, I get a relief from the ads, which I had expected to increase until November. Of course, network prime time will still be filled with them, but that's what DVR is for. (That, and I've learned 30-minute baseball games, something my wife can tolerate.)
Now, if we could just get them to advertise in newspapers...