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The U.S. Surgeon General’s latest report is that secondhand smoke is dangerous to people’s health—period. Surgeon General Richard Garmona says “The debate is over.” Secondhand smoke is a health hazard. According to the report, nearly 50,000 people die from secondhand smoke each year. People exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work are 30% more likely to contract cancer, heart disease, or other serious health problems.

Yet we are making progress. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, some 42% of adults smoked in the 1960s. Today less than 21% of adults smoke.

I’m old enough to remember cigarette commercials and smoke-filled restaurants. And I’m old enough to remember when cigarette commercials disappeared and when restaurants and other public spaces first developed “non-smoking” sections and then became “smoke free.” If you aren’t old enough to remember these things, watch movies from the 1960s and earlier and witness the actors, especially the women, smoke one cigarette after another. What was cool then is not cool now.

I like the smell of some cigar or pipe smoke, but frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of smoking. It’s a dirty—to one’s teeth and one’s breath, as well as the nearby physical space—unhealthy, expensive habit. It provides no nutritional value. It enslaves people to the need for the next smoke. It’s no longer considered suave or debonair.

Smoking is even threatening to the environment. I’ve long maintained that smokers litter more than any other person. Non-biodegradable cigarette butts clog city sewers, start forest fires, and otherwise pollute the landscape in manner that costs the public significant sums for clean-up.

From a Christian point of view, though, I cannot say categorically that smoking is a sin. I could, like many people do, make the scripturally based argument that one should not debase or destroy one’s own body, made in the image of God and for believers the temple of the Holy Spirit. And this would be correct. God commands us to care for our own bodies. But he did not say “You shall not smoke.” Then again, not everything we can do we should do.

We can make a bodily stewardship argument about a lot of things, including perhaps alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, excessive sugar or salt, and desserts. And in today’s American experience, we can also warn each other about over-eating and becoming overweight.

In any event, the secondhand smoke evidence allows us to encourage people to give up smoking. There are just too many good reasons not to take this step. If you quit smoking you protect your health and may extend your life. You protect the health of those around you. You save money on tobacco purchases and on health care. You don’t pollute the environment. You’re not enslaved to the next smoke, and you set a good example.

When I was a child of maybe six or seven, my Grandfather Lewis “Bones” Davis quit smoking. He didn’t make any grand spiritual issue out of this act. He simply made the choice because he had three grandsons, of which I was one of the two oldest. Later, he eventually had thirteen grandchildren in all. He quit smoking because he did not want any of us to see him smoke and then start smoking ourselves. To my knowledge only one grandchild ever smoked, and he quit after a time. My grandfather’s example bore good fruit and is still bearing it today.

Smoking is not the worst habit someone can acquire, but it’s not a good habit either. I’m not anti-smokers, just anti-smoking. I know it’s difficult, but I encourage smokers to quit.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The most recent U.S. flag desecration amendment failed to pass in the United States Senate by one vote. It’s the fifth time such a measure has failed in the Senate since 1990. The House of Representatives has approved an amendment seven times in that period.

The Senate's 66-34 vote did not strictly follow partisan lines with Republicans “for” and Democrats “against,” but it was close. Only 14 Democrats voted for the amendment while 3 Republicans voted against it. But this issue is about much more than partisanship.

Flag desecration is an emotional issue because it is by definition a patriotic one. People tend to measure one another’s patriotism based upon how he or she views flag desecration laws. It’s a game of “More patriotic than thou.”

On the one hand, “desecration” is difficult to define. If the amendment passed, would I have to give up my U.S. flag golf club headcover? Is my headcover desecration or, as I intend, is it a patriotic expression? If the amendment passed would we need to rid our house of flag stickers, flag colored jewelry, flag decorated clothing? Or is this not desecration but more patriotism? If burning a flag is desecration, than why are we instructed to burn flags when the material wears out?

On the other hand, while “desecration” may be difficult to define, everyone knows it when we see it. A person burning a flag in violent protest of the American nation or its policies is certainly recognizably different from a person burning a flag to dispose of it.

Still, one could argue that one person’s desecration is another person’s patriotic expression, however reprehensible some of us may find this idea or its enactment. People burn or otherwise destroy U.S. flags (and other flags) because they want to say something. They may be patriotic, just differently so.

I recognize that people who oppose flag desecration laws or amendments may be as patriotic as I am. They’re not opposed to such laws because they want to desecrate the flag. They oppose such laws because they want to protect freedom of expression and because they don’t know how these laws will be enforced in practice. I agree with their concern for how the law is written. The law must be clear so that enforcement can be reasonably applied. What we don’t want is a flag version of Prohibition, something that turns out to necessitate an embarrassing repeal.

Still, with all that, I favor flag desecration laws as long as they are properly written, though I’m not sure a constitutional amendment is necessary. Congressmen have proposed a constitutional amendment because the United States Supreme Court in recent years has struck down several state laws against flag desecration. In response some 50 states have approved non-binding resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment.

I do not think flag desecration laws, if properly focused, are a violation of freedom of speech. The Stars and Stripes, when presented as a flag, is a symbol of American ideals. In this way it is a monument no different from any other public depiction of our values. It therefore could or should be protected from harm just like the Statue of Liberty or the monuments in Washington, D.C. I see no inconsistency in this.

Protecting the flag is a way of vesting it with even greater symbolism. It’s important. When Red, White, and Blue material is arranged with stars and stripes, it’s not just a piece of material anymore. It’s us. It’s what we believe, and it’s what people have died to protect. So protecting this one symbolic presentation does not seem unreasonable to me.

I’m not arguing that the United States flag is a sacred object, nor am I suggesting that flag desecration laws mean that American policy should be beyond question or protest. I’m simply saying that there are many ways to express disagreement and even protest and protecting the U.S. flag doesn’t really limit this expression. The U.S. flag is unique and therefore should be treated uniquely.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

News this week about Warren Buffett’s announcement he will gift some $30.7 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has set the philanthropic world on its ear. This gift, coming over time, will make the already enormous Gates Foundation by far the largest in the world.

Buffett’s surprise announcement follows Bill Gates’ predicted announcement earlier in this month that he will soon step aside as Microsoft’s Chief Software Engineer in favor of a nearly full-time role guiding his and his wife’s philanthropic program.

Whatever one thinks of the ideological leanings or particular program recipients of either Buffett’s or the Gates’s donations, you have to admire their example that perhaps “enough is enough.” They are obviously successful capitalists, creatively, shrewdly, and honestly earning great wealth, creating opportunities and blessings for others, and offering products that have enriched the abundance of the American economy. But now they are saying that giving matters.

I like that. It reminds me of Andrew Carnegie, who gave the equivalent of $7.3 billion at the end of his life. We’ve all seen and benefited from the Carnegie Libraries that resulted from Mr. Carnegie’s munificence.

It reminds me even more of the old Puritan ethic borrowed from and based upon Christian understanding that it’s a disgrace to die with great wealth. It’s not a disgrace to earn or own wealth, only a disgrace not to care properly for its distribution for the public good. John Wesley was another early American example, saying, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”

I make a living in part by asking people to give. That’s what many nonprofit executives do. It’s not crass. It’s a privilege. I meet a lot of very generous people.

I’ve also met my share of people, Christian or not, who are not givers but accumulators. They cannot bring themselves to distribute what it took them a lifetime to acquire and from which they gain not just their security but their identity. They cannot let go. They quite literally die with all their assets, sometimes letting Uncle Sam take half of it. It’s a sad sight.

But oh the joy of giving joyfully. God says he loves the heart of a cheerful giver, and those who learn how to do it before it’s too late are the real beneficiaries.

So while I do not agree with some of Warren Buffett’s or Bill and Melinda Gates’s politics, I salute their example. They’re leading. They’re giving back. The rest of us, no matter our relative wealth, should do the same.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part but with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


As I write this blog I’m sitting in a Metro Detroit airport Northwest World Club lounge. Once again I’m reminded that cell phone technology has removed all semblance of privacy, quiet reflection, or personal space. Another traveler and I have been sitting in an alcove of the lounge, removed from the ever present CNN monitors and other noise-producers, reading our papers and working on our laptops. I’ve enjoyed my few moments of respite between planes, and he seems to have enjoyed his. Then a woman chose a chair near us. Not two minutes later she begins talking on her cell phone “at the top of her lungs,” as my Grandmother used to say, as if the other two of us do not exist.

I don’t mind the occasional interruption, nor do I think “my space” is inviolable in otherwise public areas. And I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon. But I’ve got to say that cell phone ethics simply don’t exist. People talk anywhere near anyone in anyway they please. The rest of us are supposed to think “It’s a free country,” shrug, and put up with it. By the way, moving to another location doesn’t help. All the other locations are already taken by terminal cell phone users.

Even if you could find a space where no cell phones are in use it will be dominated by ubiquitous monitors proclaiming “the news”—around the clock. You can’t even sleep in the airport between red-eye flights without the white noise of talking heads.

So, where does one go to read a book? Remember that? Reading. Where can you go to simply sit, drink your coffee, and think in a quiet public atmosphere?

I recommend cell phone-free zones, like public spaces now reserved for smokers. If you really need a smoke, you can generally find a place in bus terminals and airports where you can smoke behind walls in a space set aside for you. Why not establish libraries or reading rooms or simply “Quiet Areas” for those who want to unplug?

Northwest World Club tries—one alcove in the club is labeled “Quiet Zone” with a lined-out circled cell phone. But a television monitor still plays on the wall in the alcove and travelers still sit and talk loudly. Apparently “quiet” only refers to cell phones.

All this makes me appreciate country clubs where many of them have outlawed cell phone use in the dining areas and on the golf course. At least there’s one place one can still get away from cell phones. Maybe I’ll take my book and read on the second tee.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

In a very short time, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has become the new poster boy for poor sportsmanship in American professional sports. The National Basketball Association has repeatedly assessed him six-figure fines for his courtside actions, the latest coming during the NBA finals with the Miami Heat. Cuban was recently cited for "several acts of misconduct" that occurred during Dallas’s 101-100 overtime loss to the Miami Heat. He screams at officials, uses profanity in press conferences, and in general is known for his explosive fan behaviour as much as for his ownership of the team.

Since buying the team in 2000, Cuban has earned a business reputation as a turnaround specialist, taking a team in the doldrums and positioning it to double its revenues to $100 million in the past year. Meanwhile, his recent fine is his tenth in the 6 ½ years he’s owned the team and brings his total fines to about $1.5 million. He claims to have matched this fine total with similar donations to charities.

The question is, is Mark Cuban another example of what’s wrong with professional sports—too much greed, too many prima donna personalities, too much unsportsmanlike conduct? Or is he an otherwise nice guy who has shrewdly positioned his fan behaviour as part of a larger marketing scheme to put the Dallas Mavericks on the map? If that’s so it seems to be working. A million and one-half dollar fine doesn’t mean much in financial terms if it’s just one of the costs of running a business grossing one hundred million dollars.

But even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he might be a decent person in his “other life” out of the arena, and even if we bought the idea that his antics are a part of some marketing scheme, his fan behaviour is a form of leadership pointing in the wrong direction. Unsportsmanlike conduct, cheating, drug abuse, and even violence are increasingly defining sports culture in America and globally. One more example of a person who misuses and abuses his notoriety and position is not something American sports culture needs. A “Bobby Knight” in the owner’s box isn’t very appealing.

While the Dallas Mavericks are winning, people will tolerate Cuban’s bad example. Some will even point to it as a supposedly necessary part of their winning organizational formula. But sometime, as it comes to all teams, the Dallas Mavericks will lose again, and when that happens people will not likely celebrate a choleric, fickle owner. His actions won’t be amusing. They’ll be annoying.

Cuban could learn to evidence passion and enthusiasm for the game and his team in a way that models sportsmanship for young players on his team and even younger players and fans across America alike. He could yell for his team, not against the other team or the referees. He could promote wearing team colors. He could literally wave their logo flag or dance with their mascot. He could compliment the opposing team, coaches, and owner during press conferences. He could do silly fan-atical things that otherwise do not illustrate negative attitudes, language, and actions.

He could do all this and more in a positive way and be even more effective in marketing his team than he has been as a shrewd businessman and poor fan. If he did these things, others in professional, intercollegiate, and interscholastic sports would respect him. Now they just think he’s a flash in the pan like other misbehaving sports figures have been in the past.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident this week was serious and unfortunate. The youngest quarterback ever to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory required fairly extensive facial surgery, and I wish him the very best toward a quick and full recovery.

Whether or not Ben’s head injuries could have been avoided if he had worn a helmet cannot be definitively answered. But we can speak from patterns and experience. Helmets are required in 20 states and the District of Columbia. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states that have repealed such laws have counted significant increases in injuries, deaths, and medical costs. The same organization tells us that the fatality rate per million miles traveled by automobile is 1.23. For motorcycles its 38.93. Motorcyclists are always at greater exposure and greater risk.

On June 7, 2006, the Michigan State Legislature repealed Michigan’s 37 year old mandatory motorcycle helmet law. Only a veto from Governor Jennifer Granholm will stop the newly endorsed bill from becoming law. The old law required a helmet for all riders whereas the new law would allow those over 21 years to make a choice.

A 2004 study by the Michigan State Police contends a repeal of the current law would result in 22 additional fatalities next year, along with 742 additional injuries and $140 million in added economic costs to Michigan citizens.

I’m both a political conservative and a parent of two sons who ride motorcycles. The conservative in me is sensitive to arguments that government should not function as “Big Brother,” telling adults what they must wear when they ride motorcycles. But the father in me doesn’t buy it. The “Big Brother” argument could be applied to virtually every traffic law on the books, but we maintain them because our collective need for public safety outweighs our concern for minimal intervention in individual rights to do whatever one chooses.

To me the motorcycle helmet law simply makes common sense. I must part company with some of my conservative friends and say that I hope the Governor vetoes the Michigan State Legislature’s bill.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at