Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Arriving at the Temple of Travel that my hard earned tax dollars have paid to build (and are paying to remodel every other year whether it needs it or not), I get to stand in a long line at a ticket counter, only to have to serve myself in the end. With some luck, the computer that I am dealing with agrees that I have a reservation and that I will not have to sit in a seat between two retired sumo wrestlers (but I'm not holding my breath).
Now clutching a document that the airlines call a 'Boarding Pass', but which seems more like a certificate reading either "I am an Idiot" or "Please Torture and Abuse Me', I hand my belongings over to the airlines for attempted destruction, and quietly make my way to the security area. My God, these people know as much about real security as I do about nuclear physics! Any relation that the government regulations involved here have to actual security is purely accidental, and the use of common sense is strictly prohibited by this bunch of people who wouldn't qualify as greeters in a Wal-Mart. The experience would be funny as a Monty Python sketch or a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, but when it is happening to you ... not so much.
Eventually however, having submitted to a complete loss of dignity (and a body cavity search), I am released from this "Midnight Express" experience and allowed to proceed to the gate. Fighting my way through the ADL in both terminal and gate area (see previous posting "Emergency Travel Alert"), I finally manage to find my seat, only to find it occupied by someone who didn't seem to understand the concept of either the numbers or the alphabet and how they relate to seat assignments. After explaining these concepts to them, I finally manage to sit down in what I realize has mostly become a Greyhound bus with wings, only to find myself crammed into a piece of furniture that would be considered excessive torture during the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected, by the way).
Wedged in and unable to move, I am lectured unceasingly on such esoteric concepts as the operation of a seat belt, how to breathe through a mask, and why I should spend the last minutes of my life sucking old beer farts our of a seat cushion that I erroneously chose as a floatation device in the event of a "Water Landing". (I sometimes ask myself why, if this is a landing, they can't just make the plane float, but never get an intelligent answer.)
Having now lost my will to live, I gratefully accept food served in a portion so small that a United Nations relief effort in a Third World Hell Hole would would be aghast at its distribution; and a beverage portion normally reserved for cowboys drinking 'rot-gut whiskey' in a western movie. (That is of course, assuming that you are served anything at all)
I point out specifically that you accept these things gratefully because if you do not, the person passing them out (who does not seem to be particularly happy in their job) can have you arrested at the next stop for any lack of cooperation that you show. I finally attempt to fall asleep, hoping that the oblivion of unconsciousness will serve as a release from this nightmare; only to be awakened by a pilot who had seems to have missed his calling as the tour guide for the butter sculpture tent at the state fair, and who feels that my travel experience could only be enhanced by telling me that I was flying over Ft. Wayne, Indiana (it wasn't).
Finally reaching my destination, I bleakly make my way down to the baggage claim area; only to find that my baggage has been lost, stolen, or has become so unrecognizable because of the damage that has been done to it during transit that I am no longer capable of recognizing it. Disheartened, but by now pummeled by the experience to the point that I am only capable of nodding my head vaguely; I disconsolately fill out the proper forms for recompense for my property, knowing that I will probably receive a settlement capable of allowing me to purchase one designer outfit consisting of blue jeans and a tee shirt from the aforementioned Wal-Mart (but only if its on sale). Looking back on the entire experience, I really have to wonder why I am not looking forward to my upcoming trip and why I don't try to do this more often...
Saturday, August 25, 2007
- The constant internal fights between the left and right of each parties, as well as the partisan fighting between parties so that nothing gets done but rancorous public diatribes and useless pontification (don't ask me what they mean, go look them up) performed mostly for public consumption on C-span.
- Politicians who sit in seats of power more concerned about whoring for campaign contributions that allow them to keep their jobs, rather than answers to any of the nation's real concerns or legitimate problems.
- People who aspire to become "professional politicians", never holding a job other than one paid by the taxpayer
- Our representatives increasingly influenced by lobbyists with access on an unprecedented scale, while we make it easier for them by sending them the same people year after year.
- Laws written and passed that never get enforced; and the people responsible thinking that the solution is to write more laws(which won't get enforced either), the result of which is to do nothing other than pacify us and help them keep their jobs.
So we the voter stand by disconsolately, seeing no end in sight to it and cry out for something to change, often talking about term limits as the only answer. Unfortunately, no one seems to realize that such thinking means forcing additional useless legislation into a system which already has more rules and regulations than it should have. I have an alternative.
Do away with the House and Senate retirement programs.
At a time when all companies are asking their workers, past and present, to do with less; our legislators ride fat, dumb, and happy on a system of pay that compensates the rank-and-file member at a rate of $165,200 per year. When they are finally done serving in the public interest (at the public trough), they are awarded a retirement that would be the envy of any union negotiator. Depending on their years of service and the average of their last three years salary, they are limited only to no more than 80% of their final salary. What this means in terms of real money is that as of October 1, 2006, we had 290 members of Congress receiving pensions that averaged $60,972 per year (a total of $17,681,880 annually).
- Take away that retirement and you would take away any desire for anyone to make this job a career.
- Take away that retirement and you might break the gridlock of partisan politics by getting fresh faces in place on a regular basis.
- Take away that retirement and you might see the end of professional politicians.
- Take away that retirement and you would be asking people of good conscience to serve, and serve briefly; before re-entering the work force.
- Take away that retirement, and you would save the country a small fortune.
Of course it will never happen. Those who would have to propose and pass such legislation would be putting themselves out of what they consider a pretty sweet deal right now. It would be far too much to ask for them to "serve the interests of the country" as they were elected to do instead of their own.
Thomas Jefferson once said: "I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty." Our Founding Fathers never intended for these jobs to be careers, nor to have those in public service make great person gain. Their intention was for these positions to be sacrifices in the name of public service. From 1789 to 1815, the members of Congress only compensation was a per diem of $6.00 per day while their respective House was in session. It was only after 1815 that members began to receive an annual salary of $1,500 per year. Perhaps if we returned the system to the image originally intended by the people who wrote the Constitution (the document that these elected officials are sworn to serve), we would be better served by those who "serve the people".
Thursday, August 23, 2007
- The Toledo mayor is trying to give away chunks of taxpayer dollars and now maybe land through eminent domain to a developer (Larry Dillin) for two separate projects, the Marina District and the Southwyck project.
- The mayor is also allocating 2.7 million city dollars for street beautification on the Southwyck project, in spite of the fact that it may need to all be torn out if the mayor achieves another of his goals of maintaining a Fed Ex plant in the same area. (all of this being done when the city is anticipating a deficit of 12-16 million dollars for 2008)
- Meanwhile Lucas County, not to be outdone, tries to play fast and loose with property law by selling a park that Sylvania township was leasing to the park authority, then trying to bully that same park authority into selling it to another developer (Jim Jackson). All of this to avoid putting the property in question up for open bidding. (The funny part about this one is that now that the park authority owns the land, they have announced that they aren't particularly interested in selling it.)
- City council playing juvenile games of "my ball, my rules" with the position of council president by ousting the Republican holder of the position before the end of his term in order to put in one of their own. Of course the only reason that a Republican held the position in the first place is because the 8 Democratic members of this 12 person council couldn't agree on one of their own earlier on (remember the A-Team, B-Team thing). Partisan infighting within the party has only now come to an end because the state party bosses came up for a scolding of these elected officials. Of course this may also have something to do with a recall petition of the mayor, which if it succeeded, would put the council president in his place.
- Lucas County has announced a program to offer low interest loans to people in order to allow them to purchase works of art.
- The Toledo mayor, again not to be outdone, announced that he will be giving away $50,000 development dollars to support an art community that appears to be doing well enough on its own and therefore doesn't need it.
- The mayor is in additional hot water for parking in a handicap spot without the required sticker when going for "massage therapy" for a bad tendon. What made it worse was that while at this hour long appointment, he left his faithful dog "Scout" locked in the car in 90+ degree hear. Not being content with the uproar that this caused on a Friday, he repeated the 'dog in the car' scenario the following Monday while giving a speech.
- When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. - PJ O'Rourke
- Democracy is a device that insures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve. – George Bernard Shaw
- In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress. - John Adams
- An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens. - Thomas Jefferson
- Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It’s the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then – we elected them. – Lily Tomlin
- There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity. – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Did you ever notice that people who sell books on how to get rich in some way, usually do so by selling us the book? I was lying awake again last night (many might assume that it's my guilty conscience keeping me awake at night for reasons that I choose not to remember or deal with, but that's another story) and unfortunately all that seemed to be on the TV at that hour were really bad movies and infomercials on ways to "get rich quick". In the hope of boring myself into unconsciousness, I surfed a few of the channels to see what these current paths to riches were and whether I might take advantage of them. Here is what I found:
- Buying real estate for little or no money down. (I wonder if this is how Donald Trump got started?)
- Working at home buying things on the web that I would in turn sell to people who would buy them from me. (this one seemed kind of confusing, though everyone doing it certainly seemed to be happy and well off)
- Inventing something and bringing that new invention to the marketplace
I had realized in that instant of clarity, that while all of these people were willing to share information with me on how to achieve a potential fortune, they were looking for me to pay them in order to gain this knowledge. This in turn, caused me to ask:
- If the keeper of this knowledge was making so much money, why would he need anything from me to share it? After all, they were already rich?
- If this information was so valuable, how could they sell it to me so cheaply?
My recommendation therefore is to remember that someone has to pay the electric bill for all the lights in Las Vegas. You should try very hard to accept your lot in life if you must, work hard to better yourself if you can, and remember that anything that seems too good to be true usually is. Watch the bad movies instead and count yourself lucky. Maybe the money you seek (or at least the sleep) will come when you least expect it.
By the way, what ever happened to Amway?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Planting tongue firmly in cheek then, and blatantly stealing from another source of amusement and entertainment, I will list the "Top Ten" Reasons That Hilary Clinton Should Be President:
10. With Hilary as Commander-In-Chief, the US might have the first leader since Ronald Reagan that the rest of the world would be afraid of (me too, by the way).
9. Wouldn't it be fun to see her and Nancy Pelosi fighting for credit over anything that actually got done?
8. We wouldn't have to worry about government leaks anymore, since everyone in Washington remembers Vince Foster.
7. We could all take a vacation from thinking or doing anything for ourselves, since Hilary wouldn't allow us to do it even if we wanted to.
6. Having a Clinton back in the White House would bring sex back into government in a way that didn't involve the voters getting screwed. Well, maybe some of the young, female, trailer trash voters , but...
5. Some of the people thinking about entering the country illegally would turn around, figuring that whatever petty dictatorship that they now know would be better than the one that we would have.
4. The chance to go from Bush, to Clinton, to Bush, to Clinton is just too screwy to pass up.
3. Foreign leaders would make shorter visits for fear of leaving their spouses alone with Bill while whatever negotiations were going on.
2. If Hilary can handle the country's finances like she handled her cattle future investments, we could be debt free as a nation before her first term ends.
1. Come on, who doesn't want to see Bill as "First Lady"!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Someone handed me this topic with the thought that I might have some fun with it. I did have fun, but have probably taken it in a different direction than was intended (to what will probably prove their puzzlement and shame). Next time maybe people will be more careful about those that they share ideas with. On the other hand, maybe someone else has a topic that they would like to see abused. Please feel free to share it.
They tell me these days that fifty is the new thirty and while I would like to believe them, I can't say that I completely buy into the concept. While I will happily concede that people are living longer these days, and if we choose to look at age as a percentage of lifespan compared to a couple of generations ago, the whole thing may have some validity from a numbers standpoint. I would have to say however, that as someone who has been been both thirty and fifty, I don't remember feeling or looking nearly as bad at the earlier age as I did at the latter.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm very happy (and quite frankly surprised) to be alive and in as good a shape as I am these days considering the abuse that I perpetrated on myself in my youth. Hell, I never thought that I would live much past thirty when I was twenty, thought forty would be in the end when I was thirty, and fifty would be it when I was forty; but now that I am in my fifties I am really starting wonder how my sixties will be. (Did that one confuse you, cause I've read it through a couple of times and I'm still scratching my head?) Maybe if I knew that I was going to make it this far I would have taken greater pains to keep in better shape (nah). Then again, though my hair has gone gray, I still have it (It's better to have traitors than deserters.). My knees give me trouble from time to time, but I have an old sports injury (blah, blah, blah) and haven't helped the situation by forcing them to carry around an extra fifty pounds every day. As for my looks... Well they weren't all that great to begin with and aging is a great excuse for an increase in your ugly factor. Besides, at the age that I am getting to men are not "old and ugly", they are "distinguished and showing experience". (Women have a much tougher standard to live up to, especially in their own minds. I don't envy them and would not trade places on a bet.) Then there's my disposition, and on that there is no argument. It's definitely gotten worse. My willingness to put up with laziness, rudeness, and stupidity is at an all time low; and my lack of tolerance for these behaviours (in anyone but myself of course) tends to become a vocal one with far too much frequency.
I may be willing to give the purveyors of this theory the benefit of the doubt however, if this means that I can still live as if I were in my thirties. It might be nice to be able to eat red meat or a slice of white bread on a more frequent basis without worrying about my blood pressure and cholesterol. I might enjoy having more than two glasses of wine without knowing that I will feel the effects of it for the next two days. I would like to participate in sporting events without a prior purchase of a giant -sized, industrial strength ointment for the pain that will follow. I would like to be able to ... Actually, I would like to say something here about keeping company with members of the opposite sex. I think that I will instead withhold comment (something that I am not well known for doing). And as for my prostrate, I would just like to have a few years more that I didn't have to think about it as if it were a ticking time bomb. My gut feeling however (pun absolutely intended) is that all of the above thoughts will have to remain where they have been, in memories and wishful thinking.
My guess is that in end, somebody somewhere is using all of this to try and tell those of us now in our fifties that we have endless possibilities ahead of us and so much to live for (kinda makes you want to puke doesn't it). This is exactly the kind of "feel-good bullshit" that the world tries to stuff us with as if we were a Thanksgiving turkey, just before showing us the 800 number that we should call to take advantage of a fantastic offer. This kind of sugar-coated natural fertilizer is also supported (when not perpetrated) by our government, in the hope that we will not pay attention to them taking all of the money that we need to do all the things we are being told we can do. It also makes them hope that if enough of us buy into the concept that we are actually younger, we will work another twenty or thirty years and not become a burden on an already over-stressed and nearly bankrupt Social Security System.
But let me ask these bringers of sunshine this question about their new way of calculating age: If fifty is the new thirty, then is thirty the new fifteen, and if that's true should teenagers still be in their mother's wombs? (Oh man, what a sickening thought!). Wait a minute, this might explain why we can never get our kids to move of the house.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
- 97% of the newspapers in the US have experienced a circulation decrease in the last 5 years, some by over 20%
- While many newspapers used to be family owned 30 years ago, most are now under the Corporate ownership of less than 20 organizations
- The average 2004 operating margin of publicly owned newspapers was at 20.5 percent, double the average margin in the S and P 500.
Corporate ownership has also contributed to the survival of the business through successful labor negotiations, the use of more part-time / no-benefit labor, and plant consolidation. Today it is often the case that more than one newspaper is printed in the same building, with some properties producing as many as 10 products. Technology has played its parts as well by giving newspapers the ability to print up to 3 times faster than they used to, with some printing presses now producing newspapers at speeds of 100,000 copies per hour, and all with a great deal more color in the product.
On the negative side of the equation however, is the fact that the newspaper industry has lost none of its pretensions while struggling to stay alive. Editors, reporters, and columnists still seem to want to write to win a prize (The Pulitzer) or push an agenda instead of informing the public. They don't seem to understand that what they do is contribute to a 'product' which must in turn sell. If the product is not something that the market wants or a product that does not meet its market's needs, it doesn't sell. Much like government programs, they continue to follow a flawed path and make excuses as to why their product isn't as viable as it used to be, refusing to accept any responsibility for the problem. Additionally, they are offended by the notion that a newspaper is a business rather than a form of literary art. Yet while all of the hue and cry goes on about their art, with the old quote that: "If it bleeds, it leads" remaining alive and well. While crying out to have sex violence removed from TV and the movies, they put forward their own brand of it every day unrepentantly. These contradictions only feed a growing argument at to the viability of the medium itself.
Newspapers will remain viable for the foreseeable future however (Thank God, since I need the job), and I know this because of all the major capital investment being made by the corporate owners in their properties all around the world. Newspaper ownership groups have proved themselves to be pretty savvy businesses and these investments are not made without an expected return. Based on that level of investment, I would expect to see the industry remain intact for a minimum of another 20 years (just in time for me to retire). Those enamored of the art concept however, should be prepared for their product to become more and more of shopping bag, as competition from other forms of media (including from the websites of the newspapers themselves) take over market share.
Remember, today's newspaper is tomorrow's hamster cage liner.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Many people have told me that they enjoy the stuff that I put in the "Quotes of the Week" section and would like to see more of them. (OK, one person asked and it seemed like a great way to get away with being lazy in putting up the mid-week posting that I promised.) I am therefore going to share a few of the bits of the collected nonsense or wisdom that I have come up in the odd hours of contemplation, usually fueled by some form of adult beverage. These are maxims that I live by, and I hope you enjoy them.
- Violence is never a solution for anything, but can be very satisfying none the less.
- The trouble with living alone is that you don’t have anyone to avoid being with.
- Confession may be good for the soul, but it can play hell with a marriage.
- Children are always smarter than their parents. If you don’t believe me, ask them.
- The only way to win an argument with a woman is to lose gracefully and quickly.
- Having reached middle age, I find myself being treated like an encyclopedia. Sure there are kernels of valuable information contained therein; but it doesn’t look very good any more, most of the information in it is slightly out of date, and it is difficult to get the useful information out of it without dealing with a lot of nonsense.
- Alcohol never solved anyone’s problems. In fact, it usually leaves you with all of the ones that you had to start with, and a headache besides.
- The only thing worse that I can imagine than being wrong most of the time, would be to be right all of the time.
- I always find it difficult to get along with anyone who says: “Can’t we just all get along?”
- The only advantages that I may have in an argument are the assumptions of my diminished capacity and memory loss.
- Anyone who tells you that they “understand” something is trying to sell you a book.
- Individually people are a pretty friendly, decent, and fun to hang around with; but taken in groups of any significant size, they are nasty, mean, vicious, and generally to be avoided at all costs.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
- No one holds a door open any more for anyone, man or a woman, young or old (well I do, but I usually get a funny look for it).
- No one rises when a woman enters a room or sits at a table any more.
- No one tips a hat in greeting , takes their hat off when entering a room, or even shows the courtesy of removing it while eating. (not even the ball cap, which seems to pass for a hat these days and would be easier to tip than the other popular headgear, a do rag)
- Please, thank you, and excuse me appear to be disappearing from the language.
- TV talk shows feature hosts don't show the courtesy of allowing their guests to answer the questions they ask, guests don't try to answer those questions instead shouting out their particular brand of vitriol, and fellow guests on the same shows are constantly interrupting those non-answers with vitriol of their own, when they are not denigrating or even physically assaulting those with whom they appear
- ... And as for the behavior of people using cell phones, don't even get me started. That's another posting all on its own.
Instead of Miss Manners as a guide to the options of proper behavior, we get Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears as guides to the options of wearing underwear. When now stop to look around us, we are already sliding down a slippery slope of societal degradation faster than a drunken Bode Miller runs the slopes in a gold medal effort in the downhill.
What happened to us? Did our parents gave us too much and spoil us? Did the excesses of our own youth take us down the wrong path? Did our greed and self-interest make us blind to the proper treatment of our fellow man? Did we just take casual Friday too far? Don't you believe it! Every generation that came before us has gotten more from their parents, had their excesses, and followed the single-minded pursuit of money and power to the best of their ability without losing the framework of civilized behavior. (We have to take the blame for casual Friday on our own, but as much as I would like to see it blamed for something other than giving people a chance to make poor personal wardrobe selections, I will not lay the blame for the demise of civilized behavior at its feet.)
I guess that the truth of the matter is that we have probably just become lazy, and that the effort required to maintain even the fictions of a polite society have become quite beyond us. It's too bad really, but a fact of life. All I can suggest is that you enjoy what's left of it while you can. While a few of us dinosaurs remain, some semblance of what once defined us as a civilized species will have survived the asteroid strike of "The Real World", "Big Brother", and "Survivor". When we're gone, you will have to watch old black and white movies to try and remember what civil behavior used to mean.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
The Anti-Destination League
What, you say that you have never heard of the ADL? Well of course you haven't. This organization, steeped in secrecy since the beginnings of the public transportation, seeks only to make people's lives miserable while travelling. Recruitment methods and initiation rituals continue to remain a mystery (though it appears that having a mean spirit and rotten disposition seems to be considered almost essential for potential membership - you know, government employees). Neither has any successful infiltration of this organization led to revelation of their methods of operation or of the ghastly practices that they perpetrate on an unsuspecting public. It has been said in fact, that they taught the Masons about secrecy and the IRA about retribution.
Come on you say, no such organization could possibly exist and remain so completely unknown. Let me ask you this:
- Who do you think blocks ticket counters preventing anyone from checking in for flights?
- Who do you think are the people who block the boarding gates at airports preventing you from getting on a plane, even when they cannot or will not board themselves?
- Who stands next to the baggage carousel, apparently without bags to pick up, and prevents you from getting to your luggage?
- Who stops in the middle of a crowded terminal for no apparent reason, blocking your way when you are racing to catch a flight for which you are already late?
- Who refuses to sit in their seat and fasten their seat belt after boarding a plane, delaying its departure and insuring that you miss your connecting flight?
- Who do you think really runs the TSA security system?
What then, is your defense against them? Can you hope to survive your coming confrontation with these masters of travel mischief. Ladies and gentlemen you can. While they cannot be avoided, their plans for you can be circumvented by following these simple procedures:
- Keep a smile on your face and a sunny disposition at all times (it not only infuriates them, but can throw them off their game).
- Keep your carry-on luggage close and firmly in your grasp no matter what. (Not only will this action protect the luggage itself, but may provide you a weapon of last resort in the event of a serious confrontation.)
- Keep you plans flexible. (After all, no matter how well you plan, they may get to you.)