February 5, 2006

Positivity: Catching Up with Mike Utley On Super Bowl Sunday

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 4:15 pm

Since the Super Bowl is being held in Detroit this evening, it’s only fitting to see what is happening with Mike Utley. If you don’t know who he is, you must read this — it will put the “importance” of tonight’s game in perspective:

DETROIT (AP) – Mike Utley skis and scuba dives without any help from his legs. The former Detroit Lions guard has come a long way since what seemed like an ordinary play ended his career and left him paralyzed on Nov. 17, 1991. But he is not satisfied. “I want out of this chair,” Utley said from his wheelchair Thursday during a Super Bowl news conference. “I desire it every day. I want out.”

“I know I’m a (quadriplegic), but I’m not.”

Utley is best remembered for sticking his thumb up to a roaring Lions crowd as he was strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off the field.

“That’s the one thing I could do,” he recalled.

While Utley has made remarkable improvements, he is motivated to do more than stand up and take the few steps he can now.

“I’m going to walk off Ford Field one day,” he said.

His short-term goal is to get inside the stadium for Sunday’s game between Pittsburgh and Seattle. He’s said he still needs two tickets.

The Lions played at the Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit when he was hurt.

David Rocker of the Los Angeles Rams jumped in an attempt to deflect a pass and came down on Utley. The lineman then lost his balance and fell forward, landing on the top of his head and snapping it back.

Dr. Daniel Birkbeck was a second-year resident at Henry Ford Hospital in downtown Detroit when Utley was brought into the emergency room.

“He was still in his football uniform, helmet included,” Birkbeck recalled. “By the time we had the X-rays and MRIs done, we determined that Mike had sustained a serious neck injury of the lower-cervical spine

“We had to cut the helmet off with a saw.”

A few days after Utley was injured, Lions orthopedic specialist Dr. David Collon said it would take a miracle for him to walk again. Utley lost the use of everything from his elbows down, but has slowly regained the ability to use his arms, hands and torso.

“That was the end of my career, but it didn’t end my life,” he said.

Sitting at a table several feet away from Utley, Birkbeck started to choke up when he spoke about what his former patient can do recreationally.

“It’s just breathtaking,” Birkbeck said.

….. He moved from Colorado to the state of Washington without any nurses or assistance and in 1998 met the woman, Danielle, who would become his wife while working out at a gym. They were married three years later, and live in Wenatchee, Wash.

He established the Mike Utley Foundation to raise money for spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation and education in 1992. The 40-year-old Utley keeps busy as an inspirational speaker when he’s not engaging in a sport, or driving his speed boat at 80-plus mph.

Utley’s rehabilitation includes working with Bernard Brucker, a Miami professor and biofeedback expert.

“He’s a tremendous example to people with physical disability, and without,” Brucker said. “Even when you have a disability like Mike has, it doesn’t have to change the person.”

On the Net:
Mike Utley Foundation: http://www.mikeutley.org/

Marvel of the Day: That Gas Costs as Little As It Does

Filed under: Economy,Marvels — Tom @ 1:13 pm

First, John Stossel’s makes two important points — Not only are gas prices in real terms not historically high, the gallon of gas you put in your car is a lot less expensive than a gallon of a lot of other things people never complain about.

This is the last item on the first page of a much longer article on “Myths, Lies, and Nasty Behavior” at the ABC News web site:

MYTH — Gas Prices Are Higher Than Ever

“Record high gas prices,” has been the refrain of many in the media this past year while talking about the price at the pump. Jay Leno even said, “They don’t even put the price on the sign anymore — it just says, ‘If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’”

Drivers I talked to at a New York gas station agreed. “Too high, it’s scary,” said one man. “It’s going up and up and up and it’s the most expensive it’s ever been,” said another woman.

But the reality is that the “record high gas prices” are a myth. The U.S. Department of Energy records show that when you adjust for inflation the price of gas is now lower than it’s been for most of the twentieth century. Prices are lower now than they were 25 years ago. Yes, they price is up from the 1998 all time low of $1.19, but they are a dollar lower than they were in the early 1980s.

When I told this to people at the gas station they didn’t believe me. And why should they? The media keep telling us about the record high prices — they’re just not adjusting for inflation!

I asked people to compare the price of gas to bottled water or ice cream you can buy inside the gas station. Most people were sure the gas was more expensive. But they’re wrong.

If you took the average price of a bottle of water, a gallon would cost nearly $7. A gallon of Haagen Dazs ice cream would set you back nearly $30 — 15 times the price of gas.

And think about how much harder it is to produce gasoline.

First, oil has to be sucked out of the ground … sometimes from deep beneath an ocean or underneath ice or from the Middle East where workers risk their lives. And just to get to the oil often means the drill may have to bend and dig sideways through as many five miles of earth. What oil companies find then has to be delivered through long pipelines or shipped in monstrously expensive ships, then converted into three different formulas of gasoline, trucked in trucks that cost more than $100,000 and then your local gas station has to spend a fortune on safety devices to make sure you don’t blow yourself up.

Gas is actually a bargain, not that you’ll hear that from most of the media.

And don’t forget this point made near the end of a December BizzyBlog post: If Uncle Sam and the states didn’t have their greedy hands out “siphoning” taxes on every gallon of gasoline, pump prices would be much, much lower. Add Uncle Sam’s take, which is 18.4 cents per gallon, to your state’s gas per-gallon tax noted in the map below, and you’ll see what I mean (map obtained from here; HT ThePeriodical.com):

GasTax

It’s About Time Somebody Said This (about Enron, SarBox, and Business Leaders)

From an OpinionJournal.com editorial yesterday, on the fallout from Enron:

In all, some 30 people have copped pleas in the Enron debacle, and about half of them will testify against Messrs. Skilling and Lay. This suggests to us that the justice system has been doing its job the right way here. It has taken the government time to build its case against the men at the top, but they are now standing trial. Despite allegations of preferential treatment or leniency, individuals have been indicted and tried, or are being tried.

This is how things are supposed to work–in contrast to the Justice Department’s shoot first, ask later approach to the indictment of Enron’s auditor, Andersen. In that case, Andersen was put out of business by an indictment that went after the entire firm, and so avoided the messy business of identifying the accountants actually responsible for any wrongdoing. In addition to the 30-odd guilty pleas that Justice has already secured, Merrill Lynch, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase have each to some extent faced justice for their role in Enron’s rise and fall. Andersen was wiped out.

Enron was also the first spark that lit a powder keg of corporate reform. It built momentum for Sarbanes-Oxley to rush through Congress, burdening companies for the foreseeable future with untold compliance costs and litigation risks. Enron helped launch the anti-corporate crusade of Eliot Spitzer, which in turn has made him a candidate for Governor of New York. Enron’s culprits ended up putting further burdens on millions of honest businessfolk, beyond the immediate price paid by innocent employees and shareholders.

They thus have a lot to answer for, and in fact they are answering for it under the laws in place before this latest bonfire of regulation. Messrs. Skilling and Lay are on trial for fraud and conspiracy, some of the oldest and most-sweeping crimes on the books. Sometime down the road, there will be another “Enron.” Sarbanes-Oxley did not repeal the laws of human nature, any more than the crimes of a few should be used to malign the ethics of everyone in business.

The editorial should have put the word “reform” in quotes. Sarbanes-Oxley isn’t “reform” — It’s busywork for CPAs, and an open invitation for new forms of class-action litigation.

Never forget that the Andersen conviction was overturned, unanimously, by The Supreme Court. Some consolation.

And of course the editorial’s larger point is true. The large majority of businesspeople are ethical and try to do the right thing. The legacy of Enron and the continuing burdens of SarBox are based on the assumption that they aren’t. That legacy is not the fault of Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling, but of the cynical opportunists who capitalized on one corporate fraud to potentially jeopardize all public companies and their executives.